With the popularity of dedicated Instagram wedding pages and unique hashtags by every wedding planner, today, in this age of social media fame, every bride can be a celebrity in her own right. Haute couture designers routinely tag and thus endorse their clients on their Instagram pages and these stylish clients return the favour by tagging the designers in their online wedding albums. The thought that her fabulously-curated trousseau might end up becoming inspiration for Instagram and Pinterest users is humbling – and exciting. And yes, it also means investing in a fashionable bridal trousseau is all the more imperative for a modern-day bride. So what will you wear for your big event?
The splendour of red
All you brides who were in a dilemma about the red dress you had envisioned yourself in the wedding of your dreams, know that the celebratory classic hue is here to stay.
Subcontinental weddings are usually grand affairs that are reminiscent of the regal nuptials of the past. Naturally, brides aim to channel that same royal, old-world vibe in their wedding-day outfit. The majestic vibe of a red-hued wedding ensemble is still unsurpassed, especially so if the wedding happens to be held in a palatial venue.
Take a cue from India’s top bridal designer Sabyasachi’s wedding collections; he has made it his mission to revive the heritage of the regal era with his bridal couture. Steeped in tradition, this designer’s red bridal wear creations are in sync with his deep-rooted traditional sensibilities. Designers Manish Malhotra, Shyamalan & Bhumika, Anamika Khanna and Tarun Tahiliani have bridal collections centred around the celebratory red hue, too.
Interestingly, it’s not any one shade of red that rules the bridal wear segment. Simplifying this wedding outfit colour dilemma, Sabyasachi has entire bridal collections based around distinctly different shades of red – if one bridal collection is centred around kumkum red raw silk lehengas, another, Gulkand, is built around deep burgundy and maroon velvet lehengas.
Owing to the two countries’ shared cultural sensibilities, Pakistani brides have an almost identical bridal colour palette in red.
‘A bride can’t go wrong with a classic red wedding dress,’ says Hassan Sheheryar Yasin of HSY, one of Pakistan’s most celebrated designers. ‘While trends change every season, there is nothing as distinctive as a conventional red bride,’ he adds.
Staying traditional on the wedding day is a bride’s nod to her time-honoured culture. That’s why, according to bridal wear experts, the actual wedding day may be the one function where you experiment less.
As for the most modern shades, Hassan answers for all brides. ‘Go for wine red – claret, burgundy or dark maroon. It’s a way to give a fresh spin to the traditional colour.’
The romance of playful pastels
Agreed – the red bridal outfit’s vintage allure is unsurpassed, but that doesn’t mean the modern, romantic vibe of English garden pastels cannot co-exist in bridal wear. Reminiscent of a garden party, traditionally embellished wedding-day lehengas in dreamy pastels are finding favour with top wedding couturiers Shyamal & Bhumika, Manish Malhotra and Sabyasachi – all the more so since actress Anushka’s vineyard wedding, at which she dispensed with the red for a fairytale pastel lehenga by Sabyasachi.
Surprisingly, there’s a patina of age in today’s much-loved bridal pastels – the ‘weathered’ versions of these neutral shades are popular, lending a bride an ethereal, dream-like quality, rather than the overdone ‘blooming’ versions of the same hues. So you have bridal wear in weathered peach and pink, dull ivory and champagne, faded powder blue and pale mint – all reminiscent of a garden party colour palette of the past.
The trend has gone a step further for the 2018 bride, where designers are creating muted bridal lehengas with flowing, gravity-defying fabrics and equally lightweight yet intricate bridal embellishments.
Take ace wedding couturier Tarun Tahiliani’s 2018 collection Tarakini (meaning the Milky Way), which has unusually light-weight bridal lehengas in dreamy pastels with a mix of gossamer embellishments to honour the wedding-day glamour. ‘Many brides today are moving away from heavy bridal attires that prevent them from participating in the entire fun experience of their own wedding,’ says Tarun, who was in Dubai last month for bridal consultations. ‘These brides want to look beautiful and glamorous, yes, but they also want to feel less loaded on their wedding day and in fact, be able to dance, so we decided to design bridal wear around that gap.’
Tarun’s 2018 designs celebrate lightness and movement with their lightweight fabrics such as sheer silk, Chanderi, Italian tulle, georgette and crepe that are embellished with a mix of intricate detailing such as vintage embroidery, latticework, gota-patti, beadwork, Chantilly lace, sequins and Swarovski crystals. Embroidery is three-dimensional, in keeping with global trends.
‘Even brides who wear red on the wedding day don’t necessarily have to miss out on the romantic pastels – they can opt for a dreamy pastel outfit for another function,’ suggests Tarun.
