The disco music blares out a lighthearted la-da-da, as an undercurrent of drums blasts boom, boom, boom. The sound in the concrete-floored Bangor auditorium bounces off the bleachers.
Colored lights sweep the room, pulsating to the pounding beat. Bright spotlights illuminate a balloon-strewn runway. Into the vibrant light and pulsating music steps a bride.
The heavy, beaded satin gown shimmers and her face glows as she sashays toward the audience. At the end of the runway, she turns swiftly, causing her long train to cascade off the platform.
As she heads off the stage, a groom joins her. He is wearing a long, charcoal-gray, Edwardian-style jacket over his tuxedo pants. A paisley satin ascot rests against his white, pleated shirt and is tucked into a matching paisley vest.
This elaborately staged display of wedding fashion is the centerpiece of northern Maine’s first bridal show of the year. Organized by Directions Marketing Group Inc., the show on Sunday allowed nearly 300 brides to register for prizes as they viewed the latest in fashion for brides, grooms, attendants, as well as mothers and fathers of the soon-to-be-wed couples. About 30 vendors who cater to men and women planning weddings offered their services and displayed their wares.
During the morning fashion show, the couple on the runway are replaced by parents of a bride and groom. The woman wears a floor-length chiffon dress of Susan Collins red. Its halter-style neck is studded with rhinestones that shimmer like the model’s short gray hair. Over the dress, this mother of any bride or groom wears a buttonless, long-sleeved jacket.
The model takes the arm of a distinguished-looking gentleman dressed in a traditional black tuxedo, complete with cummerbund and bow tie. His black patent leather shoes shine brightly under the lights. The duo execute a stately turn at the the edge of the runway, their well-clad backs to the watching crowd.
The audience is a stark contrast to the shiny stage show. Soon-to-be brides and grooms appear dull in their jeans, flannel shirts and sneakers, compared with the satin, lace, beads and paisley paraded on the stage. But they are here on a January afternoon to imagine themselves outfitted as majestically as these models are.
Most, but not all, are under 25 and marrying for the first time. Some sport baby carriers; the tiny infants sleep against their mothers’ chests, oblivious to their parents’ elaborate plans for matrimony. Many mothers of future brides hover near their daughters and offer sensible, but often unwelcome, advice. While this year’s first bridal show at the Bangor Civic Center drew many young, dewy-eyed couples, it also appealed to a smaller, older group of people.
Alicia Clark, 45, of Brewer, and Sandy Kearns, 38, of Bangor, are planning their first weddings. Clark will marry Lewis Allen on Valentine’s Day, and Kearns will wed Greg Rogers in October 1999. Their fiances are electricians, and the two women met through them. Although they chose to attend the show together, their wedddings will be very different.
“I want an informal gown without a train,” says Clark, thumbing through a book at one of the vendor booths. “I’m looking at a semiformal, off-white or ivory chiffon sheath. All the gowns that were modeled were on younger women, and not all brides are that young.”
Clark and Allen will hold their wedding and reception at a local hotel. Their ceremony will be conducted by a Salvation Army captain, and the couple will recite traditional vows. A harpist, pianist and saxophonist will provide the music, and the bride’s sister will be her only attendant.
Kearns and Rogers, on the other hand, will have a large wedding at St. John’s Catholic Church in Bangor. Kearns will wear an elaborate tulle gown by Eve of Milady, a well-known bridal dress designer. Her six bridesmaids will be dressed in black and white, and the catering center where the reception will be held will be festooned in black, white and gold.
“I have a really large family, and I decided to have a big wedding so we could all get together at a happy event,” she says. “Usually we see each other at funerals … I want to have a very elegant, romantic, nighttime wedding lit by candlelight.”
Both women say that attending the show is helpful and allows them to compare the products and services of bakeries, bridal shops, caterers, etc. They say, however, that they are disapointed with the small number, about 30, and the predictable variety of vendors the show attracted.
“I was looking for a bridal consultant to help me plan, but I haven’t seen any,” says Kearns, who has attended three similar shows in the past year. “I saw a jewelry store here, but not anyone renting jewelry and accessories just for the wedding day.”
New products on display at this show include a computer program to help brides choose their gowns. Shoppers select from criteria for necklines, sleeves, fabrics, and skirt styles. Users can select from eight different neckline styles as well as eight different fabrics, four silhouette or skirt styles, on or off the shoulders, and with or without a train.
Once the criteria are selected, the program shows the matching gowns on the screen, along with style numbers and prices. Developed by Jenny Williams, owner of Queen for a Day in Bangor, the program, she expects, will hold 7,000 selections when it is completed.
Those who seek help planning their weddings could purchase a locally produced video of wedding information for $19.95. A combined effort by Paul and Anne O’Reilly of PJO Productions, and Paul Salisbury and Dick Dyer of Wedding Steet Journal, the film covers music, flowers, cakes, photography, jewelry, honeymoon destinations, wedding trivia and a history of wedding traditions. Amy Dacyczyn, editor of the Tightwad Gazette, offers advice on how to get married and not go in debt.
“We try not to tell people how to do their weddings, but to offer suggestions,” explains O’Reilly. “We did a lot of national research and found out that the top 10 songs performed at weddings include `Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major,’ ` Unforgettable,’ `The Wedding Song,’ `In the Mood,’ `It Had to Be You,’ and of course, `The Wedding March.”‘
For brides who cannot find what they desire in magazines or shops, Darci Moody, owner of the Cat’s Meow in Searsport, may be the answer. She custom designs and makes every dress that leaves her shop.
“I do a lot of combining,” she explains. “I take the bodice of one dress a bride has seen and combine it with a skirt off another and a train from still another. Some brides sketch out what they want. I’ve also done a lot of theme weddings — medieval, Victorian, Gibson-girl styles. I even did black-and-white stripes for a jailbird wedding once.”
Clark and Kearns, armed with new ideas, brochures and business cards, head home to their fiances, who also are spending the afternoon together. They, the women say, are not thinking about their upcoming nuptials, but are watching a different sort of show.
“They,” says Kearns with a laugh, “are watching football.”
Other planned bridal shows include: Jan. 18 at Cony High School, Augusta; and Feb. 22, Bangor Civic Center, Bangor.