"You're wearing a dress with sleeves, right?" Choosing to show off your tattoos at your wedding

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Kate Critchlow
Nuptials
Photo by Lakshal Perera. Full wedding feature here.

You love your tattoos, your partner loves your tattoos, but your family may not always be so approving.

It wasn't until pretty recently, while discussing "the dress," that I realized my mother really disliked the idea of me showing my tattoos during the wedding. She made it rather clear with a single comment: "You would have to find a nice long-sleeved dress, to cover those," she told me casually waving a hand at the half sleeve on my arm.

My partner and I shared a brief look when she said that, both knowing the problem was that I had wanted to show off my tattoos during the wedding.

My mother has, over time, come to accept an awful lot of things that will be different about my wedding; a black dress instead of white, marrying another woman instead of a man, unicorn decorations on the cake… It astounded me that, after accepting all of this with relative ease, she could be so negative about the tattoos.

I'm a hobby artist, I designed all of my tattoos myself, I love them, and I thought everyone around me liked them too. I even have a doodle in my sketchbook of myself in a strapless, back-less, black dress that shows off plenty of my ink. Any plans I had ever had for when my partner and I decided to marry had included designing a tattoo that would mark the occasion, and be shown for the first time in our wedding photos.

It made me wonder what other people's experiences are of tattoos at weddings. I have seen a lot of brides with beautiful tattooed sleeves, and designs dancing their way out of the sides of the dress. It's beautiful, and adds colour to the white bride look. Why would we ever want to hide them?

So here's my advice to anyone else experiencing tattoo wedding shame. (Because everyone would be happier with the support of their loved ones…)

Stand firm

Just because your friends of family don't like the idea of showing off your tattoos, doesn't mean you need to cater to them. This is your wedding, you should feel comfortable. I am certain that if I had given any indication that I would have been willing to hide my tattoos my mother would have held me to it, so stick to your guns.

Get your partner involved

Make sure to ask your partner what they think. In my case, my partner was incredibly quick to point out that we both love tattoos, and like showing them off.

Show off examples of the look you want

Maybe your disapproving family member dislikes the idea of visible tattoos at a wedding because they can't imagine it. I showed my mother the sketch I mentioned, how I imagine I would look on my wedding day, and she liked it. I'm sure she'll come with me to pick a wedding dress and love the look even more. You could even direct your loved ones to Offbeat Bride's "tattooed bride" archive full of beautiful images of brides and grooms showing off their ink.

A note about getting wedding tattoos

If you're like me and are thinking about getting a special tattoo to mark the occasion of your wedding, make sure you get the tattoo three (or more) weeks before the ceremony. This way you can ensure that it has time to heal fully, and look fantastic for the big day.

It doesn't matter whether you want to wear a suit or a dress at your wedding, your fashion choice is your decision, and how much of your ink you want to show is up to you as well.

Hey, tattooed brides and grooms: how are you dealing the wedding day ink backlash? Covering them up? Showing them off? Using them as your wedding theme?

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  1. Is it too late to comment on this one? Too bad, I'm going for it. I'm glad I'm not the only one who loves the idea of showing off her tattoos on her wedding day. We're currently early in the wedding planning days, so whether or not the shindig we're having will involve dresses on the brides is TBD. But if I do end up wearing a dress I'm just dreaming of having one with a plunging neckline because 1) they are sexy as hell imo and 2) it would mean I can show off my sternum tattoo, which I'm in love with and consider to be a huge part of who I am. I know I'm going to get a lot of grief over it if this happens but the idea of having it on display when I so rarely get to show it off sounds way too wonderful to me to not at least consider it.

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