Pay-it-forward - Wedding Edition

Every wedding is special, but anyone in this industry will tell you that having the opportunity to work with, and for, a long time friend is so special.

And a bit unnerving. You want to give them the entire professional experience you’re capable of and then some - but when they’ve been with you through your awkward times, supported you during bad hair years, and seen (many) more than one ugly cry, its challenging to walk that line.

One of my best friends “L” got married last February in Mexico. Stop by sometime if you want the full story on how amazing her gown was (one of my all-time favorites), how gorgeous the venue was (Tropical flowers, crashing waves, sun, and sand. Enough said), or how breathe taking her photos are (…under water?!? AMAZING!).

The real story you need to know is a result of the happy couple's trash the dress session and those amazing under water photos.  This moving pay-it-forward story is best told in the bride's own words: 

“The trash the dress felt like a really great idea to book after we saw our photographer’s collection of gorgeous photos. The day after the wedding I really didn't know what I signed up for and was having massive second thoughts. I felt pretty ridiculous in a wedding dress jumping into a cave filled with water, with tons of tourists staring at us. But it turned out to be an amazing day. We went to locations I would have never seen without shooting with a local photographer and it was amazing bonding time with my new husband. It was our first adventure as a married couple. 

After 8 hours in my soaking wet dress, I was so relieved to get it off. We stuffed my beautiful dress into a bag and headed for the hotel. It was when we got back I realized what I had done - even though I had never really planned to keep the dress. I hung it up in the bathroom and it was covered with sand and weighed 60 pounds. I had no idea what I was going to do with it. 

When it was time to check out, the dress was still soaking wet to the touch (thanks humid Mexico) and I was just so exhausted from the week I wasn't sure what to do. It was an extremely beautiful dress that was now unfortunately saturated in water and sand - too heavy to take back to Canada. We went to the front desk and I started to explain that there was a wedding dress hanging in the tub if anyone... knows what to do with it...? I will never forget the receptionists face. She thought I was a lunatic, and her jaw dropped. She asked me to repeat myself, which I did – then I saw the light bulb go off in her head and she told me she thought she could help. Sure enough, 15 minutes later an older man from the maintenance staff approached me. With very broken English, he asked if I would gift him the dress, as his daughter was to be wed later in the year.

My problem was solved - if I wasn't going to use the dress, it should go to someone who could.

Later, we saw him carrying the dress away with a huge smile. The dress that meant the world to me and was a major part of my day was going to be the same for someone else. “

Secret Destination

It’s an old joke that people tell bartenders and hairdressers their secrets – bridal stylists need to be added to this list. By the time the Bride walks down the aisle, it’s common for us to help her keep all kinds of secrets. These can include everything from a slight (or major) budget change (increase), which bridesmaid is or might be expecting but can’t tell anyone yet, or that the bride didn’t include her mom until appointment #2 because she wanted to shop without opinions.

We had the extreme pleasure of keeping two different secrets for one very special couple this spring – one big, and one small. 

Melissa first came to the studio in January looking for her wedding gown. With a tropical beach destination in mind for the following year, she was laser focused and knew exactly what she wanted for her walk down the aisle to her fiancé, Wes. Within two hours she was using the word “love” about one of our in-studio dresses.

By early May, Melissa had called the studio with her big secret. A very private couple, she and Wes were certain they didn’t want to wait until January to be married. Instead, they were going to elope to New York City in July. They decided not to tell anyone at all – not even their family. It would be just the two of them, a marriage commissioner, and a horse-drawn carriage ride through central park. 

With some after-hour fittings and a few evasive answers to acquaintances, her incredibly romantic secret was safe with us.

Anyone that is a faithful Muse social media follower will remember the snippet we posted about Wes and the small secret. We met him about a week before their flight south when he popped into the studio prior to Melissa’s final dress fitting and purchased a bracelet she’d mentioned to him in passing. He knew the stress of keeping this secret was starting to get to her, and he asked us to surprise her with the gift and a note from him. When we gave Melissa the box she was surprised. When she read the note, she cried. And then we all cried.

Many thanks to the happy couple for including us in their beautiful secrets, and for ultimately letting us share their story.  

 

Neither Melissa nor Wes ever told us what the note said. And even if they did, we’d never tell…

The Perfect Fit

This time of year, wedding industry professionals are almost run off their feet seeing to all of the details of many special days, for many special brides. Alteration professionals and seamstresses are amongst the busiest, as they use their talents to ensure every bride goes down the aisle looking her best.

