Dream big ladies… dream big!

Wedding season is upon us…brides for this summer are busy gathering last minute things together and the doing final adjustments to their wedding gowns.  But for those of you who are just engaged  (Congratulations!) or thinking about their 2014 wedding this blog entry is for you.  

The first thing most couples do is secure a date. The first thing that brides think about is their gown.  There are so many questions to be asked and answered.  What colour will I wear? What style do I want?  Long or Short? Train or no train?  All of these questions together tend to be overwhelming and the answers don’t come easy.  

To help you make those decisions I have a few ideas that may guide you in narrowing down the choices and have fun doing it. 

Create a storyboard – I am sure you have plenty of magazines by this point or have a million pictures printed off the internet. Go through them all and start pulling out the pictures of anything that catches your eye. This could be a picture of a dress, decorations, colours, themes, a romantic setting, etc. Snip the bits and pieces that reflect what you like and attach them to a large poster board.   When looking at wedding dress pictures, look for details…like buttons, a neckline, hemline, colour, skirt type … and so on.  You may end up with 25-50 pictures.  That’s OK!  You are in the idea gathering stage.

Time to reflect – post this storyboard in an area where you can see it everyday. As time goes by you will wonder why you choose some of those pictures in the first place… that is your signal to remove them off the board. Add or take away as many pictures as you want at anytime. It’s your look and story to create.

Discovery time – now that you are comfortable with your ideas and have possibly narrowed them down, even somewhat, it may be a good time to have the conversation with your designer or seamstress to see what is possible for your body shape and budget.  They should go through the storyboard with you and take the time to look at the details.  All of the remaining images should paint the picture of your personality, theme and how you want to look and feel on your wedding day. My goal at this meeting is to take all of the information presented, ask a few of my own questions and sketch out a few options for the one of a kind wedding gown that will be created just for you.  We chat about fabric options, colors and I suggest the next steps.  Basically, it is my job to narrow down the choices so I can make recommendations and suggestions that reflect exactly what you are looking for.  That is the fun part!

Decision time – there is absolutely no need to rush into making a decision if you are not ready or what to dream a little more.  I know, from my point of view, I would rather a bride take the time to think about the ideas and to make sure she gets what she wants rather than feeling pressured into ordering because of the “looming” order deadline that in most cases comes with regret at a later date. Talk to your designer and seamstress to realistically set a date that makes sense and works for everyone.

Time to start – when the right decision is made you will know and feel it! Then it is time to get the fabric and the sewing going! The creative precess continues through the fitting stages and the masterpiece is born before our very eyes. A designers dream … if I may say so!  

So if a one of a kind wedding gown appeals to you then think about the storyboard idea and see what happens form there. It will help you focus in on the important aspects of your big day!

So dream big ladies…dream big and you will become the Best Dressed Bride of 2014!

Cheers,

Carolann

 

 

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To Alter or Not to Alter …

I get many phone calls about alternations to dresses, suits and special occasion wear. Some people wonder if a certain alteration can be done and how much would I charge.  Let’s just say I haven’t met an alternation I couldn’t tackle but it is very difficult to nail down a price for an alternation until you see the garment.  You have to take into consideration what type of fabric the garment is made from, how it is lined, hemmed and constructed as well as how many fittings it will take to get it perfect. Good seamstresses will take the time to do a proper fitting and follow it up with another. Formal wear alterations can be costly. Period. While you don’t typically need any extra fabric you do needs lots of time.  Usually, it takes more time to pick out existing stitches than it takes putting it all back together.  A good seamstress/tailor is worth their weight in gold!

You may have experienced finding that perfect outfit but have followed it up with: if only the shoulders could come up a bit or just nip in the sides a bit or change the strap style or taper in the legs or hem it etc.  My grandmother was famous for this.  I don’t think there was one garment she bought that didn’t get altered…somewhere or somehow. Oh Great Nanny!

People alter garments for various reasons.  The obvious and most common reason is to hem either the bottom (pants or skirt) or sleeve length.  This doesn’t usually change the integrity of the design.  But sometimes, the wrong alternation or too many manipulations on one garment can compromise the integrity of the fit, the style and drape drastically changes.  Common requests are to lower the neckline or back of the dress, take out the sleeves all together, cut off the train etc.  These are substantial changes. There is only so much you can change without changing the original look. So you need to keep this in mind. Unless of course that is exactly what you want to achieve. Then you can have fun…although you are somewhat bound to the parameters you have been given.

