And so it comes to be, that I did indeed find a dress on my travels. You see, I found the dress I LOVED and I thought about it all the time. It was at Ana's Bridal.
But just that night I was at a party in my apartment. A recently wed couple was discussing their wedding. "Where did you get your dress" I asked her, totally in the dress mode. "Bridal and Gift, have you been there, if you haven't I highly suggest you go!". Really? I thought.
The year before I had bought a bridesmaids dress there. It was a nice place, but small. The woman there were helpful and they had lots and lots of nice designer dresses. But when it came time to get our measurements, well... they read them ALOUD. I was totally embarrassed! After all, I was with a size 2 bride, her size 0 sister, and three single digit sized bridesmaids. My chest was in a whole new number set than theirs. UH
Then came the alterations. Again my woman was so friendly, but insisted I didn't need the top tighter. On the wedding day I put on the dress and the top fell down. Luckily she had gone above and beyond and created spaghetti straps for me and added hook and eyes so I was able to secure the dress.
I went there not expecting much- and boy was I in for a surprise. They had revamped the store. Downstairs was tons of gowns, upstairs was solely bridesmaids and Maggie Sotteros.
I went into the room and the woman had tons of dresses for me to try on. I never asked about prices and she never told me- which was weird. But she was really focused on finding what I was looking for. I was the only person in front of the mirror and the only person there. I felt totally waited on hand and foot and also like I had a ton of privacy.
I have to say it was the first place I went to, besides Helene's that I felt I got the whole "bridal experience". And so, I did find a dress I really liked there. It was a plain A-Line Justin Alexander with pinch pleating at the top and a long train. It was pretty simple, but it had the most beautiful swavorski crystal belt!
I still had the dress at Ana's in my head though. And then a light bulb went off. Bridal and Gift gave me the experience I wanted and carried the line I loved. Could they order the dress I saw at Ana's? In fact...they could!! Without a flinch, I ordered the dress!
I got the experience AND the dress. They may not have a fancy website or champagne and strawberries- but there was lots of love and attention.
Right before I left, Linda, the owner, came over and hugged me and whispered in my ear "congratulations and welcome to our family!"
The next stop on this ever long journey was Ana's bridal shop. I feel like I should have mentioned this earlier- but I did go a few other places I am not going to review: New York Lace, Party Dress Express, and Erina Boutique. I didn't spend a fair amount of time at each place to review them and felt my review wouldn't do the shops justice. I did however, spend an AWFUL lot of time at Ana's. It included three visits
As many of you know, who may have had the experience of shopping at Ana's it is small, really small. I felt like I hadn't been in such a small space before. There are dresses in every little corner.
The first visit: The first time we visited Ana's was because we had been to Wishing Well and David's without much luck (I didn't mention my visit to Wishing Well on here, because I wanted to focuses on places I had POSITIVE and negative experiences at. The Wishing Well only provided the latter). We actually showed up sans appointment which is a huge bridal no-no. I know this, but my mom doesn't and she is the type to say "let's just go you never know, maybe they can squeeze us in." Which, they did. I had one girl I was working with. Her name was Cassie. She was super sweet, but probably AT MOST 20 years old. I felt like she had no idea what this whole wedding thing was about and she basically agreed with everything I said.. She WAS perfectly nice and helpful, and my mom even thanked her and complimented her many times- which was surprising.
I was stuffed into the smallest dressing room ever. I didn't have on the proper garments and they didn't supply me any (David's and House of Brides had done so). She kept bringing over dresses that were nothing like I explained I wanted. For a moment,. I felt like she was just bringing me samples she knew would fit, without much effort on her part (contrary to Ashlie working less than a mile down the road at Helene's who was going to put every single sample in the store on you, and get it ON you even if it was 5 sizes too small, as if her life depended on it- just so you'd be happy). I then asked Cassie if I could look through the racks and SHOW her what I was looking for.
Eventually she pulled out two dresses. One was a complete lace dress that I didn't love on the hanger. I didn't want all lace. It was fitted and more of an a-line bottom. It actually looked really nice on- she added a crystal belt and I have to say It was REALLY pretty. Good job Cassie. The only problem was , this wasn't the fit I wanted, it was too "sheath" for me and also, the lace had a funny- almost circular pattern.
