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How to Get a Designer Wedding Dress Without Breaking the Bank

Get the scoop on Borrowing Magnolia, the Rent the Runway of wedding gowns.

By Valeria Boucas Photograph via Shutterstock.

Can you imagine if you had to buy everything on your wedding day? Do you think you would ever use the linens, chairs, props, and drapes ever again? For most of you, the answer is no. Luckily, rental companies swooped in to solve our problems by giving us one less thing to stress about: the hefty price tags of purchasing new items. But one load that hasn't been lessened? The steep cost of buying a wedding dress that likely won't see the light of day again after you say "I do." Ashley Steele, Stephanie Olvey, and Cali Brutz teamed up to solve that very problem, and Borrowing Magnolia was born.

Launched in July 2014, the company allows you to either rent a previously owned wedding gown at up to 80 percent off retail or buy it at an extremely discounted rate. "So many aspects of the wedding industry have evolved to fit today's modern bride—except when it comes to wedding dresses," co-owner Ashley Steele told the Washingtonian. "We wanted to provide brides a way to wear their dream dress and showcase their style, all without breaking their budget or sacrificing the experience."

The concept, which takes a similar approach to Rent the Runway, is simple: Browse Borrowing Magnolia's inventory of more than 200 designer dresses, select three favorites, and pay $99 to have them shipped to your home (the money will go toward whatever dress you ultimately choose). Once you've picked a dress, you are responsible for returning it four days after your wedding, unless you decide to purchase it. You can expect various styles from top designers such as Claire Pettibone, Monique Lhuillier, Nicole Miller, Vera Wang, Rivini, and more. And if you're worried about the quality of the dress, don't be: Each gown is carefully inspected and handled with extreme care to make your experience feel just like new.

Find Valeria Boucas on Twitter at @valeriaboucas.

Wedding News

Photos: Arlington County's First Legal Same-Sex Marriage Ceremony

Jennifer Melsop and Erika Turner tied the knot in Arlington Monday.

By Valeria Boucas Photographs courtesy of Pop Wed Co.

Same-sex marriage was legalized in Virginia on Monday after the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in the case overturning the state's 2006 ban on gay marriage. Virginia officials started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples a few hours after the Supreme Court announcement, clearing the way for Jennifer Melsop and Erika Turner to become the first same-sex couple to say "I do" in Arlington. Maggie Winters of Pop! Wed Co. shared photos of the historic moment with Washingtonian. Now we can really say Virginia is for lovers.

Find Valeria Boucas on Twitter at @valeriaboucas.

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Wedding News

Q&A With Bridal Gown Designer Monique Lhuillier

The designer offers her invaluable industry experience ahead of her upcoming trunk show.

By Valeria Boucas Monique Lhuillier poses with her spring 2015 designs. Photograph courtesy of Dan Lecca Photography NYC.

LA-based designer Monique Lhuillier has been creating ethereal gowns since the late 1990s. Best known for her bridal collections, the Filipino designer has produced a stunning spring 2015 lineup that you can get your hands on for a discounted price. Beginning August 21, Carine’s Bridal Atelier hosts a Monique Lhuillier trunk show at its Georgetown store, and to kick off the event, Lhuillier shared her industry knowledge with us. 

What is the first thing you consider when you design a gown?

When it comes to my wedding designs, I take three things into consideration: I always design with a woman’s shape in mind and try to accentuate the female figure. It’s important to play up a bride’s assets and camouflage any challenging areas. Second, luxurious construction is very important to me; a wedding dress is an investment piece. I always want the bride to know that her dress is beautifully constructed and that we use the very best fabrication and pay meticulous attention to detail with her in mind. Finally, I think it is important for a wedding gown to have an element of fantasy. My dresses always have some type of ethereal element, making the bride look like she’s floating down the aisle.

How do you feel bridal has changed since you started designing?

Now a bride has so many options to cater to her individual style, so I design various styles for many different brides while still keeping to my brand aesthetic. Whether it is shorter hemlines, nontraditional colors, or dresses with back interest, brides want to feel beautiful on their wedding day, and “beautiful” takes on a different meaning for each of my brides. Technology has also played a huge part in the ever-changing landscape of bridal; now a bride has so many resources to find her dress and plan her wedding.

How do you feel your own line has changed since you started designing?

