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Back on the ground in St. Louis exhausted but exhilarated after a whirlwind visit to Puerto Rico to shoot our 2016 Bridal Collections of wedding dresses for curvy brides.  Our only wish?  Can we please, pretty please, stay forever on the island paradise! The Michelle Bridal and Sydney’s Closet Signature Collections launch in August when buyers from around the world come to see the designs for the first time in our Atlanta Showroom. But you don’t have to wait!  Here’s a behind-the-scenes tour of what went into making our photo shoot on location in Puerto Rico one we will never forget: Crew: We never could pull off this ambitious shoot without the extraordinary talents of Blogger and Producer Marta Rivera, a native puertorriqueña, who orchestrated this ambitious shoot flawlessly from casting the talent to arranging for a picture-perfect day. Ana Garcia, our model, looked like a picture-perfect bride in every wedding gown she wore. Ana shot with us before showing off her perfect curves but bridal is clearly her passion.  Wait until you see the images of her wearing both our formal wedding gowns and our informal wedding dressess I designed for destination weddings. Ana was a true professional.  She braved the sun, wind, traffic and bugs to deliver jaw-dropping shots without even breaking a sweat in the 90-plus degree heat.  (The rest of us are melting!)  She never complained when the fast-paced shoot required her to change dresses on the streets of Old San Juan with only a white bed sheet to offer privacy. There is just no time to head back to the hotel as we carried sequin-studded ball gowns, fitted lace gowns with crystal brooches and flowing chiffon dresses from location to location.Street Scenes of Puerto Rico At each stop, makeup artist Raiza Gonzalez Montes worked her magic by touching up Ana's beautiful skin. Raiza also kept Ana's bridal updo looking picture perfect despite the on-shore wind that created a welcome breeze but brought havoc with the model's hair. Our fabulously gifted photographers, Kareem Rivera and Ismael Lamberty from Karism Photography, were the perfect husband and wife team that furiously shot all day, creating breathtaking photos.  Their sense of detail and lighting transformed what might have been an ordinary wedding photo into an extraordinary memory. If you're headed to Puerto Rico - or are lucky enough to live on the island - call them to photograph your wedding or special event.  They will put their heart and soul into capturing your wedding day. Videographer Nelson D’Freitas kept up a fast pace to capture the crew's frenzied pace. Check back soon for our behind the scenes video. It is always the details that make the ultimate difference on our shoots.  Thanks to Adamas Events for creating the bride's beautiful bouquet and the magnificent bridal hairpieces, necklaces and earrings from Krystalos High Fashion Jewelry by Joan Laureano and Arturo Frads.  The designers’ multi-layer necklace with Swarovski crystals and pearls added a Victorian touch the vintage lace wedding dress I designed with a cape design. Location: Our crew sets up headquarters at Casablanca Hotel, a boutique hotel on a cobblestone street in the heart of historic Old San Juan. Who can resist falling in love with this romantic inn while the movie "Casablanca" played on a 2-story wall in the lobby bar?  The exceptionally friendly hotel staff rolled out the red carpet for us even finding nooks and crannies where we could store the voluminous wedding dresses that couldn't squeeze in the closets of our guest rooms.  Our favorite spot to stash the dresses: scaffolding in a temporary construction zone in the lobby where an elevator is under construction. Hard hats required! Our guest rooms, decorated with net canopies hanging over the beds and over-sized windows with wooden shutters, provided the perfect old-world charm to kick off our shoot.  Next stop: the lobby restaurant where a white linen draping created the ideal setting to have our bride to pose with her Mother of the Bride and her groom. Just steps outside the hotel door, we discovered our next location:  streets of old san juana narrow, twisted alley with perfect lighting to pose our bride on a red motorcycle in a rhinestone studded chiffon wedding dress.  (Did I mention the stray dog who kept us company quietly napping on the cold stones?) Our crew spent the afternoon discovering through Old San Juan's hilly streets, stopping to photograph the ivory wedding dresses against the eye-popping shades of blue, yellow, orange, green and pink facades that makes Old San Juan famous.  The bride descended a centuries-old staircase in a park overlooking the ocean with the train of bridal ballgown creating a white carpet.  Traffic stopped! People walking their dogs and tourists in the park took photos of Ana.  Children flying kites told our bride, "Ay, mira la princesas bonita" (Ay, look at the beautiful princess)! Back to the rooftop of the hotel for our last shot. As the sun set over Puerto Rico, Ana posed in a soaking tub strewn with yellow rose petals in our best-selling informal chiffon wedding gown. Highlights: 
  • Tomas, the chef at the Cafe Americano in the Hotel Casablanca restaurant, prepared platters of comida tipica for the crew's lunch.  We ate every bite. If you're sailing out of Puerto Rico on a cruise we suggest you add an extra night to stay at Hotel Casablanca.
 
  • Loved sitting down for an interview with Miriam "Mimi" Pabon, former Miss Puerto Rico. Can't wait to see it air on her super popular "Fashion House" segment seen on WAPA TV.
 
  • Discovered Choco Bar de Casa Cortes, a haven of an eatery for chocoholics where we tried for the first time rich hot chocolate served with a slice of cheddar cheese on the bottom.  But the choco frio turned out to be the crew’s sweet drink of choice.  We won’t say who, but several crew members headed back to the bar for another round (or two) of the sweet, cold chocolate drink topped with whipped cream and a slice of milk chocolate.
 
  • Arrived at the Coach Factory outlet store to find a 50% clearance sale underway!
There is no question!  We will be back to shoot again on this island paradise.

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