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1997 BRIDAL GUIDE Ask the Experts

Consultants, party planners, jewelers and bridal fashion retailers make your wedding their business.
By COURTNEY DENBY |

BIG WEDDINGS ARE A DALLAS TRADITION -it is not unusual to have 600 guests and 12 attendants. Weddings this size cost $30,000, on average, but many families spend well over S100.000. Because their clients think on a grand scale and expect minor miracles, Dallas is filled with professionals who can make wedding dreams come true.

They do it every weekend.

The question, of course, is this: How much help do you need to pull off a big wedding? People in the business can do as little or as much as you need. They can handie every detail down to finding satin table-clothsthat match your roses or making sure the reception runs on schedule.

The consultant also can connect you to whatever is hip and new in the bridal biz, helping you to blend the trendy, the traditional and the truly creative into your perfect wedding.



WORKING WITH A CONSULTANT

Wedding consultants came on the Dallas scene in the ’80s when weddings were big, elaborate productions. A consultant is hired in the early stages of planning the wedding and can help the bride in hiring everyone from the florist to the band to the photographer. An experienced consultant can easily recommend other wedding professionals in the Dallas area. She knows which bakery has the best-tasting cakes and which has the best-looking.

A consultant works with the bride throughout the planning process and acts as an overall coordinator. She’s also present at the rehearsal and at the wedding itself to keep things running smoothly and handle any last-minute crises. At the reception, it’s the wedding consultant who tells the couple when it’s time to dance the first dance and nudges the father when it’s time to cut in. She times the cutting of the cake, the throwing of the bouquet and the couple’s departure. All the details are taken care of- right down to the picnic basket filled with reception food and the cold bottle of champagne waiting in the getaway car.

Every wedding consultant is compensated differently. Some charge a percentage of the total cost of the wedding while others offer a package of services for a specific fee. There also are consultants who can be hired by the hour to perform certain tasks such as overseeing the reception so the mother of the bride can enjoy the party. Below are a few consultants who’ve been in the business for years. The Association for Bridal Consultants can recommend others in the Dallas area.

Nina Austin: 214-871-3634

Sally Jones: 214-521-3119

Suzanne Hightower: 972-303-1019

Sharon Coston: 214-352-0609

Association for Bridal Consultants: 860-355-0464

PARTY PLANNERS

Traditional wedding consultants can be a lifesaver to some brides, but many young women don’t want or need such hands-on service. If you feel comfortable hiring the band and the photographer yourself, but want help with logistics and decorations, consider working with a party planner. These are the people who can create and individualize the look of your wedding-from tablecloths and centerpieces to the flowers in the chandeliers and the ribbons on your champagne flutes.

Gale Sliger of Gale Sliger Productions has been executing big, wonderful parties in Dallas for more than 20 years. If you want it. she’ll design it, construct it, find it or buy it. Her reputation preceeds her. And her clients-Perots. Hunts and Horchows among them-keep coming back. As longtime client Nancy Brinker says. “With Gale, the answer is ’Yes. Now what’s the question?’ “

Sliger’s office is 25 feet from the warehouse where design engineers Bob Kates and Jim Monroe build props, stages, columns, staircases, chandeliers and can-delabras. Walking through it is like being backstage at a Broadway theater. It’s a wedding fantasyland. There are blow torches, band saws, light dimmers and extension cords-and a 14-member team who can design and build virtually anything a bride can dream up.

You can rent anything in Sliger’s repertoire of goodies or she will custom-build to suit. When you have something built, you pay for the materials and tabor; when you rent, there is a line-item rental fee. If your wedding is out on the ranch or in a tent in the back yard, she’ll have her crew build a field kitchen for the caterer. Sliger can provide linens, flowers and any decorations. As Sliger says, “’We do whatever is needed.”

For instance: At a recent Jewish wedding, the bride’s family wanted the chup-pa, the traditional wedding canopy with four posts. The groom’s family did not. To overcome the challenge, Sliger’s team designed and created one made of flowers and suspended it from the ceiling with ivy vines acting as the four posts. The resulting “virtual chuppa” pleased all parties.

Floral design workshop Two Design Group in Deep Ellum creates what co-owner Todd Fiscus calls “temporary interior design set-ups” for parties. In business for only two years. Two Design Group is already booked well into next fall.