The next pull was a sale dress that was as is. It was a champagne colors Justin Alexander with gorgeous beading on the top. Even thought it was 4 sizes too small, I was able to get into the dress and pull it on. It wouldn't zip but she clipped me into the back. They would have to do alterations to this dress, because it was the last one. It was on sale for half price, so the dress was around $1000.This dress was going to need a corset back and the beading to be redone in some spots, plus an obvious hem. All the reconstruction was adding up. Finally I could tell my mom thought "no way". She looked at me and said she wasn't going to pay a ton of money for a sample dress that had to be completely reconstructed (she was paying for my gown).
The next few were ok. And at the end of the appointment we started looking through the Paloma and Justin gowns. They were beautiful. There was a gown my mom pulled out that I quickly dismissed. She put it back on the rack. Then I went through and I saw the gown again. It was SO gorgeous now that I looked at it. I hadn't seen anything in the store I liked better. I held it up, but by that point the steam from the appointment was running low, so we left.
Three days later I was still thinking about that dress. So I called Ana's back and made another appointment. This time it was with Ana herself. It was a week night so it was really slow. Again, I was crammed into that small little fitting room. The other piece I didn't mention is that when you have on a gown you have to get in front of the mirrors in front of the whole store. Not my ideal situation. I showed her the gown I loved and asked if she had anything similar. I told her that I had been thinking about it. She wiggled me into the gown as best she could but I couldn't get an idea of it. So I tried on a similar Paloma dress. Except the price tag on this one was TWICE as much. I got the idea of the style and the look of the dress. I told Ana I wanted to look around the entire store to see if I liked anything better. I had heard Ana can be pushy and a bit annoyed with brides, but to be honest, I was delightfully surprised with her. She was really kind and she showed me every dress that I MAY like that was similar or at least was my taste.
I kept coming back to that dress. The beading I had never seen before, the lace, the crystals! It wasn't ANYTHING like I thought I would fall in love with but it was perfect.
I left that night knowing in my heart that was my dress.
In the meantime, I had made my appointment at Helene's to see if I could find anything better.
I went to Helene's with my mom the next night, and as you know, I had a great experience but didn't find anything there.
So back to Ana's we went for our third trip there. They were busy and we didn't have an appointment so I told them I wanted to re-show my mom the dress I loved. When I picked it up off the rack I started to cry. "The lace!" "the beading!" "the construction!" "the fabric" it wasn't just the dress to me, it felt like it came to life. I can't remember the last time I loved an article of clothing so much. It wasn't even on my body and I felt so much love for it. When I think back, I still get that feeling. When I have doubts that it was my dress, I think back to that moment. My mom nodded and we knew.
But....did we buy the dress???????
Well, I will let you think about it over the weekend! Happy weekend everyone, see ya' Tuesday!
Back again with more wedding dress shopping-ness. My next stop was Helene's. I had a ton (I mean a ton) of people telling me I should go there and saw tons of great reviews. My friend Ali had bought her dress from Helene's and it looked incredible on her on her wedding day. She said the service was spectacular.
My mom and I made an appointment for one night after work. I was the only customer in the shop, and though there is just two changing rooms they are huge. I like that the changing room was divided up. My mom sat on one side of the changing room door--and then we could close an accordion door so that I could get dressed on the other side. It made the anticipation fun because then we'd open the door and I would have on a dress- ta da!
I also went to Helene's because they carried one of my favorite wedding dress designers: Tara Keely. Tara dresses are designed by Lazaro so they have the same incredible craftsmanship but do not have any of the beading or intricate designs of the Lazaro dresses so the price tags are not as hefty. The dresses are beautifully made, with lots of lace and really flowy ethereal look. From what I have seen Tara dresses ran from $1200- $2200. I tried on this Tara dress in ivory:
I did try on quite a few other choices. Including gasp a Maggie Sottero that I liked. There were a lot of dresses, kind of divided up by section. I did think the large closet that held a ton in the changing room was dark and hard to see the details- and also PACKED with dresses. But the consultant was great about pulling them out.
One of the issues that i had when trying to find a dress was that I did not, no way, no how, want a satin dress. I am getting married in August, in a church with no AC. I was not going to put a heavy satin dress on. I also do not like the sheen of satin on myself so I preferred a more matte fabric.
Ashlie the consultant at Helene's was nothing short of phenomenal. She was the same consultant that had helped my friend. I did not know this until I mentioned my friends name and she knew everything about her, from the colors of her wedding to her fiance's name. I knew that to remember that from month's earlier meant that she took a real interest in her clients.
After about an hour I wasn't really finding anything I loved. That Tara Keely above I tried on- the material was just plain weird. Ashlie told me while the dress looked cute on the mannequin she actually had not sold one of those dresses, ever. Sometimes she said "pieces are just a showpiece".
