The First Holy Communion is an important moment in your child's life, so you probably want to make this day special and remember the moment with joy over the years.
To help you do that, we're going to show you how to prepare for it. The ceremony has indeed a stricter dress code, so we'll show you how to pick the best First Communion Dress, that's unique and will fit perfectly and raise to the occasion!
And if you're looking for Communion outfits for boys, we've got you covered as well!
What is the first communion ceremony?
Many parents wonder how to explain the First Communion to their child. The First Holy Communion is a religious celebration in some Christian traditions in which a person, usually a child, receives the Holy Eucharist. This ceremony is seen as a re-enactment of the final meal of Jesus Christ, known as the Last Supper. The communicants receive bread (His Body) and wine (His Blood), in the memory of Jesus.
The First Communion is an important moment for Catholic families and is celebrated with gatherings and gifts, just like a child's Baptism. This ceremony is common in the Latin Catholic Church, but also in the Lutheran Church or Anglican Communion.
What age do you have your First Communion?
The 1st Communion takes place when a child is between the age of seven and fourteen (usually in the 2nd grade). The ceremony symbolizes a rite of passage - the communicants are now ready to welcome Jesus into their lives and are willing to follow the teachings of the Church. This age range means that the kids are able to understand their faith's challenges, and they are still willing to participate and confirm the promises made to the Church.
Dress Code Rules for the First Holy Communion Attire
The First Communion is a religious event, so your child's outfit should have a conservative and modest style. Instead of focusing on getting designer clothes or putting together a fancy look, you should pick comfortable and elegant pieces for your child.
There is a specific dress code required for first communicants and you should respect it without exception. In a First Communion service, there are usually around 20 or 30 kids who take part, so it usually lasts between 2-3 hours. Tradition and aesthetics dictate that all kids should be dressed alike, without major attire discrepancies. All the parents receive the same guidelines and therefore, you must only choose recommended pieces.
If you're wondering what exactly a child is supposed to wear at his or her's ceremony, you can find below a few general steps & rules to help you out pick a proper 1st Communion attire for your child:
- Pick simple and age-appropriate items: the clothing articles should not distract your little one during the service
- No casual clothing articles are allowed, such as T-shirts or jeans (unless the Church clearly mentions that a casual outfit is allowed)
- Elegant dresses or outfits, in light colors such as white or ivory
- Keep accessories & ornaments to a minimum for a clean look: don’t overuse embellishments such as ruffles, sequins, bows, frills or feathers
- Don’t forget to ask your church’s representative if they have their own dress code, because these rules can vary depending on your tradition or region.
Dress code Checklist for girls
- White or ivory dresses, with sleeves and simple cuts or patterns, below the knee in length or calf length
- Pants outfit if your girl doesn’t want to wear dresses (check to see if it’s allowed with your Church representative)
- Bolero jacket, sweater or an elegant cardigan (optional - this piece should be taken off during the ceremony)
- Light colored flats or dress shoes without heels
- White or ivory ankle socks, nude color tights (optional)
- A veil or headpiece such as a headband, barrette, ribbon, tiara or even flower wreath (optional - it isn’t mandatory to wear something on the head, you can choose a piece depending on your daughter’s preferences)
- Gloves (optional - for the after photos, not for the ceremony)
- Bright or dark colored dresses, with complicated patterns or cuts
- Short, tight or sleeveless dresses
- Tank tops, spaghetti straps, deep necklines
- Shoes with high heels or in dark colors
- Long socks or dark tights
- Many accessories pieces with complicated patterns or made of precious materials (such as diamond headpieces or veils with Swarovski stones)
The standard attire for girls is light-colored dresses, with a headpiece (usually a veil) and matching dress shoes. Sometimes the girls are dressed as mini-brides, in fancy gowns, wearing white veils and gloves. This ceremony has a conservative tone, so the gowns should be modest or not embellished too much.
Dress code Checklist for boys
For their First Communion, boys can wear their Sunday Best - the best clothes they have and wear usually for the Sunday service. The attire for the religious service is usually an elegant light or dark boys' suit and a pair of dress shoes for boys.
Unless the Church requires specific clothes, such as white suits or dress shoes in a precise color, you don't have to buy any new pieces for this service, unless you want to.
- Light or dark-colored suits, sport coats or jackets
- A white shirt with a collar, full button, with long or short sleeves
- Dark dress pants: navy or black, with a belt
- Tie in a solid color (such as red) or with a very subtle pattern (optional, depending on your local church)
- Dress shoes in a dark color (black, brown or grey) with dark socks
- Polo shirts or casual T-shirts
- Jeans or sport pants
- Winter boots or athletic shoes
What are communion dresses?
Communion dresses are garments worn by girls during their 1st Communion ceremony. These dresses often symbolize purity and the style can be traditional or even modern.
