“You’re wearing a dress with sleeves, right?” Choosing to show off your tattoos at your wedding

Guest post by Kate Critchlow

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?

photography: Lakshal Perera

Comments on “You’re wearing a dress with sleeves, right?” Choosing to show off your tattoos at your wedding

  1. Woo hoo!

    I actually wanted sleeves, and I have arm ink. But I wanted my ink to show, so my sleeves are tulle. Best of both worlds.

    I hit the same road block with some of my more older family members. But my tattoos are a part of me, and I chose my dress that really showed off my ink well. (That was a big selling point to me).

    So rock on!

    • I agree, tattoos quickly become a part of who you are when you have them and they are all important to you. I almost always select clothes that show them off.

  2. The photo used for this article… i would really like to see the dress in full… It looks amazing!!!

  3. I am getting married in September in a beautiful RED Wedding Gown with my shoulder blade tattoo in full view. My Mum doesn’t like any of my tattoo’s, she doesn’t see the point of them but when I decided I wanted this particular tattoo visible on my Wedding Day I sat down with my Mum and told her that this is what I wanted and that since the tattoo is in memory of my Grandparents this was my way of having their memory included in my big day, and that really helped her understand how important it was for me for my tattoo to be visible.
    My advice when dealing with traditional mothers is to be upfront and stand your ground. Like when I told my Mum I was wearing a Red dress….she hated the idea and wanted to know why I couldn’t just wear traditional white…..that was until she saw the dress. The idea of a red wedding gown was horrible to my Mum, until she saw exactly what I wanted and then she said “Oh Mel…..it’s you”. And since then I haven’t had to worry about my Mum not agreeing with my ideas and choices, because she knows I am different, she knows my fiancé is different and she knows it’s our day and it’s doing to reflect us……different.

  4. I don’t have any tattoos, but the boy does. He made an appointment to get his sleeve finished and I made a point of telling him that it better be done before the ceremony bc I want him to show them off. And I’m seriously considering dying my hair (or at least doing highlights) to match my dress. What’s the point of getting body art if you’re just going to cover it up all the time?

    • That’s fantastic, thank you. I couldn’t agree more; a lot of time, thought and money goes into each and every tattoo, their meanings are important to us and I have heard a great deal of stories (particularly in these comments) as to why they become such a beautiful part of our wedding day.

      • Seriously. He has spent more on his tattoos than we are for the entirety of this ceremony. They’re a big part of who he is and quite frankly, I find them very sexy.

  5. I actually chose a floral gown to complement my floral sleeve. I love how it looks as though the same flowers are painted on the dress and my skin, and my mother also loved it (but she did ask “Will you take a couple pictures from the other side?”)

  6. Oh I was told this because apparently my arms are too fat/untoned/saggy/ugly/unfit for public display and my cleavage too large. WHATEVER! Seeing as I wasn’t planning to diet maniacally or futilely attempt to self flagellate at the gym to appease people’s delicate sensibilities, every shitty comment made me more determined to wear exactly what I loved and was comfortable in. Both my gowns were sleeveless (**gasp!** Oh the horror!) and I didn’t bother wasting precious energy wrestling myself into torturous (and supposedly mandatory) foundation garments, either. I’m too damn old and too damn cranky to hear any more crap out of ANYONE about my body and what I should “do” about covering my “flaws” especially not on those days. Of all the unwelcome and ignorant opinions we got about our weddings, the shame commentary about my body and ways to make it more acceptable to my guests was my least favorite. Wear what YOU love, do what makes YOU feel fabulous. Be happy in yourself and your choices and rock your wedding day any way you damn well like. There is not one person on the planet whose opinion of your body is more important than your own. And your wedding is far too important a day in your life to have anyone marginalize you from your experience by placing MORE expectations on your about your body and how you present it.

    • Oh and about half way through the reception I took my shoes and stripey wicked witch socks off and wandered around for the rest of the evening guilty of another HUGE wedding dress code faux pas…..I slipped on thongs/flip flops (They felt sooo good!) and unleashed my tattooed feet on the guests. People seemed to cope ok.

      • Haha – Sounds like a very entertaining wedding at the least. I’m glad you did what you wanted and did things your own way. I agree that having a different body type can get you just as much bother from some people as piercings and tattoos can, but the only advice I can ever give is “have confidence in who you are and do what you feel like doing” and I think that’s exactly what you went for. Thanks for your comment.

  7. I’m not inked myself, but my partner is laden with tattoos and has several facial piercings. We’ve been asked several times how he will keep them open while the rings/tunnels are out, and it is assumed he will cover up his tattoos. While he made his body art less noticeable at other peoples weddings, he won’t be hiding them at ours. I fell in love with HIM, his huge heart and his beautiful mind; it had nothing to do with the lip piercings or the rainforest on his arm! His parents are used to his look and to all his tattooed friends. Even though my family are much more reserved, they are in full support of him showing them on the day. Come the reception the jacket will come off, the sleeves rolled up, and his ink will be on proud display! I really don’t understand why you would pay (both in pain and money) for something so permanent and representative of you, only to cover it up on your wedding day. I say be proud of your ink!

    • Thank you, it’s fantastic to hear you’re so supportive of him 🙂 I know I was very happy to have the support of my partner when questions were asked and I’m certain he appreciates having you by his side. I wish you both a lifetime of happiness.

    • I just thought this was really, really beautiful :] … “his huge heart and his beautiful mind”. Good luck on your life together!

  8. My dress showed off the tattoo on my chest, but I made sure to get some pictures of the tattoos on my ankles. I couldn’t imagine trying to hide them.

  9. Thanks for all the replies and for reading my article everyone 🙂

    I wish I could reply to all of your comments, and I really did try but sadly time is limited. For those I couldn’t respond to; thanks for sharing your thoughts and your own experiences, I really loved reading them all!

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