You Said Yes, Now When Should You Buy Your Dress? by Anna Whitener

Brides are often surprised to hear that they should start wedding dress shopping soon after they get engaged. So, if you’re wondering when you should start looking, when to commit, and how long you need for alterations, here is the scoop!

9 - 18 Months Out

This is when we recommend starting your dress search. Why so early?

  1. Wedding dress collections come out once or twice per year, depending on the designer. As new collections are introduced, previously released dresses are discontinued. A gown you love now may not be available later. Additionally, Loveliest only sells a handful of the same style dress so as not to inundate the market with a similar look, so you risk that particular style no longer being available in store for try on if you wait. We choose to do this as one more level of service that sets us apart from other stores. We want you to feel special in your dress, and not see it on countless other brides in the area.

  2. Your dress can set the tone for so many other elements of your wedding, including your bridesmaid dresses, decor, shoes, jewelry, etc. There are so many little details to plan in your wedding, that it is nice to check this big one off your list.

  3. Last, but certainly not least, wedding dress shopping is FUN, so why wait?

6 - 8 Months Out

This is generally the final cut off for ordering your wedding dress if you do not want to pay any rush fees. If you plan to customize your dress at all, a rush may not be available. If you have 6 months or less, you may want to consider an off-the-rack option, which luckily comprises half of our selection!

4 Months Out

This is the time to contact your seamstress. While you typically do not start your alterations until closer to your wedding, bridal seamstresses are skilled at what they do and book up quickly (especially during busy wedding and prom seasons). Even if your dress has not yet arrived, go ahead and reach out to the seamstress recommended by your bridal boutique (you’ll get a goody bag from Loveliest with this information if you purchase with us!) and get on their calendar! This is also a great time to shop for bridal shoes and undergarments, both of which you will need before starting your alterations.

2 Months Out

This is typically when you will begin your alterations. Most brides need multiple fittings, scheduled over the course of several weeks with the final fitting often very close to your actual wedding day. Find out when your last fitting will be scheduled and make sure you bring along your MOH or mom to watch (and I recommend videoing on a cell phone) how to bustle your dress, and learn any other tips/tricks for helping you on your wedding day!

Wedding Day

Finally, it is time to wow your spouse and guests with your beautiful gown and soak up the occasion to wear it!


Secrets to Successful Wedding Dress Shopping by Anna Whitener

I am often asked about cringe worthy moments and bridezillas. Honestly, Loveliest offers a laid back, no pressure atmosphere that discourages drama. This is not your reality TV wedding dress shopping experience. However, there are certainly things that those of us in this business see regularly that make us want to get on our soapboxes, so mic check please! Here are (the first) five secrets to a successful visit!

She said YES to her Loveliest!

She said YES to her Loveliest!

1.       Let the bride react first!

I know that most of you reading this are brides yourselves. If not, read secret #1 above. If so, please encourage your guests to listen to your thoughts before they utter theirs. Everyone has their own preferences, senses of style, wedding ideals, etc. that will come through in their reactions. And it is okay for them to give you feedback. After all, that’s why you brought them along. However, most of the time, if a loved one sees your excitement, they will support you in your decision. Similarly, voicing that a dress is not the one for you discourages your guests from building it up, giving you more time to try those that could be “the dress!” Remember, the way you FEEL in a dress is going to show on your actual wedding day, and only you can truly know that feeling. Find the dress that makes you feel like the most beautiful bridal version of yourself and trust your gut!

2.       Bring the yes makers with you (when possible)!

I know secret #1 suggested making your dress decision based on your own feelings, but there are often loved ones whose opinions matter! I wanted my mom and my husband to LOVE my dress! Since my husband couldn’t see it, my mom’s input was incredibly important to me. When she saw my reaction to “the dress” she loved it, simply because she could see that I did. Bring those people with you – the ones who “get you” and recognize when you light up! I have watched brides itching to say yes who feel they can’t without their sister, MIL, MOH, etc. seeing it first. I totally get it! Bring the people whose opinions you MUST have with you to each appointment. Made-to-order dresses can be discontinued, or you may lose out on a limited time discount, pushing a dress over budget. At Loveliest, many of our dresses are available off-the-rack and can sell before you bring your inner circle back. One of the absolute worst parts of my job is telling a bride that a dress she loved is no longer available.