I have had many strange requests over the years…some are just too crazy and others are doable.  One of the most challenging requests is to take a dress that is 3-5 sizes too big and cut it down.  This is not easy and sometimes just not possible depending on the style.  Often times this will require a remake. You will have compromises in this case. Knowing garment construction can help with determining the possibility of success.  Consult with your seamstress to get their professional opinion.  In some cases, making over a dress can cost more than the dress itself.  So just because you can get a dress for cheap doesn’t mean it will end up cheap in the long run.  You might as well just make it in from scratch some cases. One example that you may want to invest the money is to re-purpose a vintage dress.  There may be historical ties from a parent, grandmother or Aunt…these masterpieces become a labor of love for sure!

One of my biggest pet peeves is when brides are pushed into ordering the wrong size to begin with.  Each year I hear from frantic and very upset brides that need their dress rescued.  They are several sizes too big and the seamstress can’t handle or figure out how to make it fit.  Some how they get my name and I get the call…and I can’t say no!  I call them rescue dresses.  Maybe TLC would like to do a TV show about that?

So here’s what you need to know and or do, before you buy the garment:

–       What is the exchange policy? Just in case…

–       Does the store have an onsite-experienced seamstress?

–       Ask to see a sample of the seamstresses work or a reference

–       Can they guarantee that there will be time to get the alterations done?

–       Lock down a delivery date of your garment

–       Order as close to your size as possible.  Insist on measurements being taken and sent to the manufacturer so they can construct the garment to as close to your real body shape as they can.

–       Secure your own seamstress prior to ordering. What would be helpful here is to have a picture of the garment to show them beforehand.

–       Have your undergarments and shoes secured, you absolutely need then for the fitting.

–       If you want a fundamental change, ask for a quote for the changes

–       If your decision is to go ahead and buy a dress then work closely with the seamstress, make sure you have a list of what needs to be done.  Very clearly work out details so there are no surprises in the end. 

The timing of the alteration is very important.  I typically don’t alter anything unless it is within two months of the wedding.  My preferred time frame is the month of the wedding when you can get the true size of the bride.  I have altered dresses months and months in advance and have had to redo and undo the work already completed.  Brides loose weight, gain weight and change their minds.  Just saying! 

So…to Alter or Not to Alter? If you budget the extra cost of the alternations in your dress cost, you may actually find that getting the dress made to your body shape and size to begin with is better.  Why alter when you can make it custom and be the Best Dressed Bride!

Have a question for me about altering your garment/gown or making a gown? Feel free to ask and as usual…i’d love to hear from you!

Here’s to the perfect garment so you will be the Best Dressed Bride.

 

Carolann

 

PS:  Check out my favorites … I’d like to introduce you to Deanne Newhook’s custom wedding invitations… stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just love January 1st! Another year to make new memories…

With only hours left to 2012 I sit here with a smile on my face for a few reasons. Lots of great things happened this past year that I am very grateful for. Our three daughters are thriving, healthy and happy. Our older girls have grown and blossomed. They are enjoying their lives as adults. Major milestones like graduating from college, getting their first apartment, securing employment, adopting a cat and having a baby are a few of their highlights. Our youngest, now 9, is having as much fun as a 9 year old can have. Swimming, dance, piano and a new found love for the violin keeps her busy… I just love the having all of the little girl stuff around again…sparkles, nail polish and the shoes!

This year brought us a new little girl to love. Hollilyn, our oldest daughter, gave birth to a beautiful little girl. Our granddaughter Chloe Isabella will turn 1 year old in January. Yes I’m a Nana, Craig is Poppy and Grace and Hannah are Aunts… a new world for us all. What a delight she is! In 2012 our family was fortunate enough to travel lots, continue our wonderful friendships and make some new ones and celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.

