Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Dress Hunt (Park 3 of 4)

Now that I had my heart set on a designer gown--the Amy Michelson had spoken to me--I had to figure out how I could get one. At a discount. 

A consignment Alvina Valenta. $2,300 from $4,631

I mentioned that I grew up in LA and that I love to shop in boutiques. What I didn't disclose, though, is that I love to shop boutique sales. Sample sales. Factory sales. All of the wonderful benefits of living in a major fashion metropolis (LA or New York) that you don't get elsewhere--designer duds at deep discounts. If you know where to look, of course. 

A consignment Watters & Watters. $650 from $1,200.

So, I launched my search for discount wedding dresses and started scheming up ways I could get one for less. Of course I kept my eye on OnceWed.com's resale listings and Preownedweddingdresses.com. I even found the Nicole Miller (Dress #6) on Once Wed in my size. But every time I came across a dress I liked, I had trouble convincing myself to buy it. Either it was not returnable (not a chance!), it had been hemmed and was returnable but I'd have to pay for shipping (which isn't cheap), or--the biggest problem--it was still brand new. Some would say a brand-new wedding dress being resold might be tainted with bad juju. I don't necessarily believe this (some girls just find a second "right" dress and sell the first) but I still couldn't bring myself to put my credit card number down. 

A consignment Badgley Mischka. $2,500 from $7,910.

That was when I came upon Julie Jones and her online consignment shop, Encore Bridal. The reason I liked Encore Bridal (over the two similar online shops above) is that Julie is based out of Manhattan Beach, California, and will set up shop for you at a few locations around town so you can try on the dresses you're most interested in. And she has an amazing selection. Right now on her site she has Vera Wang, Carolina Herrera and Alvina Valenta all for less than $2,000!!


I met Julie at A Legendary Affair, a showroom for wedding and party planning. She was one of the sweetest people I'd met so far (showing up for a private dress try-on session!) and I wanted to buy a dress from her just because she wasn't pushy and she was completely honest, which I loved. 

Now, onto the dresses. Please excuse my wet hair. I came straight from surfing to the dress try-on (with a shower at the beach in between!). That's what happens when you make me try on dresses in Manhattan Beach! I go surfing.

Dress #1:

Encore Bridal

This ivory taffeta dress was very pretty. Love the train! It was soft and feminine. It had tufts of taffeta running down the side--you can see them a little in the bottom picture. But it wasn't form-fitting at all. It was a little frumpy. I apologize for the bad picture quality. We didn't figure to take pictures out of the doorway right off the bat (!).

Dress #2:

Encore Bridal

This was the dress that surprised me in photographs. I liked it okay in the store, but then when I saw the photo I thought to myself, maybe I should be going for a mermaid/trumpet style after all. It seemed to flatter my body a bit more than the a-line dresses I'd been drawn to. Nonetheless, Julie muttered a phrase that no dress-seller should ever tell a bride (I think): "This is one of Marisa's most popular styles." This made me think of the hundreds of other brides who already owned this dress. I really wanted something unique and even though this was pretty, it didn't feel like...me.

Dress #3:

Encore Bridal

Encore Bridal

This was almost it, girls. I almost bought this dress. I hadn't heard of Junko Yoshioka but I loved the layer of taffeta on the skirt and bodice. The lace that goes from the bottom of the bodice onto the top of the skirt and the velvet/satin thin ribbon at the waist made me swoon. I felt like a princess in this dress. I was SO close to buying this that it actually opened me up to spending more on a dress than I thought I was going to. This dress was $2,500 and I loved it so much, I was willing to drop the dough. That was a big uh-oh, though, because it also opened up a whole new world of dresses that I "couldn't afford" just 30 minutes before meeting Ms. Jacqueline. 

Did you open up your budget at all for one dress? Did any dresses surprise you in photographs that you weren't too keen on when trying them on? 

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Dress Hunt (Part 2 of 4)

A few months after my dress appointment in New York, I had a trip to Los Angeles planned. I knew I had to take it seriously--plan out appointments, set up dress try-on dates with my bridesmaids and mom--so I started combing through TheKnot.com's dress pages. When I saw something I liked, I'd note which stores sold it in LA and try to find stores that sold multiple designers I liked. Schlepping across LA, circling blocks looking for addresses, and finding parking can get extremely tiring so I tried to spread out the appointments as best as I could. 

A little dress shopping in LA, anyone?

My mom loves to mention to everyone she meets that her daughter is getting married. She'll often end up talking about weddings with the person for an hour or so, noting any advice she gets and making sure to pass it along to me. I try my best to acknowledge it and oblige her. Someone she works with mentioned the store Lili Bridals in Tarzana, so I agreed to make an appointment. 