It has grown tremendously because I am catering to a much wider audience. In addition to my Monique Lhuillier Bridal Collection, I launched a diffusion line, BLISS Monique Lhuillier, a collection of romantic dresses that embody my signature design aesthetic at an accessible bridal point. Also for my brides who feel less is more, I have a line of short dresses in signature laces and jacquards called Ready to Wed. I wanted to create a line for the bride who is spontaneous and wants the simplicity of purchasing a dress off the rack.

What was your inspiration for the new collection?

For spring 2015, I was inspired by an ethereal daydream. I wanted to showcase my gowns through a tableau vivant, “a living picture,” where the gowns looked like they walked out of a portrait. Each dress has an ethereal yet regal feel. I used fabrications like tulle, silk, satin, organza, and signature Chantilly lace infused with delicate embroidery and intricate beading to create a dreamy, alluring vision.

What made you choose mint as your feature color for the season?

I think introducing color to a wedding dress can be quite enchanting for a bride who is looking for something nontraditional. Neutrals are a safe way to play with color and tend to look beautiful on all skin colors. Mint is a great shade for brides who don’t like bright white; it is quite subtle. 

Some brides feel the venue determines the gown. Do you agree with this, or should brides wear whatever they want?

I think a bride has to be reasonable. Being outdoors can limit you as a bride when you decide to wear a voluminous tulle ball gown. The last thing you want is feeling hot or uncomfortable at your wedding reception. There are so many options out there that I think a bride can find a beautiful dress that takes into account her venue location.

What is the number one piece of advice you would give a bride?

I always tell brides to follow their instinct throughout the wedding dress experience, but I encourage them to always keep an open mind in selecting their dress. Many dresses look one way on a hanger or in a picture, but it is important for a bride to try on a few styles to see which she feels the most comfortable and beautiful in. Also have fun and savor every moment. This is an experience a bride will treasure for a lifetime.

How do you design a gown for someone you know personally rather than brides in general? I know you just designed for your mom’s anniversary. 

It is incredibly special to design a gown for someone you know. You want them to feel beautiful, confident, and, most of all, true to their personal style. I had the honor of designing my mother’s gown for her 50th anniversary, and it was such an incredible experience. We started designing the dress around a year ago. We actually pulled out her wedding gown from 48 years ago, which was in amazing shape, and knew we had to use elements of it. I took the dress’s lace and designed a new gown with a slim silhouette and long sleeves. The original lace was transformed into a detachable train that started from the waist. In honor of my parents’ golden anniversary, I topped the dress off with a beaded antique gold overlay that covered the entire outfit; then I added subtle bead detailing on the shoulders and sleeves, which trickled down her waist and the sides of the skirt as well as the train. My mother looked absolutely amazing, and I was so proud to have been a part of this very momentous occasion.

The Monique Lhuillier trunk show will be held August 21 through 23 by appointment only. Call 202 965-4696 or e-mail info@carinesbridal.com for availability. 

Find Valeria Boucas on Twitter at @valeriaboucas.

Where & When

Bridal Where and When: August 8 to September 27

A schedule of trunk shows, and sample sales to expect this month and next.

By Valeria Boucas Photograph courtesy of Hitched Bridal Couture.

August 8-9: Oscar de la Renta, Reem Acra, Vera Wang, Peter Langer & J.Mendel Sample Sale

You can scoop up big-name bridal brands at Bridal Salon at Saks Jandel for a whopping 60 percent off, and that’s just the starting sale price. In addition to gowns, veils and other accessories will also be available for purchase. 

August 21-23: Monique Lhuillier Trunk Show 

Shop spring 2015 styles at Carine’s Bridal Atelier, but don’t forget to make an appointment first. Call 202-965-4696 to schedule your time slot and you’ll be able to browse the latest collection from the designer, plus favorites from past seasons. 

August 29-31: Casablanca Trunk Show 

Head to Ellie’s Bridal Boutique to shop a limited amount of gowns available this weekend only. Guests can also take 10 percent off any Casablanca gowns that will be in-store after the weekend. 

September 4-6: Rivini Trunk Show

Be one of the first at Carine’s Bridal Atelier so you don’t miss out on the 12-percent discount. Last-minute shoppers can also take advantage of the sale with 10 percent off on Saturday.

