“A bride is always special and a gown is always a significant piece, but on a show that’s called Four Weddings, they take on a whole other level,” says costume designer Salvador Perez about finding the perfect bridal looks featured in the Hulu series inspired by the 1994 movie. “They really had to be showstoppers.”
No spoilers, but obviously, the series involves multiple big day looks, starting with a breathtaking off-the-shoulder and hand-sewn floral appliqué stunner on Rebecca Rittenhouse, who plays Texas-debutante-turned-chic-Londoner, Ainsley. Again, not a spoiler, because Perez, who is writer/creator Mindy Kaling’s go-to designer, documented the dress shopping experience with Rittenhouse on his Instagram. Let’s just say that the two tried on a lot of swoon-worthy dresses in a spectrum of cuts and silhouettes to land on the one by British designer Suzanne Neville.
Like how finding your dream wedding gown actualizes the ultimate form of self-expression for your major life moment, procuring the perfect on-screen dress helps develop a character and tell a story. So, Perez was more than happy to share some bridal gown shopping tips he gleaned from his productive day with Rittenhouse, even if it wasn’t necessarily for a real-life set of vows. (Plus, he actually designed wedding dresses before he landed in Hollywood, so how’s that for kismet?)
Cast a Wide Net, Start Early, and Enjoy Yourself
“I was trying to find the perfect dress for Ainsley, but I was also sussing out the bridal shops in London, so I took it as an opportunity to see every dress,” says Perez, who lived it up by visiting all the British designers he could (and enjoying the sites of London, where the series shot.) “I literally went to Susan Neville, Jenny Packham, Charlie Brear, Halfpenny London…” So make a day—or days—of it and take in your surroundings, too.
Also, as a rule of thumb, start your recon trips early, because delivery times for a dress may take up to a year. “Don’t wait until the last minute, because you’ll have many more options when you plan ahead,” Perez says. “That dress took six months to deliver, and we happened to call a favor at Suzanne Neville, so they made it in a month.” Not all of us have those Hollywood connections, so plan ahead.
Consider the Vibe and Location of Your Wedding
Even the gowns that didn’t make the cut for Ainsley’s wedding scene are drop-dead gorgeous (pun totally intended, because there’s also a funeral, right?) and would have worked for someone else’s ideal scenario.
“Ainsley is a fashionista, so I thought maybe we should go avant-garde,” says Perez about a glam beaded long cape layered over an illusion sleeve gown. “[Rittenhouse] even said, ‘I love this dress as a fashion thing.’ But Ainsley is getting married in a turn of the century church, and we’re doing very traditional, so it would have just told a different story.”
Trust Your Instincts
So, yes, Rittenhouse and Perez assessed upwards of 30 dresses, but, “Funny thing,” he says, "that was the first dress we tried on at Suzanne Neville and then we proceeded to try on more. Even though they were beautiful, we’re like, ‘No, it’s that first dress.’” The actress, Perez, and the costume team all “collectively lit up” when Rittenhouse walked out in the ultimate gown. “We knew instantly which dress it was,” he adds. “See your options and then go with your gut. What does your gut tell you?”
Remember That Comfort Is Paramount
Just like Rittenhouse could have shot the scene for days while wearing that one gown, “You’re going to wear that dress all day long,” says Perez. Your day isn’t just the ceremony. There may be photos beforehand, during your reception entrance, or throughout the whole wedding extravaganza (and after-party). So, think about how much movement you’d like the dress to allow and other elements that you find most comfy, like pockets, a flowy A-line silhouette, straps, etc. You do you.
Complement Your Gown With Your Styling
“It was just so lavish,” says Perez about Ainsley’s elaborate gown that helped enhance the drama of the pivotal scene in the premiere. “I wanted it to be very extravagant. The dress was so big, and there was so much dress. So the hair had to be very clean and the jewelry was very minimal.” So, he accented her elegant chignon with subtly edgy asymmetrical pearl and diamond studs. “It was a very polished look,” he adds. “She was very regal and royal.”
Have Your Royal Moment, but Recruit a Team
As mentioned, the show involves quadruple weddings, hence four bridal looks—also seen on Perez’s Insta—including a crystal-encrusted mermaid gown adorned with a tremendous silk organza double veil measuring “44 feet of tulle and 12 feet wide.” Worn together, the bride in her wedding ensemble entailed 12 costumers to maneuver onto the set. Logistics aside, if you want your major royal moment, do it.
“It’s your one princess moment, unlike Meghan Markle who’s going to have a princess moment twice a year,” he says, although he does suggest a detachable ball-gown skirt for ease of dancing (and restroom breaks). But remember, a gown like that will require your own set of costumers or wedding day attendants. “Just know that you need to have a lot of friends,” he jokes. “You should be the nicest person in the world because you’ll need a team of people to make it work, but the photos will be spectacular.”
Note That You Don’t Always Need an Actual Wedding Gown
Perez also found an exquisite ‘40s-inspired midi-dress—complete with puff sleeves, a keyhole neckline, and a just-opulent-enough epaulet embellishment on the shoulders—for a simple but still Hollywood-worthy ceremony. “I didn’t look for bridal gowns, I just looked for a cream dress,” Perez says about falling for the Temperley London piece while searching on Farfetch. “Just think outside the box. If your wedding is going to be simple, you don’t have to buy a bridal gown.”
Let Your Bridesmaids Exercise Their Personal Style
As bridesmaids, Gemma (Zoe Boyle, aka Lavinia from Downton Abbey) and Maya (Nathalie Emmanuel) are supposed to wear matching lace-paneled lilac dresses. But the former shows up in a more elaborately detailed version with cold-shoulder cut-outs, what looks to be a corset waist—based on a pre-ceremony "lol" moment with her tailor—and a velvet bow, while the latter stays streamlined with long bell sleeves and a boat neckline.
Behind-the-scenes fun fact: Kaling asked Perez to “reverse engineer” the distinctive bridesmaid dress silhouettes to make it look like Gemma altered hers to differentiate herself from Maya on Ainsley’s big day. In real life, a bridesmaid power move like that probably wouldn’t go over as well, but Gemma does have a point in wanting to exhibit her own personal style.
So why not choose a color and fabric that you love and let your bridesmaids select their own preferred silhouettes? Especially since there are more options now, for example on Birdy Grey and Fame and Partners. “No matter what you do, you’re not going to find one dress that fits every woman the same. Don’t torture your bridesmaids. Let them have some variety,” says Perez. “I think it’s more modern and shows more imagination.”