Every girl wants to feel like Cinderella on her wedding day, so much so that Disney even sells “classic ballgown(s) of tulle and glitter net over taffeta, inspired by Cinderella’s glass slipper”. For real life princesses — whether royalty, heiresses, socialites or celluloid and TV queens — the sky is the limit in terms of bridal couture, priceless jewels and antique lace for their big day.
Transatlantic notables like Chelsea Clinton, Ivanka Trump and Petra Ecclestone have traditionally opted for Vera Wang gowns at their high profile weddings — the antithesis of heavily embroidered Pakistani bridals in their ivory simplicity. However, there is also a happy medium. South Asian and Middle Eastern aesthetics are evident in Lebanese designer Elie Saab’s signature shimmery, ethereal bridal lines and Indian designer Naeem Khan’s contemporary bridal silhouettes with exotic undertones. The ensuing result is a more glamorous, global Cinderella.
Wedding customs that have gradually diffused into the cultural fabric of Pakistan’s extravagant society weddings include solitaire engagement rings, the practice of exchanging wedding bands, chocolate truffle wedding favours, multi-tiered wedding cakes, a nightclub-like dance floor, bridesmaids in matching colours, themed weddings, pre-wedding cocktail parties and post-wedding after-parties.
Bridal couture, however, remains a significantly indigenous in Pakistan, despite the white gowns customarily worn in many other Muslim countries. Signs of international influences here started with the late 90s addition of pastel colours to the bridal jora palette along with eschewing traditional yellow gold and gemstone encrusted bridal jewelry for de rigeuer platinum, white gold and diamond settings. Since then, the celebrity world has grown gargantuan in its influence over bridal couture. It seems inevitable that glamorous overseas bridal trends may invade Pakistani society weddings.
Inspiration: The English lace and French Chantilly used for the Duchess of Cambridge’s full sleeves, sweetheart-neckline bodice and low back on her £250,000 wedding dress by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. Although Catherine popularised the trend, sleeves of lace are not a new feature in princesses’ bridal gowns; they also featured in the dresses of Princess Marie of Denmark, Princess Noor of Jordan, Crown Princess Marie Chantal of Greece and the legendary Princess Grace of Monaco.
Crossover potential: Delicate white lace is unlikely to gain significant popularity among characteristically dramatic Pakistani brides, unless it is gold Chantilly encrusted with Swarovskis!
Inspiration: Swedish Crown Princess Victoria’s massive Cameo Tiara, last worn by her mother Queen Sylvia at her own wedding, was perched on her golden hair as she married her fitness instructor. The future Queen of Sweden’s gold tiara, encrusted with pearls and intricate Greek mythological cameos, is significantly larger than those worn by other recent royal brides.
Crossover potential: Even the most ostentatious Pakistani hieresses would draw the line at wearing an actual crown (so far).
Inspiration: Socialite Lauren Davis wore an Olivier Theyskens for Nina Ricci gown at her grand wedding to Columbian billionaire Andres Santo Domingo. The dress featured 60 metres of silk jacquard woven with peony blossoms and a coat embroidered with paillettes, antique lace, silver threads, and feathers. The embroidery alone took 800 hours, while the dress took 1,200 hours to create at Nina Ricci.
Crossover rating: Absolutely — it’s an exaggerated farshi lehnga after all. And designers’ kaam walas don’t charge in euros.
Inspiration: Kim Kardashian’s $2.5 million Lorraine Schwartz forehead-framing diamond lariat, worn with her tulle-laden Vera Wang wedding gown made her feel like “an Armenian princess”. Earlier, singer Alicia Keys wore a budget version in rhinestones at her wedding to complement her one-shouldered Vera Wang.
Crossover potential: This could translate as the traditional gold maatha pattee’s richer, snobbier cousin: think diamond maatha pattees, along with jhoomers and teekas.
Inspiration: Princess Charlene of Monaco’s ‘’Ecume de Diamants’’ tiara, designed by Lorenz Baumer, adorned the left side of her hair more like a diamond fascinator than a traditional tiara, highlighted with 11 pear-shaped diamonds totaling 59 carats.
Crossover rating: This is unlikely to appeal to Pakistani socialite brides as an alternative to a necklace, but may be added in addition to accompany other diamond jewellery for over-the-top brilliance.
Inspiration: Kate Moss’s romantically tousled tresses, styled by Sam McKnight at her English country wedding, suited her dreamy, vintage style John Galliano dress that paid homage to the 1920s.
Crossover potential: Even if Pakistani brides are ready for a softer, more relaxed look on their wedding day, who’s going to convince the hairspray-loving, backcomb-crazy stylists?
Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2011.