January 1 is special to me. My house gets cleaned, a new semester starts (I still think in semesters!), my new calendar gets populated with birthdays and special events and I start planning projects I would like to do this year. My goal in January is to organize my sewing room. This will help get me ready for the upcoming bridal season. The phone will start ringing from soon to be brides asking questions about wedding gowns, veils, alterations, etc. My sewing room will be a sea of white and ivory tulle, silk and satin. Even though I don’t sew full time anymore I still love creating that one of a kind wedding gown. Every stitch is a labor of love. My favorite part of making a wedding gown is watching the brides face light up when she tries it on. The relationship you build is amazing and when the wedding day comes I know I have contributed to their day in a special way. What a nice feeling!

Grace and Craig gave me a very thoughtful and unexpected Christmas present this year…it was a beautiful blown glass wedding gown for our tree. I was touched that they thought of me when they saw it and knew what it would mean to me. As I held it in my hands I thought of the wedding gowns I have made over the years and those smiles on the brides faces. I will continue to make wedding gowns, a few each year, those brides will have beautiful gowns…made just for them! I look forward to the day I make my daughters and granddaughters wedding gowns…every stitch a true labor of love.

Happy New Year and I hope each and every one of you make wonderful memories in 2013.

Keep smiling,

Carolann

Oh the Stress …

Oh the stress…the stress of getting ready for anything. But combining Christmas and planning a wedding…what were we thinking?   

My husband and I are celebrating our tenth anniversary on December 22. So not only were we getting ready for Christmas, but we were running around getting all the last minute details taken care of for our wedding.  The wedding took place on a Sunday afternoon at our house in front of the Christmas tree.  It was beautiful.  My mom, Judge Gloria Harding, married us…this was extra special for sure! Our closest family and friends were in attendance. After the ceremony we had an open house for about 100 family and friends.  The weather was dry but crisp and people wore their best Christmas Attire…didn’t we all look smashing, the bridal party included. 

So let me tell you the story of trying to get ready for Christmas, plan a wedding, find something to wear (for myself and 2 daughters), find a caterer, decorate the house and so on… I hope you have a giggle because when I look back at it, I did all the things I would tell a bride not to do!  When I reminisce I can now giggle at it all.   

So I started with trying to find something for my two daughters (11 & 13 at the time) to wear.  For those of you who have teenage girls, you may remember the patience you need to find something that Mom will approve and the girls will actually wear. Well this is not an easy feat.  Let’s just say we spent many hours and trips to the mall to find something … after much debate, purchases were made…Success! They both looked smashing. Craig was easy, he rented a tux and he looked incredibly handsome, if I may say so!

Now, on to my own adventure. I was thinking “I have lots of time to do this!” I thought I knew what I wanted.  I secured a vintage pattern and was going to make a long red velvet dress.  One night, after trimming the tree, I proceeded to measure, cut and get the dress ready for a fitting.  When I tried it on I was so disappointed in how it fit and how I looked. I just stood there and cried…back to the drawing board!  Have I mentioned this was 3 days before the wedding?  I re-cut, re-jigged and re-stitched and re-imagined my dress. It took several tries to figure out I had to start over.  The dress idea was scrapped and it became as long red velvet skirt.  But I couldn’t go naked from the waist up.

So the next morning I headed into the mall to find that perfect top to complete my ensemble. It’s now 2 days before the wedding! What was I looking for? I had no idea but it had to work with a red velvet skirt.  If I walked a mile that morning I walked ten.  I started at one end of the mall and walked and walked. I searched through every rack in every store. I went in stores I have never shopped in before because you never know what I would find.  I bought several things at different stores as I was afraid if I didn’t get them right then and there I wouldn’t remember what was where and with my luck it would be sold when I went back to get it. On the last rack at the last store (because I still wasn’t thrilled with what I already bought) I found the perfect piece to complete my wedding ensemble…a relief to say the least. It was a very simple long sleeve fine gauge sweater with white marabou around the cuffs and neck.  It was exactly what I had in mind! Then I trekked back to all of the stores and returned everything else I had bought…hence my ten mile journey through the mall.  Needless to say the sales clerks were quite puzzled.

Finally a sense of relief, I had something to wear. I sat that night and stitched individual rhinestones around the cuffs and the hem of the sweater, just to give it a bit of sparkle.  A bit of be-dazzling wouldn’t hurt I thought.  The ‘ensemble’ came together and it was mentioned several times that I resembled a snow princess.  That was nice!

And as the old saying goes…My something new was my new snow princess top, my something old was my shoes, my something borrowed was a beautiful head piece from my friend Jackie and my something blue was my garter… all covered off!  

