Two Big Items Checked Off!

August 18, 2010

Boy, have I been slacking here. Still about 14 months out from the wedding, but another two big items checked off the list.

A few weeks ago, we trekked up to Scarsdale, NY to meet with Kelly Vasami to photograph the wedding. On the way there, Paul and I were discussing the meeting and he said, “So, this shouldn’t take that long, right?” Two hours later… I think both of us are so excited to work with Kelly. The meeting lasted two hours, though a good fifteen minutes were spent playing with her adorable puppy, and we talked about everything. Every time I mentioned something I’d seen in wedding photography that I didn’t like, Kelly said, “I know!” I think we’re definitely on the same page in terms of what we’re looking for and I’m so excited to have her as part of our day.

There are two main reasons that Kelly’s work stood out to me so much. First was the way she captured color. I love bold colors. And one of the reasons we’re getting married in the fall is because I love all the colors of Autumn. I want to see those reflected in our wedding photography. The other thing I love about her work is the way she captures emotions. It’s not just about what happened when. It’s about how we were feeling during those moments and those are truly reflected in Kelly’s photographs.

We’re going to do an engagement session this fall in Prospect Park and I can’t wait.

The other big check mark is for my wedding dress! I bought my dress last week! And of course, by bought I mean I swiped my credit card for half the purchase price. Give it a few months for the dress to come in and I’ll pay off the dress and then it’s mine!

We went back to the same salon I had visited last, Birnbaum and Bullock. I worked with designer Robert Bullock again to narrow it down between two dresses. This time my mother, my sister, Julie, and maid of honor, Kelly, came along. This was my mom’s first time seeing me in a wedding dress.

To be perfectly honest, I already knew which dress I was going with. I had spent the last month or so thinking about one of the two dresses, but I wanted to see what Mom had to say. I tried on the one I was less enthusiastic about first. It got a good response, but when I put on the other one, there was no question about which dress was mine. The decision was immediate and unanimous. Everyone loved the second dress. I loved the second dress. And soon it shall be mine!

I think what I love most about it, besides the way it looks on, is that it’s visually stimulating. I think people will look at this dress twice and for a good reason. That’s all I’m going to write about it though. Paul knows where the wedding blog is!

I’m very excited though. Only 417 days to go! And no, I’m not counting. Wedding Wire does that for me!

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Last weekend, my maid of honor and two bridesmaids joined me to look at bridesmaid dresses for the first time.  We went over to Here Comes the Bridesmaid, who carries a bunch of well known designers. While we did have an appointment, the experience was pretty laid back and independent. Once we checked in, we were told to browse the racks and pull out dresses we liked. We were looking short, knee-length cocktail dresses that were available in red. My goal from the start has been to find a dress that comes in the same fabric, with a couple of different shapes, so everyone can pick a dress that they feel comfortable in. I also really want to find dresses that each of my girls will be happy wearing again.

The best part about going with three of my bridesmaids is that we could try on a bunch of dresses quickly and eliminate the ones we didn’t like and then switch the dresses we did like! Jessica and Julie were our dress guinea pigs. I think they tried on at least ten dresses between the two of them. Sadly, only two really stood out. One is the yellow one to the right. It’s from Watters & Watters. It’s silk dupioni, which is a really interesting looking raw silk, so you get interesting variations in the fabric. Obviously, we’d get it in red. The nice part about this dress is that there are a couple of dresses that are made of the same fabric and have the same style, but have different neckline or strap options. Jessica and Julie both looked really cute in the dress. So, it’s on the list. The only problem is that it’s pretty pricey, close to $300. I’d rather find something a little more affordable before settling.

The other dress we found was from Watters’ other line, Wtoo. This dress also looked great on Julie and Jessica and the back was really sexy, but the fabric was a poly-chiffon and while the grey worked, we all agreed it might look a bit cheap in a red color. But I was surprised to learn that at least three of the five girls would be willing to wear a chiffon dress! I was expecting them to veto that.

So, the next step is to make an appointment at a different store. I think we’ll try Bella Bridesmaid next. They carry a ton of lines. I’m definitely excited to look at Anna Elyse, which fits perfectly in the same fabric, different styles dress goal. There’s also Jenny Yoo, Amsale and Alix & Kelly. I’ve looked on all of the websites, but it really doesn’t matter until you’re actually in the store looking at the dresses.