When Fiscus designs a wedding, he begins by sitting down with the couple and asking them not for pictures, but for a string of adjectives that would describe their ideal wedding. Sophisticated and elegant? Whimsical and romantic? Vibrant and festive? After he’s determined the kind of atmosphere they want to create, he’ll talk colors, textures, fabrics and flowers. Then he begins to design a wedding that will be a reflection of the bride and groom. Fiscus defies anyone to walk into a party and say, “Oh, Two Design has been here.” If the bride’s name is Ann. the greatest compliment Fiscus can receive is for a guest to say. “This wedding is so Ann.”

If a client is having a reception at a country club or hotel, Two Design comes in and transforms ballrooms and garden courtyards into something extraordinary by adding finishing touches that can make an event memorable. White hotel tablecloths can be replaced with swaths of floor-trailing, chocolate-brown velvet with gold satin overlay, or heavy burlap with a topping of crisp white linen. Instead of using the club’s standard plates, he can provide bone china with a wide gold rim or bright orange salad plates and fruit bowls to complement the flowers. A ballroom chair can be transformed with satin cushions and fresh flower tie-backs.

For a recent wedding. Two Design used 12-foot-tall antique carnage lanterns as centerpieces, with tables built around them. Fiscus, a self-proclaimed “control freak when it comes to pretty parties,” has an unwavering eye for detail. “I want these girls’ weddings to be absolute perfection because that is what they’ve built up in their minds.”

His floral designs are unique because he goes beyond “the Dallas special”-what he defines as “a palette of colors that range from pink to peach”-and uses vibrant hues of orange, yellow or chartreuse. You can hire Two Design Group to do just the flowers, but the company is usually enlisted to do much more. Fiscus doesn’t bake the cake, but he suggests ways to bring it into the theme, working with the baker to design one that complements the flowers and tablecloths. He doesn’t sear the tuna, but he designs the menu in conjunction with the caterer. He doesn’t set the table. but he provides the lace overlays, crystal goblets and antique candelabras dripping with flowers to pull the look together.

Fiscus wants the feeling of the party to flow from the invitation to the moment the new married couple drives away. And. he adds, “If you want to leave in a pumpkin carriage, you’ve got it.”

NEW-FASHIONED WEDDING GOWNS

Finding a wedding gown that matches the image a bride has created in her mind can take time. Margaret Redmond, the buyer and manager of the Neiman Marcus Bridal Salon, says that most brides try on at least 20 dresses during three or four visits before they make a decision.

Gone are the puffy sleeves, bows and super-long trains of the ’80s and the straight-lace sheaths of the early ’90s.

Dallas brides today favor simple, sleeveless styles in beautiful fabrics with little, if any, lace or beading. Nina Austin, manager/buyer for the Bridal Salon at Stanley Korshak, says many Dallas brides are going for a more revealing dress that will show off their hours at the gym. In the ’80s. the only variations in wedding gowns were the quality of fabrics, lace and beading. Today, there are many more options, including A-line skirts and empire waists that create clean, simple lines.

The full-service bridal salons listed below offer gowns ranging from $2,000 to S 10,000; the majority of them fall between $2,000 and $4,000. Make an appointment and set aside at least one and a half hours for trying on dresses. At no extra charge, each of these salons will deliver the gown for pre-wedding portraits, store it until the ceremony and then deliver it to the site of the wedding. Upon request, the consultant who sells a bride her gown will come to the wedding to help her get dressed.



Neiman Marcus Bridal Salon:

214-741-691 l,ext. 2053

The Bridal Salon at Stanley Korshak:

214-871-36

Patsy’s, A Bridal Boutique:

214-528-12

BRIDESMAID DRESSES TO WEAR AGAIN

Let’s face it. Few fashions live with the kind of inferiority complex harbored by that longtime Fashion Don’t known as the bridesmaid dress. Brides always tell their friends. “You can wear it again.” But they rarely, if ever, do.

