I’m delighted to share with you my latest Facebook Live, all about two elements that I think are absolute wedding planning essentials: finding a gown you feel great in, and genetic carrier screening.
Last month, I chatted with Hillary Kener Regelman, Director of National Outreach at JScreen, a US-based not-for-profit at-home education and carrier screening program for Jewish genetic diseases, and New York-based bridal stylist Farrah Arrenson of FAB Styling, who specializes in helping busy brides find the dress of their dreams, stress-free. These two topics – dress shopping and genetic screening – are the ones I get the most questions about from brides, so I thought it made sense to bring them together into one fabulous session!
Hillary and Farrah are both incredibly knowledgeable in their respective fields, and they both care so much about keeping couples happy – with Farrah focusing on the big day, and Hillary focusing on the years to come after you make it official.
I’ll start by summing up some of the bridal fashion wisdom Farrah shared with us!
ABOUT FAB STYLING
FAB Styling‘s Farrah Arrenson is devoted to providing brides with a custom-tailored dress shopping experience so that they can find their dream gown with minimum stress. She brings her own Jewish background plus work experience at some of NYC’s leading bridal salons (including Kleinfeld – yes, she’s been on Say Yes to the Dress!) to the table, and her full-service approach carries through to the wedding day itself, when she’s on hand to tend to your every need, keeping you happy, calm, and photo-ready throughout. No one knows bridal fashion like Farrah does.
Wedding planning is overwhelming, but finding your dress shouldn’t be.
What should every bride know about before she starts looking for her dress?
First of all, Farrah wants brides to know that there’s a dress for everyone! That said, in order to find it, it’s important to be open-minded: what you think you want isn’t always what you’re going to end up with (in fact, Farrah reports this is the case for a whopping 9 out of 10 of her clients!). So don’t pigeonhole yourself – you might be surprised what dress you’ll fall in love with!
I also love Farrah’s advice, when considering what styles to try on, to focus on what you love about your body and how you can accentuate that, rather than on the things you don’t like as much.
Ultimately, Farrah says, wedding dress shopping should be fun! Don’t let it stress you out, and trust your instincts.
What bridal fashion trends are coming up for 2022/23?
Reporting live from bridal fashion week, Farrah could not have been better positioned to fill us in on what’s hot and what’s not! She reports that styles are fashion-forward this year, with emphasis on sharp lines; clean, striking silhouettes; and richly detailed fabrics. Farrah’s seeing lots of statement sleeves (and lots of detachable sleeves too – a great option for brides who need to cover up for the chuppah). Modest brides rejoice: high necklines are coming back! And for the edgier brides, crop tops and hi-lo hemlines are in.
What’s in for chuppah cover-ups?
Farrah’s favorite chuppah cover-up of the moment is something she affectionately refers to as “the doughnut” (love the name!) -basically, tons of tulle wrapped around the bride’s shoulders to provide coverage. She’s also seeing boleros, shawls, fur stoles for winter weddings, and even white leather jackets! She reports that capes – which were having a serious moment a couple years back – are out (but if you love the look, don’t let that stop you! Your Jewish wedding, your way!).
Which designers are great for modest brides?
For brides looking for modest gowns, Farrah especially loves Designers: Sareh Nouri, Rita Vinieris, Ines Di Santo, and Anne Barge – both for their timelessly elegant styling, and the fact that all of them are great when it comes to customizations.
What are some awesome options for affordable bridal attire?
Farrah’s favorites for brides on a budget are BHLDN (Anthropologie’s bridal brand) and Net a Porter’s bridal section (yes, believe it or not, their bridal stuff’s surprisingly reasonably priced – and also a great choice for brides on a tight timeline).
What are the benefits of working with a bridal stylist?
There are so many, at every step of the process from the minute you start dreaming about your dress through to your wedding day! When Farrah starts working with a client, she creates a custom portfolio of gowns based on the bride’s budget, body type, timeline, and location, so that every dress the bride sees is one she’ll have the ability to try on and purchase – meaning you can avoid so much potential disappointment.
Farrah also books all her clients’ appointments, meeting with their consultants beforehand and coming along to appointments to offer an unbiased professional opinion, act as your personal cheerleader, and supports your decision no matter what – basically, her end goal is to makes sure you end up with the dress that you want and will feel great wearing on the day.
But that’s not all! On the big day, Farrah’s there on hand for her brides, transporting and steaming the gown, doing the bustle, and generally taking care of any bridal fashion situations that come up on the day.
So that’s a wrap for Farrah – and HOW much juicy info did she pack in there? Now moving onto what Hillary had to tell us about JScreen,
JScreen‘s mission is to give individuals and families easy access to information convenient home testing at a reasonable price point. Screening for over 200 genetic diseases – including those that are commonly found in Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and Mizrahi Jewish populations – is performed by a certified laboratory and results are reviewed and reported to participants by genetic counselors, so if it turns out you are a carrier for a disease, your counselor will be there to talk you through the options (and there ARE options!).
JScreen also offers a cancer susceptibility panel screening for BRCA (a genetic mutation common in Ashkenazi Jews that increases the likelihood of developing breast, ovarian, prostate, and pancreatic cancers) and over 60 other cancer susceptibility genes
WHAT IS GENETIC CARRIER SCREENING?