Parents’ buy these gowns specifically for this celebration, but if you want to save, you can re-use an old flower girl dress or a less formal garment. There are communities where the girls’ wear a family heirloom pieces, passed on by their mothers or sisters.
Why are first communion dresses white?
The white dress is a reminder of the white gown worn at the Baptism ceremony and it symbolizes purity.
The Baptism is the first sacrament of the Catholic Church and First Communion follows in second. The Communion is a chance to reconnect with the beginning of our journey as Christians, already started with the Baptism.
Do communion dresses have to be white?
The dress only has to be white if your local Church recommends it. Otherwise, you can get an ivory or pale pink dress for your little one. If you need a white dress, but you still want to add some color, you can try to attach a colored sash or flowers.
The overall look has to be elegant, but modest, so try to keep the outfit clean and don't make it too colorful.
The acceptable colors for communion dresses are white, ivory or light pink, depending on your Church's dress code.
Not all the Churches choose to stick with the traditional etiquette, so make sure to ask your local representative for some guidelines.
What should a communion dress look like?
A communion dress should have a traditional style given the fact that the ceremony takes place at a Church. However, you can choose a more modern style within the dress code.
Here are some general rules you need to follow when picking the perfect gown:
- Light-colored: white, ivory or pale pink
- Proper length of the skirt: always below the knee
- Short, 3/4 or long sleeves, no spaghetti straps
- Modest and tasteful adornments
- Is the right size: not too tight, but not too loose
- It's elegant, but not too glamorous
How to choose the perfect communion dress?
Here are some handy tips & tricks for you to check out before going shopping for your daughter’s communion dress.
1. Choose the correct length of the skirt
The First Communion is a religious celebration held at your local Church. It's important to choose a dress with the right length that is appropriate for this kind of events.
Short dresses are not acceptable and even if they look good on your little one, you need to keep the dress code in mind and pick a gown with a minimum knee length. If the hem of the dress is above the knee than the dress is not your best choice for this particular event.
The best length of a dress is Tea length - the hem folds at the half of your girl's calf. Ankle dresses or floor length are also a good choice, especially if the weather is cold outside.
2. Choose the dress in a right size
If you’re shopping online or want to make a custom dress for the ceremony, you need to take five measurements before establishing the right size:
- Bust: measure the widest chest section, just under the armpits
- Waist: measure just above the belly button
- Hips: measure around the fullest point of the seat
- Shoulder to hem: measure starting from the top of the shoulder to the end of the hemline to determine how long the dress will be
- Height: measure standing from the top of the head to the ground
After you have all the values, compare them against the dress size chart. If you have trouble getting the right size, don’t hesitate to ask for an expert’s opinion.
Here’s a general sizing chart you can use to determine your girl’s dress size.
Make sure you have the right measurements to avoid future problems, like returning the dress or having to alter it to a tailor.
How to measure your daughter
You can take your daughter’s measures with a simple tailor measuring tape. Try to keep the tape loose and avoid tightening it in order to get the real measures.
Kids grow fast at this age so if you’re buying the dress ahead, add an extra 1/2” at the waist & bust for safety and comfort.
3. Choose a dress with sleeves
The length of the sleeve is an important aspect you need to take into consideration. Even though it depends on your local Church's dress code, communion gowns need to have a sleeve.
Sleeveless dresses are not accepted unless you provide your girl with a jacket or a bolero to wear during the ceremony.
You can choose a dress with a long or 3/4 sleeve, but if your Church guidelines will allow short sleeves and the service is happening in May and the weather is sunny, you can pick a dress with short sleeves as well.
You can find different kinds of sleeves, depending on the chosen style. Lace sleeves are very popular right now.
4. Pick the right fabric
First communion dresses can be made of a variety of fabrics, such as lace, silk, satin, organza, linen or chiffon.
Lace tops are elegant and very popular among parents, so picking a dress with lace touches can be a good idea. Satin has a glossy finish, while organza is a material made of silk, sheer and stiff, perfect if you want a fuller dress.
5. Shop based on your daughter's preferences
It's essential that your little one feels comfortable wearing her Communion dress. Not only her memories of the service will be more pleasant, but she will manage to carry herself with more grace.
In this early stage, it is important to communicate with her and help her set the correct expectations. During the shopping process, make sure to ask her opinion on the length, style or cut of the dress.
Some girls may have some misconceptions about the proper attire and will want dresses that aren't a good fit. This is the perfect moment to explain the dress code and the limits you need to fit in with the whole look and answer all her questions.
What is the most popular Communion dresses styles?
1. A-line First Communion Dresses
An A-line dress is easy to recognize by the simple cut - it is fitted from the shoulders to the hips and wider at the bottom. This style of this dress is classy and elegant.
2. Couture First Communion Dresses
If your parish has a permissive dress code and you want to pick a couture dress for your girl's 1st Communion, you can pick a piece made of ruffled organza or tulle.
