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Due to the revolution in the fashion industry in recent years which has brought about a change in the design of dresses – sleeveless gowns, low-cut dresses, halter necks, tubes, high slits and transparent gowns — churches have been having a difficult time with brides wearing immodest gowns to the church. As a result, the campaign to dress decently, especially by brides has been spearheaded by some churches especially the orthodox churches: Catholic, Anglican, Methodist and the Baptist churches. Brides now have to produce their wedding gowns for inspection in some churches. Yejide Gbenga-Ogundare reports.

Some years back, the news that a bride exposed all her goodies while signing the marriage register made news across the nation. The said bride was wearing an armless, low-cut gown which was also tight to the extent that it barely covered her breasts and while bending to sign the marriage register, her boobs popped out, assaulting the sight of the officiating pastors and witnesses while her new husband looked on helplessly.

Occurrences like this gave rise to an uproar that all orthodox churches and some Pentecostal ones had to make a policy against revealing wedding gowns.

Many brides have been embarrassed on their wedding days when officiating ministers refuse to join the couple until the bride is properly covered. At a church in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital, the reverend demanded that the bride should wear a shawl or borrow a coat if the wedding was to hold in that church. This kind of embarrassing situation arises when brides fail to heed the warning initially issued to them by the ministers during the counseling sessions.

The Ibadan North Anglican Diocese during one of their Synods raised the issue of revealing bridal gowns and it was concluded that any bride that is not modestly dressed, no matter her parents position in the church, would not be joined in holy matrimony by the church.

The fight against indecent dressing by brides is not restricted to Nigeria alone. Many churches in Europe and America have made a policy to forbid scandalously revealing wedding gowns in their auditoriums. Rev. John Bevins, 72, a Catholic clergyman took the decision to forbid scandalously revealing wedding gowns at the Immaculate Conception Church in Waterbury. He felt that so much skin was being exposed; as a result, he put brides on notice. He said that if they wanted to flaunt their bodies, they should go elsewhere to get married.

Traditionally, a bride is always covered up in satin from neck to toe with long trains that had to be carried by the bridesmaid to stop the bride from tripping, and presentable veils.

However, many brides have deviated from this norm. Baring of the arms, shoulders, chests, and backs in church is now a fad. Many brides do not think it is wrong to bare the essentials on their wedding day in the guise of looking good. They show up in church dressed like a model set to strut down the runway instead of the aisle; there is so much exposed skin that some have wondered how the grooms feel watching what they hold in high esteem on display for anyone that cares to look.

Many brides have given diverse reasons for selecting their designs. Excuses range from hot temperature, covering physical weaknesses to fashion. Some people however think the excuses are not feasible. To them, brides should be the ones blushing on their wedding day and not the priests. Plunging necklines and exposed cleavages are not the basic requirement for a pretty bride or an attractive wedding. In spite of the appeal for matrimonial modesty which enjoins brides to avoid exposing cleavages and skin during ceremonies, many brides are not ready to toe the line. Rather, they seek for ways to circumvent the rule or look for a balance which enables them wear what they want and also satisfy the church. They look decent in church but immediately after the service, anything goes.

Spaghetti-strapped wedding gowns are the least of a priest's worries these days, many girls show up in church with breasts hanging out and the bridal train is not left out. This fad has been attributed to the abundance of strapless wedding gowns and styles worn by celebrities. Wedding magazines are filled with body-hugging gowns with bare backs, lace-up corset tops and plunging necklines. Designers are now featuring halter-topped gowns, some of which drop dangerously low in front and back and to prove that they are fashion conscious, many brides embrace these designs.

Brides wear ordinary stole over halter-top wedding gowns only to remove it at the reception. If the gown does not come with a stole, they make do with scarves and shawls. Some wear wedding gowns with 'sweetheart'' necklines that is very revealing. They cover up in church because the priests demand a certain level of respect and do their own will during receptions.

A pastor who spoke with us on condition of anonymity said that, “revealing gowns aren't appropriate at a ceremony that marks the beginning of a sacred way of life. When dresses are immodest, the message of the ceremony is lost. The need for respect in church is not just a wedding issue; it carries into all aspects because we believe we are in the presence of the Lord.”

Tolu Bakare told us that no matter where it would hold wedding gowns need to be modest. “Slits should be less revealing and less skin should be shown at the back. If one is going to be in a church setting, I can imagine you getting lots of dirty looks with a thigh slit. One should remember that there are lots of ways to be creative and unique without showing the skin. As the bride, you're supposed to look pure and sexy at the same time. Nothing overt; subtleness is the key.”

A bridal outfit designer spoke with us. She claimed any bride can look good and appealing without going half naked. She gave tips on how to get a suitable gown.

“Find a design that completely conceals the cleavage, avoid dresses without sufficient covering at the back. Strapless gowns or dresses with thin spaghetti straps are revealing and thus do not serve the men in attendance at the wedding. A modest gown should not be excessively tight or draw excessive attention to your figure,” she counselled.

It is good to be fashionable on one's wedding but it should be noted that baring what should be concealed does not present any lady in a good light.