Wedding

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

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.

IMG_3049.JPG

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!

Role Play by Anna Whitener

I’m not going to tell my age (though you could probably Google it these days – gosh, I even sound old), but I have technically been an adult for quite some time. However, I am only now starting to feel “grown up.” I’m not sure if this feeling is propelled by seeing the wedding ring on my finger, recognizing the risk of starting my own business, or getting excited about staying in on a Friday night and going to bed before 10 pm. Now don’t get me wrong – I live for dessert, will happily dance in the rain, am dying to see Finding Dory, and frequently catch myself speaking schoolgirl gibberish when I see Gavin (my hubby of 2 weeks now). In fact, we have conjured up a whole story about the dove that lives on our balcony (named Milton) that we continue to play out as if we were reciting a screenplay for the next Pixar movie. I will always be a kid at heart – just a very motivated, introspective kid.

Ultimately, I notice my age (read: maturity) when seeking out in others what I lack.  I am a big proponent of finding your happiness and following your heart. However, I find that sometimes my heart gets a little ahead of itself and needs some direction from those in my corner. Everyone has a role to play, and recognizing your spouse’s early on is clutch.

I have a (slightly biased) mom who believes I can do anything, and therefore instills in me the same belief. I have girlfriends who I can vent to and share intimate girly details with (like my best friend who had me in tears from laughing so hard about bikini waxes last night). I have colleagues who offer much needed wisdom about everyday life. Then, I have Gavin. He tempers my obsessive planning and organization with a more laissez-faire attitude. He is also an engineer – so where I think with emotion, he swoops in with logic and reason to keep me grounded. Sometimes those traits drive me crazy, because they are so at odds with my own personality, but I have learned that there is truth to “opposites attract” and that our collective thinking is what will get us through this crazy world.

When planning to open Loveliest, I negotiated a potential lease for months before finally getting to see the space in person. Gavin went along with me, and afterwards, we decided we needed to give the deal more thought before signing a lease for which we would both ultimately be responsible. After work that night, Gavin brought up several facts that pointed towards walking away. I was listening, but only partially. I kept responding to him with “I know, but…”. I wanted to keep listening to my own heart. I didn’t want to hear to his sound reasoning, because my emotions were so tied up in the idea of what I had spent months working towards.

I am pleased to say that I will have access to the Loveliest boutique space starting August 1st (pictures to follow!), and it is SO SO SO much better than the space from which Gavin steered me away – because thank goodness, I LISTENED. My mom would have said full steam ahead. My friends could never have known all the factors at play. My colleagues gave great advice, but didn’t have the same liability and therefore influence. They say marriages are about compromise, but I think it requires less concession and more collaboration. Recognize in your partner what he or she brings to the table that you and others in your corner don’t and embrace those qualities! After all, they’re likely the reason you make a great couple!  

IMG_3017.JPG

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!