*What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? Newlywed Courtney Kern is the owner of Events Beyond, a wedding and event design company. Engaged since 2007—yes, she's heard every Five Year Engagement joke—she knew exactly how her dream day would unfold, but that doesn't mean the process was always a cake walk. *
I've had the privilege of attending Bridal Fashion Week in New York City for the past several years. Twice yearly, bridal designers unveil their new collections to buyers, members of the press, and other industry experts. As a wedding planner it's total treat, but as a bride-to-be it can be a little overwhelming. Being in such close proximity with the most exquisite dresses makes the great gown decision extremely challenging for a bride on a budget. And although I've dreamed of a ballet-inspired gown with layers upon layers of frothy tulle since I was a tiny ballerina, I'm now a grown woman balancing several priorities. Would I be able to find my dream gown without breaking the bank?
When I was younger I fantasized about wearing a classic designer; my two favorites are Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta. These extraordinary artists always amaze me with their timeless and elegant collections. When I was a dancer and ballet instructor hurrying between classes and auditions on the Upper East Side, their storefronts mesmerized me. When I saw their work I was transported to an evening performance of the New York City Ballet. I felt similarly swept up years later when I saw Monique Lhuillier's Spring 2012 collection. At this point I had been engaged since December 2007 and had already selected a pink-and-gold color palette and ballet theme. (To clarify for concerned moviegoers, "ballet theme" does not go hand in hand with Black Swan. Though my dress search was challenging, it did not result in a descent into madness.) When I saw Monique Lhuillier's "Candy" wedding dress—a blush pink-hued, ballerina-inspired confection (above)—come around the corner, my heart melted. It was the perfect gown.
Though gorgeous, at more than $7,000 it was a fantasy. I'm a practical business owner as well as a practical bride on a budget. We were planning an intimate wedding, sharing the day with 60 of our closest family and friends. Since the scale of our wedding was small, I felt it only appropriate that my dream dress be more modest as well, both in style and budget.
After striking out at one bridal salon, I received an invitation to a Thread Bridesmaid pop-up shop. The vibe of the temporary boutique in the Bryant Park Hotel was intimate and chic. The dresses were beautifully laid out and there were bottles of champagne and cupcakes from Billy's Bakery—you know, the essentials! For ladies ready to give their dresses a test twirl, they even had music playing and an assortment of heels. Amy, the sales manager of Thread, was attentive to my needs—pink, straps, easy on the puffiness—and she pointed me to a dress that was intended for bridesmaids, but was also offered in a fabulous, not too pink shade of "ballet slipper." It was simple, chic, affordable at less than $1,000, and had all of the qualities I was looking for in my practical dream gown. I tried it on and voilà—it was the one! There I was, all by myself gown shopping in the city and I stumbled across the dress. For fear of being too impulsive I said I'd mull it over the weekend. I left, emailed a few friends photos I'd taken of myself in the dress (in the bathroom!), and, sure enough, placed the order on Monday.
Photo: Turnquist Photography
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