Her bridal gown was a disaster. His tuxedo was even worse.

Their marriage was doomed from the start!It takes a lot of planning to make sure a wedding goes well. It takes rehearsals, shopping around, talking things over, checking things out, trying things on. And according to experts around town who are in the bridal business (many of them had exhibits at the recent Wedding Celebration trade show at the Salt Palace), young couples can't start any too soon to make arrangements for the big day.

The first step: Decide just what type of a celebration you want and can afford. Putting on a big wedding, people in the trade emphasize, is a costly proposition. And it's far better for people to be realistic.

Prices run the gamut. Tie the knot in a homespun and modest ceremony and it's going to cost far less than if you go all out for elegance. But it's possible, the experts stress, to have a polished and professional production without spending a fortune.

"We encourage the bride and her parents to sit down with us and openly discuss the subject," says Marlene Coltrin, of The Cake Place and Weddings Etc. "We like to work with people and help them plan a memorable day that's affordable."

Coltrin and her daughter, Carol Miller, specialize in spectacular wedding cakes that often are decorated with fresh flowers. But they also do gowns and tuxedos and can handle every other aspect of a wedding celebration as well.

Coordination is, perhaps, the most distinctive feature of the service Coltrin and Miller offer. They can provide a bride with a cake decorated to complement her wedding gown; an entire wedding party that matches.

"Brides just love it," Coltrin says. "The concept is very popular here in Utah."

Here in Utah, marriage concepts and customs are a bit different than in other parts of the country. National statistics show that in most other cities major emphasis is placed on the wedding ceremony. It's big and the reception's small. Locally, it's the other way around.

Not as much attention is paid here to tradition, either. Brides are more inclined to do their own thing, no matter what Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt decree. (Around here it isn't surprising to run into "theme weddings" - western, for instance - with the bride carrying sunflowers and the hall decorated with big bales of hay and saddles.)

There isn't any difference to speak of, however, in the number of marriages being performed in Utah and across the nation. Numbers are up - way up - here and everywhere. Young couples today seem to want the security of home and family; they are shunning live-in situations and returning in droves to basic values. Modern Bride magazine estimates there will be 25 million marriages by the time the 1980s end - more than in any other decade in history.

As for wedding gown styles, there's a marked return to romance all across the country, too; a fondness for elaborate designs, glitz and glitter and ornate touches. Annette Riccardi of Fantasy Bridal is selling hand-beaded creations by the dozens - the more beading, the merrier.

The gowns Riccardi sells run from $129 to $700. She likes to have some dresses budget-priced so that every woman can have her own and not have to rent. A wedding dress, in her opinion, should be a beautiful heirloom to tuck away in a trunk, look at from time to time with fond memories and save for one's own daughter.

When it comes to fabrics, satin's popular - year 'round.

When it comes to colors, she prefers white for a first wedding but hastens to add that no matter how many times a woman has been married, there's nothing wrong with wearing white to walk down that aisle again. It's strictly a personal preference.

As for headpieces, hats are waning in popularity elsewhere but still going strong here (maybe they're not quite as strong as they used to be, the local bridal shop owner adds). Elaborate veiling and hair ornaments such as banana clips also are popular.

What are the trends in fashions for the bridal party?

According to Riccardi, brides are going for sleeker looks in attendants' gowns. There are fewer full skirts buoyed up by petticoats. (In Utah, attendants' gowns are especially important. Here, the average number of attendants is much higher than it is nationwide. Once Riccardi remembers outfiting 26 young women for one wedding!)

Another idea that might shock traditionalists: These days black frequently is being chosen for bridesmaids' gowns. And although white and ivory still lead the bridal parade, pastels such as pink, blue and pale green are gaining ground.

Cutwork's also important, reports Keith Van Meeteren of Maxine's Bridal and Tux Towne. So are sequins. And, interestingly enough, he notes a difference in the market from Roy to Midvale. At the Roy store, young women prefer the Cinderella look, the ingenue. In Midvale, they like things sophisticated and slinky.

Jim Bangerter, owner of the firm, says bridegrooms are going for dinner jackets in soft hues such as gray and white, in addition to traditional tuxes. Colorful accessories - cummerbunds and bow ties - are in favor. And the pink family is especially popular for spring weddings.

The story's much the same over at Tuxedo Junction, where David Smith both rents and sells snappy styles for the bridegroom.

Certainly, the job of outfitting the bride is far more involved than dressing the bridegroom - even the tuxedo experts admit it. And it can be very time consuming. For the bride-to-be who's a busy career woman, taking hours off from the office to shop can be difficult. So some merchants - notably J.C. Penney - have come up with an alternative plan.

J.C. Penney offers a complete section on bridal gowns and accessories in its catalog. A special bridal catalog also is put out each spring to cater to the wedding market.

"We offer a toll-free wedding line (1-800-527-8345) that brides can call to order the catalog, the clothes or just get advice about colors, fabrics and the like," says Elly Muth of Penney. "If they're confused about which gown to choose, they can order several styles to be sent out through home delivery. Then, after work when there's time to really study the styles in front of the mirror, they can try them on and decide."

Attendants' gowns also can be sent out, eliminating a lot of stress and strain - things nobody needs when a big wedding is right around the corner!