Wednesday, May 10, 2017

wedding wednesday: saying yes to the dress!

I was debating if I should write this post now, or later but because the dress that I ended up with is actually quite a bit different than the ones I shared here, I wanted to share the post now! I'm so excited about the dress I found, I really wish I could share it with you all right now! But it's my little secret for the next year - I can't wait to show you next June! After the wedding I'll share the other dresses that were top contenders :)

I've always loved weddings. While I didn't even go to a wedding as guest until I was like 22 years old, I've always had really strong feelings about weddings. Obviously Say Yes to the Dress is something I've watched for years and years because there is nothing more fun than judging people trying on wedding dresses.

So as you can imagine, I had pretty clear idea of what I wanted in my own wedding dress when I started really thinking about it. My taste has definitely changed from the time when I first started a wedding pinterest board ( five years before I was ever engaged), so I had a lot of fun looking through hundreds of pictures online for the past few months to come up with what 2017 Fran likes versus what 2012 Fran liked. Since we are having an outdoor wedding and are doing the whole barn wedding thing, I definitely wanted something soft and flowy and appropriate for the venue. I started gravitating towards dresses with lace, sleeves/straps, and chiffon skirts - basically, this was my ideal dress based on pictures I found online. 

We have decided we aren't doing a lot of traditional pre-wedding events for a variety of reasons, but one of the main ones is that both our families and our wedding parties are spread all over the country. I just don't feel like I can ask members of my bridal party and close friends, many who are about to start residency or work really demanding jobs, to travel to Rochester, NY or Ohio for engagement parties, bridal showers, bachelorette parties, and so on. So once I really started coming up with a general timeline of when things needed to be done for the wedding, I asked my mom if she would come to New York with me to go wedding dress shopping. I actually got the idea from Jessica, who went to NYC to go wedding dress shopping when she was planning her wedding. I loved the idea of having a weekend where I spent time with my mom finding my dress, especially because we aren't doing many other wedding related things. 

Before our scheduled weekend in New York, I wanted to get a sense of what wedding dress shopping is like. I ask my friend Amy to come with me to go try on dresses at the Nordstrom in Cleveland. I had found this Monique Lhuillier Bliss dress online that I wanted to try, and I found that the closest Nordstrom to me has a bridal boutique, so I made an appointment. It was very easy to do - you just choose your location, pick a date, and then tell them if there is a specific style you are looking for. I understand why they do that, because the wedding suite itself is not very big, and does not have a ton of dresses, so they have other Nordstrom wedding suites ship specific dresses that clients are looking for. They also have a small selection of other dresses - I think we had maybe around 40 dresses to look through in the show room and back rooms.

The day of the appointment, we met with the consultant, who was such a sweetheart. She had pulled the couple of dresses I had picked out, and then let us look through the racks they had there. We ended up with five dresses to try on, including the dress I had picked out ahead of time. In the dressing room, I undressed down to my nude colored underwear (a tip many of you ladies gave!), and my friend Amy helped me get into the dresses. The first dress I tried on was that Monique Lhuillier dress and it was a really pretty dress, but I knew it wasn't "the one". There were some gorgeous Watters dresses, like I tried on a few more, including this amazing Hailey Paige dress I had tried on for fun. It doesn't go with our venue at all, and isn't really even something I'd really want, but it's was such a fun dress to wear, and maybe if I was having a different type of wedding, would be something I would consider more. I did find one dress that was very similar to what I was looking for, and was my top contender for the day. Overall, going to Nordstrom with one friend was really a good way to jump into wedding dress shopping. Our consultant was so sweet and excited for me, and really helpful in narrowing down what I was looking for. She was not pushy about me making a purchase, wrote down the information on the dresses I did like, and left us with big hugs. All around, it was a really positive experience. 

A few weeks before going to New York, I found this picture on Pinterest and immediately started researching where I could try it on. I found that a boutique called Designer Loft sold them, so I made an appointment with them - again, scheduling is done online, so it was very easy. The day of the appointment, we showed up a little early, and watched the other girls trying on dresses. The space was a bit small, so it all felt a little cramped - there were mirrors in between couches and dresses, so it all seemed a bit chaotic. Once it was my turn, I discussed what I was looking for with the consultant. We started looking through the racks together, and pulling everything that fit the criteria or caught my eye. In the end, I tried on about ten dresses, but unfortunately they didn't have the dress I had specifically made that appointment for.

We were lucky to get the back sitting area to ourselves, so my mom and sister(s - see my youngest sister on facetime above?) had fun looking through the racks for more dresses. I was a bit surprised about what I ended up liking, and how my mom and sister reacted. My family is never one to sugar coat anything, or pretend to be excited about something they aren't, so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when I walked out in dresses that I thought were great, but they weren't stunned by them. I think part of the problem is that I'm not doing a super traditional wedding dress - I wanted something a bit more subdued and not super blingy or big, so some dresses were just really nice white dresses rather than something special enough to be my wedding dress (in their minds).

There were a couple of dresses that we all liked, but there were so many things we would have had to change to make it what I wanted (added layers of fabric on the skirt, closing the slit, raising the neckline, lining the bodice) that it really felt like we were just trying to make it work, rather than feeling confident that that was the dress I wanted. Again, the consultants were very patient and super helpful, and in the end, wrote down our top choices for me to reference in the future.

