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Expert Advice from Bridal Salon Owner Mark Ingram

Martha Stewart Weddings, Spring 2012

Known For
Dressing brides for the biggest day of their lives for more than 10 years
Where to Find Him
At Mark Ingram Atelier in New York City (

What are the benefits of going to a salon rather than to a big-box store?
You get a more personal experience and aren't overwhelmed by a warehouse of options. At my atelier, you're assigned a consultant who stays with you from the first meeting through all of your fittings.

How should brides prep for dress shopping?
Do a little homework. Look online and in magazines. And when a certain designer catches your eye, find out where he or she is carried. Bring information like your wedding date, time, and budget, as well as tear sheets of your colors, themes, and any other ideas.

And how much should you shop around?
It's important to see what's out there, but don't drive yourself crazy. Too much shopping can be confusing and exhausting, and that's when you make bad decisions. Think about how you selected your fiance; you didn't sample every man in the room.

Ha -- let's hope not! Who should brides bring with them?
I actually suggest coming alone or with just one other person. Otherwise it starts to get stressful. Choose someone whose opinions mean the most to you, and that isn't always your mother or sister.

What would you call the "classic" dress?
The strapless ball gown. Anything with a fitted waist and very full skirt has been the standard for years now. The A-line and princess cut are also elegant shapes.

Are there any updates to that look?
Oscar de la Renta's take on strapless this season is refreshing. His silk faille gown has a draped sweetheart bodice, cascading ruffle skirt, and bow brooch. It's playful, sweet, and really joyful.

Would you recommend a shrug to cover up the shoulders for a church wedding?
Not necessarily -- there are so many creative alternatives. Sheer overlays, which have long, slim-fitting sleeves and button down the back, can change the look of a dress. And you can remove it before the reception.

What other trends are you seeing?
Designers are presenting artful alternatives to traditional gowns, such as Marchesa's off-the-shoulder lace trumpet with floral appliques.

There are so many options for brides today. How stylish is too stylish?
It can be dangerous to let the red carpet and runway influence your wedding dress too much, because those looks don't last. The short pouf dress, for example, came and went in a sneeze. Even my most fashion-forward customers decide to pull back about 10 percent from how they normally dress.

What are your thoughts on wearing color?
I'm open to it. Vera Wang has an all-black dress that I think is fabulous. I also like all of the pale, powdery shades, especially blush pink and ecru. In sheer layers it creates a lovely, frothed effect, like on Rivini by Rita Vinieris's Chantilly lace sheath. But it's a statement, and not for every bride.

Any advice on bridal accessories?
Your gown should speak for itself, so don't gild the lily, as they say. Go with something gorgeous but subdued.

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