When we got there, at least five brides-to-be were popping out of changing rooms, dresses were being dragged across the room, racks were bulging from every wall, and it was nothing like my last appointment. The saleswomen were buzzing around, pulling dresses from every direction, and selling. selling. selling. The samples were dirty and some had holes in them. It was not the environment I'd want to make such an investment in. 

Nonetheless, I made the most of it. Amidst the chaos, I happened across two dresses I considered fairly seriously. And, amidst the chaos, I found out there is no picture-taking allowed. The good news is, I know which dresses I tried on so I can share their brands and styles with you.

Dress #1:

The website describes the dress as: "Re-embroidered lace, sweetheart strapless gown with full trumpet skirt and velveteen ribbon at waist." I describe the dress as: heavy. It felt like I was wearing a robe and dress from the Renaissance days. While I loved the way it hugged certain areas of the body and felt it would be great for a ranch wedding (albeit, a little costume-y), I would've been fed up with it by the end of the night. 

Dress #2:

Oh, how I loved this dress. It was soft, feminine, blush-colored, swimming in pools of soft organza. It accentuated the chest, arms, and shoulders, sat taut around the waist and flowed out from there. It was unique. It was, gulp, $4,000. This was my introduction to swooning over a dress that was well outside of my budget. Or was it "well outside of my budget"? Did I dare dream of spending this amount on a dress for one day?

Did you fall in love with a dress well outside your means? How did you deal with it?

The Dress Hunt (Part 1 of 4)

Dress hunting, for me, was rather challenging. Santa Fe has a limited selection of bridal stores (basically just David's Bridal and a few dressmakers). Because I grew up in LA and love boutiques, I craved something similar for trying on dresses--and I wanted my best friends there as naysayers should the dress I like be completely hideous. So, I had to base my dress-hunting around trips home (to LA) or to any major city for that matter. Albuquerque, an hour away, didn't suffice here, either.
(Lily Saratoga)

So, when Mr. CB and I went back east last September to go venue-hunting and to celebrate our engagement with our families, I convinced him to make a stop in a ritzy little town called Saratoga Springs, NY. I'd done a little research beforehand and, while I would be by myself at the store, I figured it would be a good first try (with my camera in tow). I had tried to plan it so FSIL Cowboy Boot could come along (she's one of my bridesmaids), but the store was closed on the only day she was free so, alas, here I was, by myself, at Lily Saratoga. My budget, $1200 (mere by wedding-dress standards as I would soon find out), and, yes, I let myself try on dresses well over that. Just to get a feel. Yep.  

(I apologize in advance, Hive, I did not write down any dress names or prices. But, the brands that this store carries are: Jim Hjelm, Justin Alexander, Matthew Christopher, Essence of Australia, Nicole Miller, Priscilla of Boston, Vineyard Collection, and Renella de Fina).

Mr. Cowboy Boot----STOP READING NOW!

Dress #1:

I liked the clean lines of this dress. It's preppy--not quite what I'm going for--but this was my first time trying on dresses so I figured I'd stay open-minded and try on anything that spoke to me.

Dress #2: 

I loved the waist and the back of this dress, but it was a bit too full of a skirt for a petite girl like me. It was swallowing my 5'2" self up. Also, the color was really beautiful. This was blush satin.

Dress #3:

We were getting closer, but the flower on the hip felt trendy and cheap (albeit, removable). And the dress wasn't unique enough for me. 

Dress #4: 

I loved this one. The satin underneath the lace was champagne. And I loved the long satin bow down the back. But it was almost too much lace. 

Dress #5: 

I loved the back, the front, the color of this. But I almost felt like I was showing too much skin for a wedding day. This was definitely one of my faves.

Dress #6:

This one is by Nicole Miller. It was my favorite of the day. I loved the unique fabric. The fit was fantastic for 'lil me. But I couldn't wrap myself around the color. The dress was made of metallic taffeta so it had kind of a silvery tint to it. 

Which is your favorite above? Did you find your dress on the first try?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

An Invitation. For us?

Back in September, we got an invitation in the mail. It wasn't a huge surprise (I'd been asked to supply pictures for it!), but it was definitely a welcome one. Mr. Cowboy Boot's parents decided to throw an engagement party for us. It was held on their five acres in Upstate New York in honor of our engagement in April, 2008. It was also the (duh, Duh, DUH) meeting of the parents. Because Mr. CB and I had to drive around looking at venues for the first few days of our trip back east, Mom, Dad, and Brother CB arrived at FIL CB's house before we did! They had two days to get to know each other before we even made our entrance. I have to say, this was a pretty welcome thing on our part. We got to avoid the stressful event of trying to find common ground between everyone. Luckily, they did it on their own and very naturally. Setting up the engagement party was a good icebreaker. 

