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Many of us spend our early years toddling around tailgates, cheering in the stands of our favorite Southern college stadiums, and exploring the campus grounds where our parents fell in love. With all this in mind, we thought there was no better choice for our tenth anniversary fashion editorial than one inspired by iconic universities across Dixie. When it comes time to get married, we’re determined to honor what’s most important to us, and in the South, that often includes our beloved alma maters — be it in the flowers in our bouquets, our accessories, or our beloved gowns!

We had more than one lively conversation around the office as we narrowed down our list of schools and chatted about the attributes embodied by each. While we wish we could have represented all of the great institutions across the South, I’m betting you’ll fall in love with at least one gown here, whether or not your college is represented! (Psst: you’re allowed to covet your rival school’s gown — we won’t tell!)

We’re so grateful to Blue Ribbon Vendors Anagram Photo for these beautiful images and Teighla Norris for our gals’ hair and makeup. Anna, Graham, and Teighla were such great sports (in addition to being amazing vendors) as we drug them all around Chapel Hill to find the perfect spots for our spirited shoot!

Haven’t picked up your copy of our newest issue? You can do so in our shop and at stores across the South!

The University of Alabama: Her first words were “Roll Tide” and her daddy’s old houndstooth fedora was her favorite piece in the dress-up box. Our Alabama bride’s love of magnolias and monograms (which will play a big role in her upcoming big day) was inherited from her mama, and she makes time in her weekly schedule to grab chicken salad sandwiches with her nana and chat about plans for the upcoming home game at Bryant–Denny.

Emily is wearing Style 9655 by Alvina Valenta. Bouquet by Fairview Farm & Flowers.

Texas A&M: Living anywhere but deep in the heart of Texas has never crossed our A&M’s bride’s mind. Her cowboy boots outnumber her heels, fitting well with her laid-back style and deep Aggie pride. From Yell Practice on Friday night through an A&M victory on Saturday afternoon, she doesn’t miss any of the football festivities. Her love for her team is only trumped by her love for her favorite Cadet, and she can’t wait to introduce all her non-Texas family to “Howdy,” the official greeting of A&M, at their rehearsal dinner.

Jessica is wearing “Rose” by Jaclyn Jordan. Bouquet by Wildflowers.

Clemson: When she’s not cheering on her Tigers in Memorial Stadium, our Clemson bride tries to spend free fall weekends back home on her family farm. As a little girl, she spent summers frolicking in the tall grass and picking vegetables from the family garden and every fall begging her daddy to make bonfires after each Clemson victory. Her family means the world to her and she can’t imagine getting married anywhere else.

Toogie is wearing “Jolie” by Astrid and Mercedes. Bouquet by Jennifer Wood, The Barn of Chapel Hill at Wild Flora Farm.

The University of Kentucky: She bleeds Kentucky blue and, from December to March, doesn’t miss a Saturday in Rupp. In her free time our UK bride can be found saddling up her family’s pony, Twirl Girl, for long Sunday afternoon rides in the rolling green hills of her favorite place on earth. If she gets her way, she’ll tuck roses into her bouquet and say her vows next to her family’s barn on the first warm Saturday in the spring.

Sam is wearing “Londyn” by Hayley Paige from Twirl Lexington. Bouquet by Flowers by Janie.

Louisiana State University: Purple and gold have been her favorite colors since before she can remember and our LSU bride celebrates her birthday each summer with a big bash in her parents’ backyard. Although she can’t imagine living anywhere but NOLA, she considers Tiger Stadium her home away from home, and helps her mama host the best tailgates in Baton Rouge before every home game. As for her wedding day? She’s planning the most delicious crawfish boil east of the Mississippi.

Lauren is wearing “Karina” by Rebecca Shoneveld. Bouquet by Narbail Floral Design.

The University of Mississippi: She’s always smack dab in the middle of the fun and festivities in the Grove during home football game Saturdays. Even though our Ole Miss bride misses her sideline spot cheering for the Rebs, she can still rally the crowds with her spirit and energy from the stands and has big plans for rocking a fantastic topknot and rebel-approved red lip when she says “I do” to her favorite wide receiver-turned-fiancé.

Carter is wearing “Aster Mae” by Heidi Elnora. Bouquet by Flowers by Cherry.

The University of Tennessee: Tailgating by the Tennessee River wearing Tennessee Orange is how our UT bride wishes she could spend every single weekend from September to December. Since the home schedule only blocks out seven Saturdays, she spends her open weekends dragging friends hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains (her picnic packing skills rival the best tailgate spreads). She’d always rather be outdoors and plans to tie the knot at one of her favorite lookout spots with a few close family and friends.

