Expert Advice from Bridal Salon Managers

Martha Stewart Weddings, Summer 2009

Tips from Anadina Gratereaux and Janine Alessi, bridal salon managers

Known for: VIP customer service, no matter the dress's price tag (they sell Pronovias, Manuel Mota, Valentino Sposa, and Elie by Elie Saab brands)

Where to find them: Pronovias, 14 E. 52nd St., New York, NY 10022

Top Tip
Definitely do your homework before you go to a dress store. Browse the designer's website to get an idea of the designs offered. And when you meet with a dress consultant at the store, mention other dresses (by other designers) you've tried on and loved. If she knows the style, she can pull a similar style for you from her store's designs. There's absolutely nothing wrong with letting a consultant know you've already been shopping!

What makes Pronovias different from other wedding-dress shops?
It's a bit more low-key. Women are allowed to take pictures of the dresses. All the dresses have the style name and price printed on the tags; many other places will keep the price from you until the last possible minute. Our clients look through the design books and are able to see the entire stock -- the selections aren't at the consultant's discretion. Brides shouldn't feel like they're missing out on anything.

What's a big part of your job?
A lot of what we do is psychology. A bride may not know how to explain what she wants, so we have to pay attention to her personal style, the word choice she's using, the way she walks, and her body language. All of these personality cues can help us steer her in the right direction.

Who should a bride bring with her?
Keep the number small. The more people there, the more opinions she'll hear. With all the different voices, she ends up confused and overwhelmed. If a bride buys a dress for some¬one other than herself, she always regrets it.

Any tricks to help the bride find "the one"?
We try to keep the options to five dresses at a time -- more than that and you can't remember the different dresses. At the start, it's more important to steer a bride to a silhouette. Sometimes, we just have to send her away to think about it. She can always come back with a clear head.

Is it obvious when she's found it?
Yes, you know right away if it's the right one. Her shoulders go back, she walks with more of a sway, and she's usually excited and talking before stepping out of the changing room.

How can a bride turn her big-day look into something truly memorable?
Doing the unexpected makes a great personal statement. After the ceremony, trade the veil for a feathered headpiece or wear a beautiful shawl. Nothing bridal is written in stone.

What's a mistake that brides often make?
Don't get hung up on the size! Wedding-dress sizes are smaller than standard dresses. If you wear a size 4, your wedding dress could be a 6 or an 8. Let us select the size and order it for you. Don't pick something you hope you'll fit into.

In your experience, what's the best way to avoid day-of wedding dress disasters?
If you can hire a dresser for the wedding, she can help you avoid or deal with problems like wrinkles, small stains, or minor repairs. But, really, you just have to realize that some things happen and there's nothing you can do about them. Accept the fact that your hem will get dirty. We know a bride who had the front of her dress turn bright green because the flowers in her bouquet weren't wrapped properly. You just have to keep perspective and realize the day isn't all about the dress.

Have you had any "only in New York" brides?
One woman came in for her second fitting and saw a picture for a new gown that had just arrived. She decided she had to have it, so she bought that one, too. She ended up getting married in the second dress -- and wearing the first one as a party dress at the reception!

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