So the lesson learned here is plan well ahead.  Sometimes what you think looks great on you simply does not. Take the time to try on different styles and always have a backup plan. Fortunately for me it all came together with patience, a bit of luck and a good pair of walking shoes.  

The wedding was beautiful and it was a great day over all….despite the mascara running down my cheeks (always wear waterproof).  Hollilyn and Hannah, my daughters, were gorgeous and were the perfect bridesmaids. We were surrounded by family and friends which is exactly what we wanted.  A new family was formed… our first Christmas together. 

As we decorated our tree this past weekend I found several ornaments that were given to us that year and the beautiful star ornament we gave out to our guests. It is a nice reminder of our wedding and the wonderful family we have created.  

Happy Anniversary Craig… here’s to many more! 

Happy Holidays Everyone,

Carolann

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Sun, sand & beach…the perfect wedding attire…

As I flew into the Halifax airport last week I was reminded how beautiful the fall colors really are. The beautiful yellows, ambers and reds popped out of the forest below.  It reminded me of the several wedding parties I had the privilege of working with over the years. The fall theme of those weddings was amazing, not one bridesmaid had the same color, instead, they choose from nature’s palate.  Can you picture it now?   How naturally beautiful!

But as it sit today writing this bog I am resigning myself that Fall has arrived and has brought it’s chilly temperatures and crisp days and crispier nights that threaten to freeze us! Can we wait until April to meet the heat again? Some of us will decide to find our own warmth and plan a trip to a warm climate to escape the cold temperatures.  Sun, sand and beach…Can you picture that setting … oh yeah! Some couples can see this as well…wedding and honeymoon all in one, sounds good hey?

It’s all about choice and there are so many decisions to make when planning your wedding. Like when to get married, what type of wedding, type of ceremony, what kind and color of dress and where will the wedding take place. Over the years I have made every type of wedding gown for every type of setting you can imagine; cold or warm, indoors or out, small or large, and fancy or not.   Destination weddings are very popular as they can give you the sun, sand and beach as the setting for your wedding day.   So if you have decided on a destination wedding then there are considerations to keep in mind when choosing what you and your bridal party will wear. Dressing for this occasion and setting can be a challenge but with some planning all will be perfect.

Start dreaming about how you want to feel and look.  Do you want a soft romantic look where the wind gently moves the fabric around you? Do you want a dress that you can wear ‘in stages’? By this I mean you have a base dress that has pieces that you can take away and or add to have a different look. (One of my specialties!) Are you looking for something traditional or contemporary?

When shopping for a dress, look in different places than you normally would.  Sometimes the most appropriate and beautiful dresses can be found in other sections of the store. Look in the eveningwear and prom sections of the store if they have one. Most times these dresses are lighter weight and are simpler. Most dresses can be ordered in a white or off-white.  Check out non-bridal wear stores, there are hidden gems out there that may not break the bank. Remember, whatever you get married in is your wedding dress and it doesn’t have to come from a bridal store.  Another option is if you have a favorite dressmaker you may have more choice and can design your own dress, the most perfect dress for you! Of course I am a little biased here… !!

Here are a few of my must-do “what to wear and be-prepared” suggestions:

  • Research the average temperatures. Will you need a shawl or wrap for the evening?  Or to keep the sun off your shoulders? This may impact the type of dress you buy or have made.
  • Look at pictures for ideas of what you like. Long vs. knee length, off the shoulder vs. small sleeve, veil vs. flowers…you get the idea.
  • Think about how you want to feel in your attire…sexy, romantic, or elegant.  You can be all three!
  • If you have decided the groom is not going for the tuxedo option than you have more choices in what you can go with …less formal with more personality…be open minded!
  • Consider a lighter weight dress that will not weigh you down or make you sweat.
  • Think about fabrics with polyester. They wrinkle less and are easily pressed or steamed out.  Acetate and rayon fibers will wrinkle, sometimes permanently.  If you decide to get your dress made then work with your dressmaker to choose the most appropriate fabrics.
  • Get the correct under garments, check out my first blog about bra shopping.
  • Invest in a small hand held steamer and bring it with you (they can be pretty reasonably priced, maybe $30) – make sure you have the right voltage and adapter with you. Become proficient with the tool before you leave for your trip!
  • Footwear. Chances are you may opt for barefoot for the beach and will need something for inside or on a patio for the reception.   Keeping this in mind you will need to hem accordingly…work with your dressmaker to figure this out. No tripping ‘up’ the isle! PS: have you ever tried walking in heels on a beach?
  • Carry your dress on the plane with you – even though it may be a nonstop direct flight…if you bag doesn’t show up you will at least have your dress!
  • Have a sewing kit. Bring a needle and thread, small scissors, snaps, hook and eye, safety pins etc. Just in case.
  • While I am not an expert on makeup or hair styles you may want to think about what you can bring with you to make sure you get what you want that day. Keep temperatures in mind.
  • Think about umbrellas…to provide a shade from the sun if getting married midday or – heaven forbid – it rains!
  • For all of you former girl guides out there … be prepared!.

