Confession: before LM officially proposed, I started looking at wedding gowns, mostly on Instagram. On some level, every woman dreams about her wedding day, or at least some part of it. My fixation was on my wedding gown and my engagement ring. I'd spend hours looking at wedding dresses online, on Instagram, on Pinterest, and on The Knot. I researched designers, sizing and pricing, along with various wedding shops in the Twin Cities. I knew that I wanted to be prepared when it was time to find my gown.
Through my research I found that I was attracted to the same elements over and over:
* Lace gowns, like these from Maggie Sottero and Allure.
* Gowns with interesting backs, like a keyhole back or detailing
I also trended towards A-line gowns over fit&flare or mermaid styles. I know my body and I'm plus size with an hourglass figure. I knew that some styles would just never work on my body and that's ok. I also wasn't very interested in the traditional huge ball gown or looking like a princess on my wedding day. My biggest goal was to find a gown that I loved, that I felt beautiful in, and that didn't make me look like one giant column. I've seen some plus size brides in gowns that make them look straight up & down, and I do not want to look like that in my wedding gown.
I waited to do wedding gown shopping until my mom could come visit for a long weekend. It was very important to me that I share this experience with my mother. I'm her eldest, and her first daughter to get married, and I know she really wants to be involved and have that mother-daughter experience. Once my mom and I decided on the weekend she would visit, I started making appointments. My goal was to visit as many shops as possible, but not overwhelm ourselves. I heavily relied on reviews and feedback from friends on which shops to visit, and I also tried to find shops that carried the designers I was interested in. And of course, I kept price point in mind as well - I didn't even attempt to visit shops that focused on couture bridal gowns, because I knew it would be out of my budget.
After all the planning, we ended up with 4 appointments - 2 on Friday and 2 on Saturday. We began our appointments Friday afternoon, visiting Bella Bridal Boutique in the East Metro. I was excited to visit this shop because they carried many of the designers I loved, like Maggie Sottero, Allure Bridal, and Casablanca Bridal.
If you've never been to a bridal shop before, here's how it goes: you start with a consultation where your consultant (salesperson) can get information from you, like your wedding date, types of gowns you're looking for, and your budget. Next you'll take a few moments to walk the shop and find gowns you'd like to try on; generally you start with 1-4 gowns. Your consultant will help you get in and out of each gown, clipping you if necessary. Generally shops will only carry gowns in 1-2 sample sizes, so if you're smaller or larger you'll need to have the gown clipped to fit it to your body. As you try on gowns and get a feel for what you like and don't like, your consultant will pull other things for you to try on. Usually you'll try no more than 8 gowns, and then revisit your favorites at the end.
At Bella Bridal I had a very nice consultant who was very helpful and friendly. Going into the appointment, I had styles that I liked but I was willing to try on others, like ball gowns, just to get a feel for how they looked on my body. As I picked out my first four gowns to try on, I was sensitive to both the style of the dress as well as the sample size, so that I could actually get into gowns. There were a few fit&flare gowns that still didn't fit, despite the size on the tag. Bridal gown sizing is similar to European sizing, so you'll often have to go up a few sizes from your normal dress size. I've got a lot of hips, thighs & booty, so the very fitted/tailored styles also didn't work for me when it came to trying on samples. Despite some struggles, I managed to try on a good number of gowns, but didn't fall in love with anything, though I found 2 gowns that I liked a lot.
Our second appointment of the day was at Wedding Connection, also in the East Metro. I wanted to check out this shop because they carry Alfred Angelo and Mori Lee, two designers I was very interested in. This was probably my least favorite appointment out of the four. The consultant wasn't very welcoming or friendly, and basically gave us a "this is what we got, see what you like" type of spiel. I did get an opportunity to try on an Alfred Angelo gown that I'd been lusting over, and I hated it on my body. I found a gown that was totally different from what I wanted - satin, no lace, lots of bling, ball gown - but it was appealing & a sample sale, so I stuck it in the "maybe" pile.
After the Friday appointments I started to get worried that I wouldn't find a gown while my mom was in town, but I remained hopeful. Saturday afternoon was the appointment I was most excited about, with Luxe Bridal in the South Metro. This shop caters exclusively to plus size brides, and I'd heard nothing but great things about their service. I'd been dying to check out this shop since I saw this gorgeous Stella York dress & found out that they carried Stella York. Let me tell you, this appointment did not disappoint at all! My consultant, Nikki, was the best consultant I'd worked with all weekend. We had a thorough consultation, and she really listened to what I was looking for. My mom and I picked out a few gowns to try, and Nikki brought some more choices as well. I didn't have to worry about picking out things in my size - because Luxe caters to plus size brides, their samples start at size 20. Unlike my experiences at Bella and Wedding Connection, I was able to fit into everything I tried on at Luxe, and some gowns were too big! It was a nice feeling, compared to Friday where I couldn't even get into some gowns, or I needed to have them clipped to my bra because they couldn't close.
I tried on a range of styles, but the second gown I tried on was simply stunning. It not only had everything I wanted, but it was gorgeous in a not-flashy way. This gown was ME, and I knew it as soon as I put it on. Not only did I love it, so did my mother, and my two friends who came along to the appointment. When it was time to try on my faves, I knew I just wanted to get back into that gown. I stepped out and onto the podium and my consultant pinned a veil in my hair. I turned to look at myself in the mirror, and I knew I had found The Gown. I felt so beautiful, and like a bride. I blurted out "OMG I'm getting married!" Like I know that I'm getting marred...but it's a different feeling to actually have on the gown and the veil. I didn't expect it at all, but I started crying while looking at myself, and soon everyone else had tears too. I was so excited, I picked a gown! The gown I chose is a Stella York & I absolutely love it.
Once I'd decided on a gown, I got dressed and talked to my consultant about payment. Generally bridal shops require a 50% deposit to order your gown. Originally my mom and I had agreed to split it, so I was explaining to her how much it was, when she surprised me by saying she was buying my gown for me! I was so completely shocked that I just burst into tears and gave her a huge hug. It was so sweet and I'm so grateful that my mom wanted to do that for me. My wedding gown was in our budget, but now I can put that money towards something else.
My last appointment was at David's Bridal - I was resistant about going there but I figured, why not? Since I found my gown at Luxe, we decided to use the David's Bridal appointment to look at bridesmaids and mother of the bride dresses. I'll share more about that in another post.
I'm so very excited that I found my wedding gown! It feels good to cross that off my list. Now if I can tackle the other 8000 items on my wedding to-do list...stay tuned! More Bridal Tales to come!