Teighla is wearing “Sullivan” by Sarah Seven. Bouquet by Florafino’s Flower Market.

The University of Georgia: While she loves spending her fall Saturdays tailgating in Athens and has proudly adopted the most adorable bulldog in the world, our UGA bride relishes the chance to pop back to Atlanta for a night out on the town with her high school girlfriends. Her idea of a perfect evening starts with gourmet fried chicken from JCT’s Kitchen (which she plans to serve at her reception) and ends at her favorite rooftop bar in Midtown. You can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl.

Bindhu is wearing Style 843 by Martina Liana. Bouquet by Kast Events.

The University of North Carolina: Be it fall in Kenan Stadium or any winter evening inside the Dean Dome, our Carolina bride never not rooting on her Tar Heels. As a third generation alum, she can hold her own when chatting about the chances of another national title, all while rocking her pearls and dreaming up what she’s bringing to the next neighborhood potluck. Chances are good that she’ll dance the night away with her groom to the classic James Taylor tune “Carolina in My Mind.”

Taylor is wearing “Bennett” by Anne Barge Blue Willow and Jack Rogers x Draper James sandals. Bouquet by Julie D’Agostino Designs.

The grounds of the UVA campus still take her breath away, especially when our University of Virginia bride walks past the spot where she met her future husband, back when they were first years. While studying for law school takes up most of her time, she won’t miss a chance to cheer on her Wahoos on Saturdays or explore the numerous Charlottesville vineyards on Sunday afternoons. She can’t wait to marry her first love when the leaves change in mid-October.

Grace is wearing “Brooke” by Sareh Nouri. Bouquet by Fiore Fine Flowers.

I’d love to hear which spirited school look is your favorite and whether we did a good job capturing your beloved alma mater!

Anagram Photo and Teighla Norris are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory. Astrid and Mercedes and Heidi Elnora are wonderful Southern Weddings sponsors.

kristin Written with love by Kristin
3 Comments
  1. avatar Stephanie Shaul reply

    The fashion feature is always a favorite of mine, and I love this school-spirited twist!! Y’all did an amazing job of capturing the personalities of each university in every aspect: the stunning bouquets, the unique gowns, and even each bride! And as a proud UNC alum, you know I have to love this feature so much. It’s also so fun to see so many of my favorite spots around campus captured so exquisitely here! Amazing feature + incredible vendor team.

  2. avatar Janna Toruno reply

    Texas A&M may have beaten us this year, but I adore that dress and boots together! I’ve already purchased my wedding boots and haven’t even gone dress shopping yet!

  3. avatar Anna Garcia reply

    I was a 4th generation Carolina bride, got married at the Carolina Inn! And definitely wore my Jack Rogers to the reception where we danced the night away to James Taylor and other campus favorites :)

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Hello, belles! Our practical advice posts are some of the most popular in our archives, so I’m back to shed some light on another aspect of wedding planning: shopping for a gown. This is the advice I would have wanted to read before I began dress shopping for my own wedding; it turns out I had more to share than I thought, so hold tight! And if you think I missed something, be sure to chime in in the comments!

FIRST THINGS FIRST:

Pull inspiration. Start by gathering images of dresses that appeal to you (Pinterest, of course, is a great place to collect them!). Don’t worry if they vary widely or don’t seem to fit the type of wedding you’re having — at this point, you’re just trying to pull together a visual representation of your style. Take note of recurring features or designers.

Decide on your budget. To determine your gown budget, you’re going to need to have a firm handle on your entire wedding budget (we covered wedding budgets here). The industry rule of thumb is that the wedding gown generally makes up 10% of the overall budget, but that doesn’t resonate with me — I spent about 4% of our budget on my gown. However, it doesn’t really matter what anyone else is doing as long as it works for you!

Nail down the basics. The location, venue, and time of year of your wedding will likely have a big impact on the type of gown that feels appropriate for it. Make sure you’ve determined these basics before you begin dress shopping!

Two of the dresses I tried on in my search — see more here!

PREPARING FOR YOUR APPOINTMENT(S):

Start the process well in advance. Unless you’re planning to buy off the rack (think J. Crew or BHLDN), know that it can take 6-8 months for a custom gown to be made, ordered, and, if necessary, altered. If you have it, the 15-to-10-month-out time range gives you plenty of breathing room to avoid making a panicked decision (but only if you’ve established your basics!).

