When it came to finding the perfect wedding gown, Camila Alves McConaughey knew exactly where to turn. Chanel? Nah. Vera Wang or Monique Lhuillier? Nope.
Instead, the bride asked Brazilian dress designer Ducarmo Castelo Branco, a 78-year-old family friend, to craft a gown for her June 9 nuptials to Matthew McConaughey.
“Ducarmo has been making wedding dresses for her entire life,” says Alves, who has known the designer since she was a young girl growing up in Brazil. “I guess you can say she has been planning this design for over 20 years.”
Branco worked on the project with a group of eight local women, and Alves’s faith in that team’s vision of a dream dress — a delicate beaded lace gown — never wavered. “I went to Brazil for a day and a half to work on the dress,” the bride tells PEOPLE. “I left and I just had to trust them. They finished the dress 22 days later.”
For Matthew and Camila’s exclusive wedding album — and to see the dress up close — pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.