How I Found My Wedding Dress

Real brides share the story of how they found "the one."

Nicole's Monique Lhuillier Wedding Dress

Nicole always pictured herself walking down the aisle in a princess dress: Fitted upper body, sweetheart neckline, grand ball-gown skirt. But at five feet, two inches tall, she tends to "get lost in big dresses." So Nicole, 32, had her work cut out for her when she arrived, newly engaged, at New York's Mark Ingram Atelier.

The first-grade teacher wanted a dress that would stand out at her lavish wedding location, Manhattan event space Capitale. "I love sparkle, but I also want something feminine," she said. "I am obsessed with Chanel's little flower appliqués."

She spied Monique Lhuillier's "Candy" ($6,930), a tulle dress with a corset bodice and an A-line skirt. She liked the sweetheart neckline and scattered beading, "but I don't like that it's fitted at the hips," she said, wrinkling her nose.

Appealing on the hanger, Vera Wang's "Helena" ($9,500) was a ball gown with a large lace-and-organza sprig-appliqué skirt. But it overwhelmed her petite frame. "It's a lot of dress," she said. "And it's missing the bling."

Then she saw Monique Lhuillier's "Meringue" ($7,370), a two-piece that comes in a variety of corsets and skirts. Her winning look combined a floral appliqué and beaded sweetheart bodice with a satin hand-tufted skirt. The tufts gave the skirt voluminous structure "without making me look bigger," while the corset accentuated her tiny waist. "I don't want to take it off," she said, beaming.

The deal was sealed when Nicole realized that Ingram could make a tulle-and-crepe mini for her to change into after the ceremony. "It will be much easier to dance in," she said, twirling around in a circle. "And it will show off my shoes!"

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Photo: Juliana Sohn