Choose your shop(s) carefully. There are nearly as many bridal shops as there are brides, so there’s certainly one out there that will be a perfect match for your personality. Do you want an intimate boutique experience? Or do you want to see as many gowns as possible? Are you in love with a particular designer? (It seems obvious, but make sure the boutique you’re headed to carries her line!) Does the shop offer a range of gowns/lines in your budget? Have your friends had a wonderful experience there?

Do your hair and makeup. On the day of your appointment, take a little extra time to do your makeup and hair — just the fancy version of your usual look! If you’re anything like me, this will help keep you from nixing gowns just because you’re not feeling super confident that day. In addition, if you are SURE you’re going to want to wear your hair up, put it in a bun or a ponytail. Same goes for wearing it down.

Ask the RIGHT people to come with you. Dress shopping tips often focus on the number of people to bring to an appointment, but I think the TYPE of people is much more important. You want folks who will be supportive, kind, and generally hesitant to share their thoughts unless you ask (ha!). Now is not the time for the opinionated or the attention-hungry. If only your best friend falls into the first category? She’s the one who’s coming. If mama, mama-in-law, grandmama, sister, and best friend fit the bill? I think that sounds like a fabulous bonding experience.

More dresses I tried on!

AT YOUR APPOINTMENT:

Bring inspiration… Again, a lot of advice pieces tell you not to do this, but I think that’s absurd — I certainly did! I brought four printed pages of my favorite gowns to communicate my aesthetic to my consultant.

…but be open to anything. The point of bringing inspiration is to share the look you love, NOT to box yourself into a specific gown or designer you’re committed to. Dresses often look and feel VERY different on you than they do in photos, so be open to trying on anything! Even if you are absolutely SURE you would NEVER wear that gown the consultant is holding up, try the dang thing on. What’s the worst that could happen? You’re there to try on dresses, so have fun! Respect your stylist’s expertise (they do do this for a living, after all), but respect yourself, too — it goes without saying that you should never feel pressured into actually buying a gown you don’t love. As a final note, I can’t tell you how many interviews I’ve read on this site from brides who ended up picking a gown 180 degrees different from what they originally envisioned :)

Only try on dresses in your price range. There’s no point falling in love with something you can’t afford, so be honest with your consultant about your budget. The only exception I’d make here is if you are committed to the idea of selling your dress post-wedding, like I did — then, I think it’s okay to wiggle the budget up a bit to compensate for the fact that you’ll recoup part of the cost later.

Be gentle with yourself. I expected dress shopping to be an easy experience — until I found myself in tears after my second appointment, convinced I’d never find a gown I loved. While I was pretty shocked and more than a little embarrassed to feel that way, it is what it is — don’t beat yourself up about it if you something similar happens to you, and don’t feel pressure to feel a certain way! That goes for “the moment,” too. Neither I nor my Mom cried at any of my dress appointments — I just felt calm and happy.

Photos from one of my dress fittings — more here!

MAKING THE DECISION:

Consider your husband. Yes, you’re the one wearing the dress, and yes, you should absolutely choose something that’s your style and that you feel beautiful in! But just as the wedding day is about the two of you, I think it’s worth a passing thought to consider your fiance’s style as you make your final decision. Know he hates anything too frilly or fussy? Save the rows of ruffles for your next black tie event.

Wait for a trunk show. Finally, if you’ve zeroed in on THE dress and have a bit of time before you need to order it, see if the designer will be having a trunk show nearby anytime soon. Most offer 10% off to those who order during the show, which can be a great way to save!

What do y’all think? Did I miss anything? How was your dress shopping experience? Painful, amazing, stressful, fun? How many shops did you visit or dresses did you try on? I’d love to hear!

emily Written with love by Emily
13 Comments
  1. avatar Aimee McMurtrey reply

    Never disregard a style you might not think you like. My dress is a style and design I never thought I would look good in. I ended with a dress that is like a mermaid with very little too it. I knew that I want as simple as could be and I could not be more in love with my dress.

  2. avatar Lisa reply

    As always, Emily, so grateful for your wisdom! Even though I’d love to share the experience with my whole 8-person bridal party, I will either be shopping with just my mom or my mom and my sisters due to travel. I’m actually very happy that it’s going to end up being a small and supportive group!

  3. avatar Liza reply

    Thanks for the ideas! Did you sell your dress online after your wedding? I found the dress I want on one of the used dress sites for 50% of the price but I am hesitant to buy it online. Just curious if you had experience with this and if it was positive or negative.

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi Liza! Yes, I did! I actually did a private sale (not through a dress site – payment went through PayPal) because a gal approached me post-wedding before I even had a chance to list it. I’ve heard from LOTS of people who have had great experiences through dress sites, though, so I’d say go for it if it’s the dress you want!