And of course, there’s always J.Crew. So, we’ll find something. My sister will be in the city for three weeks for a summer programming starting next week, so it’ll be much easier to get everyone together to go try on dresses and at the very least meet! So, hopefully, we’ll find something. We’re not in a rush and there are definitely a few seasons to pass before we really have to make a decision, but considering how long it can take for some of these dresses to come in, I’d rather start early. Better safe than sorry!

Last weekend, I finally went over to Robert Bullock’s salon to try on his dresses. I have been dreaming about trying on one of his gowns since I saw it in a magazine, almost an year ago. Since I started looking, I’ve known I wanted lace, but I hadn’t been thrilled with any of the dresses I tried on. They looked nice enough, but nothing had felt right. Every dress I tried on was heavy and stiff. I was getting discouraged and a little bit nervous that I had an impossible vision of my wedding dress and I was never going to find it.

Thankfully, I made a trip to Robert Bullock’s salon. The best part of the whole experience is that Robert was there himself helping me out. I could ask about options and know that the answers were coming from the person who designed the dress.

The Francesca gown was the first dress I tried on. I’d been pining forever, it was time to finally see how it looked and it looked… okay. Sadly, this wasn’t my dress. It was really lovely, but didn’t work exactly. But I tried on six or so more dresses and loved them all.

I have never had as positive of a shopping experience as I did at the salon. First of all, every dress felt wonderful. A lot of the dresses I had tried on previously were either true A-line or fitted at the hips, which I wasn’t looking for at all. Robert’s gowns are modified A-line. Essentially, the hug the natural waist and then go out, but there is no fabric forcing the skirt out. The fabric follows the natural line of the hips. Almost every dress I tried on had this shape and I loved the way all of them looked. And because they didn’t have layers of tulle or anything else underneath creating volume, all the dresses were significantly lighter than anything else I tried on. I didn’t feel weighted down at all. The fabric was all very lush and luxurious and the dresses felt amazing on my skin. These were dresses I had no problem imagining spending a day in.

And almost every dress looked great on! Like I said, every dress hit me in all the right places and made me feel incredibly sexy. I even fit perfectly into a couple of the dresses, no pins or clips required. I felt like each dress made my waist look incredibly tiny, which I am definitely going for!

This dress is one of the ones I tried on and it got great reviews from Julie, my sister, and Kelly, my maid of honor, but I didn’t love it. It was a little too modern for me. Some of the other dresses had the lace all over and I liked that more.

Ultimately, I didn’t end up getting my dress, because I narrowed it down to two that I loved. Since Paul knows where the blog is, I won’t go into what they look like, but the next step is to head back with my mother and grandmother and have them help narrow it down. So, hopefully, we’ll do that later this month.

But I absolutely have to encourage anyone who is looking for a beautiful dress and an amazing shopping experience to go to the Birnbaum and Bullock salon. The Stephen Birnbaum has his own line and they have a line together at varying price points. But it was the best experience I’ve had so far, planning my wedding and it’ll be hard to beat. I was the only bride in the salon at the time and each bride gets the same experience.

So, this morning, my maid of honor, Kelly, and I headed over to RK Bridal so I could try on some wedding dresses. It was my first time trying on dresses and I didn’t want or expect to find “The Dress” in the first go around. I wanted to get a feel for the kind of dresses that looked good on me, figure out what shape worked best and really to make sure that the romantic, lace look I was hoping for, actually looked right for me.

I chose RK Bridal, because it’s no appointment necessary. We just walked in this morning and were immediately looking through dresses and choosing ones to try on. They have essentially a warehouse set-up, with racks of dresses, prom, bridesmaid and wedding.

After signing up, our consultant, Olga, told us to go look and choose four or five gowns to start. I knew I was looking for a lace dress, sheath or A-line. Going in I was focusing on finding straps, but there weren’t that many strap options, so we pulled plenty of strapless gowns as well.

