Wedding Dress

Behind the Hair and Makeup by Anna Whitener

Earlier this week I shared some sneak peeks of the headshots I had taken by my friend and local photographer Whitney Fisher. I don’t think I’ve gotten that many likes and comments since posting my wedding pictures almost three years ago! For someone who focuses on lifting up women daily, I have to admit, it felt really good to be on the receiving end of so many compliments. However, my immediate reaction to feeling proud, pretty (thank you Tori Stewart), and loved was guilt and shame over my vanity.

Y’all, that is ridiculous!

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If dressing up, being pampered with professional hair and makeup, and posing in front of a camera for an hour or so leads to a moment captured in time when you felt strong, beautiful, and loved that you can share with your children, spouses, moms, colleagues, and girl squads, DO IT!!!

More importantly, if you can help another woman feel these things by uttering a kind word or posting a fire emoji, DO IT!!!

In a world where we only see what is posted on picture perfect social media, it is easy to forget that we are all struggling with some aspect of our lives. We should seize the opportunities we have to lift one another up and celebrate the sense of pride and empowerment we get from being supported by those dear to us!

Ok, it’s about to get real…

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Though I don’t allow negative body talk in the store, I myself worry about not being pretty enough, cool enough, curvy enough, business-savvy enough (thank you ever-changing IG algorithms), a good enough wife, a good enough daughter, and as a self-admitted people pleaser, likeable enough.

The good enough daughter card is probably the hardest to play right now. I lost my dad almost 10 years ago, and I am now finding myself on calls with palliative care doctors regarding my mom’s health, with an overwhelming sense of guilt for not being there in person. As a 32 year old, most of my friends can’t yet relate (nor would I want them to be able to). I feel like a “debbie downer” for being distracted with these stresses even when I don’t utter them aloud.

Even with amazingly supportive friends and family, I can sometimes feel alone.

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So…receiving numerous “likes” and comments on a simple post of pretty pictures left me feeling seen, acknowledged, supported, and loved. Those small acts served as reminders of what I already know is true. Ladies, keep it up! The next time you see a noteworthy post from a friend, a colleague, a family member, or even an aquaintance, don’t you dare keep scrolling. No matter how idealistic each of our lives looks from the other side of a computer screen, we all need each other.

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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!

Finding Your Dress with commUNITY by Anna Whitener

Your wedding will be one of the most precious milestones in your life. It is a time to gather those most influential and important in your lives. It is an occasion to celebrate your love along with the love and support you’ve received along your journeys, both as individuals and as a couple. It is an opportunity to expand your family and acknowledge the examples set for you by parents, grandparents, and other loving role models. It is a blessing to be surrounded by your very own community of people special to you.

However, in the midst of your community, don’t lose sight of the other person who you are committing to sharing the rest of your life with – the one who makes this whole big celebration possible in the first place! Every bride is different, but if you are the slightest bit like me, you are excited to see the details of your wedding come together and want to share with those around you. It is tempting to make your whole community of friends and family your sounding board for ideas, opinions, and approval, even with your dress (gasp!).

I had four physical bodies in the room with me during my first dress shopping appointment. I say four physical bodies, because I also had about five more opinions being summoned via text messages and video calls. Technology is something, huh? I LOVE every single person who was weighing in that day, whether in person or on the other end of a phone, and I respect their opinions, but it was incredibly easy to disregard the own voice inside my head and respond to the reactions I saw forming around me with each dress I tried on. 

Martina Liana Gown

Martina Liana Gown

In fact, I was this close to going with the BEAUTIFUL, beaded Martina Liana gown pictured above that everyone else liked as much (if not more) than I did. I have about as many curves as a square, so this dress did wonders for me!

What steered me away from this beauty was trying on a much simpler gown (I'll share those pictures soon) that made me think to myself “This is the girl Gavin fell in love with.” Does every bride have that "ah-ha" moment? I can't say for certain, but my advice for having that revelatory feeling is to picture walking towards your love at the other end of the aisle. For this one instance, let the voices of your community fade away and focus on simply the UNITY between you and your future spouse. Does the dress fit your style as a couple? Will you still look like you – only the loveliest version of you? Let me help you find “that” dress!

So You Said Yes…And? by Anna Whitener

In improvisational comedy, there is a rule of thumb to encourage a collaborative approach. The thought is that you say “yes” to the person with whom you are acting and then contribute to the direction of the outcome by saying “and” with your own added information. Starting a business has felt (only sometimes comically) very much like improvisation for me. I have known for a long time I wanted to start my own business and went through too many ideas to count – just ask my girlfriends or my now husband (eek!) – but when I had my own wedding dress shopping experiences, I knew I had found my niche.

I absolutely LOVED the way each beautiful designer gown made me feel – secure, womanly, glamorous, bridal, beautiful, and special. However, I didn’t love each of my visits equally. I found the task of finding “the dress” somewhat daunting and without the proper guidance felt very ill at ease and sometimes out of place or looked down upon. No bride should ever be made to feel that way for her particular style, level of bridal knowledge, or budget. I mean, for many of us, this is our first time going through this unique process and we are not quite sure what to expect, right? For that reason, I have decided to bring to Knoxville a unique wedding dress shopping experience where brides can try on the oh-so-amazing designer dresses and ultimately purchase them at sample sale prices, all while feeling comfortable and having fun!!

Since deciding to take this journey 10 months ago, I have continued to say “yes, and.” The result is that I have watched this budding dream of mine blossom into reality. This has only been possible with the love and support of those around me, especially my husband (still SO weird to say!). He has decided to say “yes, and” for the past 6+ years of our relationship, encouraging me to continually move forward and turn my ideas into actions. Ultimately, I have found that commitment, whether it be to a profession, a romantic relationship, a friendship, or any other adventure almost always requires a “yes, and” approach, because really, aren’t we all just improvising?

Now that you have said “yes, and” to your soul mate, I would love to help you say “yes” to your dress!