Engaged

Tips For Shopping Wedding Gowns, From A Bride-To-Be Who Wanted To Avoid This Entire Process

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I was on top of my shit when it came to planning my wedding. I had all my ducks in a row a year before my wedding date. Except for one teeny tiny detail: my wedding dress.

For some reason, trying on dresses and hunting for my perfect gown was the one part of the engagement and wedding planning process that I was not stoked about [read about my experience here]. I avoided dress shopping like the plague, and became focused on the most minuscule of details for our wedding in order to not have to deal with the dreaded dress debacle. But, unlike the other pieces of the wedding puzzle, finding the dress is not something that can be thrown together last minute [at least not if you buy from a wedding dress boutique where your dress has to be made-to-order]. So, this January, I had no choice but to finally restart the process of finding “the one.” If you’re newly engaged, it can take anywhere from four to nine months to have your dress made and fitted for your body. Better to have more time than less!

Before I’d ever even gone to try on a dress, every bride I’d spoken to couldn’t stop gushing about how that was their favorite part of planning their wedding. They loved trying on dress after dress, even the ones they knew they’d never buy. And nearly every single one said they found their dress at the first place they ever went. And it was love at first sight. When I didn’t have the same experience, and actually ended up feeling like a complete let-down and failure of a bride [because who doesn’t find their dream dress at the first store they ever go to?!], I realized that I couldn’t be the only person out there that had had a not-so-exciting experience hunting wedding gowns. Because of this, I wanted to share my tips to you newly engaged gals out there who may be just beginning that whole process.

My first bit of advice to you is, don’t go to your first appointment with the expectation that you’re going to find your dream dress. You may actually find it, but if you don’t have the expectation, you won’t feel so let down if you don’t happen to find it that day. I made the mistake of imagining myself finding my dress the first day at the first shop; and when I didn’t find it, it gave me all the wrong emotions about finding my wedding dress.

Even if you know what your style is day-to-day [I believe this is referred to as “street style”], I would still be sure to try on all different styles of wedding gowns. I never imagined myself being drawn to poufy ball gowns [in fact, I believe I deemed them “cupcake dresses” prior to getting engaged], and yet, I ended up falling in love with that very style.

Although I wanted to be organized and get my gown shopping done earlier rather than later in the planning process, it was a blessing in disguise that I didn’t find my dress right away. My style and what I wanted actually morphed and changed from what I originally had in mind. My advice to you is to wait as long as possible before you choose your gown. Even if you find your dream dress, don’t put the deposit down or purchase it until you absolutely have to. Unless for whatever reason the gown will be discontinued, the store should still carry it. When I started looking at dresses in July, I wanted a long-sleeved ball gown, which then changed to a ball gown with a plain and simple bodice, which ended up being completely different from what I ended up choosing.

Don’t feel pressured to invite your entire bridal party and all the women in your family to try on dresses with you. A lot of women like to be the center of attention and feel like their experience wouldn’t be complete without all of the wonderful ladies in their life around them. I, however, am the opposite. I want my dress to be a surprise for everyone at the wedding, including my bridal party.

On the flip side, if you are a gal who wants your future sister-in-law, both grandmothers, your aunt, your bridal party, your mom, your step-mom, your soon-to-be mother-in-law, and any other females in the family with you while you’re trying on gowns, just remember to hold your ground on what you want. This is your wedding day and your wedding gown, not theirs. Your mom may be helping you purchase your gown, but that doesn’t mean she gets to choose it. If you feel beautiful in a gown that other people don’t love, who cares?! It’s not about them, it’s about YOU. And everybody’s tastes and styles are different. While I personally don’t love the mermaid-style gowns for myself, there are some beautiful ones out there and all of my friends who have worn that style of dress have looked absolutely gorgeous. Oh, and if you don’t think the women in your life are opinionated – just you wait..

If you find a designer you love that’s out of your price range, just do a little research on Instagram and Pinterest to see if you find a comparable designer without the staggering price tag. Believe it or not, there are some incredible gowns out there that aren’t exorbitantly expensive [I fell in love with a designer whose gowns run in the $3000 range]. I was in a wedding several years ago where the bride wore a $10k dollar gown. Oh yeah, it was beautiful, but I tried on an identical gown from a different designer and it was $2000. I mean, yeah, you may not be wearing your dream designer, but truth-be-told, if you find a gown you feel sexy and like a princess in, who gives a flying EFF who the designer is?

And speaking of price tags, know your dress budget before you go shopping. All professional bridal stores will ask you this when you arrive for your appointment, and they will easily be able to find you 10 dresses in your price range in the style that you like.

You know the girls on “Say Yes to the Dress” who break down in tears and hyperventilate when they find their dream dress? I was expecting that reaction and I did not have it. If you don’t have a radical reaction when you find your dress, it’s okay! I fell in love with my dress when I tried it on but I didn’t shed a single tear over it. You’ll know in your heart when you find the right dress, and whatever your reaction, it’s okay but it’s yours.

Finding your dress should be an amazing and magical experience and the last thing you want is to feel like I did – dejected, depressed and let-down. I hope these tips help you to have a better experience than I did the first couple of times I tried on gowns [after using my own tips on myself, I was able to have a fun and amazing time at the appointment where I actually found my dress].

Want to see my dream dress and the one I chose? We’re getting married on September 29, 2018  so keep an eye out for photos after that ;)

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Will You Be My Bridesmaid?

