DO bring a cheque in a card as a gift if you don’t know what else to give. There’s the idea of money being a tacky gift, but the reality most young couples face is one of tight budgeting due to big expenses like moving or buying a house. It also helps you out if you don’t know the couple very well or are pressed for shopping time. Judge the amount accordingly with how close you are to the couple and what your own budget is.
DON’T ignore the RSVP portion of the invitation. Whether you do or d not attend, it’s important to let the couple know so they can plan accordingly. This isn’t like a Facebook party invitation. If you don’t RSVP but show up anyway, there may not actually be a place for you to sit or a plate for dinner.
Drew Brown, Editor-in-Chief
DO be patient and remember its not your day. All events may not go as smoothly as planned, so don’t add to the stress by complaining that your chicken was dry or that you are not happy with who your sitting with.
DON’T, with all the events that comes with weddings, it can hurt your pockets a little bit especially if you are in the wedding party. That being said, this does not mean you should drink all the alcohol you want to try to make up for the cost lol You don’t want to be the guy or girl who is a hot mess during the wedding.
Meg Summers, Contributor
DO be a good sport and hit the dance floor early. Dead space and awkwardness can be really stressful for a bride and groom if they think their guests aren’t having a good time. Gather some friends, grab a cocktail and bust a move to whatever the band or DJ is playing. You’d be surprised by how quick other people will get up to join you if they don’t have to be the first to make the move!
DON’T be offended if you are not asked to be a part of the wedding party. People have lots of commitments to make and sometimes, your friend’s loser cousin takes precedence over you. Just be happy with all the money you’re saving and be the one at the party who is the bride or groom’s saving grace from the family overload.
Hoon, Managing Editor
DO make a conscious effort to congratulate everybody involved. Don’t be passive-aggressive to the in-laws who’ve been torturing your friend. Sit, smile, drink, and collect dirt on them on the down low. Make friends with the relatives. If the need comes in the future, sabotage from the inside.
DON’T make requests to the DJ or the band or go up to the stereo and pick some mood-killing music. If the music is bothering you and you can’t leave, join me & sit and sulk in a corner away from others. No need to ruin things for everyone. Unless, of course, your intentions are to swerve people away from the disaster that is Taylor Swift lyrics — in this case, ignore above advice. Oh, and also, don’t go over your caviar allotment.
DO pay attention to the dress code. You don’t want to be that person who is underdressed at a wedding. Even if the dress code is labeled as “casual” always keep it classy and wear a dress, skirt, or suit of some kind. Keep in mind the location and weather, and listen to the bride and groom’s instructions and advice. And if you’re a girl, DO NOT even consider wearing white.
DON’T assume you can bring a date. If it doesn’t say “and guest” on the invitation, only you should be attending. If the bride and groom wanted to extend the invitation, they would have.
Figuring out what to wear to a wedding is already confusing when considering not matching with the wedding theme colour, being appropriate so that your aunt isn’t constantly taking the courtesy of pulling your dress up for you, and of course the detail we [should] all know— do NOT wear white or outshine the bride. With all of these “rules” (literally the worst word for a fashion lover) it is hard to consider that the venue location also plays a factor into what is best to wear when attending a wedding. Each year the bar seems to be set higher for creative efforts in someones wedding, with location being a key aspect that sets the tone and atmosphere for the party. Here are some common wedding locations/themes that are on trend for this season, find out some fashionable and appropriate outfit ideas for each venue type!
Golf Course/ Club: “Classy in the Country”
Having a wedding at a golf course or ‘country club’ (same thing by the way, just depends on how classy you are) is not the most original idea, but it certainly is a nice way to enjoy an outdoor atmosphere while still keeping that classic feel. Because these types of weddings do tend to have a more formal and simple tone, a body con dress is a great way to show off your summer figure (which if you’re like me, is a product of patio beers and tacos). Here is a great option for this type of location.
