The Gown Guru

Want to stand out from the bridal pack? Ceremony’s Alix Childs offers unique dresses from under-the-radar designers.

Alix Childs

photograph by jj miller

When Dover native Alix Childs began dress shopping for her fall 2011 nuptials, she thought she was preparing for a blissful union, not a career overhaul. But when she couldn’t find the type of gown she wanted in local stores, she decided to take matters into her own hands. “I thought, Someone needs to open a really cool, fun, nontraditional bridal shop in Boston. And then I said, ‘Wait! I should do that.’” Enter Ceremony, the thoughtfully curated indie bridal boutique that Childs debuted last November on Beacon Hill. Here, the young entrepreneur dishes on finding the best fit for your body and why Say Yes to the Dress just isn’t realistic.

What should brides bring to their appointments to explain their vision?

I love looking at Pinterest boards or any sort of mood board. Any point of reference, like an invitation, is great. Conveying the overall inspiration and desired “look” is more important than bringing pictures of specific dresses. Show me the vision you have for your wedding, and there’s a range of styles that we can look at to help create that vibe.

Once you’ve established the overall look, how do you help brides find the perfect dress?

Personal attention is a big part of it—listening to the bride talk about what she’s tried and liked, what she hasn’t liked, and pointing her in the right direction from a style or budget perspective. I tell everybody, “Throw out the rules.” Women come in with preconceived notions about which style is going to look good on their bodies, which color is going to complement their skin tone, and which veil they should wear with their fit-and-flair, and that can really take the fun out of it. Sometimes people need to be reminded that dress shopping should be enjoyable. So throw out the rules. Even if you think, This is going to look terrible on me, try it on anyway, because you never know.

Are there any shopping no-nos? 

I caution girls not to start looking too early. There are always those who start shopping more than a year and a half in advance, and the more they look, the more confused they get. They might start holding out for a dress that doesn’t even exist. A year in advance is a good time to start so you won’t be overwhelmed by choices or pressed for time. 

Who are your most popular designers?

Sarah Seven is an indie designer who girls go crazy for, and Elizabeth Fillmore’s stuff is really sophisticated—her dresses fit so well. It’s interesting because all of my designers have their own little following of women who come in looking for them.

Any new favorites?

I just got Leanne Marshall, and I love her. She was a Project Runway winner in 2008, and she’s fantastic. Rue De Seine is a New Zealand line that I’ve been totally crushing on. I feel like there’s often a disconnect between that vintage-boho-bride look and what you can actually wear and be comfortable in, but Rue De Seine’s collection perfectly blends the aesthetic with wearability. Hopefully you’ll see some of their gowns in here soon.

How realistic is Say Yes to the Dress

This environment is very different. Ceremony is kind of the anti–Say Yes to the Dress. There are a few realistic aspects to the show, like the sweet and sentimental moments between brides and their moms, but I don’t get a lot of tears and there are no fights. The drama quotient here is really low.

At what point does a crew become too big for bridal shopping?

I’ve found that the more people there are in the room, the less the experience is focused on the bride and what she feels really good in. You want a few trusted people who are going to be a good support team and be fun, but who will also be honest and allow you to have your own opinions on each dress before they offer input.

Do brides actually cry when they find “the one”? 

It doesn’t happen as often as you’d think. If anyone, it’s the mother who cries. I try to keep it fun and lighthearted and laid-back, because dress shopping can be such a long and draining process.

Let’s talk dress length. 

Most brides—99 percent—still want long. 

What are some other new trends? 

I’m getting a lot of requests for beaded embellishments, sleeves, and, of course, that vintage-inspired look, which is so huge. Illusion necklines have been gaining popularity since last year—the sheer layer allows you to have a strapless neckline while still being a bit covered.

How popular are reception dresses?

I get some requests for them. It really depends on the bride. Some girls find the dress of their dreams and want to be in it for as long as possible. I have a few dresses that can be converted or styled differently with a jacket or a belt, so there’s the illusion of an outfit change without having to buy a second dress. And all of my dresses pass my dance test.

48 Charles St., Boston, 857-277-1669, ceremony-boston.com.

TIPS

Give the age-old bridal adage a modern twist with these suggestions from Alix Childs.

Old

Wear an heirloom veil or piece of jewelry. If your hand-me-down is totally out of style or  beyond repair, incorporate it into your bouquet. 

New

Skip the traditional white satin heels and buy beautiful and timeless shoes that you’ll wear again and again at formal occasions. 

Borrowed

Ask each of your bridesmaids or best friends to “lend you” a favorite love song for a getting-ready playlist.

Blue

Steer clear of gimmicky trends like blue nails, which can feel contrived. Instead, keep it subtle and classic by embroidering your wedding date into the lining of your gown with blue thread.

For additional tips from the pros, check out more advice from Wedding Experts.