The evolution of the wedding as a once-in-a-lifetime party has influenced the colorful gown’s appeal; the event has become the everyday girl’s version of the Oscars, and the dress an extension of her childhood fantasies of walking the red carpet. “The more traditional bride still prefers white or ivory, but the young girls...seem to like the idea of using colors,” says Reem Acra, whose spring 2009 show featured traditional white gowns mixed up with vibrant ready-to-wear and vintage pieces, such as lavender gauze over a full skirt.
“A wedding dress is always about a certain dream, a fantasy—and that fantasy is often about being the star,” says Marie Martinez, the head of haute couture design for Christian Lacroix, who closes his couture shows with an often spectacularly embellished wedding gown. Recently, Lacroix has dressed brides in flower prints, silver and gold taffeta, and shades of pink. “I think the dress itself also depends on the place and the theme of the wedding,” Martinez adds. “Whether it happens in a church, in the country or in a ballroom, the dress will be very different.”
Context inevitably influences the bride’s choice; 14 layers of tulle plays well in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, but how might it appear amid the glamorous dilapidation of an empty swimming pool? That’s where Melia Marden, a New York caterer and daughter of artist Brice Marden, wed musician Kid America last summer, clad in a gold sequined Zac Posen dress. “Instead of having a beautiful ‘wedding dress,’ I wanted the most beautiful, special dress that I could have,” says Marden. “I didn’t even try on any white dresses, and I kind of regret it. But I knew what I wanted, and I felt like I would just be humoring myself.”
For Analisse Bren, who works in interior design, the purchase of a Roberto Cavalli halter dress emblazoned with green vines and yellow lemons inspired the Garden of Eden theme of her wedding, in 2006, which was held at the Wave Hill estate, located north of New York City. “I wanted to wear something I felt comfortable in and reflected who I was at the time,” she says.
Alexandra Posen, creative director of her brother Zac’s company, was married in 2004 at their parents’ Pennsylvania farmhouse, which inspired the crimson, fuchsia and orange dress Zac designed for her. “It was about the color of poppies in a field; The Wizard of Oz,” says Zac. “My sister looks wonderful in white, but she’s not a white-dress kind of girl.” For the ceremony, the family let the grass grow long and cut a swath for an aisle; the guests sported pink parasols. “The dress just became a part of the whole experience,” says Alexandra. “And my family’s a little crazy—no one expected me to go traditional.”