Loveliest Bridal

You're Coming In with Me? by Anna Whitener

Oh crap. I should have worn prettier underwear. How are my underarms so hairy? I literally just shaved. There is no way my legs can be that ashy! Did I not put lotion on earlier?  Geez, I really should have tanned at least once this summer so I wouldn’t blind everyone in sight. Why does it have to be so hot? She is going to think I don’t even wear deodorant! I wish I hadn’t eaten that extra slice of pizza today. I feel so bloated.

Ladies…if these or any other similar thoughts come into your head while trying on wedding dresses at Loveliest, I want you to know:

1. I have been there, and

2. this is a judgment-free zone!

When I first realized that a bridal stylist would be joining me in the dressing room to physically help me in and out of wedding dresses, I was a bit shocked. I was thinking “I should have worn different undies.” Then, “Did I shave my bikini line?” And finally, “Oh my gosh, she is going to see just how flat-chested I am.”

Now, I am the one in the dressing room either supporting a bride as she steps through layers of fabric or guiding her hands through the armholes of a dress as I pull it over her head. I can promise you that I am not looking at your undies, your bra, your belly, your underarms, or anything else. I am fully concentrating on making sure I get you properly into said dress with each layer of fabric laying as it should and pinning it the best way possible so that you and your guests are able to see what it will look like post-alterations.

At Loveliest, I see that you have the curves I’ve always dreamed of, or the perfectly toned arms and back, or the beautifully bronzed skin, or the gorgeous smile that makes you glow, or the hair that looks good with or without a veil. Every bride I work with is beautiful. Each one exudes hope, excitement, and awe. This is one of the most magical times in your life. Let’s focus on that together. 

Does that mean you can’t voice your opinion? Absolutely not! I encourage you to tell me if we need to change the music, if you are too hot or too cold, or if you need a refill on snacks or a drink. Most importantly, please tell me what you do and don’t like about each dress.  It will help us find your perfect one! But, if I catch you spouting silly negative thoughts about yourself, we might have to have a quick “reset” chat, because I guarantee there is plenty of positive going on in that wedding dress! Love wins!

Overwhelmed by Anna Whitener

In some ways, wedding planning helped prepare me for opening Loveliest. However, with that venture I had close friends who had gone before me and vendors and Pinterest boards galore to guide me. Starting a business does not come with a neat little checklist. Yes, there are plenty of books in the self-help vein and there are valuable state and local resources designed to serve that purpose. But no individual resource can meet everyone at their respective starting points and direct each separately to step-by-step paths for creating unique small businesses.

Tomorrow is D-day, the first day I can truly access the brick-and-mortar storefront that will become Loveliest. I can physically clean, paint, assemble furniture, organize and begin to decorate. So here I am.

Overwhelmed.

Overwhelmed by the emptiness of the space I need to fill with beautiful dresses and the “right” furniture and décor to make my brides feel the love. 

My Canvas - Loveliest Bridal Boutique Before Decor

My Canvas - Loveliest Bridal Boutique Before Decor

Overwhelmed with the fear of letting down my brand-spanking new spouse with longer hours worked, more travel, exhaustion, and possible failure.

Overwhelmed by anxiety that I have dropped the ball on something important at my current place of employment.

Overwhelmed with sadness that I now have to miss out on time with friends due to the hours I’ve committed to Loveliest.

 

But mostly…

 

I am overwhelmed (to the point of tears) with the love and support that have been doled out to to me as I follow this dream.

Overwhelmed with joy that my boss has allowed me to stay on in a part time capacity, so I can pursue two distinct careers for which I have a passion.

Overwhelmed with appreciation that my family and friends in other states have already marked their calendars to support me at a pre-opening event here in Knoxville.

Overwhelmed by the confidence my colleagues have instilled in me daily with their cheers of encouragement.

Overwhelmed with delight that my husband hasn’t complained (too much) about me filling our home with wedding dresses, furniture, and décor as I await the start of the boutique’s lease.

Overwhelmed with relief that I am doing something right when an acquaintance compliments me on this very blog.

Overwhelmed with gratitude for the offers of support extended to me by Local Knoxville entrepreneurs, creative spirits, and civic-minded leaders knowing full well that I am not capable of yet returning the favor.

You know how I was saying something about not having a guidebook for each individual entrepreneur and business? I've realized that often I have been provided just the guidance I needed, though it has come in many forms. I had to let go of the belief that acceptance of help somehow diminishes my ownership. I wanted to believe I could do it all by myself - that I had to, but that is not the case at all. Loveliest may be my “baby,” but it is the love that has been poured into it from family, friends, colleagues, and this community before the doors are even open that will make it the LOVEliest bridal boutique it can be. For that, please accept my “overwhelming” thank you!

