The Best Wedding Dresses Pre-Tested by Local Brides!

Six newlyweds share how they chose their gowns and other details about their weddings.

Photo by Mann Frau

Kat Rivero-Poplar & Kyle Poplar

There were two criteria for the Rivero-Poplar wedding venue: It had to be outdoors and it couldn’t be too far from family and friends in Milwaukee, Lake Geneva and Chicago. The Farm at Dover in Kansasville was smack in the middle, perfect for their May 30, 2021, wedding.

“I wanted a boho-vintage theme but I didn’t want rustic. It was so magical for people. We also loved the greenery,” says Rivero-Poplar, a clinical psychologist who works with veterans and active military. Her husband is an application engineer. They met five years ago through his sister, who worked out at Monkey Bar Gym along with Rivero-Poplar. On a trip to Door County, Poplar proposed.

Shopping for the dress took on a manic pace. “I scheduled a whole weekend of places to visit,” says Rivero-Poplar, who knew she didn’t want beading, sequins or “heaviness.”

“You can sleep in this dress,” she says about her choice, which features six different lace patterns, a tawny-hued lining, and cap sleeves added by a friend. “It’s so comfortable. It conveys the boho theme but with a sense of elegance, and there are sparkles in the lace. I felt very beautiful and at the same time comfortable.”

The Dress: Watters Designs “Wtoo Viola,” Bliss Bridal, $1,760

PHOTOS: 

Photo by Mann Frau

Photo by Mann Frau

Photo by Mann Frau

Photo by Mann Frau
Photo by Hannah Toldt

Kristy Le Dern & Alexander Dern

It was important for Kristy Le Dern to honor her Vietnamese culture at her Sept. 4, 2021, wedding. Before the ceremony and reception at The Mitchell Park Domes’ Greenhouse No. 7, about 100 of the guests gathered at her parents’ Mequon home to witness a traditional tea ceremony designed to celebrate the union of two families and honor their ancestors.

“I grew up going to these tea ceremonies,” says Le Dern. For hers, she wore a traditional áo dài made in Vietnam to her measurements. “My mom reached out to one of her cousins who lives in Ho Chi Minh City,” she says of the garment, which is commonplace in her parents’ birth country and often styled for special occasions like this one. “The fact that it’s from Vietnam means a lot to me. I haven’t been there since I was in the fourth grade.”

The couple’s wedding marked the 10th anniversary of their meeting as students at Saint Louis University. He proposed in Chicago, where they now live, on a chilly November day at Navy Pier, followed by surprise visits from friends and family he’d flown in to celebrate. Today, she works as a senior health care consultant, and he’s an internal audit manager.

As for her wedding gown, Le Dern chose one with a slim bottom and lacy tank top. “I tried on 30 dresses,” she says. “Of course, I picked the first dress I tried on.”

The Dress: Mikaella by Paloma Blanca “Style #2297,” Mira Couture (Chicago), $2,035

PHOTOS: 

Photo by Hannah Toldt

Photo by Hannah Toldt

Photo by Hannah Toldt

Photo by Hannah Toldt

Photo by Rachel Nicole

Natasha & Nick Early

For their Sept. 5, 2021, wedding, the Earlys rented out The Cooperage – including its bridal suite upstairs – and gave guests tokens for the Taco Moto truck parked next door. The ceremony was just outside, on a grassy area above the river. “The light was hitting the glass in the building for the prettiest colors,” says Natasha Early.

“We’re both very creative and always bouncing our ideas around with each other,” says Early, a social media director for a real estate firm. Her husband is a video editor for a holdings company. They met in 2016 as employees at Three Lions Pub in Shorewood.

The couple’s collective creativity extended to Natasha’s dress, further customized with a pleated tulle skirt and detachable sleeves modeled after the dress Liesl wore in The Sound of Music gazebo scene. “It had been on my Pinterest board for two years before we even got engaged,” she says. Trying it on was a long-held dream.

“I loved that it was very ‘me,’” she says about the dress. “I didn’t ever want to take it off. I loved it so much.”

The Dress: Watters Designs “WToo Olympia,” Miss Ruby’s (milwaukee), $2,000

PHOTOS: 

Photo by Rachel Nicole

Photo by Rachel Nicole

Photo by Rachel Nicole

Photo by Rachel Nicole

Photo by Rachel Nicole

Photo by Amanda Evans

Mary and Lewis Veith

For their July 3, 2021, wedding day, “we wanted to have a view of the city,” says Mary Veith. The couple chose Bottle House 42, inside Milwaukee Brewing Company, for its glass walls, its rooftop bar and the fact that it was so pretty they didn’t need to decorate.

The health care clinical manager met her husband, who works in water treatment, in 2018 at a friend’s party. A few months later, timed with the season’s first snowfall, he proposed.