As always have fun and make the planning process memorable.  Your experience in finding or making that perfect dress should be fun and pleasant experience…if not walk away and start again another day and remember it’s your choice, your day and your memories.  So here’s to the next time we see 25+ degrees again.

Cheers,

Carolann

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Destination Weddings…for more information on destination weddings, check out one of my favourite Destination Wedding Specialists – Lois Barbour from TPI International   www.traveltimetpi.ca

 

All bridesmaids are different…so why the same dress?

It’s safe to say that I have made thousands of bridesmaid’s dresses since 1986.  Every color, every style and every type of fabric you could possibly think of I have tackled.  My favourite was the mid nineties puffy sleeves and big bows on the bum! They were so very beautiful in hot pink, aqua blue, mint green and some brides chose a rainbow of colors! Can you picture it now? Let’s just say I haven’t made a bow in years!

The women wearing these dresses have been petite, tall, thin, plump, some happy and some not so happy.  I have always said if someone is tall they want to be shorter, if someone is short they want to be taller, if they have no chest they want a chest and so on.  So it is fair to say that all bridesmaids are different so why the same dress for them all?

I have worked with bridal parties as small as one and as large as 12 bridesmaids. Can you imagine finding 12 ladies all the same build, same size, same shape, same height and self-confident?  Absolutely impossible!!

Let’s dispel a few bridesmaids’ myths.

-Not all bridesmaids want to look alike.

-Not all bridesmaids enjoy being squashed into a strapless bra.

-Not all bridesmaids can find a strapless bra to fit.

-Not all bridesmaids want cleavage showing.

-Not all bridesmaids like a hemline above their knee.

-Not all bridesmaids are happy with the bride’s choice.

-Not all bridesmaids will be honest to tell the bride.

And…

-Bridesmaids do not usually wear the dress again.

From my experience the happiest bridesmaids are those that have a say in what they wear.  Typically the color, unless it’s bubblegum pink, is not the issue it is the style of the dress. The most finicky area is usually the top of the dress. Can they wear a regular bra with it? If you read my first blog about buying bras then you can imagine that to some, bra shopping is not a fun experience and can be expensive one on top of a potentially already expensive dress and shoes.

Some of the nicest bridal parties I have made have had completely different tops with very similar bottoms all in the same color.  Each bridesmaid in the bridal party got to choose a fit that not only suited them and their personality but also was complimentary for their body shape.  A proper fit has many benefits. This builds self-confidence and a self-confident woman glows!  Thus making one beautiful and happy bridal party. Visually the pictures are much nicer and cohesive, as everyone feels good about them selves.

When you have younger preteen bridesmaids you may be challenged to find something that is reminiscence of the adults but is appropriate for their age.  I have often made these dresses quite similar but still keeping the child’s age in mind. Try not to have a child in an adult style dress…it just doesn’t look right. My opinion of course but a strapless dress just won’t work in this situation. Just start the quest early but give growing room. I once made a dress for a child in January month on the insistence of the mother.  By June the dress was way too small as the little girl had a major growth spurt over the winter and spring months. The dress was two sizes too small. Needless to say I never did that again!

Being a bridesmaid can be a big investment to some. Helps your friends and family feel good about them selves and suggest they choose what they want but give guides lines for them to go by.  Cut out pictures, show them ideas and discuss items such as color, skirt length and styles and collaboratively make decisions. Think about what would make you happy and think about the reason for asking your attendants in the first place.  It’s not just to wear a dress … it’s to be part of your big day and let them know they are special to you.

