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Bridal Portrait-Fairhope Wedding-Candice Brown Photography

De-stress Finding Your Dress

One of the most exciting parts of wedding planning is finding a gown you love. Loving your dress and how you look in it makes taking photos on your wedding day even that much more fun. That feeling of confidence shines as you walk down the aisle. But, the search for the best dress can feel overwhelming. My good friend and fashion blogger Morrell, Morrell’s Armoire wrote some great advice to ensure finding your dress is full of fun and not stress. After you read this, find more fashion finds, tips, and advice on popular trends on her website

Finding Your Perfect Wedding Dress

The dress, your wedding dress, is the one you’ve been dreaming of your entire life. From the day I was old enough to know what being a bride entails, I was immediately dreaming of my day and my dress. Thanks Disney. By being a fashion blogger, there may have been some big expectations surrounding my dress, but I stayed true to who I am, what I wanted, and I wouldn’t settle for less. Trying on your wedding dress is kind of of like finding your one true love. You will find qualities in them that you knew you wanted before you met, like the plunging back, sweetheart neckline, and vintage lace. Once you find the one that meet those qualities, and you try it on for the first time, it will just click. You will know, and the unexplainable feeling will just hit you like a bus... just like it did when you fell in love. I tried on twenty something gowns before I found “the one”. God help the girl who goes through twenty something boyfriends.

Since finding the perfect dress is definitely a process, I want to share with you my experiences and forward some advice to the newly engaged.

Some advice I have for the Bride and Dress Shopping:

Grand Hotel Point Clear Wedding Photographer-Candice BrownGrand Hotel Wedding in Point Clear, AL. Gown from Anthony's Bridal in Foley, AL

1. Sticking to one main theme makes it easier to weed out.

Putting together all options can be overwhelming. I knew I wanted an open back and those were mainly the dresses I tried on. With my mother and grandmothers, being “Old South” the plunge couldn’t go too low. However, I wanted to see just how low it could go …with classy qualities of course. I think I pulled it off. Plunging back, mermaid cuts, princess silhouettes, lace, or even nude illusions-find what quality is most important to you and stick with it.

2. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone.

Even if you thought you wanted a mermaid gown, try on at least one princess ball gown. You never know what the dress will look like on YOU. Plus you may even like different silhouettes once you try something different. I tried on a big beautiful princess gown, and I loved it. However, I still loved the vintage lace A-line dresses better. Try on at least one outside your chosen silhouette just so you know. The funny story of this dress is that I never thought of having sleeves before I tried this one on. As I have always been strongly obsessed with old Hollywood fashion, the sleeves nostalgically brought me to Grace Kelly and Kate Middleton. I never looked back.

3. All dresses look different on the hanger.

You won't know how it *really* looks until you put it on. Clothes are made to look good on people, not hangers.

Steelwood Country Club Wedding PicsSteelwood Golf Club Wedding. Casablanca Bride gown from The Bridal Suite in Pensacola, FL

4. When dress shopping, many guests means many opinions.

I am a people pleaser. I always want everyone else to be happy, but this, my friends, is a day that is about YOU and no one else. The dress should make YOU feel beautiful, amazing, and unstoppable. The first couple of times I went dress shopping, I only took my mom. I even went by myself one time. When I found three dresses I could not decide between, I brought only my three closest friends and family, including my mom. You do need a second opinion but only from that one person who will be honest with you. You’ll need an honest, reliable companion to say, ‘I love it. But it’s just not "you”. Bring the ones that will support your decision to look gorgeous. ;)

5. Buy your dress at least six months in advance, maybe even eight.

Most gowns take at least six to eight months to come in because of the man power it takes for gorgeousness occur, unless you buy it off the rack. You'll most likely have three fittings to get your dress altered to fit you just right. Time it just right.

6. Don’t let a discount distract you from what you really want.

I promise, it is worth it to spend a little more and have exactly what you want, than to spend a little less and not have exactly what you wanted for that day. Skim off others things from the reception that are less important. The dress is everything!

7. Stop pinning in the name of love! After you make your purchase put down the Pinterest!

Once you purchase your dress, do not keeping looking. I put myself on a Pinterest and Bridal Magazines fast. Don’t even look back on that twenty thousand dollar gown you pinned that you knew was out of reach. You will begin to feel uneasy, become overwhelmed, and even doubt your purchase. After looking and looking, you can forget what you originally set out to find. Don’t let magazines and Pinterest confuse you. Trust yourself, and be confident in your decision.

Remember what it was like the first time you put it on, pure euphoria. I promise the morning of your wedding that feeling will come back to you.

We have several wonderful bridal boutiques in our area. These are some of my favorites:

Little Point Clear Wedding DressBliss Bridal in downtown Fairhope, AL. Bliss now has 3 locations. Fairhope, New Orleans and Hattiesburg. They carry one of my favorite designers to photograph Justin Alexander. Katie, the owner, is always up to date on the best wedding trends. This picture and this one and this one are all #realblissbrides

Mimi’s Bridal in Laurel, MS. This is where Morrell found her Essence of Australia gown. The owners are so sweet. I’m not surprised that Mimi’s is a go-to for brides.

The Bridal Suite in Pensacola, FL. One of my 2019 brides found her Casablanca Bridal gown here and it was perfection. You can view her dress here.

Anthony’s Bridal in Foley, AL is a family owned boutique that has been a popular wedding vendor for decades. One of their gowns is featured in this bridal portrait.

