The Quest for the Perfect Dress

Left to right standing: Bethany, Anna, Shannon, Meegan, Katie, and JoAnn; Sitting left to right: Mary Lyon, Shirley Bonekemper

Photography by Wes Battoclette

It’s said that every little girl dreams about her wedding day and the gorgeous gown she will wear for the happiest day of her life. But the reality is that shopping for the perfect dress can be as exhausting and time-consuming as it is fun. For women who have never shopped for a wedding dress, the process can, like many aspects of planning a wedding, be overwhelming.

Shirley Bonekemper and Mary Lyon, co-owners of European Bridal, have helped brides find the perfect wedding dress for years, and they understand what a harrowing process it is to plan a wedding. Lyon and Bonekemper, along with a staff of consultants, work to ease the stress while helping in the bride’s search for the perfect gown.

The first tip JoAnn Tomasulo, a consultant with European Bridal, would give to brides who are in the thick of their dress shopping is to cut down on the entourage. “Brides often think they have to bring a crowd when they go dress shopping,” says Tomasulo. “Then everyone has input, and the bride can get confused.”

Bonekemper agrees, adding that often a bride can’t commit to a dress she truly loves because she’s overwhelmed by opinions of others.

“The fewer people the better, for the bride. She needs to choose the dress,” she says.

Another factor that can contribute to a bride balking at her ideal gown is that there are so many options out there. With several stores in the Reading bridal district alone, brides often feel they need to explore every option and every boutique, neglecting gowns they thought were perfect. “Brides need to just feel it, instead of overthinking,” says Lyon. “If she feels pretty in the dress, it’s going to show. She’ll never look more beautiful than when she feels beautiful.”

Something else to keep in mind when shopping is the sizing of bridal dresses. Tomasulo says brides shouldn’t be discouraged if the size of her preferred dress is not the same as her usual dress size. “Bridal sizing is not street sizing,” she says. “The sizing all runs much higher for some reason, and it’s important to remember it’s just a number.”

Bridesmaid dresses are sized differently too, and it’s simply best to ignore all of it and focus on the details of the gown itself. Tomasulo also cautions brides against vowing to lose weight in order to fit into a smaller dress, because it’s much simpler to take in a wedding gown than it is to add to it. “And don’t skimp on the alterations,” says Lyon.

“Have a good seamstress, specifically one who knows bridal.” 


European Bridal is located at 307 West Benson Street, Cincinnati, OH 45215. You can reach them at 513.821.6505 or visit their website at