Getting fedback // Credit:  A&M Cunningham Photography

Getting fedback // Credit: A&M Cunningham Photography

3.       Don’t look until you’re ready to commit!

Similar to secret #2, this one refers to your mental and financial readiness. Some of my favorite appointments are those “just looking” visits. Without the pressure of needing to find your dress THAT day, you often enjoy the experience more, listen to your own thoughts, and can react without trying to check boxes off a list of must haves. For that reason, even if you are “just looking” make sure you come with the funds and open mind you need to say YES!

4.       Let the FOMO go!

The fear of missing out seems to have reached an all time high. There are literally millions of wedding dresses out there. There is no way for you to try them all on, just like there is no way to date every potential partner to see if he/she might be better than the one with whom you’ve already fallen in love. If you LOVE a dress and it makes you feel the way I mentioned in secret #1, do not agonize over the decision! I have now had MULTIPLE brides search for several months at endless stores in various cities only to come back to the dress they loved at Loveliest. That does not sound particularly enjoyable for the bride (or for those who need to attend every appointment – see secret #2). Don’t make it harder on yourself than it has to be, which leads us to secret #5…

5.       Have FUN!

Wedding dress shopping fun // Credit:  Whitney Jade Photography

Wedding dress shopping fun // Credit: Whitney Jade Photography

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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(Over)dressed: Having More with Less by Anna Whitener

Life is not about what we have but who we
choose to share it with.

I often get asked why I decided to sell my own wedding dress. Similar to those who choose to keep theirs, I felt very sentimental about our wedding day and I wanted to hold on to something to pass down to a future generation of our family. For me, that something was the engagement ring my dad gave my mom that she entrusted to me upon his passing. It is a beautiful ring made of opals (his birthstone), because he could not afford a diamond at the time. To me, it represents the fact that life is not about what we have but who we choose to share it with. I waited until my wedding day to wear that ring. Not only did it serve as my “something old” but as a physical reminder of my dad’s spiritual presence with me on that special day. 

Photo :  Fox & Owl Studio //Not Just an Opal Ring 

Photo: Fox & Owl Studio//Not Just an Opal Ring 

Another (more practical) reason for selling my wedding dress is that my husband and I currently live in an apartment and have limited space for storing items “for a rainy day.” In fact, I have decided to minimize my wardrobe and take a stab at Project 333. For those who are not yet familiar with Project 333, in a nutshell it provides direction for embarking on the capsule wardrobe movement. It stipulates that one’s wardrobe should consist of 33 items of clothing (including shoes, outerwear, and jewelry – yikes, right?!) that you wear for 3 months before changing it up for a new season. While Project 333 doesn’t necessarily relate to Loveliest, it is something I thought all women searching this site might find interesting, especially since it is focused on finding pieces in our everyday wardrobe that make us feel as lovely as we feel in a wedding dress! For that reason, I’ll be sharing updates along this journey as well. For now, I’ll begin with the clean out process!

I was so excited to embark on this journey that I was pretty decisive, quickly moving each piece to the “keep,” “store for a future season,” or “get rid of” piles.

I knew I would need help whittling down my wardrobe, so I enlisted the help of my dear friend, Carrie McConkey who just so happens to have started her own business (Carrie M. Fashion Consulting) helping gals like me transform their wardrobe into something that gives them confidence rather than anxiety. In a former life, she actually MADE wedding dresses here in Knoxville. Small world, huh? Armed with a sample list of 33 items provided by Courtney Carver, creator of Project 333, plenty of water, and freshly baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, Carrie and I dove right in!

