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My mom helped me solve this one! We purchased at a thrift store for a dollar the tiniest crochet hook we could find! That way, my husband was able to hook around the button elastics and remove them from around the buttons without snapping anything or making it a big hassle. My mom showed him just before we left the venue how to do this, and it was a breeze. Also fun that he helped me with the dress after!
One thing you CAN do, given that you are stationed 4,000 miles away, is contact the Better Business Bureau and get into arbitration with this person. That will cost you nothing at all, and it will expose this photographer's behavior to the public. Contact the BBB in the area where the wedding took place and ask their advice on how to move forward. You do not need to be present for their process to take place. They will investigate everything and help you move through the steps necessary - it's usually a process of you writing a statement regarding what happened and then the photographer must respond. If he is not a member of the BBB, press the BBB to help you anyway. When you write your statement, you'll have plenty of time to write it out, step back and make sure you sound objective and not emotional - important, because everyone thinks brides are overemotional - revise, and give them the very best draft you can. I hope this is an option you can use from your location!
I'm doing my own makeup for our wedding. I got all done practicing for the second time and realized that my lipstick is going to come off all over my groom! I had even intentionally chosen an Aveda lipstick because I have EXTREMELY sensitive lips. I've never smoked, but my lips peel every day. I have a solution for this to keep them soft and not cracking, but most lipsticks make me look like I have deep creases in my lips. I know a lot of women who have the same problem.
I went on the hunt today for a lipstick that won't transfer - YEAH RIGHT, I thought. My mom and MOH suggested some drug store long wear lipsticks, but lipsticks and stains have just never worked for me, hence why I use Aveda when I want a color. I dropped by Ulta and one of the women working suggested I use a liner pencil to color in my entire lip. This was genius! It worked perfectly on my very difficult lips. I blotted, set it with some powder, and I ate and drank (through a straw) with it and it wore great. I even put my lips to my hand a few times to see if it would transfer, and there was just the slightest shadow of color. It worked great. The specific lip liner I chose was Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Lip Pencil in Bad Blood. FYI, the only thing that kind of blows about this particular pencil is that you need a special sharpener for it - UD Grindhouse. So if you don't want to deal with that, pick one that uses a universal sharpener. Hopefully this works for someone!
Regarding alterations, if you order too big, you can usually go three sizes down before it really effects the structure of the dress. My MOH's mother is a master seamstress and made every gown my MOH has ever worn - prom, wedding, MOH, etc. I've seen her tailor dresses like you would not believe when things go wrong. If something happens and you need to go down a size, talk with a good tailor ahead of time so you can have a plan. That way at least you'll feel like you have something in the works in case you need significant alterations.
One suggestion - sacrifice a bra that fits reasonably well but you're ready to part ways with. Have the seamstress sew this bra directly into the dress, and then cut the straps and band off. Don't cut the straps and band off ahead of time, because she could use those sections to help attach the cups to the dress. The sew-in cups don't even come anywhere near my size. If you're like me, you need that underwire placed where YOU need it placed, and only a seamstress can help you get that done properly. For many of us who are busty, a low-back bra can sometimes hit at a high waist or at a hip area and cause another bulge problem that we then have to deal with. One good thing about this solution - it might make the dress wearable for you again.