Even though the marriage-go-round is spinning so fast statisticians predict 4 .5 million people will wed this year, the barefoot bride in the meadow is no more.
In a strong return to traditional weddings, most summer brides will walk down church aisles in pretty sandals, with chapel or long cathedral trains, the latter absent for many seasons, drifting behind.
Exceptions, of course, are garden weddings, a lovely setting for the bride who pictures herself in a large face-framing hat with long ribbon streamers and a billowy-skirted gown. If your heart is set on one, just hope the weather cooperates.
Perhaps the coming royal wedding of Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles, with its romantic pomp, has caused more young couples to dust off the old rule book and opt for elegance.
Even wedding invitations with personalized sentiments are, in many cases, being bypassed in favor of engraved formality while grooms, so colorful a few years ago, are going back to basic black, gray, and beige. Now looking and increasingly popular, however, is the all-white tuxedo.
Most summer 1981 wedding gowns have an appealing oldfashioned quality. Lavished with heirloom-type lace and ruffles, they're in airy fabrics like silk organza, chiffon, and fine English net. Other fabrics include a new super lightweight satin (richest in ivory), soft-falling matte jersey (also breeze-weight) and silk shantung.
Empire waists continue to be preferred, although an elongated torso line, noted in some styles, could be prophetic for fall.
In neck treatments, some are open, like the sweetheart neckline with a tiny standing Queen Anne collar in back, while others are built with h igh delicate lace and openwork.
Designer Priscilla is one who combines several different laces for such special effects. Bianchi, Cahill, and Alfred Angelo are others who use lace with an artistic hand. Often it is reembroidered or beaded, which can up the cost to as much as $500 a yard.
No one sleeve style seems to stand out, but the choice ranges from dainty caps to full bishop sleeves.
Every bride wants a storybook wedding, but individual tastes, time of day, and a tailspin economy will determine the degree of formality.
Although some manufacturers hiked prices on summer wedding gowns in February, it still is possible to buy a dream dress for $90. Most of the moderately priced, however, are in the $150 to $210 category. Depending upon delicate handwork and other opulent details, some gowns go to $2,000 and even higher.
Except for elaborate gowns with long trains, which denote fancy formal affairs, most bridal gowns can adapt to various types of weddings. Accessories make the difference. For example, a dress chosen to be worn with a hat for a simple daytime ceremony becomes formal if worn at night with a veil.
Styles aren't quite as flexible for the groom. But unless he wears his best navy blue or charcoal suit for a small informal service, he can get excellent assistance from stores specializing in formal rental attire.
This year's brides are discovering the flattery of a full veil over the face. So once again, we're seeing this ethereal effect and the pretty gesture when a bride lifts her veil to kiss the groom, following an exchange of vows.
Even some Victorian-style picture hats, which have become almost as popular with brides as with designers, have veils.
A charming holdover from the nymphlike bride in a pastoral setting is a wreath or spray of flowers in the hair. Fresh ones are best, but for practical purposes, brides usually end up wearing silk flowers.
For bridal attendants, wear-again dresses are advised, the kind with removable shoulder capelets, floaty poncho tops or jackets. Leading colors this year are in coral and apricot tones, pink to wine shades, and orchid to purple. Prices average from $50 to $90.