• Dresses for Success 9/23/14 7:40 PM

    Short & PetiteLook to designs that fit closely to the body and have an elongating effect, such as a sheath, says Tiffani Rogers, a fashion stylist and founder of Style by Tiffani, which serves the New York, Providence, R.I., and Boston areas.

    Avoid ball gowns with voluminous layers that can overwhelm your frame.Tall & SlimThe best silhouettes are mermaid, A-line or ball gown, as they create the illusion of curves says Rogers. Pass on off-the-shoulder necklines, which can make you look boxy.An Exaggerated Hour GlassDefinites are sweetheart necklines (cut higher on the breast) and scooped necklines that will open up a bride’s face and décolletage without exposing too much cleavage, says Chicago-based bridal stylist Marek Hartwig, founder of Marek Bridal. He suggests fit-to-flare, trumpet or drop-waist ball gown silhouettes, all with ruching at the smallest point of the waist.

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    “Embracing a curvy shape will only elongate it,” Hartwig says. Stay away from straight necklines (they make the bust appear larger), vertical straps (your upper body will look broad), and shiny fabrics or voluminous overlays like anza or stiff tulle.A Little HeavierThe goal is to sculpt your shape with a drop-waist (think A-line) or an empire waist with asymmetrical draping, says Rogers. Skip the gowns with lots of layers or ruffles that will simply add bulk.An Apple ShapeFocus on gowns that cinch in at the smallest point on the waistline to create an hourglass figure, and then flare out into a gradual A-shape, says Hartwig.


    He recommends bodices that fit snugly and have lots of camouflaging texture, like lace or ruching. A deep-V neckline will be the most flattering, drawing attention to the vertical. Avoid trumpet silhouettes, Hartwig adds, as they emphasize the widest part of your body while hiding slender legs.Thicker in the ArmsHartwig recommends a sheer (silk tulle, lace) 3/4-length sleeve, a capelet or bolero jacket.


    Nix anything tight or fabrics that are shiny, over-embellished or opaque.

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  • Will you be my bridesmaid? 9/23/14 7:35 PM

    Raise your hand if you’ve ever been asked the fateful question: “Will you be in my wedding party?” Now keep your hand up if you’ve alternately squealed with delight and inwardly grimaced. Yes, it’s special to be asked, but it’s also a responsibility, a commitment, and sometimes a drag. “It all depends on who the bride is,” says Kathryn Clare Lanigan, a veteran of four wedding parties. “Usually it’s a big ‘thank you, it’s an honor,’ but sometimes in the back of my head, I’m thinking…” This combination of happiness and trepidation isn’t limited to women: men who are asked to be groomsmen or ushers often have mixed reactions, too. Says one anonymous groomsman, “The most nervous part of the ordeal wasn’t doing a reading in front of hundreds of people: it was thinking of the wrath of the bride if I messed up.”So how should a bride (and groom) decide who will surround them at the altar, avoiding this kind of reaction? And is it really necessary, in this modern age, to have a traditional wedding party? Yes, agree most couples: It’s about bonding (“You’re my other best friend…”), affirmation (“I’m making the right life partner choice, aren’t I?”), and an important right of passage (“I can’t get married without you…”).


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    Wedding planning website The Knot says you should take the “formality” of your wedding into consideration when planning the number of attendants. In other words, for a large, more formal wedding, figure on having one bridesmaid and groomsmen “pair” for every 50 guests in attendance. Some things, though, can’t be engineered into a formula. Amy Jo Ruff of Buffalo had an open mind and a big family, plus close friends when she married Paul Lauber. “I was planning on including my nieces as bridesmaids. Plus my five older sisters as matrons of honor.” In addition to her groom’s siblings and younger nieces as trainbearers, the wedding party grew to 16. She laughs, “Yes, it was crazy, but that’s what it’s about sometimes: knowing each other’s type of ‘crazy’ and choosing to love it.”It’s just as okay to swing the other way. When Ali and Scott Gaston of West Seneca were married in 2008, they wanted a private ceremony. Very private. Like just themselves and a justice of the peace. “I didn’t want anyone bossing me around and I didn’t want to be that bride that did the bossing,” said Ali. “We had a wonderful party with all of our friends and family after the wedding. Most definitely, I’d do it that way again.”Still, most brides and grooms want their posse. Who — and how— to choose is a personal decision. “It depends on the person and who they love most,” says wedding planner Mattie Stevenson, owner of Above & Beyond Event Marketing and Management.


    Most brides chose from among their closest friends and family members. Our less favorable economy is giving brides a new sensitivity, too. “Brides are now making wise decisions and choosing a wedding party based on financial situations,” she says. Standing up is pricey business: bridesmaids can spend as much as $300 to $500 on traditional attire, plus other expenses related to the bridal shower or bachelorette party. It’s typical for the younger couple, marrying for the first time, to want the more formal (read: expensive) wedding, replete with a bridal shower, a couple's shower, stagette and stag parties, which translates into more planning, participation, and payouts by the attendants. Again, the groomsmen are not immune. “I think I’m being added on to my friend’s wedding party because the bride can’t limit her party,” says an anonymous and reluctant groomsman. “The groom, although my friend, is in a mad scramble to find groomsmen to equal the bridesmaids,” he grumbled. But despite some couples’ efforts to keep the numbers “even,” it doesn’t need to be an equal match up, according to The Knot. “I figured my sisters were independent enough to stand up on their own without escorts,” says Amy Jo Ruff Lauber.Therese Forton-Barnes, owner of Events to a Tee, says some couples are now opting for smaller wedding parties in non-traditional settings, like farms, barns, and outdoor locations that are more rustic and earthy. This also encourages alternative choices for bridal party attire, getting away from structured, matching outfits.Jennifer Smith Weber’s wedding (and reception) took place at a lakeside park in Niagara County. Her attendants were dubbed "The Ladies in Red," and “their only duty was to wear something red, even an accessory,” she says.


    The ladies were also on hand to help decorate the pavilion and prep the location. “It was important for me to celebrate the friendships I’ve made over the years and celebrate the future, now with a hubby in tow.”Jennifer Abbott and Spc. Joshua Bruggeman took a similar approach when they wed in Western New York last October. Neither had been in anyone else’s wedding before, so limiting their attendants to close friends and family members was simple and heartfelt. Older brides often have a different perspective, as well. Nancy Hails Burgio of Williamsville says, “When you’re marrying for the first time at 53, you’ve built a lot of relationships. I picked people close to me.” By her side at her Thanksgiving weekend wedding were her co-worker for the last 22 years (ironically, the groom’s cousin), her two nieces and her late sister’s long-time best friend. “It was extremely meaningful,” she said.Second marriages present other opportunities: brides and grooms often include their children and stepchildren. Says wedding planner Stevenson, “Even if the children aren’t in the wedding party, the bride and groom include them in the celebration of the union.” Still other brides and grooms reach out to different family members to participate: the ones with four legs. Yes, pets can have a place in the wedding party, too. “They can be the ring bearer and maybe they get rolled down the aisle in wagons. People love their animals,” laughs Stevenson.


    So the general rule on attendants is: there is no rule. Pick the people (or pets) who mean the most to you. Make decisions for attire and assign responsibilities in a way that makes sense to you and your spouse-to-be. And enjoy the ride. It’s a long life together, and friends and family want it to be fun.Cherie Messore is a frequent contributor from West Seneca and a five-time bridesmaid.



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