When I was 21 I opened a bridal store named Valencienne on Bloor St.It was a store that came to be known for extremely elaborate wedding gowns and the whole store was a sea of big, no make that huge gowns, all with extraordinary details.
Massive skirts, larger than life crinolines, trains that had no end, big over exaggerated sleeves, ruffles, bustles, frills and more Swarovski crystal then you could ever imagine. I remember one gown having 36 flowers – On one sleeve and let’s not talk about the skirt. It was the 80’s and everything was over the top. I was young and a part of me wanted to be princess for a day like all of my brides of that time. My belief was that my creations reflected that vision, not to mention Princess Diana had just gotten married and her dress had created quite a big wedding dress frenzy. Fast forward to 2011 – it is no wonder that my heart skips a beat when any bride wants a large ballroom style wedding dress. It just makes me happy and a little nostalgic so its no wonder that, when my bride Hailey walked into Valencienne and gravitated towards one of my larger skirted gowns, that I got a little excited. She tried on a few samples but she kept coming back to this one gown. It was beaded heavily on the bodice and had a large silk flower on the side. Hailey looked closely at the beading and noticed that, in fact, the dress had two different types of beading. The bodice beading was sewn onto a fine Chantilly lace and the neckline beading was a beautiful embroidery that had been sewn on top of the first beading. I could picture the wheels turning ….Hailey asked ‘can we remove the lace and beading so the bodice is plain and then can you make the sleeve band see through’ followed by ‘then can you put the embroidery on just the neckline and can we remove the silk flower?’ My first thought was ‘why would you want to do that – the bodice beading is so magnificent’ and I said ‘please keep the size of the skirt because that is what is going to set this gown apart’, and to my delight Hailey said ‘OMG, I would never change the size of this skirt. its just perfect’. As Hailey’s dream wedding dress came together, each fitting became more and more exciting as this ballroom gown came alive to reflect Hailey’s own personal style. This gown had 12 meters of silk doupion and that was just the skirt. The embellishment was designed by Valencienne however the embroidery was created in Dubai. The whole process took about eight months but well worth the wait I believe. I asked Hailey if I could get some pictures with the thought of writing a blog which she graciously supplied. A lot of my brides send just a few photographs but Hailey sent many shots. Usually I look through whatever I am sent and then make my selection quite fast but this time it was not so easy as I was immediately struck by Hailey’s wedding, the traditions , and the love that was so evident in these photographs
Valencienne has always had a very strong Jewish following and I have had the pleasure of being invited to many celebrations. I am always so struck by the strong traditions and the amount of joy and heart at these weddings. These pictures are so special that I have included some extras, some very tender moments. For instance a traditional custom called the bedecking – before the wedding the bridegroom a.k.a. Matthew bedecks the bride Hailey, raising her veil and then putting it in place. This is a romantic moment at the bedecking; the groom is danced into the room where the bride sits surrounded by friends and family. Often it is the first time the couple has seen one another in a week or a day, depending on one’s custom. The first Jewish bride to don a veil bedecked herself. Rebecca rode on camel back to meet Isaac for the first time and marry him. On seeing him, she fell off her camel and then "took the veil and covered herself". Was this to hide her nervousness or an act of modesty? or one of empowerment?
The custom of standing under the Chuppah which is a canopy where the couple stands under to symbolizes the home that Matthew and Hailey will build together. No traditional Jewish wedding would be complete without joining in the exuberant dance called the Horah, Matthew and Hailey are lifted above the shoulders of their guests. Sitting upon chairs, they hold onto the ends of a single handkerchief. A large circle of guests is formed around them, dancing both clockwise or counterclockwise. Weaving and bopping up and down, clapping hands, waving arms, the circle of friends and family often hold hands and alternate between a large loose circle and coming in close to the couple and moving away again quickly. It is such a wonderful experience and there is a lot of laughter and many tears of joy and happiness. It is a magical moment when a bride drops her pictures into Valencienne and we get to see our finished creation come to life with such spirit. It feels so amazing to design and hand make a gown for the most important day of a woman’s life and realize that Valencienne was a part of something so incredibly special that it makes us all feel very honored and proud of our achievements and want to continue to strive for perfection. Hailey and Matthew were married on May 22, 2011 at Beth Sholom Synagogue. I would like to thank Hailey and Matthew for reminding me how lucky I am to get to go to work everyday with a smile on my face and I wanted to share that with all of you.
These Photographs were taken by Alex Albojer of Life Images
Bridal Consultant was Naomi Serkin
Flowers were created by Fa florist