The Invitation from FIL Cowboy Boots

Mama and Papa Cowboy Boot during set-up

Future-In-Law Cowboy Boots

FMIL Cowboy Boot is the best cook in the world. Instead of getting the party catered by Dinosaur BBQ in Syracuse, New York, about an hour-and-a-half away, she decided to recreate their recipes. Pulled pork, BBQ beans and chicken breasts, cole slaw. Yum!

Me with Cowboy Boot-Bridesmaid AC and her sister

Because the engagement party was across the country from most of my friends and family, the majority of the guests were friends and family  of FIL Cowboy Boots'. One of my bridesmaids drove up from New York City, where she lives, with her sister for the party. I'm so grateful. Do CB-Bridesmaid AC and I look like sisters? We're always getting that!

The Centerpieces were done by FSIL Cowboy Boot. She happens to be a Home-Ec teacher. 

The party gets started. Food and drink abound. That's FSIL Cowboy Boot in the purple tank top. Mr. Cowboy Boot's cousins are in the foreground--the girl with the black shirt and the guy with the striped button-down.

Papa Cowboy Boot gives a speech while Mama Cowboy Boot documents with her camera.

Mr. Cowboy Boot made a speech too. And told a few too many raft-guide jokes. Yep, those exist.

The Future Cowboy Boots. And a beautiful cake made by a neighbor. 

Friday, March 27, 2009

Top Ten Wedding Blogs

When I first got engaged, I had no idea that there were so many design decisions that went into a wedding. I had only been to about three weddings and I never noticed what sort of details and decor went into that wedding to make it unique or special. But then...I started surfing. Yep, that's right. Surfin' the 'net. More like the black hole; Once you start with one wedding blog, you get sucked in. Soon you're clicking on links to different design blogs which lead to more links which leads to complete design overload.

There is so much inspiration out there, it's overwhelming. Do I want to go modern (wheatgrass in wooden boxes with Gerber Daisies "growing" out of them), romantic (lush hydrangea-and-rose bouquets teeming over vintage coffee cans), or will it be more whimsical (birch branches with birds hanging from them)? The options are endless and it can make you more confused that ever.

So, here's my guide to the ten blogs that make me swoon in my desk chair (when I should be working).

1) Snippet & Ink: Besides inspiration boards that are extremely helpful with choosing a color scheme for your event, Kathryn posts tons of Real Weddings that are often country-inspired. My favorite thing to do here is type a color into the search engine and see what boards pop up.

2) 2,000 Dollar Wedding: More anti-design than design, this blog is a reminder about what's truly important about the wedding: friends, family, food, and dancing. This couple pulled off a secluded, wedding-in-the-mountains for 2 Gs (a hard feat). The blogger details her process and posts about good deals going on in the wedding world.

(The Dress: 2,000 Dollar Wedding)

3) Elizabeth Anne Designs: My real love for this blog is in their "Link Love" section. They have the most comprehensive list of wedding blogs (something you can surely lose yourself in for days). Just know you've been warned.
4) Etsy Wedding: A selection of wedding-appropriate findings from Etsy.com--a treasure trove for handcrafted goods such as jewelry, soaps, invitations, dresses, anything really. As their tagline says: "Offbeat Finds for the Eclectic Bride." My favorite feature? The top ten vintage wedding finds of the week. 
5) Once Wed: Whether you're looking for Anthropologie-style design inspiration or a pre-owned wedding dress, this is your hub. I actually found the dress I thought I wanted on this website for a lot less than the store was asking and in my size. You can find the gamut of designers here: Vera Wang, David's Bridal, Lela Rose, and Nicole Miller.
6) Oh So Beautiful Paper: Out-of-the-box invitation inspiration. 'Nuff said.
7) The Ritzy Bee Blog: Details, details, details. Flowers vessels, place cards, lighting, invitations, bowls, cupcakes, and buttons, and all of the little things that us brides-to-be just can't get enough of (but, most likely, no one else will notice). Sigh.

8) Style Me Pretty: Real weddings galore. All with creativity and soul. This is the blog that will make you want to design away--just so you're worthy enough of possibly being on it one day.

9) WeddingBee: Duh.

10) Junebug Weddings: Wedding-centric, Junebug brings ideas in from outside the matrimonial realm which can be quite helpful in straying away from the norm. Flowers, food, fashion, and creativity in a nut shell.

Which blogs have you turned to for design-inspiration?