Expert Advice from a Bridal Accessory Designer

Martha Stewart Weddings, Spring 2011

Maria Elena Fuentes
Miami

Known for Vintage-style headpieces and jewelry of heirloom quality

Where to Find Her Maria Elena Headpieces

Top Tip Bring your headpiece with you when you're doing a run-through with your hairstylist. You'll want to make sure it will stay in, and that it matches the vision you've been imagining.

If a bride plans on wearing a headpiece, when should she start shopping for one?

It's a lot like finding a dress: Most stores only stock samples, so you'll need to order one individually and wait to have it sent to you. This means that you should begin your search six months before the wedding, especially if you want to customize your piece. Bridal salons are the best place to start.

How can they be customized?

I've had brides add antique brooches, and lots of them swap out the materials -- like crystals for pearls -- to match the specific embellishments on their gown.

What should brides seek in a headpiece?

Ultimately, it should look like it was designed to be worn with your dress. Bring along a picture -- or even the gown itself -- when you go shopping, and try on as many as you can. And if it's possible, wear all of your accessories, including your jewelry, to your final fitting. That way you'll be able to see how everything looks together. Think of it as a dress rehearsal.

What are some of your favorite gown-and-headpiece pairings?

With a lace number, I love something with pearls -- it's so timeless. Flowing, romantic gowns work well with ribbon headpieces. And simple silk sheaths are beautiful with a crystal-adorned headband. Asymmetrical headpieces, which are wide with a large embellishment on one side, are popular right now with body-skimming gowns.

Do brides ever wear one piece for the ceremony, and another for the reception, as they often do now with dresses?

All the time! Some choose a jeweled headband for the vows, then change to a large comb for the party. In a conservative church setting, you can wear a cluster of smaller combs, then put on a pair of big earrings or a crystal ribbon for dancing.

And where do veils fit in to all of this?

Lately, some brides have been choosing hair accessories instead of veils altogether. But if you'd really like to wear both, attach a short face net to the headpiece itself. Or put on a veil that doesn't cover your face but drapes down your back, and pair it with a small piece on the side of your head.

What do you like for informal affairs?

Fascinators. Usually made with ostrich feathers, tulle, or organza, they're more laid-back than crystal-covered designs. You wear them above the ear for a very flapper-esque look.

Thoughts on real flowers as hair decor?

They go well with outdoor weddings, but be warned: They can wilt. Instead, try a silk version, which is just as delicate and will last forever. Some even have Swarovski crystals.

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