The Wedding Journey…Dressing the Bridal Party

BY MARTIE EMORY with Chris Bambalis, Co-owner of Nitsa’s Apparel and Manager of the Bridal Salon at Nitsa’s

Offering the latest in couture bridal fashion – straight from the New York runways — Nitsa’s has been dressing brides for generations with style and elegance. Chris Bambalis loves sharing her wisdom and passion for what Nitsa’s is known for.


Q: What is the first step in a bride’s wedding gown journey? 

A: One thing I have learned through the years is that no two brides are alike. Some dream about their wedding dress throughout their childhood and young adult years, and some never give it a thought until they become engaged. My advice is, you never really know what you love until you begin trying on dresses. I have brides who research and bring pictures, and those who completely dread the try-on process. Many are surprised what they thought they always wanted is not what they end up choosing, and the others may realize the trying-on process can actually be fun. It’s like music to my ears when I hear a bride tell me finding her dress was the most fun she had in preparing for her wedding.


Q: What is a typical timeline for purchasing and fitting the bride’s dress?

A: Most wedding gown designers typically take up to five months to make and deliver a dress to the bridal salon. However, some designers have flexibility (especially those who produce in North America), and can make a dress sooner, but there may be an additional rush fee. A bride can also buy off-the-rack if her wedding is soon, and she finds a dress that fits. Thankfully, we are seeing less of an impact on production issues from Covid than in recent months.

Once your dress has arrived, it’s time to start the alteration process. Your dress will most likely be hemmed, bustled and fitted to your body, and you may require two or three trips to the salon to ensure a good fit. Bring the shoes you’ll be wearing on your wedding day to every fitting appointment, so as you are checking your hemline, you can be confident you are not stepping on the fabric. Fittings will typically be spread over two months, but the time available between the arrival of your dress and your wedding (or your portrait day a month or two before the wedding) will determine your schedule. Confirm with your salon that they offer in-house alterations or can at least recommend a reliable seamstress. Nitsa’s has offered in-house alterations since we opened our doors in 1964, but it’s becoming rare these days to find this service in other stores. We have prepared brides in as little as two days for their wedding and up to two years in advance, but every situation is different.


Q: Is it wise for the bride to bring a large group with her to find her wedding dress or best to keep her “entourage” small?

A: I believe it’s up to each bride. Some brides who bring a large group realize in the midst of trying on dresses that they are trying to please those around them. Instead of focusing on their dress selection, they become stressed and emotional. I would say don’t bring more than four of your closest friends and family. God gave us all our own minds and our own opinions, and the bride must realize she is not there to please everyone.


Q: What is the best timeline for bridesmaid dresses and should the bride have complete control over the selection process?

A: The trend is for the bride to choose the color and fabric, and offer several silhouettes and necklines for each of her bridesmaids. At Nitsa’s, we order everyone’s dress at the same time, so the dresses will be cut from the same bolt of fabric, with no dye lot issues. We like to have dresses in no later than a month before the wedding to allow for alterations. A typical timeline for a bridesmaid’s dress to be made and fitted by a seamstress is about four months, and your store needs at least two weeks to gather the measurements of each bridesmaid. Patterns in bridal fashion are cut smaller than a normal dress size, so know you may be ordering two sizes up. I always say the number isn’t important, just the fit and silhouette. With bridesmaids often located all over the country, it’s typical for us to walk each bridesmaid through the measuring process over the phone.


Q: Are mothers of the bride and groom still following the bride’s lead when it comes to choosing a color and style for their dresses?

A: The mother-of-the-bride will choose her dress first, with her daughter’s approval, and will then relay that information to the mother-of-the-groom, so everyone’s on the same page concerning formality, color options and length. For social occasion dresses, the ordering process may take from four to eight weeks, so it’s wise to allow at least a month before the wedding for alterations. We are happy to see a lot of mothers finally able to come in and make decisions for their children’s upcoming weddings.


Visit Nitsa’s in Stratford Village in Winston-Salem at 107 South Stratford Road, 336.725.1999 and online at


Lindley Battle Photography