Not your usual bride

When little girls dream of their wedding day, not everyone will see herself swishing down the aisle in a white gown with a long train and veil.

Today's modern bride may stamp her individuality in a short dress that shows off her figure and in a colour that flatters her skin tone, and wear shoes and jewellery that pop and make a statement.

Today's modern bride may be like American socialite and fashion icon Olivia Palermo, who spurned a traditional wedding gown when she got married to male model Johannes Huebl in New York in June.

Instead, she opted for a cashmere sweater and white tulle skirt with coordinating shorts, all by Venezuelan-American designer Carolina Herrera. She finished her very contemporary look with cobalt blue Manolo Blahniks.

So too, did Angelina Jolie, who recently walked down the aisle in a dress adorned with her kids' doodles. 

Sign of growing confidence

Gown designers and wedding planners tell Urban most women still favour a traditional wedding gown, but they get a handful of requests for more daringly unusual dresses each year.

Ms Leana Doray, owner of Web portal The Wedding Scoop, says: "There is definitely a small but growing proportion of women who are nixing ball gown silhouettes and sweetheart necklines for dresses which better reflect their personal style."

Brides wearing shorter hemlines, two-piece ensembles, as well as gowns with sheer skirts can all be seen on her portal, theweddingscoop.com. So can gowns in colours like red and pale grey, according to Ms Doray.

Gown designer Letitia Phay from Time Taken To Make A Dress says two out of 10 clients will want to depart from the usual, in either colour or style.

One woman wanted a gown that looked like a paper cage, inspired by Japanese avant-garde designers such as Junya Watanabe. Ms Phay had it made of cotton with a silk organza inner lining, with a removable circular plastic support under the skirt to give it form.

For Ms Mel Chen, head designer at Caramel&Co offering bespoke services for gowns and suits, the most different wedding gown she ever made was for a French client - a bareback blue ombre silk chiffon cheongsam with black French lace, teamed with a magenta raw silk wrap jacket.

As with any kind of gown, clients sometimes ask for a style or fit that may not be the most flattering.

Ms Phay says: "We would try to understand our client's vision, even if her design is not something we would wear. However, we do bring our expertise on determining cuts and fabrics that suit her body type and frame."

Gown designer Eelyn Tang Pulham of bridal gown label Love, Yu says she might recommend other designers if she gets a request that is "completely different" from her label's design aesthetics.

It is a sign of growing confidence that more women are now daring to be radically different.

Ms Chen says: "Women like being unique and wouldn't want designs that have been worn repeatedly."

It helps that there is a huge resource of fashion information online that gives women ideas for their wedding outfits.

Such sources include greenweddingshoes.com and social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram.

Ms Phay notes: "Women are realising that the most important outfit they'll ever wear should be a reflection of their personality, or a better version of it - hence their opting for more unusual wedding outfits."

Urban spoke to four brides who dared to be different.

Valerie Toh, 32, music teacher
Married bank executive Jean-Philippe Lionnet, 34, last November

Why did you choose this gown?

Red is our favourite colour and it went well against the greenery in Portsdown Road, where we had our solemnisation and took photographs.

The dress, made of a peach-skin polyester fabric, is also lighter than those used for traditional wedding dresses and more comfortable. I did not have to worry about boob slips and did not have to go on a diet to fit into it.

I had it custom-made at Time Taken To Make A Dress. The whole process took about four months and it cost about $3,500.

How many gowns did you go through before choosing this one?

I didn't visit any gown designers before Time Taken To Make A Dress, as I liked the unconventionality I saw on their Instagram account.

I liked that their dresses were not princessy like the gowns in wedding magazines, but were still feminine and unique to each client's personality.

Letitia Phay, my gown designer, also got the image of the dress I had in mind immediately. When I asked her to guess which dress design I wanted out of her three drawings, she got it right too.

What other wedding traditions did you give up?

When we did our solemnisation against the backdrop of an old tree at Portsdown Road, only our photographer, videographer and solemniser were present.

We felt that the essence of marriage was simply us coming together, so we threw out all wedding plans and decided on a semi-elopement, so to speak.

This was because we could not reduce the number of guests from the initial list of 200, which stressed us out.

In the end, we were quite content going solo, as we didn't have to fuss about guest lists, seating arrangements or venues. We're also quite private people, so that suited us.

There weren't any props either as I wanted everything to be raw and natural. I would even have worn jeans and a T-shirt if my husband had not deemed that too sloppy.

That day, I was barefoot as the ground was muddy from the previous night's rain.

What did your husband, family and friends think of your gown?

Like all guys, my husband said it's fine as long as I liked it. He liked the end product.

My family and friends think it suits my personality, which is always a little different from the norm.