At the end she was just plain honest, I might not find what I am looking for at her shop. They carried a certain type of dress and a limited amount of stock and if it wasn't what I was interested in those choices then she wasn't sure she could help. She took my name down and took photos of what I did like, then told me whenever she got in the shipments she would look through to see if there is anything I might be interested in. If there was, then she would send me a pic to my cell so I could see it and possibly come in if I liked it. I liked that she was no-nonsense and wasn't going to waste my time making me come in for a dress I was not interested in. She also was the first one that spoke up to say "we might not have what you want here, but that's ok". The entire appointment she stressed that she wanted ME to be happy as a bride and if it meant not finding something at their shop that was ok.
This made me like Ashlie a lot. On top of that, it made me want to go back to see her. So we may end up back at Helene's looking for a dress for my mom. Or a veil for myself or accessories. If I had to suggest one place that all brides should try first in RI, I would hands down suggest Helene's and suggest that you request Ashlie.
I would give Helene's and A for the visit. I would have given them an A+ but I didn't find a dress there :(
As you know, yesterday I started a series on my dress shopping experience. I wish I had photos to document my journey- but sorry, I was already self conscious enough. I wasn't the bride that had "clips" in the back of the dress. So there was no way I was taking photos of myself in the dresses...but I have posted photos of the dresses I tried on while at HOB.
I made an appointment at House of Brides because it was close and I heard it had a really great selection. They carried Enzoani dresses, which I def. wanted to try on. I had called them a few times and they were over the top nice and said to come in, it didn't matter what size you needed or wanted and that they thought all brides were "beautiful" because they were old ladies. I thought that was funny and quirky so I made an appointment.
The shop is big and clean. It is a blast back to the 70's but you would almost think it was modern since all that retro chic stuff is coming back in- good thing they didn't renovate. Everything that was in style, always comes back. I thought it was funny that it was so blast from the past and my mom mentioned that in 1972 she bought a bridesmaid dress at the shop. She was sure the only thing in the shop that had changed was the carpet.
There are some sale dresses and MOB and Bridesmaid when you walk in, but all the wedding dresses that are full price are held in the back. You tell the sales person what you are looking for and she heads in the back and pulls you the dresses. I didn't mind that kind of experience because I had been through something similar when looking for prom dresses years ago at La Botega.
I went looking for a specific Enzoani dress that I had seen online. When I showed the sales women the dress she said its nothing they would "ever carry". I asked why and she said "too much going on, too big of a belt at the waist, stupid sleeve". It kind of hurt my feelings that she felt that way (I loved the dress in the photo) and I wish she wasn't so honest. Her honesty did not end there.
I showed her photos of what I did not like. I was not looking for something generic. this means different things to different people, but most of all, I didn't want to end up in a dress 1,000 other brides had worn.
The first 3 dresses she pulled were exactly what I wasn't looking for. I said I was going to be honest, so I will be. Maggie Sottero is the largest dress designer in the US. They supply to almost every private bridal salon and her prices range from $600-$2500 for her dresses. I would say that 70% of brides in the US may wear a Maggie or Maggie look alike. They make nice dresses that are quality. The majority of their dresses however, are in a style I was not looking for. I didn't want to totally exclude any designer but I knew if a designer's line had a majority of dresses in a specific style I wasn't interested in, then it was best to just exclude that designer.
Once I made it clear that I wasn't a "Maggie Bride", things went easier. There is nothing against Maggie dresses and some girls beat down the doors of a bridal shop to be a "Maggie Bride" but it just isn't me. We all like different things and that's what makes the world go round, right?
I tried on a few more dresses that were pretty and nice but just ok. Then I tried to explain further what I was looking for. The consultant came back with two more dresses. They were Marisa's. She said she didn't bring them out originally because they were beyond my price point. This is true, they were, but only by a few hundred dollars. I appreciate her not bringing them out at first since they were over the budget. But I wish she mentioned she had a dress exactly what I was looking for that is slightly over budget. I would have asked to have seen it about 10 minutes into my appointment, not an hour.
Overall the sales woman was nice and she was concerned for me. She sat me down at one point when I was almost in tears and told me I wouldn't have to settle for anything and not to feel that way. Then she talked to my mom, and said that sometimes being supportive is the best medicine for someone that feels self conscious. Instead of bringing up my flaws (which is what made me upset in the first place), its best to ignore them. After all she said "we all know our flaws and we don't need to be reminded of them." Which I thought was really applicable to everyone and anyone. We all know our flaws, we do the best to work on them. Be them physical or personality flaws etc, we don't need daily reminders from others!