Beach/Waterfront: “By the Sea”
Destination weddings can be expensive and sometimes lonely if your family isn’t into travelling. This is why many Canadians will opt out and wait for our much anticipated summer weather to have their dream waterfront wedding. Weddings on a beach or a lakeside can be tricky but my advice is to work with the wind and incorporate a long maxi dress that will work with the theme but also not fly up in the same way that a short dress might, risking a Marilyn Monroe moment (unless that’s your thing). Long dresses are also fun to pull out during times like this as sometimes they can look off-putting if the location doesn’t suit it. Here is an option for a waterfront wedding. It is still a standout piece (no one said you had to be boring) but the length and the neckline are sophisticated, making this dress a definite winner for a beach/lakeside venue.
Barn/Backyard: “Shabby Chic”
If there is twine, haystacks, chalkboards or even one mason jar, there is a probable chance that you are attending a ‘Shabby Chic” wedding. Not to say that these weddings are not favourable as many weddings working with these themes look amazingly elegant. However, there are still some do’s and don’t surrounding what to wear that are due to issues of practicality. DON’T: wear a long maxi dress or anything with bell sleeves due to issues of tripping as well as the extra dirt that can get attached to your garment quite easily (especially after a few glasses of pinot). DO: use this opportunity to wear your cutest, short(ish) summer dress as this will go fabulously with the theme. Here is an example of this with floral detail to work with the background but minimal and dark fabric to combat the likeliness of contact with dirt and debris.
Urban Setting: “City Celebration”
Exposed brick, rooftops, and high-rises— many couples are choosing to use the background of the city to fuel their summer wedding. As an opportunist, I say this is the time to put you best foot forward. In this venue setting, there is no holding back as a city-loving bride would likely think, the trendier her guests, the better. Go out of the ordinary with a pantsuit, the more stylish the better. With the one below, I would pair with a lace tank underneath and some standout necklaces- comfortable and so appropriate for the setting!
Growing up in Aurora, there was this place on Yonge St. called Elmwood Brides. Every day on the bus ride to school, most of the kids (mainly the girls) would make sure to scoot over to press their noses against the window just in time to catch a glimpse of whatever princess-like gown was on display that morning. In some capacity, that tradition continued for me for years — and when I moved to Toronto, I was beyond pleased to find a similar (if not *gasp* better) treasure nestled at the corner of Broadview and Dundas: Lea-Ann Belter Bridal.
If you live in the city, you’ve probably passed Belter’s stunning corner studio a few times and, if you’re like me, nearly ran a red light at the sight of its large windows, each of which house a bewilderingly beautiful white dress. It’s a the kind of view that would turn even the most bitter of hearts into a hopeless romantic, even if only for that fleeting moment.
Inside, things get even better: the sunny, baby-blue showroom looks like Cinderella’s walk-in closet, each wall adorned with tulle, lace and silk. Downstairs is the studio, where the magic happens.
What makes Belter’s work so utterly enchanting isn’t only the beauty of her designs. It’s also the fact that, despite churning out an impressive 3,000-plus gowns every year to stores across North America, each gown is still handmade by her and her small team, on-site in her flagship shop. She’s even responsible for the beautiful gown worn by Rachel McAdams in The Time Traveler’s Wife, and the frock adorned by Sarah Polley in her real-life wedding, and yet Belter continues her passionate affair with old-fashion craftsmanship. And we’re so happy she does.
Like the Elmwood Brides of my growing-up years, Lea-Ann Belter Bridal evokes something uniquely beautiful in everyone who steps inside, or even simply rides by: the nostalgia of the romantic wishes of our youth, twinned with a sophisticated confidence in love. So really, her designs capture what romance is really all about: past meeting future; childlike charm meeting mature passion.
I sat down with Belter in the middle of her sunlit showroom to chat about her renowned designs, her own thoughts on romance, her new brand Astrid and Mercedes and, of course, how she makes it all happen.
NOVELLA MAGAZINE: Tell me the story of how you got into bridal design. I hear it was sort of by accident?