When working with a seamstress or tailor be sure to BOOK EARLY

 

Talented and qualified professionals are always busy and can book up months in advance during busy season in June, July, and August. Not only are they working on wedding gowns, but everything that goes with weddings: gowns for mothers of the bride and groom, bridesmaids, flower girls, officiates, and guests too. If your wedding is at the beginning of the busy season, chances are your seamstress or tailor is also busy with prom and grad season, so take that into account.

We are often asked what to expect from alterations, what to bring, etc. One of the seamstresses we work with offers these tips:

  • Expect to have two or three fittings. Its best to start alterations at least a month in advance of your big day to ensure a relaxed timeline. 
  • During a first fitting, it’s ideal to bring any undergarments you plan to wear on your day: bra, shape wear, etc. Although not crucial, it can affect the alterations that need to be completed. 
  • To limit the number of fittings you need, its best to bring your shoes to your first fitting. If you don’t have your shoes yet, work on that for your second fitting.
  • Don’t expect the dress to fit perfectly – no two bodies are the same and alterations to the bust and length are extremely common. 
  • First alteration appointments can vary from just a few minutes for minor alterations, to longer depending on the hem, layers, etc.

Although wedding gown alterations are late in the planning process, it’s important to be respectful of your seamstress/tailor’s schedule and recognize alterations shouldn’t be done last minute. 

A Bride to remember

Looong time since my last blog post.  Glad to be back.

On our studio Facebook page we keep an ongoing album of photos that our past brides have sent us.  The most recent photos we have are from a bride that I will never ever forget.

We first met K in January of this year.  She happened to be in the studio during a Trunk Show, which I believe was meant to be.  These wedding dresses were only in the studio for a few days, but she found her gown.  However, she had recently moved up the date of her wedding and it was going to be tight timing to get the dress in time for her new date.  K decided she loved the gown and could deal with the tight timing.    

As we got closer to her wedding and timelines shortened, the planning process got stressful - but she never lost her cool.  

Her bottom line?

All that matters is marrying him.

She was truly a calm, cool, and collected inspiration. Her ability to stay focused on the big picture is something I wish for all of our brides. 

  

On her way to the ceremony K stopped by the studio, and I finished lacing up her wedding dress. She took a cleansing breath, and one last look in the mirror before she hugged me, thanked me for everything and ran out the door.  

2nd Time's a Charm

I had different plans for this Musing, but I encountered a couple this week that gave me different inspiration.

I had the pleasure of meeting both the bride and groom after the bride arrived in the studio and found a gown she absolutely loved. Their upcoming wedding will be the “second go-around” for both of them, and they are both beyond thrilled to be engaged three months after having found one another. On a blind date.

They both shared similar thoughts with me – life is short, you never know what is around the next bend, why wait?

The excitement and dedication this couple clearly has for one another lead me to think about other brides I’ve seen that are giving marriage another try. Many of these women arrive unsure as to what they want, and unsure what is appropriate for a later-in-life wedding:


“I want to wear a coloured dress – is that allowed?” 
“Can I wear a full wedding gown? Or should it be something simpler?”
“I hated my first dress – my mother made me do it – this time I want something I LOVE.”
“Can I wear white? Or should I be wearing ivory or oyster?”
 

I tell every bride the same thing - it's about what makes YOU happy. If you want to wear an all-white ball gown with a 12 foot cathedral veil, go for it. If you want to wear a red cocktail dress and four inch stiletto heels, all the power to you!  Most of these brides opt for something in between, but from my perspective there are no rules. 

The key is to wear what makes you
engaged-after-three-months-from-a-blind-date happy. 

Our Favorite Things

During an appointment, it’s important that a bride try on the wedding gowns she is interested in – whatever style, fabric, or design that may be. 

As consultants, we never ever have our own agenda, and we do our best to make sure the bride’s priorities are put above anyone she may be shopping with. 

However, bride’s will often ask our opinion or for a suggestion of a gown that may interest them.  After chatting this over with the Muse staff, turns out we all have one dress we love above all others; one dress we think looks great on everyone, and every bride should try on.  What’s also interesting is that we are all over the place – older and newer designs, different designers, etc.

Given the time of year, I think it’s a great time to get to know the staff while we recap our “favorite things”. 

Patty – Bridal Stylist Extraordinaire 
Patty came to the studio with retail experience, but has truly found her niche in assisting brides as they shop for their big day.  There is no bridal challenge she cannot conquer.  Her favorite in-studio wedding gown is a gorgeous Sophia Tolli a-line organza gown.  “It’s just so romantic and sparkly.  There isn’t another dress like it any bridal collection, and it fits everyone so well.”