After I looked at the Marisa dresses I asked for something similar. She said she didn't have anything. But I felt like "what" if there was something in that back room that she had that I didn't see. So she allowed me to go into the back and just as she said there was nothing else there that was similar.
I made an appointment to go back to the store the next week because I did REALLY love the Marisa dress. The Marisa dress is totally beautiful. It is all silk and hand sewn flower detailing. My mom doesn't love the flower details but I think they look pretty and soft and elegant. It just flows really nice. It was sooo soft to the touch and the material was draped beautifully.
However, this dress did not end my search. I was ready to see more dresses, feeling confident I finally found one that was similar to the style I was looking for!
Overall, I give my experience at House of Brides a B+. At times the sales woman was a bit harsh but she was overall pretty nice. I never did try on an Enzoani like I asked to a bunch of times..but, they did have a nice selection and I appreciated them letting me go into the back to peek. I also thought the decor was kind of a fun trip back in time- while still being insanely neat and clean.
My next step, I was onto Helene's Bridal in East Providence.
I realized I posted that I bought my dress and had a guessing game of which dress it was, but didn’t comment on my dress shopping experience. So I thought I’d do a series this week. Much like the girls do on the knot I thought I’d give a grade to each shop (I visited a bunch) and then give a tidbit of info to help those girls just starting their dress journey. On top of this, I have decided to go all in on these posts. If you don’t like honesty I suggest you skim. I am being honest about my experience and myself as a person in order to help those other brides to be out there.
To be honest, I put off dress shopping for a year and then months and months because I was not happy with myself. I haven’t lost the lbs. *lots of lbs* I have gained since meeting fiancé and I felt like crap. The dieting and exercising and weight I thought I would have lost didn’t come off as fast as I’d hope, or at all. I felt better inside but didn’t think I reflected it on the outside. My weight gain also lead to additional scaring and stretch marks that made me feel self conscious. I never talk about my weight gain much but I knew everyone else KNEW that was the reason I was being so apprehensive. I finally came to the realization if I wanted to get a dress I LIKED I’d have to start shopping and be happy with myself. Yes, I might be getting married at the heaviest I have ever been, but that doesn’t mean I can’t look pretty and have my dream dress. I got over the fact that I didn’t think I “deserved” what thin brides got for their day for my own wedding, and realized I needed to give myself some credit. So here is the disclaimer that a lot of my dress shopping was hindered by my size. Awesome. But, I deserved a dress I loved- so off I went shopping.
Anyway, mine was not so much of a dress journey as it was a marathon. Once I got going on it I didn’t WANT to stop until I found a dress. It left me searching website and pulling gowns from magazines non-stop on the days between appointments.
My first appointment was on a whim.
On a Sunday afternoon my mom and I went into David’s Bridal. Partially to look at dresses for her, and then to look at dresses for me. She wanted me to try on various styles to see what I liked so we could narrow it down.
In case you haven’t realized from reading my blog, I am really particular. I have a certain style in mind and a set idea of “what” I want. When I can’t find anything to fit into that mold, I get easily frustrated. This is probably why one day last August a girl I barely knew looked at me and said “it’s ok I understand why you are obsessing, because you are totally type A”. I will never forget that comment or the comment my printer made to me about being the “most particular client that has walked through the door in at least 15 years”- but I guess it helped me get out of my denial stage and come to terms with the fact that it was true, I was one of “those people”. (we don’t like to call ourselves control freaks).
At any rate, I did have preconceived notions before going to David’s Bridal. I knew what it was: A chain store that sold knockoffs of too expensive for me to afford designer dresses for an affordable price. A friend once told me the designers for Forever 21 head out to fashion shows for top designers and immediately run back to their office to sketch the Forever designs based on the shows- and immediately send the sketches off to be made. I figured this must be what David's Bridal designers did. This was the exact reason I wanted to check out the Vera Wang White line. After all, who doesn't want a Vera look at an affordable price? Overall, the store was a bit chaotic, and a bit over crowded.
We didn’t have an appointment so I was assigned a girl that looked about 12. She threw me over a corset and a petticoat and told me to come out when it was on. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to hook all 42 hooks on the corset myself but I tried my best. I got frustrated and was almost in tears when another girl knocked on the door. “How are you doing”…”um can you tell me how I am supposed to do this myself”…”you’re not”, she said. She came in and helped me. She was a life saver!!! She saved me from the edge of tears.