LEA-ANN BELTER: When I graduated from fashion school, the first job I got was to make the wedding gown for my brother’s fiancee. And it just grew from there. I really enjoyed it, even though I’d had no idea I was going to go into bridal when I was in fashion school. But I really liked making her gown, and everybody loved the gown, and people just started asking me. And that’s how I got into it.
And what did it look like?
Oh, it was a full ball gown with a strapless lace top. Very traditional. And it had a detachable train on it, too.
Yeah, it was really, really nice.
Lea-Ann Belter Bridal launched in 1990, and it seems like people fell smitten with your work almost immediately. You’ve been pretty successful from the get-go, and you’ve even designed the gown that Rachel McAdams wore in The Time Traveler’s Wife. How did that come about?
That’s an interesting story. They were filming the movie here in Toronto, and at the time we were on Queen Street. They saw the shop and came in and asked me if I would do it, and I said “sure!”
You’ve been running your regular line for 26 years now, and you recently launched your new secondary line, Astrid and Mercedes. Can you tell me a bit about this new project?
I started Astrid and Mercedes two years ago. It’s just another line — we still make it here, I still design it, but I wanted to do a line that was a little more modern. The Lea-Ann Belter line is a bit more traditional, but Astrid and Mercedes is just kind of funkier and fresher, and it’s at a slightly lower price point.
I definitely get a more playful vibe from it.
Yeah. Lea-Ann Belter gowns are more classic, and the Astrid and Mercedes are a definitely, like you said, more playful.
So right now we’re sitting in your flagship store, but your gowns are sold all across North America?
Yes, this boutique is the only one that I own, but I sell to about 50 stores across North America. We ship out about 20 gowns a week to the U.S. And then there’s all the brides that we do here.
How long does it usually take to make one gown?
The designing I’m doing months ahead. Like, I’m always working on the designs. But just to make it, it’s about five or six weeks from start to finish. But that’s a team — I’ve got 18 people working for me.
So, what’s in the works right now?
Right now we’re working on the sketches for the April market.
And the most cliche question of all: where do you get your inspiration for your designs?
Anywhere. I can see the way a piece of fabric is falling, or I can just think of a feeling I want to evoke in a gown. Anything. Or I look at laces — right now I have a big bag of all the lace samples in my office, so I’ll find one that I really like and I’ll be like, “Oh, I want to use that in everything.”
Each of your gowns is so unique from the rest, but at the same time I feel like there’s something connecting them all. What would you say that is? What do you try to incorporate into every design?
I think it’s just my own sensibility. I’ve always said you can give 10 different designers the same sketch and you’d get 10 different gowns. It’s just how I interpret it. That continuity is just my interpretation coming out. But I do try not to duplicate styles within a line. I try to, you know, come out with 10 styles that are all different so it gives people a variety to choose from.
You’re also known for being very eco-conscious, using special vegetable-dyed silks.
Yes, the mill in India that we buy our silks from, they use all vegetable-based dyes.
And you donate all your excess fabrics to local schools?
We donate to the Toronto District School Board, and there’s some various artists that come in and take all our scraps. We’ve done it for a long time, and they’re thrilled.
I also have to ask about this space. It’s got this antique-y feel to it, like it used to be an old post office or something.
Nope. It was a skanky old Coffee Time! *Laughs*
Ohhh! Wow, that’s hard to imagine. It’s so beautiful in here now.
Oh, it was awful. We gutted the space and refurbished the whole building. Even the basement, where everyone works, it was like something out of a horror movie.
One last question for you: society has changed so much in the past hundred years or so, and so have weddings, but the wedding gown has continued to be such a strong nuptial tradition. Why do you think it’s such an important symbol still, for brides?
I think a wedding is an opportunity for a couple to really show their style, so I’d say that’s why it’s continued on. I also think that as a tradition, getting married is a huge thing in someone’s life, so it’s really important for people to celebrate it somehow. As a bride, it’s your opportunity to wear the gown of your lifetime. It’s your chance to walk the red carpet.
In 2012, after frustration arose from bridesmaid shopping for her sister’s wedding, Karen Tsoi decided that a made-to-measure dress company would be in not only her favour, but countless other women feeling the same amount of frustration and difficulty in finding a proper fitting gown.
