Category Archives: Wedding Gowns

Cash-lite Couture

This gown comes from the Spring 2011 collection from White by Vera Wang for David's Bridal.

Even before becoming a bride myself, I was an avowed boutique lover when it came to bridal gowns. David’s Bridal, for all its tempting prices, couldn’t attract my attention because I didn’t like the Walmart-style shopping — endless racks of endless dresses sheathed in plastic, and a bevy of salespeople who often, in my brief experience with other engaged friends and from what I’d heard from previous customers, provided less than exemplary services.

A couple years ago, my attitude began shifting with the Oleg Cassini and Galina Signature lines — elegant, fashion-forward creations that made me reconsider my idea of David’s Bridal. Although quite a few of my own friends wore wedding gowns from David’s Bridal and looked lovely, I wasn’t entirely convinced. And while I love a good bargain, I don’t like that their no-middleman prices make it difficult for established small businesses to compete in this economy. Worth mentioning: shortly after a David’s Bridal opened in my area about a year ago, the great little bridal boutique where I purchased my own gown, Bridal Ltd., went under.

But then I stumbled upon White by Vera Wang for David’s Bridal. Ladies, do these gowns look anything less than haute couture?

I would have worn one in a heartbeat! (Especially that one up top.)

The combination is great. Vera Wang, the go-to wedding gown designer for almost 20 years + an unbelievable price (between $600 and $1,500)  = happy brides — and bride-funders — everywhere.

This gown comes from the Spring 2011 collection from White by Vera Wang for David's Bridal.

At this point, I guess boutique owners and true boutique purists are the only ones who can really be unhappy. Because, with this quality at these prices, I’ve suddenly turned into a DB’s fan.

Unfortunately for me, I’m already married — but again, at these prices, I might just have to plan an elaborate vow renewal ceremony so I can shimmy into one of these confections!

I’d always admired Vera Wang gowns from afar, knowing I could never slap down the $10,000 price for some of the gowns I daydreamed about. But now, almost any bride who admires her style can wear a gown with the look and feel — and name — of Vera Wang on her big day.

(Be sure to check out the entire line — and bridesmaids dresses coming this summer.)

~ Laura

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Eureka Moment: Bustle, Bustle, Toil and Tussle

Simply number or color-coding your bustle ties will save you -- and your maid of honor -- a lot of time and frustration on your wedding day! Photo by Laura Yang.

I have a very vivid memory from one of my best friends’ weddings: The other maids and I, as well as the bride’s mom and the nervous groom, hovered around the bride in a small side room as the reception swirled on without us.

We were trying to retie and jerry-rig the bustle after the groom’s errant foot had produced a hearty rip! and a suddenly-lopsided bustle. (Thankfully, only a bustle tie had ripped — the dress itself was perfectly fine and the groom was the only one of us who was upset.)

Now, there’s really not much you can do to prevent that situation, unless you want to order all wedding guests and even the groom to give the almighty dress a good three feet of clearance space at all times. But you can do something to make the whole bustle-tying process a lot more streamlined and a lot less brain-bending.

When my seamstress created the French bustle for my dress, she pulled out a handy trick. She simply numbered each of the bustle ties so my maid of honor wouldn’t have any questions about which pieces of ribbon she should tie together.

It worked, as they say, like a charm.

~ Laura

Sweet Steals: 40 New Gowns Under $500

What bride doesn’t love a good deal?

Finding a wedding gown that fits a tight budget isn’t difficult. On the cheap, you can find plenty of designer knock-offs and outdated ballgowns that look like they’re spattered with sequin shrapnel. But what about new, simply stunning gowns that are under $500 when they aren’t on sale?  Don’t worry — The Wise Bride’s Guide has got you covered.

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Check out lower price but fashion-forward designers like Camille La Vie, Galina and J. Crew, and don’t forget to head to your nearest Bloomingdales, Macy’s and Nordstrom to check out their offerings.  Almost all major department stores now feature small wedding boutiques bursting with cost-effective couture looks from designers like Calvin Klein and BCBG Max Azaria.

Another option for new, beautiful, budget-friendly dresses is to turn to the bridesmaid section and order your favorite style in white, ivory, or a pale metallic. With all the styling that goes into bridesmaid dresses these days, none of your guests will ever guess your gown wasn’t designed with a bride in mind.

Wherever you shop and whatever kind of dress you search for, remember to keep it fun, and if you’re on a tight budget, stick to it. The right dress — at the right price — will turn up somewhere!

~ Laura

[Note: Dress styles and prices current as of publication date.]

The Dress That Wasn’t

Concerned that you can’t settle on just one perfect wedding gown? Don’t worry — plenty of us have been in that same situation. Here’s my own progression through dress after dream dress. . . .