Justine Loh, 29, civil servant
Married wedding photographer Brian Ho, 38, in February

Why did you choose this outfit?

It's a playsuit with a detachable bubble skirt. I removed the bubble skirt for the second half of the celebration, revealing a romper underneath.

I chose it as I wanted to be comfortable on my wedding day. I'm quite tomboyish, and couldn't see myself wearing a typical long gown.

It was custom-made by Amanda Lee of Amanda Lee Weddings, who has been business partners with my husband for many years. It cost about $2,500.

How many gowns did you go through before choosing this one?

I just sketched a basic design which I sent to Amanda. After that, we met and decided on the outfit, with the help of some pictures I found online regarding its details. We added shoulder pads for an edgy look, and a detachable skirt which I could wear during the solemnisation, and remove after.

What other wedding traditions did you give up?

I wore my hair in a high ponytail with an upcombed fringe, instead of a conventional bun or flowing curls. I also had on thick dark eyeliner, eyeshadow and mascara to fit with my outfit's edgy vibe. I didn't carry a hand bouquet as I walked in holding the hands of my nieces and nephews.

I performed the violin with my band Vox at the wedding lunch. We played songs like Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody and The Killers' Somebody Told Me - not your usual romantic song line-up.

What did your husband, family and friends think of this outfit?

Though my husband has been a wedding photographer for more than eight years, he says he's never seen a wedding "dress" as unique as mine and that it fits my personality of always wanting something different from the norm.

My family and friends thought it was unusual and very cool.

What did your bridesmaids wear?

I didn't have bridesmaids - just a maid of honour. She wore a short monochrome colour-block dress from Topshop.

Lee Jia Yin, 30, HR professional
Married analyst Huang Huanmin, 29, in January last year

Why did you choose this dress?

I chose it as it was comfortable and easy to move around in, which suited the informal setting of our wedding dinner at Food For Thought at the Botanic Gardens.

I like that it's different from the mainstream A-line and strapless wedding dresses.

I had it custom-made at Valens Couture for about $1,000.

If I'd rented a dress, alterations would have cost a few hundred dollars.

I opted to cover my shoulders as I have a small frame - strapless gowns do not look good on me.

I started off wearing Steve Madden heels but later changed to glitter Toms shoes midway through the dinner as they were more comfortable.

How many gowns did you go through before choosing this one?

I did not visit any boutiques before Valens Couture.

Instead, I browsed Pinterest's wedding category and looked at casual dresses online to get an idea of what I wanted.

What are some other wedding traditions you gave up?

My wedding bouquet was made of rather exotic wildflowers like Geraldton Wax and Eryngium Zabelii (commonly known as Sea Holly).

My husband picked them out - we wanted something different from the usual flowers.

What do your husband, friends and family think of this dress?

My husband liked it as he didn't need to worry about tripping over it.

My friends and family thought it was unconventional, because of its shorter hemline.

What did your bridesmaids wear?

They wore outfits in neutral colours at our wedding lunch and their choice of a purple outfit for our more casual wedding dinner the next day.

Michelle Qiu, 21, financial advisor
Married stock trader Glenn Lee Jun Xiang, 29, in March

Why did you choose this dress?

I felt that the long train behind a traditional wedding gown would not have been practical.

I like that it can be worn again for other occasions besides my wedding, and that it's machine-washable.

It cost about $640 from the shop Germain at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.

I bought the flower brooch on my shoulder for about US$150 (S$185) from prettyrockgirl, a seller on Etsy. I like its feminine take on an epaulette.

My shoes are customised from prettyrockgirl too, and they cost slightly above US$100. They are embellished with silk petals, white feathers and pearls, making them different enough to stand out.

I wore this outfit to my Registry Of Marriages ceremony in March and am planning to wear it to my wedding ceremony, which will take place early next year.

How many gowns did you go through before choosing this one?

I remember looking at quite a number of online stores, including Net-A-Porter where I saw an Alexander McQueen gown which I liked but it cost US$8,000. I also visited about 10 boutiques including Prada and Dolce & Gabbana, where dresses cost up to $15,000. This one's definitely more affordable.

What are some other wedding traditions you plan on giving up?

I will not hire a limousine. Instead, my husband and his friends will be driving their Nissan GT-R cars to the wedding banquet.

What do your husband, family and friends think of this dress?

Honestly, I don't think he has an opinion. As long as I like it, he's fine.

My mother said she preferred me to wear a long gown, as she is more traditional and says it looks more dramatic in photographs.

What will your bridesmaids wear?

They wore their own clothes to the ROM but they will wear elegant pastel grey dresses for the wedding ceremony next year.

They can wear them again after the wedding.

sarahgyx@sph.com.sg
staceyc@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on August 1, 2014.
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