3. Long Communion Dresses
If you want to put together an elegant look for your little one, a long First Communion dress can be a good choice. You can re-use it as a flower girl dress too!
Just make sure you get a bolero or a jacket if the dress has no sleeves.
Where to buy communion dresses?
You can buy your daughter's First Communion Dress from specialty stores, children's clothing boutiques or online shops.
Make sure to check out the return policy before buying the dress so you'll have an alternative in the case you need to change the size or pick another model. Don't forget to check the terms & conditions and shipping policy as well.
It can be useful to look online for some reviews from previous customers as well and even real-life pictures.
How much do communion dresses cost?
You can find beautiful gowns ranging from $25 to $200 or even more, depending on the store, the designer, the fabric or even the cut.
If you want a unique look, bear in mind that will cost you more because custom dresses are either limited edition designer pieces or custom made based on your preferences. Quality dresses can be hard to find if you're not prepared to invest some extra money.
Here is a list of factors that can drastically impact the price of the garment:
- The fabric: if you pick a gown made of precious materials, it is highly likely the costs will increase as well. The most expensive fabrics are satin, silk or organza, while cotton, linen or chiffon can be more affordable.
- The cut: an A-line dress can be more affordable than a puffy one.
- Handmade or machine made pieces: handmade items tend to costs more because of the extra hours that a tailor needs to put.
If you want to save rather than to spend, you might consider getting a dress that was already worn.
How to shop for a communion dress?
The best way to shop for a dress is to decide on a budget and stick to it.
If you want to take advantage of clearance discounts or special offers, you can try to actively seek promotions from several online stores and shop a couple of months ahead: November-January is the best time if you want to do so.
How to store communion dresses?
Here are some steps you can follow if you want to keep a Communion Dress in a pristine condition:
- Hang the dress in a cool place, away from sunlight
- Heavy materials should be stored flat to prevent stretching
- Protect it from dust and accidents by keeping it stored in a garment bag
- Use professional dry cleaning services instead of trying to clean the gown yourself
- Make sure you read all the instructions on the label before attempting to iron or wash the dress
Dress Shoes for First Communion
After getting the perfect dress, you need to complete her look with a pair of First Communion dress shoes. This kind of shoes are white or ivory, and usually, they have a flat sole.
Avoid getting high heel shoes because they are not appropriate for Church services. You can pick a pair with a satin bow or other adornments, as long as they are subtle.
First Communion Accessories
After you decide what dress and shoes to get, you'll need some other accessories as well: a veil or a headpiece, a pair of gloves or other clothing pieces, such as a bolero or a jacket.
Veils & Headpieces
You can complete the look with a veil or another headpiece, such as a headband, barrette, ribbon, tiara or even a flower wreath. When picking a beautiful girls' Communion headpiece make sure to consult with your daughter and see what pieces she would enjoy wearing more.
First of all, you need to know that wearing a First Communion veil has nothing to do with the bridal outfit. The veil is a traditional female head covering, usually worn during the Holy Mass (Holy Communion). It is a sign of humility before God, modesty, and reverence. The veil is usually white or ivory, made of lace, tulle or other fine materials.
In nowadays, wearing a veil inside the Church isn't mandatory anymore, so you can choose if you want your daughter to wear it or not during her First Communion. It is a matter of personal taste rather than a Church rule.
If you choose to buy a veil for your daughter, make sure the veil has a shoulder-length. If the veil is too long, it can get burnt by candles or she can even trip on it.
Choose a veil in the same style and color of the dress: white or ivory. And if you want a vintage look, you can borrow the veil from other family members and use it as a family heirloom piece.
You can get a tiara for your daughter's veil or as a stand-alone piece. This is a nice touch for the First Communion look, as long as you don't choose sumptuous headpieces, but simple and tasteful tiaras.
Keep in mind that your girl will wear her headpiece only for this ceremony. When she'll attend Communion services she's not going to need a veil or a tiara.
Gloves are not a necessary accessory for the actual ceremony, but you can get a pair for the photos. It can be hard to hold the cup with gloves and spilling the wine is the worst thing that can happen.
Depending on the style of the dress, you can choose beautiful gloves to match. You'll find white or ivory pieces, made of lace, satin or other precious materials. Don't let your daughter wear them too much before the photo shoot because they can get dirty really fast.
Bolero & Jackets
You just found the perfect dress for your little one but you have one problem: the dress has no sleeves. Your best choice is to get a bolero jacket to cover up the arms.
Pick a jacket made of from the same fabric as the dress for a consistent appearance or look for a dress made of 2 pieces, with the bolero included.
Finding a beautiful outfit for your child's Communion service is something you should take your time with. Make sure you ask your daughter what kind of dress she'll love to wear at her First Communion and plan ahead, so you'll have time to put together the look you strive for.
What kind of dress do you want to get for your daughter?