By Jacqueline Larcara
Justin Alexander Warshaw has spent much of his career pondering the question, what do brides want?
Last year, while planning his own wedding, the CEO and creative director of wedding-gown brand Justin Alexander came closer to the answer. For years, Justin has been an integral but behind-the-scenes presence for countless brides’ big days, creating gowns that make their wedding wardrobe dreams come true. In September, it was his turn to step into the spotlight when he married Kelsey Turchi.
Following an intimate ceremony close to their home in Westfield, Justin and Kelsey enjoyed a larger celebration in Tuscany, Italy. “Having all your family and friends gathered in one place to celebrate the love that you have with your wife is such an amazing time,” says Justin. “It was a whirlwind—you blink and it’s done.”
As a newlywed, Justin says he can now relate to brides on a new level. “To understand what you’re feeling when you’re going through [the planning process] allows me to better help a bride as she’s searching for her dress,” he says.
The Justin Alexander brand is a third-generation, family business with its North American headquarters in Springfield. It started as T&G, short for Thanks and Goodluck, a headpiece and veil company founded in 1946 by Justin’s grandparents. While growing up in River Vale, Justin knew he would eventually join the business, and after studying international business at the University of Connecticut, he took the helm of the company in 2008. He shadowed the design team and soon dove into the creative side of the business.
Today, Justin Alexander encompasses five brands—Justin Alexander, Justin Alexander Signature, Adore by Justin Alexander, Lillian West and Sincerity Bridal—which span a range of styles and price points. The gowns are sold in more than 60 countries through 2,000 retailers worldwide, including several in New Jersey, such as Castle Couture.
Behind every walk down the aisle is a love story. Justin’s own romantic tale began in 2019.
Justin, now 37, and Kelsey, now 31, met in January 2019 at an event in New York City. “I hit on her and nothing happened,” says Justin. “It turns out, she was in a relationship at the time.” Things were very different when the pair bumped into each other 10 months later while on separate trips to Tulum, Mexico. A few days later, back in the Big Apple, they went on their first date. Soon after, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the couple spent time in Kelsey’s hometown of Cumming, Georgia.
During a 2021 ski trip in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Justin got down on one knee in front of the beautiful Tetons mountain range. After the proposal, Justin coordinated for Kelsey’s family to surprise her at a pizzeria.
The marriage chapter of their love story begins with New Jersey nuptials. Justin and Kelsey invited their parents and Justin’s sister and her boyfriend to Westfield for their wedding ceremony. “We thought it was a great opportunity to do something small and intimate,” says Justin. For the micro-wedding, Kelsey wore a satin, one-shoulder gown by fellow designer Viktor&Rolf. Before the vows, Justin and Kelsey walked their dog, Irving, through town while in their wedding attire—which provided some great memories (and photos). Justin’s sister officiated the ceremony in Westfield’s Mindowaskin Park. “She just spoke beautifully,” he says. The day ended with lunch at local favorite Addams Tavern.
“After that, we were already like, ‘oh, we still have a wedding in Italy, but this was everything,’” says Justin. Planning their destination wedding at Castello di Celsa, a medieval garden and castle in Italy, while living in New Jersey and juggling their jobs was a balancing act for the couple. (Kelsey works in tech sales for Salesforce.)
“We leaned into our wedding planner, [Primavera Dreams], who was amazing at finding us excellent vendors local in Italy,” says Justin. “It wasn’t easy, and I appreciate Kelsey in that she did an amazing job leading a lot of the vendor selection and communications, but also, she allowed me to focus on work when I needed to. She’s really a great partner.”
If you’re marrying a gown designer, it seems a shame to choose just one dress for your big day. After starting the wedding weekend in a Viktor&Rolf pantsuit for the welcome party, Kelsey, a woman after our own heart, wore four additional custom ensembles by Justin Alexander brands throughout the weekend. Each outfit offered a unique look. For the ceremony, Kelsey turned heads in a long-sleeve beaded, lace A-line gown covered in embroidered florals. For the reception, she donned a modified version of the Bobbie gown—Justin’s favorite dress that he’s designed—featuring a strapless bodice with 3D florals. For the after-party, a sexy short body-con number fit the bill. For brunch the next morning, an all-lace floor-length skirt with a cropped top was just right.
Terri Hilferty, Justin Alexander’s chief of design and merchandising, handled the designs. “I did not design them myself,” says Justin about Kelsey’s outfits, “because I wanted to have that same moment that [every other] groom experiences on the wedding day.”
To make the garments extra special, Justin, unbeknownst to Kelsey, worked with Terri to add personalized embroidered notes to the ensembles. One, on the arm of Kelsey’s ceremony gown, read “love, yours.”
Their magical wedding, fit for a storybook, was part of Justin’s inspiration for his latest gown collection, titled Of Dreams. Ethereal, enchanting and romantic, the dresses in the Justin Alexander Signature Spring/Summer 2024 collection are bursting with 3D florals, texture, architectural seaming and exposed boning.
“The collection describes the euphoria of how I felt [on my wedding day],” says Justin. He wanted to, “bottle that feeling and create beautiful gowns off the inspiration of that amazing day.”
Justin adds, “The excitement, the adrenaline, just the joy you’re experiencing—it really was the best day of our lives.”
You might even say they are living happily ever after.
Justin: River Vale, NJ
Kelsey: Cumming, Georgia
NJ wedding: Mindowaskin Park, Westfield
Italy wedding: Castello di Celsa
NJ wedding: gown by Viktor&Rolf
Italian wedding: 5 custom outfits by either Viktor&Rolf or Justin Alexander brands
Primavera Dreams+ more