Genetic carrier screening is not a diagnostic test. JScreen’s reproductive panel won’t tell you if you yourself are at high risk of developing various diseases. Rather, JScreen’s testing lets people know if they are healthy carriers of genetic diseases who have mutations that they could potentially pass on to their future children.
WHO SHOULD GET SCREENED?
The short answer: everyone planning on having children! While genetic screening is sometimes thought of as being relevant only to Ashkenazi Jews, the truth is that anyone, regardless of background, can be a carrier of one or more genetic diseases (and even as far as Jewish genetic diseases go, plenty affect Sephardi and Mizrahi populations). JScreen‘s pan-ethnic panel tests for all kinds of genetic diseases, not just those common among Jews – so it’s absolutely smart to get screened even if one or both of you are not ethnically Jewish.
Your parents may have done testing themselves, but even if that’s the case it’s still important to do it yourself before starting a family. So many more diseases are testable today than even five years ago – even if you yourself were screened a number of years ago, it’s worth considering retesting with JScreen. You can always look at the list of all the diseases they currently screen for and compare it to what you’ve already been screened for.
WHAT IS THE IDEAL TIME TO GET TESTED?
Any time before pregnancy is a great time to test – whether it’s as a single person, while dating, during your engagement, or after the wedding. While the Orthodox community tends to get screened before dating or before engagement, secular Jews are more likely to wait until after engagement or marriage – whatever works for you! Hillary noted that if you haven’t already, it’s worth getting screened before a subsequent pregnancy even if you’ve already had a healthy baby.
WHO DOES JSCREEN WORK WITH?
JScreen provides testing in the United States. If you’re in the UK, Jnetics is a great option for screening. For the rest of the world, check out findageneticcounselor.com.
WHO OWNS JSCREEN?
JScreen is a public health initiative run out of Emory University. When you choose to test with JScreen, you can rest assured that the process will be HIPAA compliant at every step – keeping your information private and secure is top priority.
HOW DOES JSCREEN’S TESTING PROCESS WORK?
JScreen strives to make screening as easy as possible. And they’ve done a great job making the process painless: you just need to go to jscreen.org, register (it only takes a few minutes), and request a saliva testing kit, which will be mailed to your home. Then, once it arrives, you spit into a tube, mail it back (with prepaid postage), and wait a few weeks to receive your results. Results are delivered by phone or video chat from a genetic counselor, who will make sure you understand what they mean, and, if you’re a carrier for something, what your options for next steps might be.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO GET TESTED WITH JSCREEN?
Genetic screening can be expensive, but JScreen is committed to ensuring that cost doesn’t have to be a barrier for any couple. Thanks to donors and philanthropists, JScreen is able to offer testing for an out-of-pocket cost of $149 for genetic carrier screening and $199 for cancer risk screening (with financial aid options available). This is a truly incredible price, given that testing through other channels can cost upward of $1000. Plus, there’s a special $50 discount just for members of Smashing The Glass’s Brides Club – join today to take advantage!
WHAT IF I FIND OUT I AM A CARRIER FOR ONE OR MORE DISEASES?
While chances are you’ll be a carrier for something, you don’t need to worry unless you and your partner are carriers for the same disease – which is less likely. But if that does turn out to be the case, your genetic counselor will talk you through everything and make sure you’re armed with the knowledge you need to move forward confidently.
Depending on the severity of the disease in question, carrier couples can make various choices. Some will opt to conceive naturally, making sure to get appropriate tests during pregnancy to monitor the status of the fetus. Others will opt for IVF with PGT (pre-implantation genetic testing) to ensure that embryos selected for implantation are healthy. And others might choose egg or sperm donation, or adoption. There are lots of options – it’s all about taking ownership of your health and family planning, and giving yourself the chance to make informed choices.
DOES JSCREEN PROVIDE TESTING FOR BRCA?
Yes! JScreen offers a CancerGEN panel testing for genetic changes that increase risk for many types of cancer. This panel tests for BRCA (a genetic mutation common in Ashkenazi Jews that increases the likelihood of developing breast, ovarian, prostate, and pancreatic cancers) and over 60 other cancer susceptibility genes.
This is a different kind of testing from JScreen’s genetic carrier screening panel, because with BRCA the carrier of the gene herself is at higher risk of developing these cancers. While the information you’ll gain from CancerGen is certainly valuable to have, JScreen understands that just because you’re ready for genetic carrier screening doesn’t mean you’re necessarily at a place in your life where you’re looking to learn this information. And you can absolutely do carrier screening as a standalone, without CancerGEN.
CancerGEN is also available as a standalone, so if at some point later on it’s something you’re interested in pursuing, it’ll be available any time. It’s suitable for anyone over 21 – including people not of reproductive age.
The process for CancerGEN is similar to the process for genetic carrier screening – you’ll receive a test kit at home, provide your saliva sample, and receive results from a genetic counselor.
Thanks again to Farrah and Hillary for speaking with me about these important topics! As Hillary herself put it, Farrah helps brides say yes to the dress (yep, she’s been on that show), while JScreen helps people say yes to the test – and I could not be any more committed to both of their missions!
If you missed the live show, you can watch the replay below. Make sure you like the Smashing The Glass Facebook page to be notified of all future shows!
GET IN TOUCH WITH FARRAH
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