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!

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!  

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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!