Bridal trend alert
One of the big style dilemmas a bride faces is the decision of whether to go monochromatic in her look or choose contrasting colours. Indian brides can take a cue from several Indian designers’ love for monochrome, but Pakistani designers such as Zainab Chottani admit to a special fondness for pairing gorgeous contrast dupattas with single-tone bridal lehengas.
‘I believe pairing a bridal outfit with a vibrant, contrast dupatta is an excellent approach as it elevates the entire outfit and makes the bride look even more ethereal,’ says Zainab. ‘For example, a bride can go for an all-maroon ensemble with a flattering melon-pink vibrant dupatta,’ she explains.
Other than a truly traditional lehenga for the actual wedding day, the rest of the bridal trousseau is all about going for statement global couture, albeit only by desi designers. Choices abound with Gaurav Gupta’s artistic, cascading multi-layered gowns with statement sculptural boning on shoulders; Manish Malhotra’s gorgeous Indo-Westerns with a hint of drama in the form of feathers, fringes, tassels or elaborate trains; and Shyamal & Bhumika’s embellished pastel outfits with western silhouettes.
In Pakistani bridal couture, the ‘Farshi’ floor-sweeping, trailing lehengas are still very much in, paired with all lengths of A-line tunics or flowing multi-layered peplum tops.
The trousseau: Go for the mixed bag option
With the growing popularity of elaborate destination weddings, brides have the chance to create an extravagant dream trousseau, a mixed bag of diverse styles.
Today’s elaborate desi destination weddings have several thematic events such as a Sufi night, mehendi, sangeet, cocktail, wedding ceremony and reception. Such a grand affair gives a bride the freedom to flaunt at least six to seven different outfit options. Pakistani weddings are an equally elaborate affair too with the engagement, mehendi, baraat (wedding) and walima (reception) events, with all calling for equally stunning statement outfits.
Other than perhaps keeping to traditional attire on the actual wedding day, there are no set norms for brides any more.
‘The summer 2018 bride is one who showcases versatility and modernity while being traditional,’ Manish tells us. ‘She is all about textures and floral embroidery filled with fun elements. Brides that are not afraid of trying different looks can mix diverse crafts such as Kashmiri, Benarasi, Chikankari – pick intricate workmanship for the wedding and go for bold embroidery and motifs for mehendi and sangeet functions. The bride can incorporate fun details such as feathers, fringes and tassels, in her outfit. She can also opt for a one-shoulder blouse with attached drapes or dramatic trains, or a sheer net blouse with embroidery and sequins.’
The Cinderella ball gown silhouette continues to be big for both lehengas and gowns to live out that princess moment.
Other brides might want an Arabic-style outfit for a musical event such as the Sufi night, or to channel a chic vibe in a formal polo match outfit for a pre-wedding lunch, or wear a vibrant, playful lehenga for the sangeet dance with her BFFs.
Cocktail parties, of course, call strictly for a gorgeous western gown, either a slim silhouette number or a ball gown – the silhouette choice is entirely the bride’s. Gaurav Gupta’s signature cascading gowns in dazzling pastels are proving extremely popular with the brides as cocktail party attire.
Sari-gowns rule fusion wear
Anushka Sharma took everyone by surprise when she wore a red Benarasi sari at one of her wedding functions – a bold departure from the look modern young brides usually prefer at their weddings. Although celebs are routinely seen in saris, the conventional sari trend is yet to catch up with real-life brides, mainly because of the cumbersome tying.
‘But its modern fusion avatar, known as the sari gown or the concept sari, which is the next biggest trend,’ says Tarun.
‘Today, the brides only wear bridal [wear] on their wedding day,’ says top Indian couturier Gaurav Gupta. ‘On all the other days [of the event], it is new global couture for them.’
‘Fusion sari-gowns are evolving as a staple in every fashionista’s wardrobe; they give a very good shape to the body and make a modern ‘Global Indian’ statement too,’ Gaurav says. ‘It is extremely convenient to wear a fusion-style sari-gown, as one just has to zip it up and does not have to spend too much time in tying the sari.’
Says Tarun: ‘As designers, we fail the bride if we cannot design lightweight and easy-to-wear bridal wear that frees her to have fun during her own wedding functions. Concept saris are a great solution for that’.
Styling the clan
Considering today’s mums are posing with their daughters on Instagram every second day, the mother of the bride is spoilt for choice with youthful outfit options. ‘The mother should avoid following anyone and be individualistic in her outfit choices – going for something that’s flattering on her,’ says Gaurav Gupta. ‘The elegance of her outfit could be in the design of the drape instead of something loud. She should avoid strong colour contrasts,’ he adds.
Fusion sari-gowns are convenient yet stylish options to pack and carry as they drape beautifully but can be easily zipped up, eliminating the hassle of tying that comes with a regular sari.
