How does a bride-to-be know which dress will be a perfect match?
Newlywed Leigh Anne Wright wanted something out of the ordinary. She chose an A-line dress with cap sleeves, a scalloped neckline and a bodice encrusted with sequins and beads. The dress had a chiffon overlay that came to mid-calf. Sequins and beads ornamented the chiffon as well as the bottom of the full-length satin skirt.How did she know it was the dress for her?
"When I put it on, I felt like a bride," she recalled.
Kim Engar, another new Utah bride, chose a gown with a fitted waist and full skirt. The bodice and skirt were decorated with embroidery. "I really like embroidery, and my gown had all these embroidered flowers," she said. The dress was a rich ivory color. "I don't look good in white."
Stephanie Frogley-Halpin wore a full-length gown with tiny cap sleeves. The dress had a waistline that culminated in a V in the front. The scoop neckline had beads around the edge, a theme that was repeated at the waistline and hemline.
She had seen a magazine photo of a dress she loved and decided to locate one like it. "We found one that was almost the same cut. It fit my figure very well."
Photos in publications such as the wedding issue of Martha Stewart Living and other bride magazines are a place to start.
Many women get their first clue from pictures they've seen in magazines. That goes not only for dresses but for makeup, hair styles and flowers.
Martha Stewart Living could be dubbed the Bible of the bridal belt.
Sales associates at bridal salons can also be helpful.
Most brides will visit several shops and try on a number of dresses at each one before making a decision. Wright, for example, went to five boutiques and tried on eight dresses.
The trend in bridal dresses is simple, literally. They have cleaner, simpler lines and fewer embellishments.
You'll see box pleats instead of gathers, less lace rather than more and gowns with no sleeves. Little spaghetti straps are popular now.
Gloria Felis, the bridal buyer at ZCMI, where the majority of customers are first-time brides, said even young brides prefer gowns with fewer embellishments.
"I'm finding that girls are wanting cleaner gowns with not as much beading and applique. It's changed dramatically. Eighteen years ago you couldn't get enough embellishment ongowns."
Embroidery, however, remains important.
ZCMI, which has consolidated its bridal salons into the downtown store, sells more A-line and full-skirted gowns than straight, close-fitting sheaths, a trend confirmed by other bridal salons.
A majority of ZCMI customers are LDS temple brides. The bridal salon specializes in covered looks rather than sleeveless and spaghetti strap gowns, although those can be ordered. Some sleeveless gowns can be altered to make them suitable for temple weddings.
ZCMI carries gowns that retail from $350 to $800. On average, a bride pays $500 for her dress, said Felis.
Pam Dew, owner of Danielle's Bridal Salon in Holladay, sees a big difference in the fabrics. They're rich and beautiful in and of themselves.
The poofy full-length tulle skirt reminiscent of a ballerina's tutu is hot. (Tulle is a fine net material.) So are satins and soft-flowing chiffons.
Second-time brides often choose sophisticated dresses with elegant fabric and few embellishments.
Even veils are simpler than their forebearers.
The turn-of-the-millennium veil is netting with satin or ribbon edging. The netting is shorter than in the past, reaching to the shoulders or mid-back. Veils come with simpler headpieces, such as satin headbands or wreaths made of white satin flowers.
The Bridal Wreath and Gowns By Pamela, in Murray, capitalizes on the fact that not all brides are a perfect size 8.
The store specializes in two-piece bridal gowns that can be mixed and matched by style and size. "We're able to adapt to different sizes," said owner Louise McArthur. "A two-piece allows you to accommodate a bride's figure."
A tall bride with large bones can handle a full, traditional gown with a large veil and train, she said. A busty bride should consider a bodice with princess seams with a waist that comes into a "V." "It gives her an hourglass shape," said McArthur.
The smaller the bride, the simpler the dress, she advises.
Her business is primarily rental. "You can rent your gown, your veil, your slip, your bustle, your train, your corset for anywhere between $250 to $350," she said.
What do the experts advise so you won't look like the bride of Frankenstein?
Plan ahead. "A lot of girls think they can come in and get their dress off the floor. We don't stock all sizes (nor do other bridal boutiques interviewed by the Deseret News) and bridal gowns are eight weeks to order," said ZCMI's Felis.
Dew, of Danielle's, said the dress should be the first thing the bride decides on. "They are the center of attention. What they wear is going to affect everything else they do for the wedding."
Bridal gowns are simpler. So is the hair. "Hair is being worn up in the traditional way, but it seems to be less frilly," said Matthew Barney, a stylist at Sargeant Salon.
