In addition to being one of the happiest days of your life, your wedding day and the months leading up to it can also be the most stressful. From selecting flowers, deciding on appetizers, entrees and wedding cake flavors will most please guests' palates, to arranging the reception seating so feuding family members won't collide, wedding plans can be an enormous strain on your sanity.
While reception-related factors tend to be fairly evenly distributed on the shoulders of both bride and groom, there is one major wedding element the bride must face on her own – the wedding dress. For many brides, the blissful days of playing wedding with sheets of Charmin and making wedding scrapbooks with friends fly out the window the second she sets foot in a hectic, bustling bridal salon that runs more like an auction house than a business intended to select the arguably most important thing she will ever wear.
Luckily, there is a wide array of bridal boutiques right here in San Diego that's sure to eliminate stress from the entire process of dress shopping, from choosing the dress itself, supporting the bride, perfecting alterations and making each client feel exactly as she should on her wedding day – perfect.
Choose Your Boutique
A large part of the confusion and stress surrounding wedding dress shopping revolves around the question of where to even begin the search. The pressure, whether personally inflicted or otherwise, of finding The Dress is very powerful for brides, and looking at list after list of boutiques with little information besides a name and address can be daunting.
In order to begin shopping on the right foot, brides are well advised to really think about what they would like to get out of the shopping experience and the boutiques they visit. Is price selection important? A personal experience? A salon with thousands of dresses or just a handful to narrow down the quest? Once requirements are identified, searching the Internet and bridal magazines for in-depth reviews is a quick, easy and informative way to find what you are looking for.
For Courtney Cole, owner of The White Flower Bridal Boutique, a key ingredient to a stress-free shopping experience is personalizing the bride's visit. Cole hosts only one bride at a time at her boutique to eliminate outside stressors, crowding and the potential for Bride vs. Bride dress battles to ensue. The White Flower also makes brides feel at home by offering a Skype service for clients who want to include loved ones who cannot be present for the appointment.
"Creating a community, a little ‘bridal network' between the business, brides and their supporters is an excellent resource for customers should they begin to feel stress," says Cole. She emphasizes being open with her clients and insists she is willing to answer any questions they may have, even in the middle of the night.
"This is what I do all day long," says Cole, explaining her willingness to respond to queries from clients. "This isn't what brides do on a normal basis." Cole says her emphasis on personal touches and attention makes for a much more comfortable, easy-going shopping experience and sets her business a cut above big box boutiques. "Focusing on their actual experience is the priority for me. It's not about pushing dresses," she says. Making shopping an intimate event is a huge stress release for a great deal of brides fearing dress shopping, consultants and other-customer overload.
Owner of La Jolla's M Bride, Michele Martin, believes that allowing the bride to feel unique and in control of her gown is a surefire way to cut down dress stress. Martin has close ties with many of the designers of the gowns she sells and says she can customize any dress to fit her clients' desires.
"The bride is very savvy today," says Martin, and explains she never underestimates what her clients can dream up. Even if clients do not want to customize their dress, M Bride sells gowns by designers like Ines di Santo, Monique Lhuillier and Lela Rose, all of whom have a haute couture, high-fashion focus in their product.
Martin also says following up with her clients is essential to her business practice, which allows fittings to be arranged, questions to be asked and even last-minute additions to be made. Finding the perfect dress is a weight lifted in and of itself, but making it entirely your own is comforting to many brides because they know they will be completely original on their wedding day. Once selecting the perfect bridal boutique to fit the bride's needs has been accomplished, the next step to conquer is a biggie – the budget.
The Dreaded Dress Budget
Especially in today's tough economic circumstances, outlining a realistic budget for the dress is another huge stressor on shopping. However, it is something that should be done early in the game to allow for a smooth dress-seeking process. Shopping within your means from the start is key because it helps prevent disappointment down the line.
Even if that $12,000 gown is seemingly to die for, if you can only afford $1,200, don't torture yourself. There are plenty of gowns out there to meet the guidelines of any monetary situation. It is also important to remember to leave wiggle room for extras like the veil, shoes and accessories like jewelry and hairpieces.
For brides with a more conservative budget, experts Cole and Martin offer a multitude of solutions in their salons. Cole recommends choosing designs from Martina Liana, a designer with price points beginning at around $1,500 but who is willing to completely customize anything. Martin states Modern Trousseau gowns are a great buy for design, quality and price. Designs begin at around $2,000 and are all made-to-order in silk with the bride's exact measurements.