I tried on a few Vera gowns I had been swooning over. They weighed about 30 lbs a piece. And I soon realized what I “thought” I liked wasn’t what I liked. I wanted something a bit couture, and since David’s is a national store- they order their gowns so they appease a multitude of brides. Because of this, I found 3or 4 gowns I “kind of” liked.
The service wasn’t as bad as I expected. There were two appointments at once- but that was ok with me. I had more time to stand and stare at myself in the mirror (not my crowning moment, but hey, every girl wants to feel like a princess) while strangers told me they liked the dress I had on (that I hated).
I did find one dress that I thought could be a big backup if I couldn’t find anything. Also, I do give David’s credit for having dresses ALL women can try on. I mean I am talking size 0-30 in stock to try on.
Overall, I’ll give my appointment at David’s from the point the savior consultant walked in until I walked out a B. Anything before that gets a D+.
My next appointment I made was at the House of Brides in Woonsocket. Come back tomorrow to read more on that visit!
As I mentioned in my previous post there were a lot of engagements over the holidays! It's one of the most popular times of the year to be engaged, after all.
So now, you are newly engaged... and what do you do next. Well from my own engagement, some nice girls on the knot, and a few other resources I have compiled a "WHAT NEXT" plan for you!
1. I think this is my biggest tip: Stop and smell the roses. Take it all in. It is certainly a very overwhelming time. Everyone is likely as happy as you are and wants to be involved and hear all the details. There will be lots of phone calls, lots of posts on facebook, and lots of e-mails. Plus lots of questions being fired in your direction "when is the wedding? Where will it be?" etc.
First have a go to line for all those that are inquiring. A quick "thanks so much! We are so happy- and we are just enjoying the moment and will let you know when we start planning" or even a "this has been so exciting we haven't even begun to plan yet". Should do the trick.
Consider sending out one big e-mail to recount what happened. "Since you all asked, here is the quick version of our engagement story" with a photo of the ring. That should keep people at bay---for a few weeks anyway.
Now, sit back and enjoy being engaged. I heard stories of girls that went dress shopping the day after they got engaged. It's all so fun- that its nice to enjoy Each moment, a bit at a time.
2. School yourself. Likely, you have never planned a large scale event like a wedding before. It is a lot, and there are tons of details. It's best to grab a few wedding magazines first. See the styles you like and think you might be interested in. Scour a few blogs. My favorites are Stylemeprettyand ruffledblog. However, I think smaller (read: written by Bride's themselves) blogs are great too. Try http://futuremrsmathewwolfe.blogspot.com/ and http://www.blushingbrideblog.com/. These will give you a look into the lives or real brides! Once you have an idea of what you and your fiance want in terms of style, think about size, what's MOST important to you (food, decor, music?) and then you can move on to step 3.
3. Set a budget and search for venues. The venue will set the tone of the day. That's why its best to have an idea of what "style" (read: tip #2) you have in mind BEFORE you start to look. If you want a vintage rustic barn wedding-there is no sense wasting time looking at hotel ballrooms. If you want a huge mansion wedding, you won't waste time at small beach side venues. Set a budget BEFORE you look at venues. So you won't be tempted to look outside your comfort zone. There are beautiful venues that fit EVERY budget.
4. Make a list. Sign up for TheKnot or some other countdown by month. Having a planner with step by step monthly "to dos" will work wonders. Please note: your timing will vary by area. For example, we booked our DJ a year or more ago but TheKnot planner is telling me to search for DJs now that I am 7 months out. In our area, that doesn't make sense. Ask around. You will find out what vendors you NEED to book right away and which can wait. I swear by the local knot boards. Even if you lurk and don't post- they are extremely helpful.
Happy New Year! I hope everyone had an amazing New Year's and that you are ready for 2012! I know I am. 2012 is a great year!! I spent the last moments of 2011 with 4 great friends and fiance. We all had one thing in common- we're all getting married in 2012! How fun is that? It also made for a fun photo op!
Here we are:
the three 2012 brides :)
I also want to congratulate 3 sets of couples that were engaged over the holidays.
Congrats to Julia and Rhodes- so happy for you two!
Also Congrats to Katie and Phil- who, after years of dating are taking the plunge
and finally to my Fiance's Friend Mike, who is also a groomsman in our wedding and Margarita! Best wishes