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Real Wedding: Jenny and Max

Bride: Jenny Stefanotti
Groom: Max Ventilla
Wedding gown style/name: Eliza, Fall 2010
Boutique purchased: Vera Wang on Melrose
Wedding date: October 16, 2010
Location: Big Sur, California
Photographer: Larissa Cleveland

Did you have a certain style in mind when you started your search for a dress?
I knew I wanted lace because of the outdoor setting, and I was leaning toward a darker ivory or even a toffee color to make it unique. I was conceiving of something relatively simple, either an A-line or a mermaid cut, but that’s because I never envisioned a dress like the one I found.

What made you decide on your Vera Wang gown?
I told the manager of the Bridal Salon at the Los Angeles flagship store that I wanted something organic and dramatic (not the most intuitive adjectives to put together). She immediately pulled the Eliza sample out of the back closet and I was stunned by it’s originality. It was nothing like I’d seen before or even imagined, and the disorder of the tulle and lace was edgy, but still worked well with the natural setting of the wedding. There were many other gowns I considered that I loved, but the Eliza was so unique and so uniquely me, I couldn’t pass it up.

Did you bring anyone along dress shopping? If so, did their opinions influence your final decision?
We decided on a short engagement so I didn’t have much time to find a dress, and I wanted to include the many women in my life who play a maternal role in the process (two aunts, my mother, and my stepmother). I felt bad bringing all four of them to the store, but I only had a weekend to pick a dress so that was the only option. The Vera Wang staff was very accommodating, and brought all of my very excited mothers champagne upon their arrival. Their opinions didn’t influence my decision, but it was a very memorable experience!

How did you accessorize to make your wedding day outfit unique?
A few things. The dress came with a black grosgrain ribbon, but I bought a vanilla one instead, and worked with the seamstress to attach a few pieces of Alencon lace over it so that it would blend in with the dress a little bit more. My husband had a custom engagement ring made for me, along with a matching necklace and earrings for me to wear on our wedding day. The necklace was a beautiful compliment to the dress. Since the majority of the wedding would be outside, I needed something to keep me warm and found a grey rabbit fur Armani wrap. Finally, I got pregnant unexpectedly in July, so we removed the zipper in the back of the dress and replaced it with a corset to accommodate my changing and uncertain size.

What was the inspiration or theme for your wedding?
We stayed away from anything too thematic, and our guiding principle was that if it didn’t feel natural to us then we weren’t doing it. We always wanted the wedding in a beautiful natural setting with minimal florals and décor, and since we both grew up camping, the woods was perfect for us. A huge inspiration came from Outstanding in the Field. They orchestrate amazing farm dinners with locally sourced ingredients, and there is always a long table in the middle of nowhere. Once we had that image in our head, we ran with it. Rather than hiring a caterer, we did an Outstanding in the Field private event.

Did your gown style relate to any other design elements of the wedding (ie. cake, invitations, etc.)?
Funny enough, the gown inspired my hair.  My stylist made a comment during my trial about how he’d never once used a crimping iron on a bride. Since the bottom of the dress has accordions of organza, inspiration hit. I had him put a few different textures in my hair, with a handful of crimped sections.

What was your favorite part of the day?
The entire day thoroughly exceeded my expectations, and it’s really impossible to have a favorite part. The ceremony was very personal and emotional, and it definitely set the tone for the entire event, so if I had to choose that would be it. Our first dance was another incredible moment. Rather than rehearse something, we let our joy take over and pretty much just jumped around to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero’s “Home.” My husband spontaneously picked me up and spun me around in the middle of it, a moment that was beautifully captured by our photographer and all the more incredible with so much tulle and lace flying behind me.

What tips do you have for new brides picking out their wedding dress?
Two things.  First, you may not have a clear moment where you know this is “the dress,” I didn’t. I tried on many beautiful gowns that I would have been thrilled to wear on my wedding day. Second, keep an open mind and trust your instincts. I wasn’t expecting a ball gown style dress, but something told me I couldn’t pass this one up.

Are there any other anecdotes you would like to share?
Yes, actually. A very special one relating to my dress. The reason we had such a short engagement was that my 94-year-old grandmother had been slowing down for a while, and we wanted her to be there. In May she started to really decline, so I flew to Los Angeles to spend what looked like her final days with her. My grandmother kept talking about the wedding and what a beautiful bride I would be. At first I couldn’t keep it together at the thought of her not being there, but then I realized that whatever I could share with her now would be how she’d experience the wedding.

I went back to the Vera Wang flagship in Los Angeles with what I thought might be an outrageous request — would they let me borrow the sample of my gown so that my grandmother could see me in it? The manager didn’t hesitate for one second. I took the dress home that night and surprised my grandmother. There are really no words that can express how special that experience was for my family and me — seeing the joy on my grandmother’s face at the sight of me (her only granddaughter) in my wedding gown. In the end, my grandmother passed away a few months before the wedding, and I will forever remain deeply grateful for the opportunity to share such a special part of my wedding with her while she was still with us. The entire team at the Los Angeles store rocks! They were so incredible!!!

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