The next day, we went to our appointment at Kleinfelds. I had so many people ask me if I was going to be on Say Yes to the Dress, but unfortunately, they are currently on a filming break! If I had had the chance though, I would totally have done it - I think it would have been such a funny experience. Anyway, when we got there (again a few minutes early), we sat in the waiting area where we could see some of the other women trying on dresses - it was basically a real life SYTTD! We didn't have to wait long until my bridal consultant found me. She asked if we preferred to have my family out in the big open areas (you know, the ones on the show where they all sit on the couch and the bride comes out in front of the big mirror) or if we wanted to be a bit more private. I really didn't want to be on display for every dress, and so also to maximize our time (not wasting time walking back and forth between the mirrors and the dressing rooms), we opted for a more private back location. My consultant and I went into the dressing room, and discussed the wedding dress shopping we had done up to that point, and what I was looking for. While I changed into the signature pink robe, she went to the back and started bringing back dresses.

Here, instead of stepping into dresses by myself, my consultant stayed in the room with me. It definitely made the process quicker, but you know, standing in your underwear in front of a stranger was a new experience for me too ;)  She initially pulled around seven dresses - I would put it on, she would zip/button me into it, and then we would open the door for my mom and sister to see. There were some where I knew right away that it wasn't the one, and there were some I liked that we used a reference for finding dresses closer to that style.

buying a dress at Kleinfelds

After the first seven, my consultant went back for a new batch. It included the dress I had tried on at Nordstrom, which up to that point had been my favorite dress. It was basically exactly what I had been looking for in a dress, and I thought it was just a really pretty dress. My mom and sister liked it, but they weren't like "omg, this is the one!". Not that I was super discouraged, because if I had absolutely loved it, I would have purchased it no matter what, but it also wasn't the reaction I thought I'd get for the dress I really liked! I tried a few more on, but nothing that really spoke to me. I saw one dress on my rack where I was like "mmm...this isn't exactly what I'm looking for" but I tried it on, opened the door, and both my mom and sister were like "THIS IS THE ONE". I wish I could tell you guys more, but it's really a bit different than what I thought I wanted, but that's what's fun about this whole process! Until you try on dresses and see how they fit on your body and how you see yourself in them, it's hard to know! I would never have picked this dress out from online, but when I saw it on me, I feel like it was made for me.
My consultant offered for us to go out the main area so we can look at the dress in some of the bigger mirrors. She had an accessories consultant come over, and we discussed veil versus other accessories. We tried on a few veils (even though I already had a feeling about what accessories I wanted for my hair) and other hair pieces. Then we had a little TV moment when she asked if I was saying yes to the dress! I, of course, said yes, everyone claps and hugs and it's was all really cute. My mom got a bit teary and my sister was busy taking pictures. We returned back to the dressing room, one of the directors came in, and took my measurements....while I stood in front of the mirror in just my underwear...probably the most awkward moment of the day! The way it works is that they measure you, and order the dress in your size, and about ten weeks before the wedding, you either go in for alterations or they shipped the dress to you. I'm opting to have the dress shipped to Ohio and have it altered at a tailor near me - no sense in flying all the way out to New York just for alterations! Then we went to talk to the financial department to pay the required 60% down on the dress...and then we were done!

real experience at kleinfelds

I wanted to share my experiences, especially at Kleinfelds, because prior to going myself, I had read several blog posts documenting what poor experiences they had there. As in most things, it really depends on who you work with. My consultant was sweet, engaged, and listened to my requests while also giving me options of things I may have not chosen myself. She was not pushy, she didn't judge what I liked and didn't like, and was just a really great consultant to work with. Of course, the place is somewhat of a madhouse because of the show, and because so many different types people travel there to try on dresses. There were women with just one other person there, and there were groups of like 10, all wearing "bridesmaid" or "mother of the bride" shirts. It really was just like watching Say Yes to the Dress, but in real life.

I've been asked about a few tips for dress shopping. I am most definitely not a professional wedding dress shopper - I tried on maybe 25 total. But here are some of the tips you guys have shared with me, and ones I learned along the way:

  • Keep yourself open to different styles, fabrics, and details. If you don't have any idea of what style of dress you want, try them all! Once you can tell if you feel more comfortable in a ball gown, mermaid style, A-line, or whatever, it's a lot easier to narrow down the dresses. I tried on a few dresses that were tighter in the body, but I knew that I would never feel comfortable wearing something so revealing. Once you have an idea of what style you like, it's a lot easier to narrow down dresses. 
  • Wear nude colored panties and bra. I wore a normal bra as I was trying on dresses with straps and sleeves, but if you think you may go for a strapless version, I'd suggest wearing a strapless bra.
  • Try to not feel self conscious in your dressing room. You'll either be with a friend/family member, or the consultant. These consultants see hundreds of girls in their undies, and make a very concentrated effort to not look directly at you when you're dressing and undressing. They are very professional! Even the girl that came to measure me while I was undressed was very kind and non-judgmental. 
  • Don't get discouraged by the sizing. Some dresses fit me perfectly and some I could barely get over one leg. In all the places I tried on dresses, there was such a variety of sizes. Remember that if it doesn't fit, it's the dress, it's not you. If you know there's a dress you really want to try, see if you can ask them if they can get it in a size closer to your own. That way you don't have to try to imagine what your dream dress looks like on you.
  • Be firm with your budget. There's no sense in falling in love with a dress that already costs $700 more than you want to spend, much less another few hundred in alterations (depending on what the dress needs). My dress ended up being almost 1/3 less than I had budgeted, which I am so happy about! 

I hope you guys enjoyed this post! I'm glad I wrote it while it was still fresh in my mind, and to share it with you ladies since it's like you were there with me! A huge thanks to my mom and sisters for being such a supportive group during this process - I'm so glad I got to share it with them!

Next up: figuring out the boy's outfits, and my bridesmaids! I have no idea where to even start with the girls' dresses, since we all live in different states and can't go find dresses together!