September 19-20: Anna Maier Trunk Show

Enjoy a free muslin with any made-to-measure gown purchase at Hitched. As a special bonus, the boutique will offer Maier’s evening collection for mothers or guests in search of a dress for a formal event. 

September 19-21: Pronovias Trunk Show

For this weekend only, Love Couture Bridal will have a selection of gowns the store doesn’t normally carry. The salon offers 10 percent off on any re-order. 

September 25-27: Jenny Packham Trunk Show

Spring 2015 is in full bloom everywhere, and Rizik’s is no exception. Snatch a super sale from UK-based bridal designer Jenny Packham. 

Have bridal events, sample sales, or trunk shows coming up this fall? Let us know at realweddings@washingtonian.com for a chance to be featured in the next Where and When.

Find Valeria Boucas on Twitter at @valeriaboucas.

Wedding News

Win a Free Wedding Courtesy of Arena Stage

The theater is holding a contest inspired by its upcoming production of Fiddler on the Roof.

By Valeria Boucas Photograph courtesy of Arena Stage.

Dreaming of a lavish wedding but don’t quite have the budget? You’re in luck: Arena Stage is giving one local couple the wedding of their dreams—currently valued at $80,000. The giveaway is inspired by the theater’s fall production of the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. In case you need a refresher on the story, it tells of milkman Tevye, who struggles to reconcile his cultural traditions with his three daughters’ desire to choose their own husbands.

The wedding package includes a ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception for up to 175 guests at the Mead Center for American Theater, plus free use of the venue, catering and a wedding cake by RSVP Catering, decor by Design Foundry, music and lighting by Bruce Pike Productions, floral design, valet parking by MJ Valet, a hotel bridal suite provided by the Mandarin Oriental, an engagement portrait session by Cameron Whitman Photography, wedding-day photography and videography, and a pair of tickets to the official opening night of Fiddler on the Roof—plus other surprises along the way. The only catch: The wedding date is set for January 2, 2015.

Ready to enter? All you have to do is send a video or written essay to Tevye by August 31 telling him why you should win, along with your completed application form. Tevye has heard it all—so be convincing! Three finalists will be announced in early September before the winning couple is revealed on September 30. Second- and third-place couples win something, too, so be sure to stay tuned.

How to enter (deadline is August 31):

1. Submit the PDF application which can be downloaded, here.

2. Include your written or video essay.

3. Send up to three photos of you as a couple for Arena to share.

Best of luck to all our brides-to-be!


Q&A With Designer Shoshanna Gruss

With a newly launched collection of bridal-inspired dresses, the designer behind Shoshanna shares her inspiration and her thoughts on bridesmaid trends.

By Irina Grechko All photographs courtesy of Shoshanna.
Shoshanna Gruss.

When it comes to party dresses, the label Shoshanna instantly comes to mind. Known for flirty silhouettes, bold colors, and unexpected patterns, the New York-based brand has become a go-to for bridal parties and brides-to-be. So it should come as no surprise that founder and creative director Shoshanna Gruss, who takes a special interest in the wedding world (the brand even has a dedicated wedding blog), launched a capsule collection of bridal-inspired dresses. Ranging from $295 to $395, the line features ten styles of white dresses, perfect for a casual beach or courthouse wedding, or for the events leading up to the big day. Read on to learn more about Gruss’s inspiration behind the collection, and shop the dresses online now.

Why did you decide to launch the collection?

I wanted to create a collection of dresses that catered to the casual bride. There are so many women out there who aren’t looking for a traditional wedding gown these days but deserve a gorgeous dress that complements their personal style. I also wanted to give brides-to-be options if they’re looking for a second dress to change into or even for the many wedding-related events leading up to the big day.

You take a special interest in the bridal world. Why is that?

The Shoshanna brand has always been a destination for bridesmaid dresses. We get so many requests for bridal parties, and I love when brides share their photos with me. It’s so flattering to know that my designs played a role in such an important day. It felt like a natural next step to cater to the bride as well as her bridal party, which is how the idea came about.

Tell us about the dresses. How do you envision brides wearing them? 

Each dress in the bridal-inspired collection is a shade of white, each with a different look and feel. You will find dresses with coral beads around the neckline, perfect for a beach wedding. You can also find a more formal, fit-and-flare dress that can be worn as a second dress to the reception. The ivory lace options are perfect for a bridal shower or even an engagement party. 