Regrets about my wedding? There are a few things I'd change if I could do it over again. But I would never change my dress! Photo by Mark Stevenson Photography.

The dress I wore in my wedding is absolutely, unquestionably the dress I should have worn.  It was simply styled, fitting snugly around my waist and hugging my hips as it gradually flared into an impressive train.  I knew it was the dress when I realized I would cry if someone else bought it before I could (it was a sample sale, so there was no ordering it anew if another bride chose it, too).

But it wasn’t the first dress I dreamed about.  It was the fifth or sixth.

In high school, I sketched out what I wanted my wedding gown to look like, and for several years, I was certain I would have a dress custom made to look just like my quickly-penned design.  Then once I started looking at real gorgeous gowns, I stopped even imagining styling my own.  In the summer of 2006, I fell in love with Spanish design house La Sposa, and one gown in particular.  It had little lace sleeves popping up from a gently wrapped bodice, with a delicate sweetheart neckline and a flower detail at the hip.  But, as usually happens with young loves, I grew up and left it behind.

Sticking with the Spanish style, I hopped over to Pronovias, where I fell, hard, yet again.  And this dress, this time, I was sure it was the one.

Pronovias Nacar

It was simply too beautiful and too perfect not to be my dress — especially with the darling open back, something I’d wanted since the age of 16.  Nacar, I had my sights set on you long before I had a wedding date, or even a fiance!

The bow detail on the front was what really sealed the deal, though.  It was dainty and cute at the same time, and the perfect little embellishment on a minimally-detailed gown.  I was a little worried about a deep scoop neckline and cap sleeves had never been my ideal before.  Even my mother pointed out that it was considerably different from my previous favorites — the all-over lace, the form-fitting skirt.  But this dress changed my mind.  For sure and for good.

Until I stumbled upon another Pronovias gown that changed my mind, again and absolutely.

Meet Nepal.

Pronovias Nepal

Oh, Nepal! How perfect you looked on my computer screen! The straight-across strapless top looked so much safer than a swooping scooping neck, and the draped fabric on the skirt fit my idea of simple elegance. Silhouette, neckline, styling — all of it was exactly what I had wanted, I realized. Nacar had been a beautiful dream, but it wasn’t entirely my style.  At least not for my wedding day.   Maybe, in black, for a swanky formal party.

So I was set. I knew my dress and I envisioned it on myself every single day. This was before the proposal, I’m embarrassed to admit.

When the proposal came, I began happily calling bridal salons — I had to try on Nepal! But something terrible had happened. Pronovias had put out its 2009 collection. Nepal was gone.

It wasn’t all bad, though: without a dream dress in mind, I tried on so many beautiful gowns, in ranging in price from just a few hundred dollars to several thousand. On my first afternoon, the last lovely gown I tried on came from a company I’d never heard of, Joli Bridal. And it looked simply gorgeous, with its shirred and draped fabric, the form-fitting-to-flared skirt, the gently curving neckline.

Joli Bridal 4010

But being my first day shopping, I wasn’t ready to make my move.  So it was on to the next store on the next shopping trip, where I was introduced to my new pet, Jim Hjelm. And among all these gowns, two stood out — not on the hanger, but when I slipped into them, although for such different reasons.  The first was a laughable disaster, turning my small curves into a 12-year-old’s body.  And it was so astonishingly like my once-beloved Nacar!

Jim Hjelm 8859

In all fairness, the size-12 sample, even when pulled taught and pinned into place, certainly didn’t hug my size-0 body the way it was supposed to.  But all concerns about that melted away as I tried on the next dress, felt the silk satin shape to my body, the dramatic trumpet skirt twirling over my feet. The only words to describe this dress were simply stunning.

Jim Hjelm 8862

The Alencon lace detailing at the bottom of the silk satin trumpet skirt, yet another dainty bow at the bodice — this dress was a dream come true.  Except for two minor details:

1.) It cost $4,000 and my target price was $1,000 or less.
2.) I kept thinking about that dress I’d tried on just days before — the Joli Bridal gown that cost more than $3,000 less.

Because that dress was a little bit of everything I’d ever loved: a delicate neckline; a hip-hugging-but-widely-flaring skirt; asymmetrically draped fabric; minimal detailing; and that all-important ribbon and bow on the bodice.

And so it was that I finally made up my mind.  I’d hardly gotten into my car after I tried on the Jim Hjelm dress before I dialed the other bridal salon and asked them to hold the dress for me.  I promised I would be back the next day — because no matter how many times I’d been in love before, this time, things were different.  It was just like real love: I had been mildly disappointed when my La Sposa gown and the Nepal became unavailable, but losing this one would be a tragedy!