Janice – Seamstress & Garment Aficionado 
Janice has been with Muse Bridal Studio since… well, since before it was Muse Bridal Studio.  Her experience in alterations and the construction/deconstruction of wedding gowns make her knowledge invaluable.  Janice’s current favorite wedding gown is a vintage inspired Alfred Angelo lace and satin, fit and flare with a low back.  “I just love the way it drapes, and the simple elegance of the dress.” She may also have mentioned she might like to see one of her two daughters try it on.  Just in case.  

Sally – Creative Visionary 
Sally has worked in bridal just a little over a year now, but came to the industry with a background in fashion merchandising and window displays.  She is generally responsible for the fun and eye catching displays that are updated once a week in our windows.  A blessing to the rest of us, she is able to set a scene with mannequins and props.  Sally’s creative eye favours Snow White from the Disney Princess collection, with three dimensional flower details on the bodice.  “It has a soft gentle elegance, and just a touch of enchantment.”

Becky – the Natural Newbie
The most recent addition to our team, Becky works with us on a casual basis but definitely has bridal in her blood.  Being the stylish person she is, she has a keen eye for finding the right wedding gown to fit and flatter any bride.  Becky chose a Sophia Tolli mermaid style with lace applique and beading and a gorgeous low back as her favorite.  “Its very antique and vintage looking, but the silhouette makes it chic.”

Kirsten – Special Projects and Bridal Uber Model
Kirsten’s unique knowledge of wedding gowns comes from the fact that she’s worn way more of them than any of the rest of us as a model in the studio fashion show.  Besides being the perfect proportions to wear bridal off the rack, Kirsten is also a key member of the studio purchasing team, and the wedding/trade show development team.  Her favourite gown is a true classic by DaVinci, while being right on trend with its big ball gown skirt and satin bodice and with waist embellishments.  “I picture this dress on a beautiful summer day – you don’t need shoes, because you’re in the grass, looking up at the clouds roll through clear blue sky.”


Britt – Chief Executive Coordinator
People sometimes refer to me as the manager, but that’s really not what I do.  None of the team at Muse Bridal Studio needs to be managed.  I do, however, coordinate; making sure we all have what we need when we need it to do the best job we can do for every bride that walks through the door.  Much like Patty’s pick, my favorite is super unique; it would be so difficult to find anything to directly compare it to.  A super sculptured and sophisticated gown, this St. Patrick by Pronovias dress is feminine, but very urban. 

Order timelines

Brides-to-be ask us all the time:

"When do I need to order?"

The simple answer: six months for a wedding gown, at least three months for bridesmaids, and around six weeks for flower girls & mothers.

The complicated answer: it depends.  For brides on shorter timelines, wedding gowns, mothers wear, flower girls, and individual bridesmaid dresses can all be purchased off the rack to take delivery times right out of the equation. 

If you'd still like to order but are worried about the timing, don't fret.  Almost everything can be ordered with a rush to shorten delivery times. 

Veiled Power

True story:

Once upon a time, a bride-to-be (B2b) made an appointment to try on wedding gowns.  To share this exciting occasion, the B2b invited her sister, mother and father, as well as her future mother in law.  After an hour of trying on, modeling, discussing, and trying on again, the B2b excitedly decided on the dress she would wear down the aisle. 

“Yep, this is the one.   I LOVE this dress.”
“That’s great! Have you thought about what you want to do with your hair?”
“Well, I think I want a veil.”
“That will look amazing – to get started, why don’t you try this one on?”

With the veil in place, picture a waterfall effect – first the bride cries, then her dad cries.  Next her mom, followed by her sister, as well as both Muse staff, all proceed to cry.  The seven of us pass tissue around the room. Thus is the power of the veil. 

This instance isn’t the first time we’ve seen veils tip the emotional scales. 

What is it about the addition of a veil that makes happy women weep and grown men cry?

For the B2b, I think it’s about the “I’m-actually-really-for-sure-getting-married. Wow” factor.  Seeing yourself in the wedding gown you're going to wear with the finishing touch of a veil can be a very powerful moment.  For parents of the B2b, it’s basically the same – “My little girl is all grown up.”  Either way, veils seem to emphasize the reality and drama of the moment.

And although veils are often thought of as very traditional, they are also very current in bridal fashion.  From short and fluttery to long and dramatic, many designers recognize the power of the veil and are designing specific veils for specific gowns.    

We'll make sure we keep tissue handy.

Bride Brain

Its happening.  I’m one week from my wedding – 7 days, 2 hours, 52 mins.  And bride-brain has officially set in.  