No Comparison by Anna Whitener

We are taught not to compare ourselves to others – not our looks, our incomes, our marriages, our clothes, our childhoods, our jobs, our houses, our parenting. For when we compare, we do so knowing intimately every chapter of our own book of life while viewing only the inside jacket of someone else’s. Obviously the knowledge that we “shouldn’t” do it doesn’t stop us. While we are taught not to compare, we are simultaneously encouraged to learn from others and to strive for greatness. Thus, it is easy to get tangled in the web of comparison when looking to others for direction in our careers, relationships, and lives.

For weddings, events that should be so uniquely personal, the challenge to compare seems to be as great as (if not greater than) any other aspect of our lives. We are now bombarded with images, blogs, and advertisements that lead us to pin until our hearts’ content. Even in writing this blog, I think to myself I’m not giving the people what they want. I am not providing numbered lists like “5 Hottest Dress Designers of the Year” or “7 Ways to Determine the Best Dress for your Shape” or “10 Reasons to Forego the [fill in the blank] at your Wedding” I’m not following the rule of thumb of loading up my page with glamorous, catchy images. I’m not even talking about wedding dresses all that much. But what I am doing…is being me. I want the people who shop with me to know who they will be spending this precious time with before they even step through the door. I am real. I have flaws (obviously). I am silly. I am sappy. I am steadfast. I want to know you. I want to get excited with you! I want to watch you have your “ah-ha” moment. I want to share a little of me with you, so that you are willing to do the same in return.

Most of all, I want you to know that I will not compare your wedding to that of anyone else’s. I find myself now in the position of hearing others discuss their wedding planning processes. I am tempted to dole out advice, because I want to help every bride have a perfect wedding day like I had. Then I remember they don't need my advice on how to display the flatware to have an amazing wedding. Of course our wedding day wasn’t flawless. I didn’t quite DIY enough decorations (thanks goodness our day of coordinator saved the day), we had some mislabeled donut flavors, and I learned after the fact that our biggest failure was running out of beer – very early! But we were surrounded by our friends and family. We danced. We laughed. We kissed. At the end of the evening, we were married. Isn’t that what really matters? When I was engaged, the last thing I wanted to hear was how a friend of friend’s cousin’s daughter-in-law, Betty Sue so-and-so, chose her menu for the big day. Those little things aren’t what make a wedding day special. Love is. I trust that yours is unique with your partner and I hope that all those who surround you recognize that as well. 


Cut Them Some Slack by Anna Whitener

My aunt forwarded me two photos that an old friend just found and sent to her. They are of my dad when he was 18 and apparently on a trip to Europe with friends – quite the discovery since he would have been 65 now. I thought I had seen all of my parents’ photos and heard all their stories, but these were new. It is so easy to think of parents’ lives beginning at marriage or parenthood, but they were also once children and young adults navigating their own lives, not just preparing us for ours.

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When I was shopping for my own wedding dress with my mom, the tears were flowing. I looked at her and told her to get it together. I reminded her that this should be a blissful occasion. I assumed (incorrectly) that she was thinking about my dad and either 1) reminiscing on their marriage that was cut short with his untimely death, or 2) wishing he was here to see his baby girl in a wedding dress. It turns out that by assuming the “worst” – that she was crying sad tears instead of joyful ones – I only brought the unhappy memories to her attention. The seamstress helping us directed my mom to the tissue box and said to me “Your mom is thinking about you as a little girl – maybe 5 or 6 years old – twirling around in a dress and pretending to get married. She can’t believe that this day is here, because that memory feels like it was yesterday to her.” My mom nodded vehemently in agreement, unable to put into her own words exactly what she was thinking.

The seamstress provided her opinion of my mom’s thoughts based on her work over the years with many other moms, aunts, and grandmothers, I’m sure. I projected my own wish for my dad to be there onto my mom. She has been a remarkable mother, so I forget that she has a lifetime of memories, some from before I was alive and before she met my dad. She is a grown woman with her own thoughts, dreams, expectations, plans, and memories. Rather than asking my mom what she was feeling and allowing her response (whatever it may have been) to be okay, I got caught up in wanting it to be my special day and took her moment away from her. We can be so hard on loved ones, and I find that especially true with my oh-so-sweet mama, even when there is absolutely no reason for it.  

So, please do this for me, whether at Loveliest or elsewhere. When you are trying on wedding dresses, twirling about and only thinking of what should be and what’s to come, know that some of the people with you may also be thinking of what once was and may simply be in awe that this day is here. Try to appreciate that whatever their reactions may be, they are with you to rejoice in this milestone of your life. Allow those with you to have their own memorable experience, even when it does not look like what you thought it should. Promise me that, and I promise to have the tissues ready!