How to Find the Perfect Wedding Dress (and More!)

Style coordinator Maradee Wahl shares her tips for looking picture perfect on your big day.

How to Find the Perfect Wedding Dress (and More!)

Photo: Marisa Holmes

With over twenty years of experience in bridal styling and design, wedding gown style coordinator Maradee Wahl has become an expert on dressing and styling brides, as well as ensuring against wedding-day emergencies. She discussed a variety of bridal topics with Inside Weddings, including: how to find your dream wedding gown; selecting the perfect bridesmaid dresses; and the latest trends from the runway. Whether you are considering hiring a stylist for your wedding day or decide to rely on your wedding party, Maradee Wahl’s shopping, styling, and day-of tips are a must read for the stylish bride. 

Finding the Perfect Wedding Gown
The perfect wedding gown is one that displays the ultimate expression of the bride’s personality. The gown sets the tone for the whole wedding, including the bride’s memory of the day! When a bride first tries on her perfect gown, she suddenly stops thinking about her shopping decision; she instead begins to think about the actual wedding, visualizing the life change she is about to make. This is why brides often get emotional when they find The One. 

Top 3 Questions to Consider When Shopping
1. Does this gown flatter my figure? Most brides look best in (and prefer) two or three silhouettes. There is no reason to settle on something that does not make her feel gorgeous.
2. Does this gown fit my personality? This is not the time to experiment with a new look or go outside her comfort zone. If the bride feels “too” anything (young, mature, sexy, edgy), this is probably not a match.
3. Does this gown suit the wedding location? A bride has selected her venue based on her idea of a perfect day. The gown should complement the style of the wedding. 

Accessorizing the Bridal Gown
For a wedding ensemble, a little less is usually more! When choosing accessories, turn away from the mirror and quickly look back. The first thing you notice is commanding the most attention, so if that item is not what you want to showcase, it may be too much. The main focus should always be on the bride herself, not on any one element of her wedding attire. Remember, balance is the key. The goal is not for guests to say, “what a gorgeous gown” (or necklace or other accessory), but instead to say, “I have never seen a more beautiful bride!” 

Selecting Bridesmaid Dresses
When choosing gowns for the girls, it’s best to select two elements that reflect the bridal gown. The elements may be the neckline, silhouette, hemline, fabrication, or even color and accessories. For example, if the bride is wearing a strapless, full ball gown in satin and lace, the bridesmaids can wear a V-neck satin ball gown with no lace (elements: fabric and silhouette), or a strapless lace cocktail dress (elements: neckline and fabric). 

Advice for a Smooth Wedding Day
The best advice I can offer to a bride is to seek advice and tips from friends and professionals. The best referrals come from a bride who had a great experience, or from a planner or stylist who knows she can always count on a specific vendor. Of course, a bride may consider adding a stylist to her list of wedding-day professionals who can assist in whatever area is needed, as much or as little as necessary. Once the wedding has begun, relax and enjoy the day. Remember that the guests do not have the same standards as the bride, so if something goes wrong, do not worry or give it any attention! Everything else will be perfect. 

Combatting Day-Of Emergencies
One of the best parts of my job as a stylist is being by the bride’s side all day long. It’s such a rewarding experience to be on hand to save the day! If a bride does not have a professional by her side, she should be sure to appoint someone who can specifically help in any emergency. This can be anyone from the wedding party, but choose a friend that is calm, reliable, and not likely to freeze under pressure. The most common bridal mishaps involve rips or stains on the gown, minor ailments of the bride or bridal party, or forgetting something essential. A few simple sewing supplies and stain removers are a must, as well as a basic medical kit (Band-Aids, Aspirin, and antacids) and a list of what the bride herself must bring on the day (wedding vows, bridal accessories, rings, etc.). 

Bridal Style Trends
A wonderful part of the bridal experience is that a wedding gown actually defies trends. The trends are more often new ways of interpreting bridal classics. My favorites from the spring 2015 bridal presentations in New York were: lace appliques that trail onto the body; geometric beading and contemporary laces; capelets and shrugs that change the bridal look for the reception; and the new mermaid skirt silhouettes – higher, fuller, and more flouncy! There are so many beautiful bridal gowns available (at every price range) that a bride is sure to find her perfect gown – one that fits her shape, style, and personality. 

To learn more about Maradee Wahl and her services, please visit

Opening photograph by Marisa Holmes.