Photo :  Carolina O'Neal //Project 333 Fuel: Fresh Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Photo: Carolina O'Neal//Project 333 Fuel: Fresh Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies!

I started by doing the laundry and making sure there was nothing lurking in the dirty clothes bin. I then piled all 214 items (excluding jewelry) that were in my closet and drawers on (or around) my bed. Result: categorized stacks on stacks on stacks (see below)! I did not unearth the items I own that were already stored away for future seasons. I’ll save those for a future 3-month planning stint. 

Photo :  Carolina O'Neal //Facing the Truth: Too Much STUFF!

Photo: Carolina O'Neal//Facing the Truth: Too Much STUFF!

Carrie and I then did quick-fire rounds moving through each sub-set of items. I was so excited to embark on this journey that I was pretty decisive, quickly moving each piece to the “keep,” “store for a future season,” or “get rid of” piles. Carrie was FABULOUS about stopping me on certain items that I wanted to keep to inspect them and determine if they were in fact up to snuff. If there was a piece I didn’t want to part with (like this chunky sweater with dolman sleeves – I learned a new fashion term!) that was not in tip-top shape or was too small, Carrie would pin it up, take a photo, and move it to my “replace” pile. 

Photo :  Carolina O'Neal //Carry Explaining Dolman Sleeves

Photo: Carolina O'Neal//Carry Explaining Dolman Sleeves

She informed me I was allowed to wear those pieces until I could purchase similar replacements, but they were not meant to stay for long. When I could not choose between seemingly similar garments, Carrie would have me try on each item to determine their pros/cons. These images of two vests I owned provide a third-party, objective view that makes the decision a no-brainer! One is so slimming and can be dressed up or down while the other looks like its bulky warmth only belongs on the ski slopes (which I undoubtedly avoid).

Photo :  Carolina O'Neal //My Face Says it All!

Photo: Carolina O'Neal//My Face Says it All!

Photo:   Carolina O'Neal //Much Better Fit!

Photo: Carolina O'Neal//Much Better Fit!

Ultimately, we were able to come very close to the 33-piece goal for my first 3-month wardrobe, ending up with 41 items, not including those I need to replace. I will try to hold off on those to see if they do in fact need upgrading. Carrie must have had a premonition when she got dressed that day, because after I put everything away and moved ALL the empty hangers and two emptied storage containers out of my bedroom, all I felt like screaming was WHEE! Stay tuned for updates on how the project is going!

Photo :  Carolina O'Neal //The Shirt Says it All: Whee!

Photo: Carolina O'Neal//The Shirt Says it All: Whee!

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!

What's with the Seahorses? by Anna Whitener

As you peruse the dresses at Loveliest, you may glance up. When you do, you’ll notice a print with two seahorses sharing their love. Then, when you visit the restroom, the gold sequin seahorse canvas will surely grab your attention.

Why seahorses in a Tennessee bridal boutique nowhere near the beach? When Gavin and I were first dating (in 2010), those stretchy, multi-colored bracelets shaped like animals were all the rage with tweens. Remember these?

One day, our younger cousin presented us with a handful and nudged us each to take one. I picked a red heart as a not-so-subtle show of affection toward my new beau. Then, Gavin went for the yellow seahorse. I assumed it was because it was the only non-girly option. When he later told me that it was because seahorses mate for life, I realized he was the romantic one in the relationship. Now, every time I see artwork with seahorses, I am reminded how lucky I am to have him as my lifetime mate.

I decided to decorate the boutique with some seahorse items to remind myself and other Loveliest brides to choose one another every single day. Finding "your dress" can feel overwhelming, until you compare it to the relatively more substantial feat of finding "your person" - and that part you've already accomplished! Do you and your honey have a behind the scenes story, a secret shared with only one another that we could all benefit from learning? Spread the love and the wisdom by commenting on our Facebook page!

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.