To my shame, I’m most certainly driving everyone around me insane, with my inability to talk or think about anything but our impending nuptials.  Even in my sleep, my brain is on a continuous loop of schedules and to-do lists. I called my fiancé at work yesterday with a seating chart crisis.  Or what I deemed to be a crisis.  It wasn't a crisis.  Ugh.  


The affliction that is bride-brain totally snuck up on me.  I always thought it wouldn't happen to me.  I was going to plan better, work harder, do better.  And I’ve had plenty of time to plan, sufficient help in that planning, and amazing wedding vendors.  But the sheer volume of logistical details combined with the number of people, time, and money it takes to bring a wedding together starts to be a bit of a pressure cooker when it gets down to the final hours- making otherwise rational people think and act irrationally. 


Its not all bad though.  I’m excited.  REALLY excited.  Hard-to-keep-it-all-in excited.  And I haven't been doing a good job of keeping it in.  Especially given my daily surroundings, I tell everyone I meet that

I'm getting married NEXT SATURDAY!!!!


As the next week progresses, hopefully my awareness of this infliction equals increased (or maintained) rationality.  And that rationality will help me stay out of bridezilla territory for another 7 days, 2 hours, 50 mins. Hopefully. 

The Groom(zilla) rises

Groom-zilla.

Unrealistic -perfection-demanding, feelings-stomping, your-bridesmaid-dress-needs-to-be-an-exact-length, stress-out-the-bride, grooms.  Turns out men can be just as particular about their big day as women.  But to be fair, the zilla population I've encountered is only one small (concerning) fraction of the trend.

In general, grooms are becoming more and more involved in the planning process.  

Don’t misunderstand me - I am absolutely not passing judgement on any groom that wants to be an active participant in the wedding planning process. I actually love the idea.  However, these grooms need to be held to the same standard as any bride, and just like brides, they deserve to have zilla tacked on to their title if they choose to behave badly. 

Although some people find it taboo, it’s now far more common for fiancés to join in the Bride’s wedding dress shopping adventure - or attend other planning appointments toting a wedding binder full of their plans and ideas.  

Like I said, I think its great.  As somone who is currently planning a wedding (6 weeks to go!!), I know how consuming planning a wedding can be. Unless bringing it all together is your full time job, you're going to need help at some point. Family and friends are always willing to help out, but why shouldn't the extra set of hands belong to the groom? Its his day too. 

The craziest part is that no one I've talked to could put their finger on what is driving this trend of increased groom involvement. Perhaps the amount of TV coverage weddings and wedding reality shows receive? Maybe the influence of their mothers? Or we could be witnessing a new angle in the evolution of gender roles, as brides try to balance careers and families with planning and a wedding. Who knows?

Weddings can be stressful, but bride or groom, it’s not ok to lash out or make unreasonable demands on your wife/husband-to-be, family, in-laws, wedding party, guests, or vendors. Have you been in, or attended, a wedding where the groom was very involved in planning? Or simply took over all together? Where is this coming from?  Tell us about it on our Facebook page.

Bridal Veil length 101

A bride-to-be that stopped by the studio this morning inspired this quick lesson in bridal veil length.  Although the specific length can vary, use this as a guideline while you decide on your veil preference.

"Do brides still wear veils?"

Absolutely.  All the time.  More often than not.  
Veils are generally worn in conjunction with ornate hair combs or blinged up bridal headbands - that way you can take the veil off at some point without losing your entire hair decor.

The B word

“Ok great – you have 8 months until your outdoor wedding.  You’re looking for something ivory, with straps, preferably in a chiffon or organza.  I’m positive we can help you.

Do you have a budget?”

****Awkward pause****

“Why do you need to know that? I just want to try stuff on.”

I know how it sounds.  If I were to go anywhere and a salesperson asked me about budget , I might assume something was amiss.  Is the price of everything in the store going to go up as soon as I tell them my budget? Are they only going to show me merchandise that is at the top of my price range? Do they think I can’t afford to shop here?


When you’re shopping for a wedding gown, stylists will ask you questions to get a feel for your wedding, your venue, your style, and the type of gown you’re looking for – and the budget you have set for yourself is a big part of pointing you in the right direction.  Stylists can help find the very best gown for you, at a price you can afford. Rule of thumb states you shouldn't even try on a dress if you aren't comfortable with the price of it. 

Nothing spoils the fun of shopping more than falling in love with a dress that busts the budget.  

I have yet to be shocked by a Bride’s budget – high or low.  Wedding gowns come in all shapes, sizes, and prices.  There is, quite literally, something for everyone.

So, when a bridal stylist asks “Do you have a budget?”, please know we have no ulterior motive - we're just trying to make your walk down the aisle as budget friendly as you need it to be. 

