What do Gwyneth Paltrow, Amanda Peet, Ashlee Simpson, and my cousin Channie have in common? They all were pregnant brides.
If you Google “maternity wedding dresses,” at least 12 sites pop up. You can learn that model Heidi Klum, who was five months pregnant when she married Seal in Mexico in 2005, wore a Vera Wang dress as did Alicia Keyes at her wedding to Swizz Beatz last year.
“There are definitely pop cultural references,” said Tim Devlin, operating manager of Bridal Trousseau On Main in Branford (www.bridaltrousseau.net). He often has heard customers in his shop refer to a pregnant celebrity bride.
Not that long ago, an unmarried pregnant woman likely would have eloped or had a small party rather than celebrate both her pregnancy and her wedding in style, and simultaneously. And she probably would have worn a dress that was any color but white.
My cousin Channie married David Amato in Coconut Grove, Florida over New Year’s weekend. She was five months pregnant and wore a stunning white wedding gown, one with an empire waist that she purchased in Los Angeles (her hometown).
Mariella Garofalo-Perna, owner of Mariella Creations in Rocky Hill, (www.mariellacreations.com) notes that there has been a definite uptick in the number of pregnant brides coming to her shop. “We’ve been doing weddings for expectant brides for six or seven years,” she said, “More so in the past two or three years.”
“At one time, it was not acceptable, but now it’s accepted, it’s fine,” Garofalo-Perna said. She estimated that in the past three years, most expectant brides have chosen to wear a white, ivory, or diamond white gown.
“Diamond white is 100 percent silk. The color is off-white because you can’t bleach the fiber,” she explained. It is one of the top-selling colors for all wedding gowns.
Beth Chapman, owner of The White Dress by the shore in Clinton (www.thewhitedressbytheshore.com) said, “Most of our brides wear a shade of ivory.” All the gowns she carries are silk and range in price from $2,000 to $7,000.
“We carry a magnificent designer, Modern Trousseau, which manufactures out of Woodbridge, Connecticut. They use the finest silks and laces and the price is about a third the cost of a Vera Wang dress,” she said. “They’re made in the U.S., while Wang’s dresses are made in China.”
Karen Worobow, owner of Stars in Avon (www.efashioncentral.com/stars) mentioned that timing is an important consideration for the pregnant bride.
“Most wedding gowns can take three to six months to order,” she said. This can limit the choice of dress for pregnant brides.
“There are manufacturers we can call and get a rush order, which costs more,” said Worobow. “Sometimes we can take a dress out of stock, and then the seamstress has to do her magic.”
A lace-up gown is a good choice for a pregnant bride, Garafalo-Perna said. “Something that is not too tight or gathered at the waist is preferable.” She recommended a silhouette that is “fitted throughout the bust, with an empire waist, one that drapes over the tummy and is loose and flowing.”
The consensus among these Connecticut shop owners is that when ordering a dress for a pregnant bride, it is wise to go one or two sizes larger. Often, they also will order extra fabric for final fittings.
“We measure them at the last possible minute, and we always order big. It’s easier to take down than let out,” Devlin said.
In general, the time of year a dress is ordered can affect a dress’s delivery date. Order in the fall or winter, and the wait is shorter. Order after early January when many brides are planning spring and summer weddings, and the wait can be longer.
A maternity bridesmaid’s dress is another option for a pregnant bride. “Bridesmaids dresses usually don’t have as much lace or beading, which makes them a good choice for a bride who wants a simple or less formal dress,” Garofalo-Perna said.
Channie chose a dress that had a corset for adjustability.
“My first fitting was in mid-October, so I knew I was definitely going to grow in the next two-and-a-half months,” she said.
Her second fitting was in early December, a month before the wedding.
“My belly was already showing. They fitted me for the length and I asked them to raise the jewelry band that sat around my upper stomach so that there was more room to breathe,” she said.
Her final fitting was less than a week before the wedding. “I tried the dress on to make sure it was good to go.”
Many brides have another dress to wear after the ceremony, one that is more suitable for dancing. “I was extremely happy to have a second dress to change into since my gown was tight, heavy and large,” Channie said.
“The second dress was also a challenge to find. Formal maternity dresses are hard to come by. After many failed attempts, I found a beautiful white dress at BCBG.”
Joan Walden is a free-lance writer based in West Hartford.