I did go back and try the gown on again.  I took it home that very afternoon.  And for months, every time I walked past the big white garment bag hanging on my closet, I had to pause, unzip it, and take a peek inside.

So if you’ve been in love a half dozen times, like me, how will you know when a dress is the dress?

You’ll know when you’re ready to cry — not necessarily at your reflection in it, but at the thought of losing it.

You’ll know when you realize you simply can’t get married in anything else.

~ Laura

Princess Brides?

So I’m doing some computer work, and I have TLC’s Say Yes To the Dress on in the background to keep me company.

Have plenty of cash to spend on your dress? Then check out current "It" designer Monique Lhuillier, whose dresses average $5,000-$10,000.

Now, admittedly, I didn’t shop for my bridal gown at Kleinfeld in New York.  And many of the brides who do are surely dear, sweet girls who love their daddies and volunteer long hours at homeless shelters.  But I’ve got this suspicious feeling that a couple things combine — beyond straight-up bad behavior — to make these brides look more like spoiled, self-centered princesses once the show airs:

a.) Every person, especially excited brides-to-be, act different when they know cameras are rolling.  This includes brushing off $10,000 gowns as minimal, if not absolutely necessary, expenses.

b.) Top-notch editors know how to deftly pare away most of the brides’ humanity and leave behind whining girls who expect their families (or store employees) to kowtow to their demands.

I’d like to put it to you: What is appropriate for a bride-to-be to expect when she’s seeking the dress of her dreams?  It’s one thing to want to find the gown that turns you into a princess for a day, but as I wrote in another post, it’s not okay to turn everyone else into a servant or subject.  So how should the dress shopping girl go about her excursion?  A few tips to keep in mind.

1. Take only a few trusted shopping partners
Moms are a must.  Maids of honor can be a good idea.  Big no-nos are overly critical relatives, jealous friends, or anyone with extremely questionable taste when it comes to fashion.

2. Make sure you’ve done your research ahead of time
Having an idea of designers you love or styles you hate will save you time when you’re out shopping.

When you go dress shopping, try on styles you've never imagined yourself wearing -- you may be pleasantly surprised. Gown by Demetrios.

3. Have realistic expectations
Know that gown consultants, while experts in their field, can’t whip your dream dress out of thin air.  If they don’t have exactly what you want in their store. . .that isn’t their fault.

4. Be open to trying lots of dresses
Not only will you be more certain that you’ve found “the one” if you check out a bunch of gowns, but you may be surprised that a style you’d always avoided looks incredibly flattering on your shape.

5. Listen to the experts
Bridal salon consultants know wedding gowns inside and out — literally — and will be able to give you plenty of tips about flattering shapes, comfortably fabrics, possibilities for alterations, and even what kind of undergarments, shoes, or jewelry to check out.

Have a great time finding your dress!  Just remember, there’s no editor who’s going to come behind you and snip your shopping trips down to a few short segments designer to fit commercial breaks.  And you, unlike many TV brides, want to leave a good impression!

~ Laura

To Bedazzle or Not to Bedazzle? That is the Question.

Will you be a blinged-out bride in an intricately-detailed gown, like this one from St. Pucchi...

Will you be a blinged-out bride in an intricately detailed gown, like this one from St. Pucchi...

Back in the day (meaning, oh, 2005) I knew exactly what kind of wedding dress I would wear on my big day: a softly flowing chiffon gown with skinny little
straps that crossed over a low-cut back. Peach underskirt. And bling, lots of bling on the bodice — mostly seed pearls, but I wasn’t averse to the thought of rhinestones, silvery threads, crystals.

On my wedding day, I wanted to impress!

Fast forward to January 2009.  I was newly engaged, and ready to start dress shopping.  And my entire outlook had changed.  Spaghetti straps were no longer my idea of the height of sophistication, and I knew if there would be any razzle-dazzle on my gown, it must be kept to a minimum.

J. Crew is known for clean, casual wedding dresses.

...or will you go with the simple look that J. Crew Weddings is known for?

My personality had changed as I’d grown up, and so had my ideas for my wedding. Before, I’d never really thought about what I wanted my guests to feel, or how my dress could set the wedding’s tone. What I decided was that a simply elegant, less flashy gown suited my personal style better — and that it might just convey my desire for my wedding to be about everyone having a good time, rather than making myself the glittering star of the show.

Of course, that isn’t to say that be-beaded gowns or feathery headdresses make a bride an ungracious hostess!

