I get a lot of reader-submitted questions, so I thought I’d start sharing the answers. Something you want to know? Ask me anything here.
I’m going to Beirut for the first time for a wedding, and I was wondering if you could recommend some places I could buy a dress when I arrive. I’d like to fit in, and I also like the idea of wearing a dress from Lebanon. – A.V., Norway
The Lebanese wedding dress code is one most foreigners have trouble cracking. Thanks to social media, we get a rare glimpse at six-figure #lebanesewedding receptions starring an immaculate bride and, if he’s lucky, her groom. Look closely and you’ll see glamorous friends and family forming a backdrop of chiffon and lace. These high-profile weddings set the style standards, and they set them high.
But should all guests look red-carpet ready if they want to fit in? Is being on-trend a must? Are sequins required?
I called in the experts to find out.
Nour Khoury is the founder of Bucolik, an e-commerce platform for emerging designers. As a guest at more weddings than she can count (and also a bride), she’s mastered the art of dress shopping.
Her first rule of thumb? Steer clear of trends that will look dated by the couple’s first anniversary – you don’t want to stand out in wedding photos for all the wrong reasons.
“Search for a dress that’s romantic, classic and timeless,” Nour says. Floral prints never go out of style, and crepe, ruffles and lace are always safe bets.
Nour isn’t suggesting a ban on trends altogether. When used sparingly, they can keep a formal look fresh. “Lace gowns, embroidery and headpieces are popular in Lebanon right now,” she says, and they’re unlikely to be as year-specific as the peplum (2014) or the sky-high platform stiletto (2010), R.I.P.
So now that we’ve established what to wear, the big questions is where to find it. “Karoline Lang, Sandra Mansour and Rabih Kayrouz are my favorite Lebanese designers,” explains Nour. “The three of them have very different techniques and styles, but they each epitomize femininity in their own ways.”
Beautifully designed and expertly made dresses often come with a hefty price tag in Lebanon, so beware of sticker shock. You’re paying for quality, craftsmanship and, often, limited edition looks. You’re also supporting local talent.
If Maison Rabih Kayrouz is at the higher end of your budget (or far, far beyond it), consider some of the up-and-coming designers that everyone’s buzzing about: Timi Hayek, Lara Khoury or the rotating roster of talent featured in the Starch boutique.
There’s also another option: go with something custom-made. It’s an investment that Nour promises you won’t regret. “You’ll discuss the design and fabric with the designer, and even the retouches. It’s costly and it takes time, but in the end you’ll have the dress of your dreams.”
Celine Omeira, a former member of A magazine‘s editorial team, agrees. She recommends Karen Karam for custom work. The designer turned Celine’s vision of the perfect dress into reality, from the fabric texture to its fits-like-a-glove silhouette.
As for the pre-wedding dinner, the venue would dictate the level of formality. But take it from Nour: “A silk suit is always a good idea.”
For more on what to wear when wedding bells ring, check out How to Dress for a Lebanese Wedding.
Images courtesy of @LebaneseWeddings, Cynthia Merhej, Starch and the designers