Sizing gone wrong

"So, normally I wear a size 12."

"Ok, so depending on the gown you could where between 12 to 16."

"WHAT!?! I'm a 12 - sometimes a 10 - NOT a 16!"

 

On average, we have this conversation twice a day with women of all shapes and sizes. Brides, bridesmaid, grad, mother of the bride - if you're wearing formal wear, expect to go up at least one size, maybe two. I've read and heard varying reasons for this- bridal sizing hasn't evolved with women's changing shapes, sizing hasn't changed in 80 years ago, etc, etc. Whatever the reason, just be aware that formal wear and ready to wear are going to fit you differently.  If you can do this, instead of your self-esteem taking a dive, it will soar when you see how amazing you look in a well-made garment. 

Keep in mind:
  Corset (lace up) backs are always more forgiving then zipper backs
  Size will change from designer to designer
  Each garment is different - is it fitted through the hip, or more A-line?

 

Although I've never seen it (and I can't bring myself to do it - yet) I've heard tell of some studios and salons that actually cut out the sizes, so that ladies have no idea what size they are wearing. The focus can then shift to how a woman feels in the gown, rather than how the tag makes her feel.

Maybe there's something to that.

Buying from the Bricks

In academia, retailers with a physical stores are referred to as a “Bricks & Mortar” location – for this Musing I’ll call them “Bricks”. I don’t think I’m generalizing when I say that the “Bricks” of the world are faced with a very similar situation when it comes to the consuming public: online shopping can potentially offer a wider selection, and can sometimes be a cheaper alternative.

The bridal and formal wear industry is no exception. 

But rather than focus on the occasionally bad (disappointing, evil, scary) stories of shopping for formal wear online, I’d like to focus on the consistently good (friendly, fun, simple) side of shopping with the Bricks – or more specifically Muse Bridal Studio.

 

100% Authentic, 100% of the time
When you buy a gown or formal wear from a reputable studio or salon, you know you’re getting the brand you’ve paid for, high quality fabrics in the exact colour you want, and an overall well-made garments. 

Service with a smile
Shopping with a Brick means you’re dealing with people – actual humans you’ve met, talked to, and can ask for help if something isn’t quite the way you wanted it.  And if it’s not the way you wanted, they’ll make it right.

See & Feel
The majority of brides want to look, touch, and feel a gown before making one of the most important purchases of their life.  Why not do that in a clean, peaceful, and comfortable environment?

Garment prep
Have you ever seen how formal wear is shipped? They take a gown that spans the width of a large kitchen table, and pack it in to a box that looks as though it was designed for a few packages of computer paper.  Although we all appreciate the efficiency this creates for shipping costs, it can be problematic for anyone that doesn’t have the equipment and space to give formal wear its “ready to wear” look. When gowns arrive they need to have crinolines straightened and ironed, layers steamed, and be hung to dry.  Depending on the gown, it might need more than one round of steaming and straightening.

Calculated savings
When comparing costs between Bricks and online, be sure to consider all costs: freight and shipping, duty, and taxes.  And if you aren’t equipped to get your gown to “ready to wear” status (see above), any studio or salon will charge you for steaming.

Fit to flatter
Not just anyone can properly and artfully alter wedding and formal wear.  You need to know that your investment is in good hands, and that you’re going to look just the way you want on your big day.  At Muse, we refer you to experienced seamstresses so that you can have everything altered on your schedule. 

 

 

Buying online is a personal choice - one many of us (me included) make for various reasons.  The key is to make sure you understand all the options and costs - and have realistic expecations - before you make your choice.

Who are you anyway?

My name is Britt.  At 28 I decided to quit my full time salaried position in marketing because I needed a new professional challenge.   I found the professional challenge I was looking for, and a whole lot more.

Since graduating from University I’d had jobs in marketing, event planning, product development, and communications. The longest of those jobs was just over two years.  I had a bit of a pattern going – it (generally speaking) took me a year to learn the position, six months to get bored of it, and around another six months to find something new.  What I’d always really wanted was my own opportunity – my own space, my own entity, my own business.   When the chance to go into Bridal & Formal wear presented itself, I jumped in with both feet.   

And here I am.  Muse Bridal Studio.  You can read about the development of Muse and our philosophy and approach to bridal on the ‘About us’ and ‘Your Masterpiece’ pages.

This is by far the happiest industry I’ve ever been a part of.  You meet and interact with people at the some of the best times in their life.   Everyone (well almost everyone) is thrilled to be in the studio, shopping for an event, graduation, or wedding.

Welcome to Muse.