  4. avatar Tiffany reply

    There were two things that were so obvious, yet I missed because I was not really ‘into’ wedding planning before. 1. You have to make an appointment at a bridal salon to look at dresses, so make sure you’ve secured enough time and don’t feel rushed. 2. Ask the salon you’ve made an appointment at what undergarments you should bring (if any) to try on the dresses. 3. If you have any heirloom jewelry you can’t see yourself walking down the aisle without, make sure you try the dress on with those pieces so they mesh well.

  5. avatar Katherine reply

    I completely agree with all of these! We found a Carrafina gown that was a bit more than what we initially had planned for, I kindly asked the store owner (who was also my consultant) if there was anything she could skim off the top. She took 10% off no problem and we walked out of there that day with the dress of my dreams!

  6. avatar Hannah reply

    As someone in the process of searching for the perfect dress these tips are wonderful! So far I have gone to one shop, found a dress I loved, then later that night after thinking about it questioned if I loved it after all as I felt I had found it so quickly. I definitely agree with bringing the right person. I am going back to the shop with my mom who I feel will help the decision process. Also, the famous it’s “the one” reaction. I too, was very calm and felt relaxed trying on dresses. (I think that has a lot to do with how I questioned it later) feeling like I need to have this dramatic “feeling”. Love all of your advice :)

  7. avatar Lauren reply

    Don’t be afraid to shop by yourself! I really liked looking on my own and then bringing back my mom and aunt.

    Also, like said, when you find the dress you dont have to buy right away. In addition to trunk shows, many boutiques have sales and take up to 20% off. Some boutiques promise to give the lowest price and will price match. You buy your dress so early that it’s easy to splurge but when you are scrambling for pennies the week before your wedding you will be happy you saved!!!

  8. avatar Amanda reply

    Could you tell me who makes the dress on the left in the second row of pictures? I think it’s an Amsale–I love it!

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi Amanda! Yes, that is the Amsale Melina, from her spring 2011 collection! Good eye :)

  9. avatar For the Perfect Day – Tip #6 | Michael & Laura Photography reply

    […] walked me through fitting, and picking the dress up.. they were fabulous.  And tip #3, go read this article from Southern Weddings.  It’s super helpful and practical!  So, I found the dress and immediately started […]

  10. avatar http://tinyurl.com/lvmb98s reply

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Welcome to the last entry in our Bridal Market coverage. Even though our fun must come to an end, we’ve got quite the finale for you!

After hitting the Piers and seeing new and old friends alike, we stopped for a quick pick-me-up at Eleni’s in the MeatPacking District on the way to our meeting at Gabriella New York. When you have a fabulous photographer in cahoots with you, it’s hard not to stop for an impromptu photo shoot! Thanks, Trent!

Visiting the Gabriella New York Bridal Salon was definitely one of the highlights of our trip! Not only was Gabriella a complete doll and her staff sweet as pie, but her salon was filled with the most gorgeous gowns and bridal accessories.

One particular lovely caught my eye as soon as we walked in – the amazing “Addison” from Marchesa. Gabriella was kind enough to let me try it on and let me tell you I literally died! Whitney fell for this stunning Sassi Holford and I think her first time in a wedding dress might have been her best! BIG huge thank you hugs to Gabriella and her team for making this MAJOR fashion moment happen!

We couldn’t have asked for a better way to end our Bridal Market whirlwind then with the Romona Keveza Legends show. Romona herself sat in a large comfy chair and described each dress as smiling models twirled around a gorgeous suite at the St. Regis. Fashion heaven! We were so thrilled to be a part of her last Market show and to have chatted with her after. I especially loved the lace-edged cathedral length veils and that her collection was inspired by real brides everywhere.

All images courtesy of the amazing Trent Bailey.

Whitney and I hope that you enjoyed following along with our adventures in the city that never sleeps! We are so grateful to have been able to take y’all along for the ride! Special thanks to our amazing Editor in Chief Lara for being such an awesome boss and to our fabulous photographer Trent Bailey! Whitney, you we’re a fabulous partner in crime and I can’t wait for next year already!

Which designer is your favorite? Who will you be wearing on your big day?

marissa Written with love by Marissa
3 Comments
  1. avatar Lara reply

    Oh my gracious!! I love you two SO much! You in wedding dresses just made my heart explode! Thank YOU for being so incredible and spreading the good Southern love all over NYC!

  2. avatar Nicole reply

    I love you guys!! You both are gorgeous in those wedding gowns! And I LOVE those veils from Romona Keveza.

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