Brides with a freer budgetary rein are privy to high-end designs from labels like Ines di Santo. M Bride is home to many di Santo gowns. Cole suggests Sassi Holford gowns, as they are relatively exclusive designs and well worth the higher price point for their top-notch fabrics and cut. According to Cole, Holford, a British designer, only markets her gowns Stateside at The White Flower and Kleinfeld's, the New York bridal salon well-known for hosting TLC's Say Yes To The Dress, so brides who select her designs are able to get rare gowns sure to make an impact. "You're never going to look back and say, ‘what was I thinking?' when going with a Holford piece" says Cole.
Cole also likes designs by Adele Wechsler, an eco-friendly designer whose gowns are exclusive to San Diego. Wechsler creations are made entirely of certified organic hemp, silk or bamboo, colored with vegetable dye when needed. And for every gown bought, the designer plants a tree. For the environmentalist bride with a flexible bank account, a Wechsler dress is the perfect match.
After a budget that doesn't max out any credit cards is in order, the best part of dress shopping – actually picking the dress – is ready and waiting to be accomplished under stress-free circumstances.
Finding "The One" (and we don't mean the groom)
When shopping for gowns, considering how well it suits the bride's personality is a priority. Making a statement is important for modern brides, and plenty of bridal trends for the upcoming wedding seasons make doing so an easy task. Feathers, textured fabric, and other whimsical details are popular and fun ways to pack a fashion-forward punch in your gown. Martin says black accents, like sashes and lacing, have "resurfaced from the early ‘90s," and are a top pick for many of her brides craving a funky, rock 'n' roll vibe.
That, along with other trendy colors like sage green and purple, are an interesting addition to gowns, she says. Martin also emphasizes the importance of accessories, as they "can make or break the look of a gown." Incorporating the aforementioned feathers into jewelry or a plumed hair clip is a fantastic option to add drama to any bridal look. At the end of the day, though, anything goes. Brides should keep in mind the wedding day is her day and to listen to her gut and follow her own fashion sense while shopping.
As a final but major way to eliminate the desire to pull out hair or cry throughout the dress buying process, both Cole and Martin strongly caution against bringing too many people with you, including all your friends, your mom, your dad, your sisters, your future sister-in-law, your cousins and your future mother-in-law. Not only can it be confusing to hear so many opinions at once, brides can often be talked out of what they really want because they want their loved ones to be happy when there is a large group involved.
"It will make you miserable," advises Martin, and encourages brides to bring as few extra critics as possible. Both experts agree the best, as well as most common choice, for brides to bring is their mother, or one or two trusted friends at the most.
Discover a few of these San Diego bridal boutiques to find the perfect dress for your Big Day.
Located in Kearny Mesa, 2000 Dreams is an all-inclusive bridal boutique, featuring bridal gowns, tuxedos, bridesmaids' gowns, flower girl and mother of the bride dresses, an accessories shop, and in house alterations. Designers include Allure Couture, Maggie Sottero and Paloma Blanca, and trunk shows are frequent. For more information, visit 2000dreams.com.
Chez Bride Moderne
La Jolla's Chez Bride Moderne is a privately owned salon built on the premise of creating a luxe, personal experience for brides. The boutique offers gowns by sought-after designers such as Amsale, Kenneth Pool and Carolina Herrera, and accessories from shoes to veils and jewels. Chez Bride Moderne also sells a selection of short, white, party-esque dresses to allow fashionista brides to make a fun transition from ceremony to reception. Appointments are required before dress shopping for the upmost customer service. For more information, visit Chezbridemoderne.com.
D'Angelo Couture Bridal
D'Angelo Couture offers a wide range of designer gowns and also features custom creations for brides' gowns, veils and jewelry. The salon offers alterations on-site and also stocks dresses to please the remainder of your female wedding party. Appointments are required for custom work and recommended for general shopping for an intimate experience. For more information, visit Dangelocouture.com.
Here Comes the Bride
20-year veteran Here Comes the Bride is a full-service bridal salon that prides itself on a wide array of dresses at price points to suit any budget. Here Comes the Bride houses an alterations staff that includes professional beaders and sewers to add custom embellishments to gowns and accessories. The salon is the only West Coast location that carries Henry and Michelle Roth designs, and offers multiple trunk shows each months, as well as sample sales each fashion season. For more information, visit Hctb.net.
Something Blue Bridal Boutique
Something Blue Bridal Boutique is a unique bridal salon because it offers a full stock of brand new designer gowns as well as consignment gowns for brides on a budget. Consignment dresses are kept in current styles and are not accepted if made before 2005, and are strictly monitored to ensure like-new quality. Convenientsly located in Old Town, the boutique welcomes walk-ins but suggests making an appointment if you would like a personal consultant to work with. For more information, visit Somethingbluebridalboutiquesd.com.
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