Thanks again to Morrell for her great advice!

History of the Wedding Dress

The history of the wedding dress is much shorter than the history of weddings. The first time it's mentioned in history comes from an ancient Chinese myth 1,000’s of years old. To sum it up quickly, a princess marries a dragon-dog that became a man, Pan Hu. Her mother, the empress, dressed the princess in a beautiful Phoenix dress and Phoenix crown to ensure it was a lucky union. They had a happy family. When it came time for their own daughter to marry, a real Phoenix flew out of a mountain and presented the girl with the colorful phoenix dress all her own. Many Chinese brides still wear the red phoenix style dress today. (Side note: These gowns are absolutely stunning and I hope I'm lucky enough to photograph a Chinese bride wearing one someday.)

Regardless if you where layers in ruffles of the white like most Western brides or a red Phoenix dress, the wedding dress as we know it's that we call "traditional" are relatively modern, regardless of where they come from.

Weddings outdate the wedding dress partly because politics preceded love. Historically weddings are more like business deals and it wasn't so much of the ceremony as signing an agreement. At the very least, they were not the ceremony and exchanging of vows we are familiar with today. I won't go into the details I found about the ancient Babylonian marriage markets and let's just say I'm glad that isn't socially acceptable and are more modern times. I did learn that we have no idea what these women wore at this market obviously that wanted to look their best. There is a British artist, Edwin Long, who painted an interpretation of the scene in 1875 based on Herodotus’s description, however, the colors used for the clothing is more of a Western view of colors and their meanings rather than any real historical accuracy.

If you have looked at any wedding dress blogs, I'm sure you know that for the most of history even Western brides did not wear white. In ancient Rome marriages were celebrated with parties and banquets, and brides for long veils of deep yellow. The yellow veil represented “the color of flame” and was representative of the bride bringing light and warmth into their new family home. Ancient Athenian brides war long violet robes cinched at the waist by a girdle. For the most part, the dresses were meant to be a symbolic representation of a passage from one stage of life to the next.

However these colors were not required for brides to wear.

It is thought that China is possibly the first place where brides were expected to wear a particular color. 3000 years ago dynasty rulers instituted strict clothing laws. These laws were based on profession, social status, gender, and occasion. Brides and bridegroom's wore black robes with red trim. These rules were strict rules until about 200 BC and then continued to relax even more over the centuries. As time went on, a more relaxed social order and outside cultural influences flowed from China to both Japan and Korea. The resulting fashion influences can still be seen in some of the Japanese and Korean bridal fashions of today. "Traditional Korean brides were also expected to embody a common theme and bridal fashion throughout the world which is the emulation of royalty. This is, in part, how Western rights him to wear white as well and in turn how a particular kind of white Western wedding dress began to colonize the weddings of the whole world."

Possibly the most influential cultural even happened on the other side of the world. Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840 and wore a white gown. She is credited with being the main influence and reason that Western culture uses a white dress. However white dresses white wedding dresses have been around in European culture before then. The earliest recorded instance in Western culture is that of English princes Philippa at her wedding to the Scandinavian King Eric in 1406. In 1558, Mary Queen of Scots wore white during her wedding to the soon to be thing to France. And white remains popular but by no means obligatory colorful royal weddings. And contrary to popular belief prior to Queen Victoria White did not symbolize purity or virginity. It was costlier and harder to keep clean and it communicated the status and wealth of those who wore it.

Still, even the wealthiest and most Royal during this time also wore gold or blue and if they were not rich or royal they simply wore whatever color their best dressed happened to be. It wasn't until the 19th century that it was expected for a woman to wear her white wedding dress only once and never again. Prior to that the idea would have been preposterous. Even Queen Victoria repurposed her own wedding dress and veil for subsequent use. Personally, I think in our modern society, the opinion is totally the opposite. Most women today would consider it absurd to wear their wedding dress multiple times, mainly because there would be no place to wear it. One possible exception would be if the bride went in the way of Carrie Bradshaw and wore a simple white suit that would be appropriate for other social events. We don't quite have the grand balls and events that took place like the ones they had in Victorian England to re-wear a wedding gown. Most non-Royal women, even if they did have a dress made especially for the wedding, would likely wear it again as her new Sunday best until it was worn out or the fashion changed drastically.

All of this changed after the marriage of Queen Victoria. Victoria and Albert embodied marital bliss and the people wanted to emulate her, but also a lot of these changes were somewhat because of the Industrial Revolution and a few technological advances. One of the most notable, and may I say overlooked, influence was photography and the spread of illustrated magazines.

Illustrations of the Queen on her big day for widely distributed and young women sought to copy her wedding costume in any way they could. Even today it is still considered the classic wedding silhouette all over the world, despite that the style was just like every other way dress Queen Victoria wore at the time. Still her image was distributed throughout the British colonies around the world and it has persisted in popularity. Many Chinese brides will even take part in an elaborate wedding photo shoot while wearing a Western white dress, even if she chooses a traditional Chinese dress for the actual ceremony.

Another influence on brides of the Victorian era choosing white is because white gowns looked particularly good in photographs of the time. The white stood out on the new black and white and sepia films. They looked distinct and highlighted the beauty of the bride. By the 1940s women's magazines were announcing that white was the best color for wedding dress and saying that it had always for the history of weddings been the best wedding dress color. Thanks to the internet we know this isn't true but white, or some close version of white, is still the go to color for brides of today.

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