The design team of Watters & Watters actually makes it possible for a bride to deliver on her promise, offering what’s arguably the biggest selection of high-quality bridesmaid dresses around. The two Watters sisters have made Dallas their home and are particularly in tune with the wants and needs of Dallas brides and their attendants. They established a huge following in the late ’80s with the Watters & Watters two-piece suit-a Jackie O-like pairing of a short-sleeved jacket and a long skirt. Now, they say their most popular style pairs a long, sleeveless, empire waist, A-line dress and coordinating jacket. The newest colors for spring are periwinkle, honeydew and lilac, but taupe and champagne are still strong.

Many Dallas brides are skipping the bridal salons altogether and are, instead, shopping at department and specialty stores. At Tootsies, for instance, most dresses can be ordered in several colors and sizes. Store manager Michelle Escobar says that long, sleeveless gowns are the best-selling style for bridesmaids.

A popular alternative to asking bridesmaids to purchase a dress they’ll never wear again-ask them to simply wear their own dresses in one particular color. The aforementioned bridal salons carry a good selection of bridesmaid gowns, but there are other options. Among them:

‧ Lasting Impressions: 972-991-749

‧ Bridesmaids’ Collection:972-788-4482

‧ Tootsies: 214-696-9993

LET ME SEE YOUR RING

Mortgages aside, an engagement ring is usually a young man’s first big purchase. Instead of trying to decide himself what style of ring his bride will like, many couples today are shopping together.

Dallas jeweler Richard Eiseman says that more women are coming in alone and educating themselves about buying a diamond before they return with their husbands-to-be. Eiseman has always sold a lot of platinum rings, but he’s seeing an increase in the demand for them. “We’ve always sold platinum and we’ve always educated our customers on the quality of platinum,” he says. “But now they’re coming in and saying, specifically, ’We want to look at platinum.’ “

Jean Beall of Tiffany & Co. says, “Brides are going back to the kinds of rings their mothers and grandmothers had.”

The six-prong setting known as the Tiffany setting is always platinum because it shows off the diamond’s color. “Platinum used to be an old-ladies’ setting,” says Beall, “but now younger women want it.” (Tiffany & Co. has an 18-minute video and a brochure on buying diamonds.)

Ken Riney of Ken Riney Antiques at the Crescent specializes in estate and antique jewelry. He’s seen a huge increase in the sale of estate and antique engagement rings over the past two years. “Girls are coming in and wanting something different,” he says. “They want something more than just a big diamond sticking up on a plain band.” The combination of diamonds with colored stones also is popular; sapphire-and-diamond rings, especially so. “Rubies are difficult,” notes Eiseman, “because Dallas women wear red nail polish and it often clashes.”

The wedding band doesn’t have to be an exact match for the engagement ring, but should complement it-for example, the bride’s wedding band could be the same width and color as her engagement ring.



WEDDING CAKES

The wedding cake is the centerpiece of the reception.

With all eyes on what is usually a gravity-defying work of art, the cake should be beautiful and unique to the day.

The key? “Getting a cake that is as great-tasting as it is good-looking,” says Gisela Techt of Taste of Europe, which specializes in elaborately decorated confections starting at S3 per slice.

When you first meet with a baker, look at his portfolio, but also ask to taste the different cakes. A wedding cake that looks too good to eat is a plus, but one that tastes too bad to eat is unacceptable.

Make the cake uniquely yours by recreating in pastillage (a sugar paste that dries with a porcelain finish) the same flowers used in the ceremony. Techt says she often uses roses, orchids, lilies and cherry blossoms. Many brides and grooms are searching for vintage bride-and-groom sets to place on top of the cake; other couples are having their own likenesses recreated in pastillage.

Cakes iced in buttercream are usually the best-tasting. This particular icing also blends well with liqueurs and other flavorings. However, cakes iced in rolled fondant (a mixture of sugar, corn syrup, glycerin and gelatin) are hot right now, very fitting because fondant cannot be refrigerated. Rolled fondant is more like a dough that is rolled out into thin sheets and wrapped around each tier. When it dries, it is smooth and satiny, the perfect canvas for any decoration. It also creates a simple and tailored look to build upon.

-Allyson Connally

Taste of Europe; 817-654-9494

Ida Mae’s Cakes of Distinction: 817-567-34

Frosted Art: 214-760-8707

Paul Jerabeck Special Affairs Catering: 214-351-36

Le Gateau Cakery: 214-528-6102

Spirited Cakes: 214-522-2212