I didn’t find anyone one gown that I loved. There were gowns that had the lace I wanted, but the shape didn’t work. There were gowns that were the perfect shape, but the lace wasn’t right, or it was only on the bodice and I want it all over. I tried on a number of strapless gowns, which I wasn’t too keen on going in, and Kelly is convinced that I need to wear a strapless dress. I’m still not convinced, but it’s early days yet.

I did learn a couple of important things today. I am looking for a modified A-line. I tried on a sheath dress, a mermaid dress, full A-line and the modified A-line. The modified A-line looked the best. I’m also looking for a natural waist. I tried on a few drop waist dresses and I just didn’t like them. It makes my torso look long, to be sure, but then it just makes my legs look short. I much prefered the natural waist. When I tried on dresses that hit at the right place, my waist looked really tiny. Definitely a fan of that! The dress here is one of the ones I tried on. I liked it, but didn’t love it.

The were a couple of things that surprised me about trying on wedding dresses. First, it didn’t take nearly as long as I expected. Maybe I watch too much “Say Yes to the Dress,” but on that show, it seems like it takes girls hours to try on three dresses!we were zipping in and out of dresses. We arrived shortly after 11am and we were out around 12:30 or so.

Secondly, wedding dresses are heavy! From a distance and in photographs, wedding dresses look so delicate and flouncy. But they’re not. Those dresses have a lot of weight to them. Part of it is the sheer amount of fabric. To get the shape, there are layers of tulle underneath the dress. Also, any dress that has a lot of beading is also going to be heavy. Between the two of us, Kelly and I determined that I wanted some beading, but not an overwhelming amount.

The other thing I was surprised to learn? I’m smaller than the sample size. I had ordered a dress online from J.Crew a while back and ordered a much larger size than I expected. Size inflation has put me in a range anywhere from size 2 to size 6, depending on the store, whether it’s pants, a shirt or a dress. But when I ordered from J.Crew, based on the measurements, I ordered a size 8. The dress fit correctly and when I was researching sample size gowns, I understood that most of the dresses fell in the 8-10 range. So, when I got into my first dress and it was enormous, I was surprised. Olga had to use clips to keep the dresses on me, so I could see what they looked like.

So, one trip to a bridal shop down. I’m heading over to Camille’s Bridal in West Hartford, hopefully next Saturday or Sunday. And I want to make an appointment at Robert Bullock’s salon for sometime early this summer. I don’t know if I’m going to have that wow moment, but I’m not there yet. I think today was a little too technical. I was looking at shape and style. I haven’t seen a full dress I like yet. It’ll be another step before I find a dress I love.

Bridesmaid Dresses

April 16, 2010

I have found since I started planning this wedding that selecting bridesmaid dresses can be very tricky. First of all, there a a lot of bridesmaid dresses out there! This is not something you know about if you’re not involved with the planning of a wedding. Secondly, there are a lot of factors to take into account when selecting bridesmaid dresses; fit, style, color, fabric, etc. And finally, there are five people to take into consideration.

There are a couple of ways to go about dresses your bridesmaids. You can pick one dress in one color and make everyone wear that dress in that color, you can select one color and fabric as part of a collection and ask your ladies to pick any style in that category. Or you can pick a color and say, find something in this color.

The first option, having your ladies buy the exact same dress is probably the most common route taken by most brides. I’m sure many feel that’s the way it’s done, so that’s what they do. But it doesn’t taken into account many of the issues I mentioned before, specifically that you’re outfitting multiple girls in the exact same dress. Unless all your friends are models and a size 2, odds are good they won’t all look good in the same dress.

The last option also seems like a pretty good idea at the time, but it frequently backfires. First of all, asking bridesmaids to find their own dress puts a lot of pressure on them. Anyone who’s had to go out and buy a dress under pressure, much less a dress in a specific color, knows how frustrating it can be. The other problem with this option is that it ends up putting a lot of pressure on the bride. One bride I know who tried to make things easy on her bridesmaid has been bombarded with calls and e-mails from her TWO bridesmaids asking if this a dress would be okay. She’s ready to just cut her losses and pick a dress.

The other option, and the route I’m planning to take, is to select a fabric and a color at a specific company and allow your bridesmaids to pick a dress that best fits their body type. This allows a lot more flexibility in terms of dress style and, I think, creates a more interesting look in the bridal party. Not all my bridesmaids look the same, why should they all dress the same?

