The most beautiful bride in the world

A wedding stylist reveals the secrets of creating a timeless look.

By ANDREA SIMANTOV
November 26, 2010 15:20
4 minute read.
Bride in wedding dress

Bride 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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According to my children, I got married during the Stone Age, assuming that the Bee Gees and Donna Summer played the beats that inspired cavemen to hunt now extinct mastodons. It doesn’t take too much Shabbat wine to convince one of them to remove a dust-covered wedding album from the highest bookshelf and have a grand old time dissecting the platform shoes, polyester suits and Afro (Jewfro) hairdos of the male guests.

“Yuk!” they scream. “What was he wearing?!” When this happens, there seems to be little point in my trying to redirect the table talk back to the week’s Torah portion. After all, can our forefathers hope to compete with the musical quartet that filled the catering hall with electronic simha music, clad in burgundy crushed-velvet jumpsuits, stylishly coupled with pink, ruffle-front shirts? And because Jacqueline Kennedy was my mother’s personal heroine, I am forced to defend the veiled pillbox hat that sat plunked upon my frizzy Jewish coif for the better part of the evening.

Perhaps it was this mocking that drove me to try my hand at wedding-day styling. Anxious to help other future mothers avoid the ridicule to which I was constantly subjected, I ached to create a look that was timeless and less prone to derision.

I read magazines, practiced on my daughters and female relatives, took several courses and ultimately opened shop. My first kalla was a hippie type and didn’t want to prepare for her barefoot-in-the-park wedding at her own apartment because “the vibes aren’t right with my family, like, all over the place.” That was fine with me, since there is a lot of list-checking and schlepping involved with home visits.

Dina prepared at my house and arrived, as requested, wearing a button- down shirt so nothing would get pulled over her head after I completed the makeup and intricate hair styling. When she left my house 90 minutes later, she looked mildly demented, strolling along King George Avenue wearing denim overalls, a flannel lumberjack shirt and an elaborate bouffant up-do (studded with silk flowers and pearls and topped with a tulle wedding veil).

Word of mouth spread, and soon I found myself sharing the special days of delightful girls who came from every corner of the world, such as Australia, Canada, the US, India, the Philippines, South Africa, Europe and Central America. Their mothers were variably nervous, exhilarated, emotional and sometimes apprehensive.

I discovered that one of the downsides of the business was the occasional toxic sentiment that prevailed on what should have been a very happy day. But, proudly, I can count those jobs on one hand: a coarse, abusive bride who lambasted her family members and me; a crying mother who felt “removed” from the festivities because of her daughter’s sudden rigid religiosity; epithet-spewing aunts who had the mother of the groom weeping (compromising mascara application) because they weren’t receiving enough “honor” for having made the overseas trip.

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But these occasional blips on the Career Satisfaction Scale pale when compared to the truly lovely bride with Down’s syndrome. She wanted her hair to have pearls, flowers, braids, a tiara and curls. When I surreptitiously called her mother from an upstairs bedroom, the mom simply said to me, “It’s her day. Estie knows what she wants.”

Duly chastened, I learned a powerful lesson that would take me to new levels of understanding: If a woman feels beautiful, that feeling is radiated from within. The way a bride feels on her wedding day will be reflected in the photographs. If she feels up tight or is wearing a look that does not reflect the woman within, she will look like a mannequin.

I always tell my brides, “He fell in love with you. Let’s make certain he recognizes you under the huppa.”

I find great comfort in recalling the “widow bride” who, to this day, brings a smile to my face. Her beloved husband, a schoolteacher, was blown up on a bus in Gush Katif by terrorists during the early days of the second intifada, leaving her alone with five children.

A few years after his death, she was introduced to a very sweet man who, in his mid- 40s, had never married. When I asked him why he had never taken the plunge, he quipped, “I was looking for a girl with six children but was forced to compromise.” But then he continued, “People had given up on me, but I just knew that when I met ‘her.’ I’d know. Five minutes after meeting Ronit, I knew.”

I recently “adopted” a young couple who badly needs to be loved, accepted and celebrated at this special time because they have endured great anguish because their parents chose not to attend their wedding. I admit that it confounds me, after all these years of rejoicing, that parents can’t choke back their own disappointments at a time when young couples are starving for tolerance and love as they attempt to carve out their own tomorrows.

Old brides, young brides, all brides share the dream of happily ever after and the mixture of adoration and hope that creates magic beneath every bridal canopy.

I have yet to meet a girl who is not the most beautiful bride in the world.

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