Cheers,

Carolann

 

Next week’s blog is: 

Beach, sun and sand…and the perfect wedding attire.

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…It is ‘you’ getting married, not the dress…

Who remembers the royal wedding of Diana Spencer and Prince Charles…? I do, it was the summer I graduated from high school. The wedding took place on July 29, 1981. I was 16. I was completely enamored with Lady Diana. What would she wear? How would she look? As a budding designer at that time I needed to be there to see what the world was seeing. I remember sitting on the edge of the couch completely engrossed in the TV. I was not disappointed…she was beautiful in every way. This anticipation was felt by the entire world. Media from all over the globe was in London to cover the event. It is estimated that it was broadcast to over 750 million people. Every detail was critiqued, scrutinized and marveled over. A spectacle it was!

Diana’s dress was amazing. It was made from ivory colored silk taffeta and antique lace. Encrusted with thousands of bugle beads, sequins, diamonds and pearls. The train was 25 feet long. So long it was said her father had a hard time fitting in the glass carriage with her. It was a lot of dress no doubt. Some say too much dress…I agree.

Brides young and old want to look beautiful on that special day. Who doesn’t? As I have said to many brides….”it is “you” getting married not the dress.” Sometimes the chosen design is just too much, too big and simply does not reflect the person wearing it.

When choosing your wedding or special occasion gown most people do not spend enough time thinking about how they want to feel in the dress or outfit. They see a dress in a magazine and have a hard time getting beyond that imagine. Typically, the image you see are of 5’9 models that are 110 lbs and the outfits are cinched in with clamps to fit them. Realistically if you have any shape at all (including a bust or hips), most of these dresses do not fit your body like shown in the picture. So knowing this, the best thing to do is to reflect on what has made you look good before!

If you are at the beginning of the journey to find the perfect dress or outfit may I suggest you consider a few things.

Take a look in your closet and pick out your favorite articles of clothing. It could be your favorite because of the fabric, the length, the color, the design or the cut. Try it on again to determine why it’s one of your favorite items and make note.

Take a picture of yourself or go back and look at pictures in certain outfits…what looked nice? If every time you wear a sweetheart neckline and you get a compliment then you know it looks good and is flattering.

How do you feel in that garment? Why does it feel comfortable? Does it flow over the hips the way you like? Do you feel pretty? Do you feel like your bust is concealed or enhanced with the design? I would like you to really consider this one. People will see if you are uncomfortable in the outfit…guaranteed.

What do you consider to be your biggest asset? Some people like their legs other like their back or cleavage. No point in having a dress that draws attention to the wrong part.

Your answers to the questions above will help guide you to be the best dressed. Keeping your answers in mind, now you can look at choosing an outfit or dress in a different way. One time a bride came to me with a picture of a very high-necked wedding dress. I asked that bride if she liked wearing turtlenecks? Her answer was “I never wear turtlenecks, I don’t like them.” I enquired as to why she would want a turtleneck-wedding gown if she really didn’t like high necks. The answer, she was attracted the picture but the picture really wasn’t her. We ended up making a dress with a completely different neckline that suited her much better.

I have several goals when I am designing a wedding gown for a bride or an outfit for a special occasion and you too can keep these things in mind.

Make sure their personality is reflected in the design. Sleek, whimsical, modern, classic etc.
-The design works with each person’s unique body shape.
-The dress must be comfortable to wear. Not too heavy, itchy or scratchy. Not too puffy or straight so they cannot walk. The outfit must feel like it was “meant to be”. Once that is achieved you will know that feeling.
-The dress must show off the assets. (See above)
-The dress fits perfect.
-The dress fits the occasion.
-Most importantly, the dress or outfit must not compete with the person wearing it. I want to see the Bride’s face first and foremost as she is the one getting married… not the dress.

Everyone can find the perfect outfit. By knowing what you like and what styles ‘like’ your body is extremely helpful while on that journey. Keep it simple with classic lines and remember the dress is just the largest accessory you have. People may remember you wore red but more importantly you want them to remember how confident and beautiful you looked, how radiant your smile was and the ease in which you owned the room. Take the time to discover your needs and wants to ensure you are the Best Dressed Bride!

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Carolann

Next blog – All bridesmaid are different …why the same dress?

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