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The To-Do Before the 'I Do'

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Something old, something new, something borrowed . . . ah, the good old days, when a bride's necessities could be boiled down to a cheerful rhyme. Welcome to 2009, when that cutesy couplet has grown to epic proportions: something eco-friendly, something personalized, something exotic, something unexpected. It's enough to turn even the most calm and collected bride into someone deserving of a cameo on "Bridezillas."

Laura Weatherly, founder of D.C.-based wedding planning company Engaging Affairs, encourages clients to think outside the bridal box when making a to-do list for the big day. She and her two full-time consultants, Sara Muchnick and Amy Guthridge, say decidedly nontraditional touches are their calling cards: Think checkered cabs as getaway cars, receptions with doughnut carts and kitschy photo booths, plus a focus on locally sourced foods and "green" stationery.

On a recent afternoon amid the frothy, flouncy confections at Georgetown bridal salon Hitched, the three sat down to discuss their techniques and talk about this year's trends:

-- Holly E. Thomas

Wedding Wear

"After so many years of dresses being so plain and simple, I'm really excited about embellishments coming back," Weatherly says as she discusses bridal trends with Guthridge and Muchnick at Hitched. "The look is more architectural," she explains, pointing out gowns with pleating, sculptural necklines and oversize, abstract rosettes and feathers. "I call it the Carrie Bradshaw Effect."

Fancy Frocks

The days of cringe-worthy bridal party frocks are over as more designers turn out options worthy of donning post-wedding. Weatherly likes Thread's bridesmaid dresses for their "cute and contemporary" feel. The collection offers a distinctly modern aesthetic: Look for mini- and maxi-length dresses, one-shoulder styles and Grecian draping. Madison mini-dress, $290 at http://bridal.threaddesign.com; available for order at Hitched (1523 Wisconsin Ave. NW; 202-333-6162).

Bold Bouquets

"Brides are getting away from just roses," Guthridge says, "and going for more unexpected flowers, like peonies." Boutique floral design studio Heavenly Hydrangeas (703-534-1308, http://www.heavenlyhydrangeas.com) creates unusual bouquets studded with fruits, feathers and blooms from owner Susan Poneman's garden, as well as versatile centerpieces that work just as well for a casual dinner party.

Save the Date (and the Planet)

Weatherly has seen a surge in the use of recycled-paper invites, and Smock's offerings (http://www.smockpaper.com) are among her favorites. The company encloses its sustainably printed bamboo products in biodegradable packaging and donates 1 percent of sales to environmental causes. For those not planning their big day, the company offers a chic selection of stationery, party invitations and greeting cards.

The Perfect Pair

Muchnick and Guthridge are drawn to elegant gowns worn with pumps in a bright, eye-popping color. The dainty ankle strap and ultra-feminine ruffles balance the vibrant pink satin on Poetic Licence's Body Talk pump ($149.95 at Nordstrom stores and http://www.endless.com). The best part? These go from bridal party to cocktail party without missing a step.

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