Taking a serious mental note on her revelation, Tsoi contacted her friend, and now business partner, Janny Lam, and the two women have set out to create a one-of-a-kind of made-to-measure women’s dress and apparel line that cater to all women’s shapes, sizes and style.
Much like its owners, Pastel Dress Party holds many faces than just a made-to-measure brand. It is a confidence booster for women who feel like dresses in mainstream retailers and department stores don’t cater to their body type. As well as a one-of-a-kind aesthetic to the brand where the colour palettes change every season.
Janny and Karen let us into what drives Pastel Dress Party to please their clientele, as well what personal influences makeup the up and coming Toronto based brand.
What are your favourite colours that you like to work with?
Janny: Usually for myself, my favourite colours are more neutrals. We actually do work with a ton of colours in our design process. We probably have around 35 different colours that we use for all of our designs. And right now for our fall line, a lot of the colours are more muted tone, pastel colour.
Karen: It’s the whole customization and that option not only for bridesmaids dresses, but for women and formalwear as a whole. We understand each woman has their own taste in colours and we want to provide as many choices as possible. As Janny mentioned, the whole Dusty Line that is coming out with five to six new colours again. So we’re always coming out with trendy colours and taking away what’s not trending.
What are your favourite accessories to add to a Pastel Dress?
Janny: Our sparkly belts. All of our dresses do come in a particular style, but we offer opportunities to change out our belts, so it depends on how much bling you want on your dresses.
Karen: I think I have the most fun styling with our Kimmie skirt, which is our tulle tutu skirt. I have the most fun styling it because I can pair it with different tops, and I think I have the most fun with shoes because it’s the pumps that I can work with and I can pair it with stilettos and even runners; different styles.
Who is your favourite celebrity and how do they embody Pastel Dress?
Janny: Beyoncé. I just like her because she’s exactly what she says she is, and she’s fierce. She’s just powerful and speaks on a lot things that girls do and she empowers. She’s all about women. We’re two women trying to run a company and she’s done great things. You know that saying, “Beyoncé has 24 hours in a day, so do you,” that’s exactly what it is.
Karen: Emma Stone. I think her style and how she carries herself is so laid back and all about human rights, and how that plays along with Pastel Dress is really interesting. I don’t share this a lot, but we don’t do price discrimination against sizes. Meaning, plus sizes, even though they may be more costly for production, we don’t add additional costs to the customer. We want all women to feel comfortable in their clothing and made-to-measure should make them feel that way. Especially for women that might be insecure about their body, and that sort of ties in with my celebrity crush with Emma Stone. Especially with her image in Easy A, it’s all about I am who I am, you either embrace it or leave it.
How do you work together and how do you set yourselves apart from other designers in Toronto?
Karen: In terms of setting ourselves apart, the fashion world is very crowded. For me, it’s more so being true to myself and also for the company as a whole. Our integrity is very important to us and that means we won’t try to be who we’re not and attend all these fashion events. We attend events where we feel we’ll meet the right people. For example, we’d love to speak at events that enable fellow entrepreneurs, or just sharing our experience as a whole. Toronto is building up to expectations in the world as well, and we just have to stay focused. Our focus is really providing that product to our customers and not anything else. As long as we get inspirations and know where the trends are we don’t necessarily have to always put ourselves out there and have people know about us [personally], but more so our brand. We’re not about the label, we’re about our customer and putting garments out and getting feedback and providing a service.
What is your favourite type of women’s clothing?
Janny: I think it would be a well fitted dress. It’s one piece and you can just throw it on. It just wraps everything together and all you have to do is accessorize.
Karen: I can’t agree more with Janny. I well fitted dress is a magical in a way where you get the confidence not necessarily people can see but feel. You feel comfortable in a piece of clothing, particularly a dress, and when you step into a crowd you get an aura and that confidence is what makes women beautiful, and no one can take that away from you.
All photographs courtesy of Jessilyn Wong Photography.