What each bride needs to decide for herself is what her gown says about her when it’s on her.  Some brides could pull off a Swarovski-emblazoned gown with panache, and come off lovely and unpretentious — but I would look like my dress was trying to outshine the sun at a debutant ball, while I personally faded into the wallpaper.  It just wouldn’t work for me!  On the flip side, I look my best in understates dresses, but some brides glow all the brighter above a bodice of seed pearls and metallic embroidery.

If you’re in the mood or market for a splashy, star spangled dress, you might have luck with one of these designers:

The gowns from PLATINUM for Priscilla of Boston feature lavish embroidery and beading.

The gowns from PLATINUM for Priscilla of Boston feature lavish embroidery and beading.

Allure Bridals
Amalia Carrara
Carolina Herrera
DaVinci
Demetrios
Eve of Milady
Impression Couture
Mary’s Bridal
Mia Solano
Moonlight Bridal
PLATINUM for Priscilla of Boston
Reem Acra
Sottero and Midgley
St. Pucchi
YSA Makino

—-

For subtle gowns with minimal embellishments, try one of these designers:

Or will you go the low-key route, a la this Judd Waddell silhouette?

Judd Waddell gowns feature clean silhouettes that let the fabric and shape take center stage.

Anna Maier/Ulla Maija Couture
Aria
Augusta Jones
The Cotton Bride
J. Crew Weddings
Jenny Lee
Judd Waddell
La Sposa
Lela Rose
Mikaella
Nicole Miller
Paloma Blanca
Val Stefani
Vineyard Collection
WToo Brides

Whatever type of gown you’re hoping to find, good luck, and happy hunting.

~ Laura

The Traditional Bride

In the Western world, our concept of a "traditional bride" is far less colorful than in other parts of the world.

In the Western world, our concept of a "traditional bride" is far less colorful than in other parts of the world.

When you think of a “traditional bride” what is it you picture?  Frothy white gown, a blusher veil, a very round and very perfect bouquet of white roses?  A church with a long center aisle dusted with petals?  Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus”?

Well, that’s what we think of in the Western world.  But brides who want to hold to tradition aren’t just holding to American or European traditions — Indian, Egyptian and Vietnamese brides have plenty of traditions, too.  So do Chinese, Bolivian, Korean, and Kenyan brides.  Their traditions just aren’t usually quite as vanilla as ours.

IndianBride
Like in America, in India, a bride’s wedding day is her chance to go crazy with all-out glamor.  Brightly patterned fabrics for the sari and scarf  — usually red — and intricate gold jewelry, not to mention the complicated henna patterns painted on the bride’s hands and feet, come together to complete India’s traditional bridal look.

KoreanBrideandGroom In Korea, tradition doesn’t just dictate a bride’s outfit; it specifies her make-up as well.  The red dots painted on her cheeks originated centuries ago as a deterrent to evil spirits.  Along with an elaborate headdress, a traditional Korean bride wears an embroidered silk robe, either red or green.  These days, many Koreans are married in Western church ceremonies with Western attire, but afterward, many also conduct a traditional Korean Pyebaek, the ceremony in which the groom’s family formally welcomes the new bride.

Turkey’s bridal traditions varied from village to village and city to city.  Until the mid nineteenth century, many Turkish brides wore a shalvar, a costume of loose pants that were fitted just below the knee.TurkishBridalSalvar As Turkey came under the influence of Europe, the shalvar fell out of fashion, and brides began wearing ornamented dresses.
TurkishBridalDress
In China, a traditional bride wears a gown that is flaming red, the color of happiness and good fortune, and elaborately embroidered with gold.  (Although many Chinese brides choose to wear white these days, white isn’t ChineseBrideandGroomtraditionally associated with weddings or innocence in China — it is considered the color of death.)  At a traditional wedding tea ceremony, the groom’s family showers the bride with jewelry, which becomes a part of her wedding outfit.

AfarBride
Like brides all over the world, brides throughout Africa adorn themselves with rich jewelry.  Afar brides in Djibouti wear  intricate gold facial jewelry, while Zulus bride bedeck themselves with colorful beads.  Brides in some parts of Africa wear dresses made entirely of beads, while others wear tricky fabric headdresses, such as the gele, which is worn in Nigeria.

ZuluBrideThe all-white tradition we’re so familiar with in the West isn’t even a very old tradition — only since the nineteenth century have white bridal gowns become popular.

Before that, with clothing so costly and time consuming, one-time use gowns weren’t practical.  And white fabric wasn’t practical for everyday wear. But rich fabrics gave way to pastels, which lightened until white became the wedding day standard throughout Europe and America.

But if you’re longing for a bright wedding and want to be a traditional bride at the same time, keep this in mind: far more brides around the world have begun their marriages in colorful gowns than in plain white.

And a couple hundred years ago, the all-white bride was the one breaking with tradition!

~ Laura