"It's a loose, simplified look. We're seeing big curls at the nape of the neck and at the crown," he said.
He prefers simple styles so that the hair doesn't overwhelm the bride.
"A lot of people come in with ideas from 'My Best Friend's Wedding,' or the movie industry in general," he said. "Cameron Diaz's hair looked a little frizzy to me."
Many brides schedule a consultation and run-through with their stylist well ahead of their wedding day. Barney charges $25 for the run-through and $25 to $30 an hour for the actual event.
Makeup consultant Merry Jane Reich, who works part-time at the downtown Nordstrom Chanel counter, advises brides to avoid doing anything "too new" for their wedding because it's almost always a disaster. The trend for brides is a subtle sparkle near their eyes (using glitter gel), a vibrant lip, clean dewy skin, glossy lashes, a well-groomed brow and a "flush of blush" on the cheeks, she said.
"I enhance what they have. Some people do all this contouring, covering up and shading. I don't do that because I think it looks false. The worst thing is to not look like yourself," she said.
She believes carefully applied makeup is the key. Mascara that's put on all the way to the base of your lashes is an example.
If you're going to do your own makeup, she suggests locking yourself in the bathroom with a magazine with a picture of the way you want to look and practicing. Pick your favorite feature and focus on that. Everything else should be more subtle.
Some of her tips on lip color: red or berry if you have clear blue eyes; silvery frost if you have brown eyes; pink or rose if you have green eyes.
If you're going to hire a makeup consultant, start by going to makeup counters and looking for a sales associate who has a look you like and arrange for a makeover.
Try several different consultants who represent different cosmetic lines before deciding on one. Then ask her if she does weddings. Make sure you know what she'll charge. "It can cost $175 to $300 to get someone to come out to your house and apply your makeup and generally advise you," she said.
She secures a 2 1/2-hour block of time on the day of the wedding to sequester the bride.
Reich's pet peeve? A bride who tans for her wedding. "It dries out your skin and it's two shades darker than your makeup." She also said frosty eyeshadow generally looks bad in the photographs. Ditto for too much powder on your face and no powder on your neck.
The bridal bouquet
The bride's preference takes precedence, according to Elizabeth Bingham of Sax-Romney Florist. If the bride doesn't have anything in mind, they look through books when the bride comes in for a consultation.
Thanks largely to Martha Stewart, the all-rose nose-gay, a small round bouquet with tightly compacted flowers whose stems are wrapped in ribbon is back in. Its biggest drawback is price. "If it's done right, it can cost $150 to $200 because it takes so many flowers," said Bingham.
One of Sax-Romney's most popular bridal bouquets is a European hand-tied. The price ranges from $55 to $125 but averages $85. It has the look of a nose-gay but is generally less expensive.
Bingham believes the trend is toward monochromatic bouquets with varying shades of flowers within one color. An example would be ivory, white and champagne in one bouquet.
Scott Sneddon, the shoe buyer for the downtown Nordstrom, said the Mary Jane has been the hottest bridal shoe this spring. The version with the oblique toe is particularly popular.
Older brides like a shoe by Kenneth Cole embroidered with flowers. "The embroidered flowers are what they're doing on all the shoes now," he said.
Bridal shoes are covered in satin or microfiber. In either case, Sneddon recommends pre-treating the shoes with a protective spray that will enable you to wipe off stains.
The rule of thumb on color: Don't wear shoes that are darker than your dress, they'll stick out like a sore thumb.
Mother of the bride
Like the bride, her mother typically doesn't want a lot of embellishment. "Today's mother of the bride is much younger and she wants a younger look," said Felis of ZCMI. Ankle-length dresses with jackets are popular.
A shiny beige ankle length dress with a bolero jacket embellished with pearls caught the eye of RuthAnn Johnson as she walked through the South Towne Dillard's looking for bridesmaids' dresses for her daughter's wedding.
"It called to me," she said. She tried it on and found it was a perfect match. It was a smashing success at the reception.
Dresses by Donna Morgan are also popular with mothers in the bridal party. Typically they are embellished with beads or embroidery.
Dillard's has a big selection of bridesmaids dresses. It also orders bridesmaids dresses from Jessica McClintock.
Dillard's stocks a few styles of Jessica McClintock bride dresses but will special order bridal gowns from the company. "Look what you get for the money," said Joyce Naylor, the store's women's manager, as she pointed to the exquisite gowns that fill the Jessica McClintock catalog.