Rachel Wammack will become a married woman this Saturday (8/3) at a ceremony in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Sounds Like Nashville had the opportunity to talk with Rachel’s wedding dress designer, Terri Hilferty, about how she achieved Rachel’s dream gown.
Hilferty has worked as a Product Director and Designer at Justin Alexander for eight years. In total, she has worked in the bridal industry for 30 years and has been designing wedding gowns for 25 years. Her dresses are sold in retail locations all over the world, and she has designed gowns for many public figures and celebrities, including Brett Young’s wife, Taylor Young. She told us about the process of creating Rachel’s custom gown.
First of all, what was it like working with Rachel to create her dream dress?
Rachel’s incredibly cool. A lot of times it’s about the party; it’s not exactly about the marriage. But she’s got this beautiful soul that it’s all about the marriage. She was a dream bride. She was very easy to work with and she’s great at communication too, which is another big thing.
Can you tell me a bit about the process of designing a custom wedding gown? What did you and Rachel go over at your design meeting?
We have a showroom in Atlanta, so she came here and we just played for probably two hours just trying gowns on. With a bride, I like trying on every silhouette, every neckline, because I don’t want those ‘what ifs’ later, like, ‘Oh, I never tried that on.” I want them to be really secure. I watch the way the girl behaves in the gown. You know when you put on a great dress and you feel like, ‘Oh wow. I look good?” That’s what I focused most with — what she looked best in, what she felt best in, and we went from there. We tried a different type of top with a different skirt and changed up a couple of things so it fit her exactly. Then at that point, I get all of her visions that she wants and I sketch it all out, send it to her and say, ‘Alright, what do you think of this?’ She was like, “I absolutely love it.”
What style was Rachel going for at that first planning meeting?
She’s southern, she’s a little more traditional, and I’m loving it because we’re going a little more elegant, a little more classic. You know years ago when they had the puffy sleeves? I wanted something for her that would stand the test of time— that in thirty years you’re not looking back, like, ‘What was I thinking?’
What inspirations did she bring into the meeting?
She actually came in with her Pinterest board, and different things that she’d seen when it came to the mood, the softness of the hair, and lightweight dresses. She had a full Pinterest board with different laces and feelings of it. Most girls are doing that. It’s more of a feel than it is actual dresses now.
Who did she bring to her planning meeting?
She brought her mom. Her and her mom are very close and they’re incredible together. Her mom is very supportive, very caring, wanted Rachel to be in love, and really focused on Rachel’s happiness, which was incredible. We get some moms that you’re like, ‘Oh gosh. Run away.’ It’s about them instead of the bride. But [Rachel’s] mom was incredible.
Okay, so now that we’ve talked about the planning process, tell us about the finished product. How would you, as the designer, describe the dress?
It is a plunging, illusion, v-neckline. The cool part about this is it’s actually all laser cut satin and embroidered flowers that create the entire pattern, so it’s not a traditional lace. It actually has a dimension to it. The details of it are really pretty when you see it. It’s a really full ball gown, and it’s done with this gorgeous hem lace. And then, just because we’re going traditional, we did an extended cathedral veil for the walk down for more drama with the matching lace. It’s elegant and classic. It’s more of a sexy Grace Kelly kind of vibe.
What was Rachel’s reaction when she tried on the finished dress for the first time?
I measured her, and then I sent it to her seamstress to do the hem and the bustle. I worry; I’m a worrier, and when she called she was like, “All I need is the hem.” And I’m like, “Really?” Normally you need things taken in, but it was perfect on her. She was just over the moon when she tried it on.
What kind of statement will this dress make when she walks down the aisle?
Honestly, I’m praying everybody just cries. I still get emotional over these things, just seeing the reaction of the groom and the dad and the mom. Grandma’s get me the most. I just want to take their breath away and her to just feel that when everybody’s staring at her.