Between that day and the ceremony, Veith’s closet became stuffed with wedding dresses, a mix of traditional white, flowy gowns and handmade, colorful options from Kenya and her native Ghana. “I had eight gowns total,” she says. “It started to get very expensive. At one point, Lewis said, ‘You are in charge of paying for the rest of the gowns.’”

All jokes aside, their nuptials had been postponed three times due to COVID-19 and the birth of the couple’s daughter. Changes of season dictated different dress styles, and for some of the earlier dates she would have been pregnant.

By the time the big day arrived, she opted for three dresses: one dress each from Kenya and Ghana and, for the ceremony, a fairy-princess gown with spaghetti straps and a long train.

Picking out the final-choice gown was easy: the maid of honor chose it. “When I tried it on, everyone was like ‘Wow, that is your dress!’ It fit perfectly so I didn’t have it altered.”

The Dress: Oleg Cassini “Large Floral Applique Beaded Strap Wedding Dress,” David’s Bridal (Brookfield), $1,800

PHOTOS: 

Photo by Amanda Evans

Photo by Amanda Evans

Photo by Amanda Evans

Photo by Amanda Evans

Photo by Amanda Evans

Photo by Rachel Nicole

Magdalene Danzer-Malinowski & Ian Malinowski

Magdalene Danzer-Malinowski desperately wanted to get married in a barn. Upon seeing The Farm at Dover in Kansasville, she said to herself, “‘There’s no way anything can top this.’”

The high-school sweethearts – who met through a mutual friend but attended different schools (she in Racine and he in Oak Creek) – swapped “I dos” on Oct. 1, 2021. He’s a welder at his family’s machine-fabrication shop while she’s studying for a doctorate in clinical psychology at Wisconsin School of Professional Psychology. They were staying at her parents’ Crivitz cabin

with other friends Labor Day weekend of 2020 when he popped the question. It was on a hike to a nearby waterfall, which was appropriate. “We’re both outdoorsy people.”

They wanted an outdoors ceremony, and she never considered any season other than autumn. She also never considered wearing anything other than a sleeved dress. “I like that it’s timeless – not too much sparkle and jazz going on,” she says of her gown. “It’s elegant but also simple. The lace and sleeves combination are my favorite part.”

Not all gowns are, er, seamless, however. During the Cupid Shuffle at the reception, a guest stepped on Danzer-Malinowski’s gown and the bustle ripped off. Three of the five buttons popped free. But with just two hours to go, she chose not to get it fixed, instead carrying the bustle over her arm and rejoining the party.

The Dress: Blue by Enzoani “Nandana,” Miss Ruby’s (Milwaukee), $2,300

PHOTOS: 

Photo by Rachel Nicole

Photo by Rachel Nicole

Photo by Rachel Nicole

Photo by Rachel Nicole

Photo by Brandon J. Brown

Casey Lanto & Jake Stehlik

So many things about the couple’s wedding on June 26, 2021, at The Ivy House were unconventional, from an “unplugged ceremony” where guests were encouraged to put their smartphones away to Lanto’s sapphire wedding ring and dramatic jet-black gown. “Milwaukee is a big part of who we are, and we wanted the wedding to be in Milwaukee,” says Casey Lanto, who fell for the venue’s Cream City brick.

“We were high school sweethearts,” says Lanto. The two met when a friend picked her up for school one day. Stehlik was in the car, too. “‘Hello, I Love You’ by The Doors came on, and he sang,” she recalls. “By the time we got married, we had been together for just over 17 years.” Lanto now works as vice president of product management at Allstate Benefits, and Stehlik as a UPS supervisor.

The free-spirit vibe that marked their first car ride carried through to the wedding. “When you’re going through wedding planning, there’s so much noise coming at you about what you’re supposed to do,” says Lanto. But she had different ideas. “I was never one of those girls who envisioned myself in a white dress or imagined the grand wedding.” At Strike Bridal Bar, she tried on three dresses: two white and one black. The employees noticed she seemed more comfortable in the black. “The design allowed it to be different but still glamorous.”

The Dress: Tara LaTour “Bennett,” Strike Bridal Bar, $3,000

PHOTOS:

Photo by Brandon J. Brown

Photo by Brandon J. Brown

Photo by Brandon J. Brown

Photo by Brandon J. Brown

 

This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s January issue.

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A seasoned writer, and a former editor at Milwaukee Home & Fine Living, Kristine Hansen launched her wine-writing career in 2003, covering wine tourism, wine and food pairings, wine trends and quirky winemakers. Her wine-related articles have published in Wine Enthusiast, Sommelier Journal, Uncorked (an iPad-only magazine), FoodRepublic.com, CNN.com and Whole Living (a Martha Stewart publication). She's trekked through vineyards and chatted up winemakers in many regions, including Chile, Portugal, California (Napa, Sonoma and Central Coast), Canada, Oregon and France (Bordeaux and Burgundy). While picking out her favorite wine is kind of like asking which child you like best, she will admit to being a fan of Oregon Pinot Noir and even on a sub-zero winter day won't turn down a glass of zippy Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.