Buying your wedding dress is an exciting and emotional experience. It’s important to keep several things in mind, including where and when your wedding will be held, as they will both help dictate the style and formality of your gown.
To help you find your dream wedding dress, we asked some of the wedding industry’s top experts on the subject: Martha Stewart Weddings’ Editorial Director, Darcy Miller, who wore a Vera Wang gown at her wedding in 2001 (see photo above), Mark Ingram, owner of the Mark Ingram Atelier in New York City, and Camille Thiry Russler, CEO & Owner of Ever After in Miami. Here’s what they had to say:
How much should your wedding’s theme influence your wedding gown’s style?
“Your dress should feel appropriate for the style of your wedding—just remember it’s not a costume,” advises Darcy. “If your theme is influenced by fashion or naturally corresponds to a trend, like the 1920s Art Deco period or one built around “vintage romance,” then your dress is one of the easiest ways to incorporate it.”
“While themes can be a beautiful aspect of any wedding, sometimes enough is enough,” adds Mark. “The bride’s wedding gown should be reflective of who she is and her unique personal style. This is an element of the wedding that belongs to her and is not shared with anyone else, and she needs to feel completely comfortable and confident in her gown.”
“A bride’s style should always be dictated by her personal style, says Camille. “This is the moment to celebrate your life, your love, and your individuality. Base your decisions on what will showcase the most important aspects of your dream look. That being said, cohesion in your overall wedding is a must! Start with the dress and work around that tying it all together with the details!”
How can a bride tell or know what silhouette, neckline, hemline, etc is best for her?
“TRY THINGS ON! Your first bridal appointment is your chance for trial and error,” recommends Darcy. “The most important thing to remember is to be open-minded. Try on things you might not otherwise; just be sure they stay within your budget. And trust the professionals: Although the salespeople at the salon might not know you personally, they do know wedding dresses and what works best for all body types, so be open to their guidance.”
“Many girls come into the salon thinking they know exactly what cut they want, then start trying on those gowns only to discover they are unflattering,” Mark points out. “Every woman’s body is unique. While of course there are general rules-of-thumb, say very petite or short girls shouldn’t wear huge volume ball gowns or chesty girls shouldn’t wear very high necklines. Brides should be open-minded and trust their salon consultant to find a silhouette that makes them feel comfortable, confident and represents who they are.”
“Knowing your body is essential! Begin your journey educating yourself by trying on different silhouettes, necklines etc,” suggests Camille. “Through this process you will discover which is preferable for your bridal look. Keep in mind staying true to your personal style is a must. Be daring and your most fashionable at your wedding but don’t try to be someone you are not. A bride should aim to be the most timeless, fashionable version of herself on her wedding day.”
Where are the best places to look for wedding gown ideas?
“Of course, I’ll tell you the best places are in the pages of Martha Stewart Weddings magazine and on marthastewartweddings.com (we have great gown galleries),” says Darcy. “Even browsing through photos from a real wedding and seeing what other brides wore can be inspiring. You may also want to check out your local salons’ website, which will show what options they have in stock for your appointment.”
“I know there is so much online these days, but I am old school and love when brides come in clutching bridal magazine ads and editorials! They are so visual and inspirational,” comments Mark. “Our brides are using Pinterest like crazy! They have their wedding gown ideas all pinned and ready to share with their consultants when they arrive at their appointment. But it doesn’t just have to be pictures of actual bridal gowns that can inspire, my team will ask the bride who their style icons are and what their everyday fashion style is to help them find the right dress.”
“Think about the looks worn by some of the most iconic brides; what catches your eye? What is your signature style piece? How do you envision your happiest day? These thoughts can start to shape your wedding look without being too literal,” says Camille. “Be inspired by the couture fashions and embrace it as your own.”
What do you think about a colored wedding gown? Love it, hate it?
“Love it! While bright colors are customary for some cultural ceremonies, a softer tone, such as blush, pale blue, mint, nude, or champagne, can do wonders for skin tones and will make your eyes pop,” Darcy points out. “Vera is an expert at incorporating color in the right doses, so skim her gorgeous gowns too!”
“How much color to incorporate really depends on the bride,” says Mark. “If you want to be the bride who wears all black or all red, go for it! If it matches your personality and defines you, I say it’s a do! A bride should never wear color because it’s trendy, it has to be who she is. Personally, I find most girls prefer subtle touches of color to differentiate themselves from the all white or all ivory-wearing brides, but not in an over the top way. I love soft shades of color under lace or tulle, and of course accessories are always a great way to add a touch of color too.”
Camille adds that color is a wonderful way to express yourself but all white can also express the non traditional you. “Textures, lace, fabrics, and every couture stitch tells the story of your wedding ensemble. Don’t shy away if it feels right.”
When does a woman know that she has found the one?
“While it is great to rely on your family, friends, and loved ones for their opinions, only you really know what you love. Trust your instinct, even if it isn’t everyone else’s favorite choice—it might be the first dress you try or the 101st! You’ll know you found the dress the moment you no longer want to look at any more,” says Darcy.
“I have been asked this a million times especially by the brides themselves: ‘When you have found it, you will know!’ I tell them,” shares Mark. “There are always exceptions, but most brides just don’t want to take it off and smile from ear to ear. And often there are tears from the bride and her mother.”
“When she can’t stop smiling,” reveals Camille. “It is true, every bride truly has that moment when she finds the one. It is very similar to the feeling a girl gets when she meets her soon to be fiancé, she just knows it!”
What are some accessories a bride should include in her wedding-day look?
“Shoes, a hair piece and jewelry that complement your gown and don’t overpower your dress are important,” Darcy states. “And your bridal accessories can also be an easy way to incorporate your somethings old, new, borrowed, and blue, like your grandmother’s earrings. I think wearing a shrug, bolero, scarf, or whatever is going to keep you comfortable and complete your look is also important, because if the weather turns cool, you will want to have something that keeps you warm and looks good. Even though I got married in early May, Vera made me a great wrap from the same material as my dress, and it came in very handy.”
A simple dress can be loaded up with accessories; a statement dress needs to keep the accessories simple,” advises Mark. “I would say a must would be some type of headpiece. If a veil is not for you, and it is not for everyone, consider some beautiful jeweled pins or combs for your hair. It should reflect your style, whether it be a veil, jewelry, a hat, a tiara, whatever!”
“A bride must have a personal piece, something that is deeply meaningful to her,” Camille advises. “Whether it is a family heirloom or a gift from her intended, it should be something that touches her heart. I always say the veil is the essential accessory for the bride; it adds that element of tradition while walking down the aisle that transforms the woman into the bride on her special day. I also recommend going with a fabulous shoe that speaks to you, something you truly love and may wear again on your anniversary or special occasion. This shoe will remind you of when you took your first steps down the aisle as a bride.”