Indian designers have been focusing on destination weddings and looking at outfit solutions for the bride’s clan. The heavily embellished, high-necked and full-sleeved ‘Maharani’ blouse by Sabyasachi saw the light of the day with just that purpose – to eliminate the need to pack heavy neck jewellery or bangles to a destination wedding and risk getting stuck at customs. When paired with a pretty lehenga or a sari, it works as a great option for the mother of the bride. At the reception, there are no set norms and everything from heavy floor-length ethnic gowns to saris to Western ball gowns and fusion sari-gowns can work.
The desi bride’s local shopping guide
Here’s a list of some of UAE’s biggest bridal wear outlets.
Studio 8 (The Dubai Mall) This is where you go if you wish to shop for Bollywood’s favourite couturier Manish Malhotra’s bridal wear.
The Rack by Kachins (Jumeirah) This luxurious multi-designer store retails some of the biggest names in Indian bridal couture such as Gaurav Gupta, Anamika Khanna, Tarun Tahiliani, Payal Singhal, Anita Dongre, Pankaj and Nidhi and many others.
Ensemble (Jumeirah) This multi-designer store retails in some of Pakistan’s well-known bridal designers such as Zainab Chottani, Nomi Ansari, Nida Azwar, Threads & Motifs, Elan, Sania Maskatia and Sana Safinaz.
Faraz Manan’s boutique is located in Jumeirah, while Hassan Sheheryar Yasin’s (HSY) designs can be ordered through the website (hsystudio.com).
In Dubai’s Meena Bazaar, impressive readymade Indian bridal wear outfits are available at stores such as Shaoob, Ghunghat, Tia Fashions, Trust and Traditions. Prices from Dh2,000.
Rizwan Moazzam, a Pakistani designer, retails readymade bridal wear and orders from his flagship store in Meena Bazaar.
Festive wear exhibitions to watch out for include: Divalicious, Design One, SoPritti, Numaish, Boulevard One and Posh-Rack.
The best styling advice? From the recent brides, of course
Fatima Aamir, Ajman
1. I got my nose piercing done just three months before my wedding because I wanted to wear the traditional nath [nose accessory] and not a clip-on one. But I do not recommend this to anyone, as it was the worst experience and I ended up at my wedding with an infected, painful bump on my nose.
2. The first two things you must finalise are the main bridal outfit and the photographer. Do it at least seven months before your wedding. That gives you peace of mind that you’ve checked off the two most important items on the wedding plan.
3. Go with something only if you are comfortable with that element on the day of your wedding. If you have never worn a corset in your life, don’t wear it on your wedding day. You’ll put your back under immense pressure and not enjoy your big day.
4. You might think you won’t need to walk much but wedding photography poses can really drain you. My photographer made me walk along the beach in high heels. Buy comfy heels, even if you want to wear your favourite heels and you know they are slightly uncomfortable. Don’t compromise on your comfort on the wedding day.
5. Understand that things in desi weddings are bound to go wrong so always have a Plan B and plan everything related to you in minute detail yourself. I had a physical journal to remember the most important stuff as well as an app on the phone to save all the important details related to my outfit and other things.
Shivangi Saxena Gupta, Dubai
1. As a bride, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of looking over-decked. For me, it was important that I make a conscious choice to visually and critically edit my look even while planning it. I never wanted to be so loaded that carrying the weight of my outfit and jewellery became a task. It’s important to feel light and to be able to move around, dance and enjoy and I achieved that. And, then when you glow with real happiness, that’ll add to your beauty.
2. It’s important to remember that your bridal lehenga is always the showstopper and your jewellery is an accessory to enhance the outfit. To have a well-balanced look, once your lehenga is finalised, you should buy jewellery that complements the overall look, but make sure it doesn’t end up stealing the show.
3. It’s most important to be your own stylist/critic first. Do your own research on every aspect and don’t buy into the latest trends unless they suit you. A professional can enhance your features, but depending completely on someone else is not the best approach. Proceed with something that isn’t too difficult to carry through to the end. For me, being myself and being a cool bride was my only agenda.
4. Regarding make-up, screen the looks you prefer and brief the stylist accordingly beforehand. Never let any stylist change your looks to such an extent that you end up worried about your looks on your wedding day. Do not go ahead with something if you are unsure about anything – even if others recommend it.
Gaurav Gupta’s bridal trousseau quick style guide
Wedding – Flaunt a traditional lehenga
Reception – A heavy sari-lehenga/sari-gown or an elaborate ball gown
Cocktail – Definitely wear a ball gown
Sangeet – Play with a long Indianised skirt with a cool experimental blouse or get a high-waisted layered lehenga
Mehendi – Go for a vibrant, experimental anarkali or a light lehenga
Engagement – Get yourself a light sari-lehenga in a mint or an aquamarine shade, or an experimental colour