Wedding Guide: Dresses/rings

Some girls out there (it’s OK, we’re not going to name names) have been picking out wedding dresses since they were 4 years old and went trick-or-treating as Barbie Bride. However, none of you ever saw yourselves wearing that white plastic smock that tied in the back, hospital-style, on the big day, right?

On the other hand, just because you actually haven’t been compiling a collection of wedding-dress ads torn from bridal magazines, or scouring sale racks for the perfect combinations of tulle and lace, doesn’t mean you don’t want to look fabulous at the altar.

As for wedding rings, it’s said they may have been the first matrimonial custom. The ring’s round shape symbolizes everlasting love, while the vein located in the ring finger is rumored to run straight to the heart. That said, it’s your wedding, so feel free to reinvent tradition.

Mary Jo Marshall models a yellow dress from Madame Butterfly
Mary Jo Marshall models a dress from Madame Butterfly

Nice day for a white (or blue, or yellow) wedding

OK, I’ll say it: The white-dress thing is kind of a myth. Said to represent purity and (yikes!) chastity, the snowy gown is rooted far more firmly in fashion than in morality. Actually, white came into vogue in 1840 — Queen Victoria wore the creamy color when she married her cousin Albert (see what I mean about morals?). Within a decade, white was all the rage, and the advent of department stores shortly after ensured that every bride could buy a brand-new white dress.

Here are the fashions from posterity: Moroccans favor gowns in bright yellow (to scare away the evil eye) or green (for good luck). Chinese brides wear red, the color of luck and joy. Red is also favored in Japan, where the marriage kimono symbolizes new beginnings, and in India, where the silk sari is embroidered with gold thread. In Korea, brides wear lime-green wonsam embroidered with flowers and butterflies. During the Civil War in the United States, women wore purple to their weddings to represent courage.

Something old, something new …

Many brides-to-be consider (or are deeply devastated by) a hand-me-down gown from Mom, mother-in-law or Grandma. And while that tradition is both endearing and cost-effective, it can be a little stifling. Who wants to promenade down the aisle in pouffy sleeves and a high neck a la Bride of Frankenstein?

But there are ways to update the antiquated gown — if you like the material but not, say, the 6-foot train, consider having it altered. Sleeves and hemlines can often be shortened with little drama, resulting in a fresh look for an old gown.

Don’t have a relative to pass on a dress? Check out vintage stores for matrimonial finds. Dresses from the WWII era tended toward elegant yet simple lines with modern, shorter hems. Add a vintage hat and shoes for effect.


OK, so mothballs really aren’t your thing, but individuality is. You spring for something new without hitting the mall by hiring a local designer to create a one-of-a-kind gown. This option gives you the most control — cut, color, fabric — but will still often run you considerably less cash than buying a pricey pre-made gown. Plus, you’ll have a totally unique heirloom to pass on to your daughter one day.

If you happen to be handy with a sewing machine — and your wedding isn’t in a week — you might want to step up to the challenge of whipping up your own creation. Remember Molly Ringwald’s interesting (if rather weird) ensemble in Betsy’s Wedding? You, too, can create the dress of your dreams. Patterns abound, from the fussily crinolined concoctions to simplistic slip dresses. A good place to find unusual wedding-gown ideas is the costume section of the pattern catalogs. Think Gothic-sleek, Flapper-sassy or Renaissance Romantic.

Theme party

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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2 thoughts on “Wedding Guide: Dresses/rings

  1. Shaina

    All I can say is it’s ABSOLUTELY ADORABLE…you all have done a wonderful job, I’m thrilled!!!
    Lets leave the flowers on the front off since they aren’t really going to be seen. I kind of like the simplicity of just the plain white w/the color around the bottom. She’s such a little girl I think simple is better. But I’m definitely satisfied the the decision to put the flowers on the back. And your idea to put both the chocolate/pink together was fabulous.. it’s beautiful!! And the little headband is great as well. It’s all just perfect!!
    Thank you so much for all your help!

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