But where to get the dresses. I was taken aback by just how man bridesmaid options there are and even more so by the fact that with all the options out there, people STILL get dresses at David’s Bridal! While there are some dresses at David’s Bridal that are nice…ish, the vast majority of their dresses are very obviously bridesmaid dresses.

There are also companies like Dessy Group, TwoBirds Bridesmaid, Anna Elyse and dozens more. But while those dress companies all have a lot of options in terms of color and style, the fabric they use drives me crazy. Okay, let me backtrack briefly. The price of these dresses drive me crazy *considering* the fabric they use. I’ve looked at tons of dresses and when I track down the details about the fabric they use it almost always ends up being a polyester, poly-satin or some other man made material. I really don’t understand why so many companies think it’s okay to charge over $200 for a polyester dress!

I think it’s fair to say I’m a fabric snob. I recognize that polyester is a much cheaper alternative than silk in many cases, but I’d rather pay the extra money for silk. I find that polyester and other synthetic fabrics don’t feel as good as natural fibers like cotton, wool, silk, etc. I also think that polyester doesn’t look as nice. It doesn’t move the same way other fabrics do. Being a fabric snob is frustrating, because SO much is made out of polyester. (Sidenote: On “Project Runway” recently, Michael Kors berated a contestant for using polyester when half of his Macy’s collection is made from polyester or poly-blends. And you know what, Michael, two-thirds of the collection is ugly to. End sidenote.)

Getting back to bridesmaid dresses, the other option, beyond the specific bridesmaid collection out there are the dress options at J.Crew and Ann Taylor. Unfortunately, Ann Taylor doesn’t have the color I’m hoping for in their dress collection presently. But J.Crew does. The dress seen here is the Sophia dress in vintage burgundy. I love the color and the fabric is silk tricotine. Real silk! I bought the same dress in a different color in the silk chiffon and I really liked it.

The best part of the J.Crew collection is that they have four or five dresses in the same fabric and color that are different styles. If one of my friends would rather have less cleavage, there’s a dress for that. More cleavage? Well, there’s a dress for that! I, personally, think the color is stunning and this is the kind of dress I really feel like could be worn again.

I think that idea is one of the biggest driving factors for brides to consider when choosing bridesmaid dresses right now. Will my girls be able to wear this dress again? I think, looking at some of the specifically designed bridesmaid dresses out there, the vast majority of them just look like bridesmaid dresses. If you’re asking someone to stand up with you and spend their time and money to be a part of your wedding, I think it’s nice and considerate to extend them the courtesy of getting a re-wearable dress.

Being a bridesmaid is an investment. It’s an investment in time and mostly money. While we haven’t started the search for dresses yet, I plan on getting all the ladies together to try on dresses at J.Crew and maybe check out some of these other brands. Hopefully, it’ll be a fun time and we can all decide on a dress designer that is comfortable, affordable and wearable for years to come.

Wedding Dresses

April 11, 2010

Apparently this week is Bridal Fashion Week in New York City, which means lots of new dresses are on display. I’ve spent plenty of time looking at dresses online and I am constantly amazed by how many ridiculous dresses there are out there. Obviously, the dress, for some women, is a statement of fashion and money. A very couture gown, like Carrie’s in “Sex in the City” is more about fashion than anything else. As  woman on display, it’s important to put on a show, right?

But couture isn’t for me. I like and appreciate fashion. I enjoy watching “Project Runway.” But most fashion just isn’t practical and a lot of times, it just doesn’t look good.

Like most girls, I’ve definitely sat through an entire episode (or multiple episodes) of TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress” and the main things I’ve learned from that show is that you need to dress for you body type, what looks good in your head may not look good on your body and finally, there are a lot of ugly wedding dresses out there.

