Behind the scenes at Tanya Taylor’s wedding: From her haute couture wedding gown to the tropical paradise venue
As someone who didn’t grow up fantasizing about her big day, Tanya Taylor’s recent walk down the aisle had all the makings of a modern fairytale. The 27-year-old Toronto-born, New York-based designer—who recently showed her Fall 2013 ready-to-wear collection in both cities, earning high praise from editors and buyers alike—spent a year and a half ensuring that her April 20 destination wedding would be as stylish and personal as the clothes she creates. The idyllic locale—the luxe Sandy Lane resort in Barbados—certainly didn’t hurt, nor did the romantic nature of the groom, business development manager Michel Pratte. He proposed to Taylor, after a 10-year on-and-off courtship, with a poem and a spectacular antique ring—an 1890s old-mine-cut diamond in a 1920s art deco setting—that had caught her eye months earlier at an estate jewellery boutique. So far, so dreamy.
Then there was her magical dress: an intricately embellished cloud of white organza by ready-to-wear designer and couturier Elie Saab, based on a showstopper from his Fall 2012 haute couture show in Paris. Better known for his red carpet creations—like Mila Kunis’s pale lavender chiffon gown at the 2011 Oscars and Beyoncé’s heavily embellished curve-hugging column for the February premiere of her documentary, Life Is But a Dream—than his wedding gowns, Saab didn’t immediately spring to mind when Taylor first began her search for The One. “I probably tried on 50 different dresses in New York, and I went to the same bridal shops repeatedly. The salespeople were like, ‘What’s going on? You need to stop coming back here,’” she says, laughing. “I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for.”
When a friend who “collects everything wedding” showed her a few magazine clippings of celebrities wearing Elie Saab couture, she was instantly drawn to his ultra-feminine, highly textural designs and booked an appointment at his Champs-Élysées atelier in Paris. Couture clients have access to Saab’s archive of past and current seasons, and any dress can be custom-made in white or altered to give it a more bridal feel. Before jetting off to the City of Light, Taylor had selected a few front-runners based on her online research, but the moment she walked into Saab’s atelier, she spotted a dress on a mannequin and it was love at first sight. The original haute couture runway version was made of frothy peach organza, embellished with elaborate gold beadwork on the bodice and abstract gold foil flowers on the skirt. A whisper-thin gilded belt encircled the waist. “I wasn’t sure how to make it feel like a bridal gown,” she says, “but we worked together on making that vision come to life.” Her first appointment took place in July 2012, and then she flew back to Paris in November for her initial fitting. “It was really scary—you’ve had all these conversations about fabric and colours and details, and then you walk into a room and the dress is just hanging there. It’s an exciting moment,” she says.
As a designer, Taylor found it challenging to relinquish creative control over her one-of-a-kind wedding dress, especially since it was being made on another continent and most of her communication with the studio occurred via email. “With my [own line], I can change anything,” she says. “If I want to change linings or details or buttons, I have the power to do that, but when it’s in someone else’s hands, you have to trust their aesthetic. The only thing I saw in advance was a fabric swatch from the house to show what the white fabric and silver detailing would look like compared to the original dress. I was so anxious to see what it looked like.” Amazingly, at her first fitting only minor alterations were needed—the dress “fit like a glove.” Saab had added interior corsetry to give the open-backed bodice more structure than the original dress had, which came as a welcome surprise to the bride. A full-length veil was chosen to complement the gown’s stunning three-metre train. “It was a mom-paparazzi session,” says Taylor, referring to her snap-happy mother and mother-in-law, who both attended the appointment. After two more fittings in February, the completed confection was packed into an expandable garment bag that seemed comically compact for a wedding dress, yet it worked because of the featherweight quality of the organza. At this point, she began to focus on designing the bridesmaid dresses: five petal-pink, hand-beaded gowns—all Tanya Taylor originals—with criss-cross halter necklines, princess seams and organza inserts above and below the hips.
The three-day celebration kicked off with an elaborate welcome party at the bride’s mother’s island home, featuring a DJ flown in from New York and food stations from around the world (Canada was represented with traditional fare like poutine and BeaverTails). The couple’s 260 guests, who all stayed at the Sandy Lane resort, were treated to a beach barbecue the next day, which included volleyball and a reggae band and was followed by a ’60s-themed sushi dinner at the hotel that night. The wedding day began with a late brunch, and then guests made their way over to the Sandy Lane Country Club for the mid-afternoon ceremony. The venue was magically transformed into a romantic, slightly wild Great Expectations-style garden (inspired by the couple’s shared love of the classic book) with hanging orchids and three-metre-tall laser-cut trees made from Wenge wood. As for the sparkle factor, the bride paired her breathtaking couture gown with Van Cleef & Arpels diamond cluster earrings and Jimmy Choo silver pebbled leather heels.
Following the reception dinner, the newly minted Mrs. slipped into an ivory silk charmeuse dress with a plunging neckline and an elegant crystal bow from Chanel’s resort 2012 collection, and swapped her Choos for silver Manolo Blahnik heels fit for a princess. At the end of the night, the newlyweds disappeared, leaving a trail of fairy dust behind them.