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BHLDN Launches New Summer Collection (Photos)

Ethereal and romantic, these dresses are made for destination weddings.

By Jordan Muto Waterfall dress, $850. Onyx gown, $1,800. All photographs courtesy of BHLDN.

Not surprisingly, we are loving what BLHDN, Anthropologie’s trendy and vintage-inspired label, is up to again this season. Showcasing ethereal and airy looks, the summer collection, which launched earlier this week, has us dreaming of beach nuptials and destination weddings with effortlessly flowy dresses, elegant gowns with delicate lace detailing, and flirty sheaths with subtle hints of sparkle. Ranging from $350 to $2,400, BHLDN’s summer line is great for bohemian and free-spirited brides who just want to kick off their heels and walk down the aisle barefoot. Scroll down to get a taste of the romantic looks, and shop the collection online.

Elsa gown, $1,495, with tulle skirt, $595, and Vivienne gown, $1,800.

Nuptia dress, $500, and Gardenia dress, $350.

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Wedding News

Butter London Debuts New Bridal Nail Polish Collection

The four-piece set is inspired by the four wedding “somethings.”

By Jordan Muto

The popular nail polish maker Butter London is getting into the bridal game with the launch of its new Sweet Somethings collection. We spotted the new offerings during New York’s International Bridal Week at the Monique Lhuillier show, where the models wore Doily, the “something old” of the collection, which resembles light-pink patterned lace and can also be worn as an overcoat for the other polishes in the collection. Brides in need of a “something blue” can try Petticoat, a shimmery periwinkle-blue, for a pedicure. For a more understated, natural look, there’s Pink Ribbon, a sheer light pink, or Alabaster Gaze, a milky, shiny white. Tip: For long-lasting wear, we like Butter’s Nail Foundation Flawless Base Coat and Hardwear P.D. Quick Top Coat for a shiny finish. The Sweet Somethings Set is available for $35 online.

Wedding News

Bridal News: Gilt Wedding Event Launches Today

Shop designer wedding dresses, accessories, and gifts up to 60 percent off.

By Irina Grechko Photograph courtesy of Gilt Groupe.

Attention, brides-to-be: If you dreamed about wearing a designer wedding dress but could never swing the price tag, today might be your lucky day. Just in time for peak wedding season, the savvy sample-sale e-tailer Gilt is launching its biannual bridal event, at noon Friday, featuring major discounts on all things bridal. Think wedding gowns from designers including Oscar de la Renta, Valentino, and Marchesa; bridesmaid dresses from Twobirds and Erin Fetherston; accessories from Kenneth Jay Lane, Judith Leiber, and René Caovilla; and wedding gifts from Schott Zwiesel—all at up to 60 percent off retail.

In addition to bridal steals and deals, this season Gilt has teamed up with Abby Larson of Style Me Pretty, who has curated a sale of some her favorite wedding essentials for brides and shared her tips for planning your dream nuptials.

Don’t wait too long to stock up on all your wedding must-haves—Gilt’s wedding is one of the most anticipated bridal sales, and the best items sell out quickly.


Wedding Paper Divas and Marchesa Team Up to Release New Bridal Stationery

Now every bride can afford to have a piece of Marchesa on her wedding day.

By Irina Grechko

Just on the heels of last week’s New York Bridal Fashion week, celeb-favorite couture and bridal designer Marchesa and bride-beloved stationers Wedding Paper Divas have teamed up to release a new bridal paper collection. The über-feminine stationery line includes eight designs featuring details such as intricate lace, vibrant watercolor illustrations, and fanciful floral patterns—motifs familiar to fans of Marchesa’s bridal and designer runways.

“When it comes to creating gowns, we’re always driven by the fabrics, accents, and embellishments we love—and we let our favorite pieces from our bridal and runway collections guide the design process for the Wedding Paper Divas stationery collection,” said Marchesa cofounders Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig in a press release. “We experimented with modern touches and darker color palettes in our recent designs and carried this aesthetic over to the invitations, as well. We think the designs translate beautifully onto the printed page, and we’re so excited to make our mark in the stationery world.” In addition to invitations, the suites will feature save-the-date cards, response cards, enclosure cards, and thank-you cards, all offered in a variety of paper options and trims. View and shop the full collection online.

Preferred Wedding Vendors