This edition of "Memoirs of a Fashionable Bride" features Karina Shalaby, an Egyptian certified image consultant, human development specialist, model and a former UN project manager. With such diverse interests, Karina's personal style just had to be creative. So can you imagine how she looked like as a bride? She steered clear from the princess-like look, and made her dream bridal look become a reality. It was a fusion of vintage and contemporary; different, but will certainly stand the test of time. Read along and know more about Karina Shalaby's bridal journey, as she takes us through her wedding day memories.
When did you start your bridal gown shopping journey?
Almost a year before getting married my parents and I were in London and we went to the National Wedding Show in Olympia just to check it out. We got to attend some bridal shows by British designers and gather some cool ideas. A few months later, I was in Beirut for work so I decided to check out a few Lebanese designers. I went to Krikor Jabotian’s showroom and met with his mother, which was such a fun experience. I also went to Firas Abou Hamdan’s showroom at the recommendation of some of his Egyptian clients. He’s an amazing designer who created many dresses for Egyptian brides. Although they both had such beautiful gowns for me to try on, none of them clicked with my body type or personal style.I started getting more serious with my bridal shopping about 6 months before the wedding - and that was already too late according to the bridal boutiques in New York City!
How many wedding gowns have you tried on before finding 'The One'?
When I was on vacation in the US during Christmas time with my fiancé and our cousins, we scheduled appointments at the mainstream bridal department stores in NYC. Even though I knew I wasn’t going to get my dress from there, I just went and tried on dozens of dresses, if not hundreds. My cousin Yasmine accompanied me and it was a fun bonding experience together. My cousin is someone who got married in a light salmon color wedding gown on the beach - to me, that’s an ideal bridal shopping partner! We were totally thinking out of the box. Even though we didn’t find what I was looking for, we had a really fun day together and definitely narrowed things down in terms of my likes and dislikes.
You knew you found 'The One' when...
My desired style started to get more defined as we progressed with the wedding planning in parallel. We had decided on a beach venue, at the Steigenberger Al Dau in Hurghada. The hotel is breathtaking: rustic, floral and classy, with a beautiful garden gazebo where the cocktail would take place. This inspired me to check out vintage romantic designers like Claire Pettibone and Anna Campbell. I started researching retailers that carried these two designers in the Washington DC area where my fiancé and his family live. So with my mother-in-law - and my mom in Egypt via WhatsApp and FaceTime- we went to Lovely Bridal in Georgetown, and finally Hannelore’s in Old Town Alexandria. That’s where I found The One! The moment we made our decision was very emotional for my mother-in-law, my mom and myself. Thanks to technology, we got to share that moment with my mother even though she was in Egypt.
Tell us all about your wedding day look.
My wedding look and the whole theme of the wedding was “Shabby Chic”. I opted for Claire Pettibone’s Adagio dress - that was The One for me. It was ethereal, romantic, asymmetrical and shimmery. To me it was the most beautiful dress I ever saw, and I felt it when I tried it on. It was oyster white with gold and greyish lace patterns and floral branches on my chest and shoulders. It hugged my body the right way from head to toe. Beautiful embroidery covered my open back and delicate teardrop ornaments adorned my lower back and hips.
With this fabulous dress, all I needed were smokey pink ballerina pumps from Repetto, and a bouquet of pink roses with organic raw cotton buds. The raw cotton was actually purchased in the Netherlands during my bachelorette with my girlfriends. It’s sad and ironic that I couldn’t find raw cotton in Egypt, and had to get it from the largest flower market in Holland!
For my first look, at Church, I wore my sister-in-law’s gorgeous long floral veil over a messy and loose up-do. That was my “something borrowed” and it meant a lot to me because I wanted my open back to be covered for the religious ceremony. It was very subtle though - lace on lace - and like every Coptic bride, I got to wear the beautiful bolero typical of Church ceremonies.
For my second look, at the cocktail and wedding party, I wore a vintage floral headpiece paired with a medium birdcage veil that we had sown together (from Twigs and Honey, by Myra Callan), over loose curly hair. My make-up artist and hair stylist was my good friend Zeinab Khashab (of Zozouba Make-up), she did a fabulous job playing around with all my head pieces, making me feel so at ease and totally getting the look I wanted. My make-up palette had shades of purple, mauve, yellow and gold, with pink lipstick. Finally, in terms of jewelry I opted for the family jewels – gifts from my husband, parents and parents-in-law. I was glowing!
Your all-time favorite celebrity bride is…. were you inspired by her?
I may be old-fashioned, but Princess Diana is my all-time favorite celebrity bride - although my look departed from hers quite a bit. I just grew up loving her because she was a household name for my mom and me. Having grown up in London with my parents, I had no option but to love her.
When I discovered Claire Pettibone, I found out she dressed Priscilla Chan, Mark Zuckerberg’s wife, for her wedding day. Mrs. Zuckerberg was one of the celebrities that really catapulted Clare Pettibone into the public eye. Pettibone is an amazing designer based in LA and apparently her flagship salon “The Castle” is worth the visit.
Did you always know how you wanted to look on your wedding day?
I knew I wanted to look different and unconventional. I didn’t want a princess gown but rather a tight, sleek, shimmery dress that would show off my hourglass figure. I wanted to be comfortable and be able to dance the night away. And that’s exactly what I did.
On another note, I had attended countless weddings in Egypt – didn’t we all? In all those weddings I never really looked at the bride with envy or thought “I can’t wait to be in her shoes”. All I could think of was the amount of organization, planning and stress weddings put you through. But I learned that it all comes together magically and it’s worth every second. Michael and I definitely had a blast, barely sat down for 10 hours, and it’s all thanks to family members and friends who love you and go crazy with you on your special day. After that, we really deserved our relaxing honeymoon.
Looking back at your wedding photos, is there anything you would have done differently?
Looking back at the wedding video, I just wish I stopped to kiss my husband at the moment we were stepping down from the gazebo, before being greeted with hugs and kisses by all our family and friends. It was such a magical moment and we were mesmerized with emotion - it needed a kiss that takes your breath away! Other than that, our wedding was beyond phenomenal and blew our expectations in every sense.
Share your tips for brides-to-be shopping for wedding gowns.
I would suggest choosing an overarching theme for the wedding party, your wedding gown and the wedding stationery. Build your mood board on Pinterest but be selective, only pick ideas that fit your theme. Try on hundreds of dresses, get second opinions only from close family members or best friends whose style you agree with. Pick up the latest bridal magazines, go to wedding events and fairs where available, and check the runway reports from bridal fashion weeks.
Don’t allow “too many cooks in the oven” and stay on top of the planning process. Many tastes and interests come into play, but it’s YOUR wedding, so remain true to your vision. The only exception to this rule is your parents: they get to have their say because it’s their wedding too. Remember, you are THEIRS, until you’re HIS!
Weddings offer so many conventions, customs and traditions. It’s good to know them, pick the ones you want, and break the ones you don’t. More and more, weddings are getting weirder and more different. I love that. It’s a trend that will only keep developing as we move forward. My final word of advice is: don’t focus too much on the wedding – marriage is where it counts.