Wedding Woes: What to wear?
Rare are the understated but elegant brides of the past. Today, it’s all about being OTT over-the-top! And with relatively more spending power than her counterpart of yesteryear, the modern bride is willing to spend significantly more to sparkle on her special day.The bridal fashion industry has exploded since I got married eight years ago. Or maybe I was just oblivious to the thousands of trends available for a bride-to-be at that time. In any case, one trip to India, two “mom & pop” boutiques, four cold Limcas, eight hovering store attendants, a countless number of saris, and $100 later, I found the perfect sari for me: a deep red and ivory silk patolu with a gold zari border and pallu. The ironic thing is that the sari I finally chose was the very first one I had laid my eyes on!
I do believe the modern bride is a bit more discerning than I was. Many of them are looking to Bollywood for inspiration. Back in my day, I remember films like Hum Aapke He Kaun and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai starting trends in wedding wear. More recent movies like Devdas and the remade Umrao Jaan have taken bridal lavishness to a completely different level. Rare are the understated but elegant brides of the past. Today, it’s all about being OTT – over-the-top! And with relatively more spending power than her counterpart of yesteryear, the modern bride is willing to spend significantly more to sparkle on her special day.
She may have the luxury of traveling to India to shop for her wedding trousseau, but with a multitude of designer boutiques all over the US, the NRI bride can find it all right here. She may be a traditionalist and want a red and white sari, lengha-choli, salwar-kameez, or lachchaa. Or she may wish to forgo custom for flare and choose to adorn herself in an Indo-Western outfit in jewel tones or pastels. Many brides are turning to the hottest names in Desi design like Payal Singhal, Ritu Kumar, Priya & Chintan, Nisha Sagar, Satya Paul, and Manish Malhotra to make their wedding day dreams a reality.
Though exquisite zari, resham, and zardosi work will always have a place in wedding wardrobes, more recently, intricate embellishment with sequins, mirror work, pearls, kundan, caviar beads, Swarovski crystals, and gota work is all over the bridal runway. Dull antique gold and silver are taking center stage over the more flashy sequins of the past. Poofy (as my husband would call them), not-so-forgiving fabrics like organza and tissue have largely been replaced by more flowy, figure-flattering fabrics like gauzy chiffon, georgette, net, silk, and lace. The hottest trend today is definitely brocade which is available in an infinite variety of colors and patterns.
More and more brides are exploring colors other than red and maroon such as jewel tones like gold, silver, fuchsia, orange, emerald green, violet, royal blue, teal, plum, and bright yellow; as well as pastels like baby pink, soft lime, aqua blue, canary yellow, lilac, celadon, peach, ivory, and powder blue. This new trend in colors is not just making its way into the sangeet, mehndi, and reception, but also into the mandap! Another application of this infusion of color is the East meets West phenomenon of bridesmaids in matching saris or chanya-cholis.
When not wedding planning, or shopping, the modern bride is at the gym doing squats and crunches until the cows come home. She is not as shy as I might have been to bare her six-pack midriff, or her hourglass figure. Fittingly, the newer silhouette of bridal wear is tight and neatly cut. Indo-Western fusion outfits like heavily-sequined tailored pant suits have been introduced as reception wear. The fish-cut skirt is popular, as is the A-line lengha with a short, fitted choli. And it seems nowadays, the shorter, the better! Spaghetti strap, corset, and backless styles of cholis are also in. Blouses with low-cut backs and fancy necklines are the norm for saris. For those brides who may be a bit more modest like me, rest assured that most cholis come with a heavily embellished dupatta that you can use to cover up!
Well, I don’t know about you, but for me, having been raised in the US, the vision of my fantasy wedding looked something like Cinderella’s wedding. Sure, my Prince Charming was Indian (as my parents had duly engrained in my head). But I did always imagine myself in a white wedding dress. Although I had already bought my wedding sari and reception lengha choli, I must admit, I did try on a few white dresses just for fun. An adventurous cousin of mine actually wore a white wedding dress for her reception, after having worn a very traditional red and white sari for her wedding. Sahil, an exclusive Chicago-based boutique catering to the most discriminating clientele, has ventured into the realm of Western bridal wear. Many of their dresses are actually designed and manufactured in India, so brides can actually find a white wedding dress with an Indian touch.
One can’t forget the frosting…that is, the jewelry. Luckily trends in jewelry have been moving towards classic styles – pieces that won’t go out of fashion too quickly. Antique gold sets are popular and preferred over the more traditional yellow 22K gold sets. Victorian design is the latest trend in Indian jewelry featuring large precious and semi-precious stones interspersed with smaller stones in intricate settings. Kundan and mina work have made a resurgence, especially after Devdas and Umrao Jaan. White gold and rhodium-finished sets are quite popular with today’s bride who has a penchant for platinum. Some brides are even opting for rhodium-finished or white gold mangal sutras. Contemporary designs that can be worn with Western wear just as easily as with Indian clothes have become exceedingly popular with the NRI bride. And, of course, as always, diamonds are a girl’s best friend – in any shape, form, or configuration!
No matter what today’s bride decides to wear, her betrothed will no doubt find her to be the most beautiful bride in the world. The multitude of bridal wear boutiques and jewelry stores here in the US make variety in bridal wear readily accessible. And bridal shows and expos make it that much more convenient. The choices in bridal wear are endless and there is something to be found for every budget.
So here’s the bottom line… Ritu Kumar original sari in deep maroon and gold: $12,000. Priya & Chintan brocade paneled lengha in red, blue and beige with gold work: $1800, Devdas-inspired antique gold and kundan 6-piece set encrusted with multicolored stones: $14,000. A satisfied bride: priceless…