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Keep an Open Mind
“Choosing your dress is a huge decision!” she says. Her suggestion: Resist the temptation to go straight to a favorite silhouette, and instead rule nothing out. “When getting ready for an important occasion, I will try almost anything on and very often end up being completely surprised.”
Pictured: A rack of wedding gowns.
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Watch for That “This Is It” Feeling
“A beautiful gown can transport you. For your wedding, you’re looking to feel slightly altered, as if you’re hovering in a different universe for those six hours,” Parker says. “Brides know how they want to feel, and finding the right dress is about capturing that in fabric.”
Pictured: A Martha bride in a Samuelle Couture gown.
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Go for Tasteful Over Trendy
“If I were getting married today, I’d likely wear cream, just to have that bridal experience,” says Parker, who wore black for her 1997 nuptials to Matthew Broderick. “Now I would want my dress to have an Oscar de la Renta feel, pockets below the waist, a very fitted bodice, a huge skirt, in taffeta or duchesse satin. That silhouette appeals to me because it’s old-fashioned yet can look very modern.”
Pictured: A Spring 2016 Oscar de la Renta gown.
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“At my wedding, my shoes were teal velvet Robert Clergerie,” says Parker of her lucky accessories. “I borrowed a handkerchief, someone gave me an old coin, and the dress was new, so I covered all my bases.”
Pictured: Vintage hankies from a wedding celebration.
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Cover Up—With Retro Flair
If you’re getting hitched in cooler climes, a wrap shouldn’t be an afterthought. “A three-quarter-length, double-breasted open coat that’s shorter than the dress, just above or below the knee, is always nice,” says Parker. “And I really like the idea of what they used to call the ‘Frosh,’ which was the freshman-sophomore dance in the ’40s and ’50s, when you would wear your fella’s jacket over your shoulders if it got cold—there’s something carefree and deeply romantic about that.”
Pictured: A Martha bride wearing her grandmother’s 1940s mink coat.
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Call in the Glam Squad
She’s totally capable of handling her own hair and makeup, but Parker still turns to beauty experts. “I can make a nice ponytail or bun, and put on lip gloss and eyeliner. For events that involve photos, though, I have my hair and makeup done by a professional.”
Pictured: A Martha bride’s half-up braided hairstyle.
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Of course you want your attendants to look their best and love their gowns. However, you can’t please all the people all the time. And you shouldn’t have to, says Parker, whose most recent tour of bridesmaid duty was just last summer. “It’s incumbent upon anyone who is included in a bridal party to wear what the bride wants—to make it work and not complain,” she insists. “It’s the couple’s day, and it’s an honor to be part of it.”
Pictured: A Martha bride, getting ready with her bridesmaids.
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Get Scent-imental With Blooms
You want your flowers to look gorgeous, sure, but they’ll be even more memorable if you pick posies that have significance to you. “Personally, I love gardenias so, so much, and also lilies of the valley, because they are two of my mother’s favorites,” says Parker. “When I was a kid living in Cincinnati, we grew lilies of the valley in the yard. Now, in summer, our house is filled with bouquets of wildflowers my daughters pick. At a wedding, people might strive for a more formal feeling, but a lot of the rules can be broken today. ‘Formal’ could be a handful of carnations, beautiful and simple.”
Pictured: Putumayo carnations the color of antique lace hold their own against anemones, hydrangeas, Majolica roses, and passion vine.
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Choose Your Guests As Carefully As the Menu
“It’s nice to have good food, but the company you keep really makes the night,” says Parker. “As a guest, if you don’t know many other attendees, there’s that promise of ‘Where might this night take me?’” Try to seat like-minded people together, then let them go from there. “Someone else’s happy occasion is an excellent reason to chat about the couple or relive your own memories,” she says. “Weddings are a fairly easy icebreaker.”
Pictured: Guests at a Martha wedding reception.
“Many couples don’t get to experience their own wedding; they’re making the rounds, trying to say hello and thank people,” says Parker. “That’s understandable, but also step back at times and focus on what you see.” Instead of working to make sure everything’s perfect, all the time, revel in the moments when guests loosen up. “I think it’s nice when there are children running around with their bows untied and hair disheveled,” says Parker. “It relaxes and touches people.”
Pictured: A ring bearer breaks it down on the dance floor.