Any good bridal magazine will have an article every month going through best styles for body types. I’m short at 5’4″, but not petite. I have a slight hourglass figure. My hips and bust are both pretty average sized. In fact, I’m probably one of those lucky brides who will be able to fit into almost every sample size gown at the shop. The bridal magazines have told me time and again that I should look for sheath to make me look taller and A-line because everyone looks good in A-line. Ball gowns can overwhelm a petite frame and drop waist will just make my legs look short. I’m not sure whether I qualify, so to speak, to wear mermaid or trumpet, but I generally think those two styles are hideous, so I’m not going to worry about them.

What amazes me in looking at photos out of the bridal shows is how many ball gowns there are. the ladies over at AisleDash.com have some fantastic galleries up from bridal fashion week and I have to say, I’m not finding anything that I would like to wear, much less would look good on me. Ten out of eleven of the dresses in Kenneth Pool’s collection are ball gowns, drop-waist ball gowns or mermaid style dresses that look a lot like uber-drop-waisted ball gowns. Most of them, accounting for personal taste, were lovely on the models, but years of watching “America’s Next Top Model” have taught me that most models are 5’9″ and above and stick thin. These dresses won’t look good on most regular women.

There has also been a focus on either tulle, especially for the skirts, and sateen material, with a lot of shine. So much of the fabric seems so heavy. The skirts have no movement to them, because there’s just so much weight to them. At the New York Wedding Event, I was able to touch a few of the dresses and I don’t know what they were made of, but the fabric did not feel comfortable. It felt fake, like polyester of some sort.

The other important feature to look for on wedding dresses are the details; the fabric, beading, lace, etc. Many of the dresses I’ve seen have layers of tulle, ruffles, feathers and lots of pleating. I have to admit, I don’t think I have thevocabulary to really describe some of these dresses. I think one of the styles that I’ve seen a lot lately I can really only call the cupcake affect, meaning the skirt looks like a giant cupcake. I’ve also seen a lot of over-the-top beading, rhinestones and jewels, which I think distract from the dress itself.

And of course, necklines. Strapless have been popular for ages. I have never gotten on board with the idea of a strapless dress. I have horrible visions of the dress falling down or, at the very least, tugging at it all night long. Sweetheart necklines are supposed to look good on anyone, but again, I don’t see it for me. I think my favorite neckline style is V-neck. I think it’s the most flattering style and, depending on how deep it goes, it could be very sexy without being too over the top.

And finally, there’s the issue of straps. Like I mentioned. I don’t want a strapless dress, but it is amazing how many ugly strap options there are out there. It seems the plain old ordinary spaghetti strap is too simply for a lot of designers. I think my least favorite is the David’s Bridal lacey triangle like things. I think they’re hideous.

So after spending a lot of time talking about what I don’t like, what do I like? I want something romantic and sweet. I want sheath or a slight A-line. I want to look tall and thin. I want a fabric that’s soft with a lot of movement, probably a silk of some sort. I really like the lace overlay look, but I want a more modern lace. While look at a wedding magazine a while ago I found the exact dress I want. I don’t know if it’ll actually look good but on paper, it has everything I’m looking for. The dress, seen here on the left is by Robert Bullock, his Francesca gown. I think it’s stunning. The lace detail and beading is not too over the top. The neckline is perfect and the satin details on the neckline continue to the back and make a cross on the back. I think everything about the gown is perfect and I’m hoping it’ll look perfect on me.

Luckily, Robert Bullock’s flagship salon is right in New York City, so I’m hoping to make an appointment there this summer. My problem is that I know I shouldn’t just try on one gown. I know I should go out and try a bunch of things on, make appointments at a bunch of different bridal shops and salons and get to know the process of trying on gowns, decide what looks good on me and really get a feel for the whole wedding gown industry. But I don’t want to. I want to go to Robert Bullock’s salon, try on this dress and buy it.

I know I definitely don’t want to make an appointment at a big bridal warehouse like Kleinfeld’s (especially since their dresses are ugly and expensive, but that’s just my opinion), but I feel bad making an appointment at a small boutique place and essentially wasting someone’s time. I know so many of these stores pay their employees on commission and I’d feel bad having someone spend such a long time helping me when I know I’m not going to buy their dress. And, on the other hand, I’m afraid of falling in love with a dress before I get to try the Robert Bullock one on!

The wedding dress is such a big part of the whole wedding experience. It’s no surprise that it’s probably going to be one of the most stressful.