When Mitch and I got engaged, I knew immediately who I wanted to be in my wedding party. After being in a wedding years ago where the bride and I’s friendship ended up fizzling, I didn’t even want that to be an option for the gals in my group. I don’t want to look back on my wedding photos one day and think “It’s too bad we aren’t friends anymore!”

Most brides-to-be these days give a little gift of some sort when they ask a friend to be a bridesmaid. I was no different. Although, I may have gone a little crazy.. I just love the gals in my life so much! And gift-giving is seriously one of my favorite things to do in life.

If you’re engaged and looking for some fresh, new ideas to give your gals when you pop the question, here’s what I gave my wedding party:

Custom Cuyana Toiletry Bag Set – my sister got me turned onto these a couple of years ago when she gifted them to my mom and I! They are amazing quality, and you can really add a personal touch if you get your friend’s initials stamped on them. Plus, they come in a variety of colors which makes it even easier to customize for each friend. They are on the pricier side, but the quality is top-notch, and you know your gals will use the shit out of them. I’ve had mine for two years and it still looks brand new! I got each of my bridesmaids a different color with their initials stamped on them.

Alex + Ani Charm Bracelet – these are the BEST if you’re shopping for any woman in your life – even one who doesn’t really wear jewelry! There are a million options, and even the less bling-y girls can still throw one on without feeling too “girly.” Plus, they come in gold, rose gold and silver, which is great because not everybody likes or wears the same color metal. I ended up getting three gold and three silver for the gals in my wedding party, all with different charms, of course. I linked the company’s website, but you can also find them at Nordstrom and on Amazon.

alex and ani

Miniature Galvanized Hanging Letter – I always like to “embellish” the outside of a gift. Whether it’s tying an ornament on a Christmas gift, or a little dog bone on a doggy gift [yes, I do give dogs gifts], it’s a fun little addition to the the top or front that, to me, just adds a little “something”. For my girls, I found these small, ornament-sized galvanized metal letters that I hung from each bag, with their respective initial of course. I linked a larger version, but you can also find a similar product at Hobby Lobby. It’s an inexpensive way to add flair to a gift, and, something your gal can either hang on her Christmas tree, or prop up somewhere as home decor.

galvanized s

Miniature Alcohol Bottles – this is kind of a “well, DUH” gift addition. Unless you or your girls aren’t drinkers, a tiny bottle of your gal’s favorite drink is a fun and cheap gift option [although, in lieu of this, you could do mini coffee or tea, or mini juices – if you keep your eyes peeled at the store, you can literally find anything!]. I know a lot of women go this route, and put custom labels on the bottles which is super clever! I wanted these to be an addition, not the main attraction, but what friend doesn’t appreciate a free tiny bottle of their cocktail of choice? I found the drinks I was searching for at BevMo [linked], but Total Wine, World Market, and some grocery stores carry them as well.

cooks

Athleisure – what gal doesn’t love a comfy pair of workout pants? The answer is: none. Everybody loves comfy clothes! Especially when they can double as lounge wear and athletic wear [aka: athleisure]. I splurged a little bit with these because I didn’t want to buy crappy quality pants for my friends. May as well pay a little more for something that’s going to last a little longer, right? For two of my friends, I got pants from Lulu Lemon, for two more, I got pants from Goldsheep [this brand is great if you want fun prints and patterns!], and for the other two, I got bottoms from Carbon 38 [which, in addition to carrying its own brand, also carries a bunch of others]. I ended up getting fun/funky prints and patterns for all the girls in my bunch. Even though they may not end up wearing them as much, I did follow a theme for each girl and wanted the pants to coincide.

goldsheep

In addition to all the little gifts I gave my bridesmaids, I also wrote each of them a poem which inevitably asked them to be in my wedding. I wanted to stick to my theme of doing something personal for each of them, and I thought what better and more clever way of doing that then writing a poem? Granted, I am a writer and I enjoy doing those types of things – I know writing, especially poetry, doesn’t come easy to most people [poetry really isn’t my cup of tea, usually]. Just a nice, short, personal note to your girls would be the perfect and sweetest way to let your friends know how much you mean to them.

I am so happy to say that all of my bridesmaids said YES! I am ridiculously fortunate to have six beautiful, original and amazing women who will be standing by my side when I say “I do” to the man of my dreams. Each step of this wedding planning process has brought me so much joy, and even more excitement for my wedding day. And I’m so lucky to have a dream vendor team, the best bridesmaids a gal could ask for, the perfect fiancé, and the ideal date and location. Counting my lucky stars, and counting down the days until I become a Higgins! [267, to be exact!]

Wedding Planning for Newbies: What I’ve Learned So Far

I’ve been engaged for 42 days.

I have already seen [and booked!] our venue, been in touch with three photographers, called two local bridal boutiques and made appointments to try on dresses, emailed three florists, two videographers, four food/dessert vendors and five coordinators for month-of details and finalizing.

Did I mention my fiancé and I’s tentative wedding date isn’t until Fall 2018?

Yes, you did your math correctly. That gives me roughly 16 months to plan this thing.

#confessionsofaplanaholic

So, why the rush?

Going into this, I knew basically nothing about weddings. I was the maid of honor in a wedding a couple of years ago [almost to the day], but I wasn’t involved in any of the planning process. The bride lived in San Diego, had a venue picked out in Malibu, and with me all the way up in Sacramento, there wasn’t much I could do. Also, up until recently, I really wasn’t even a huge fan of weddings. I mean, I totally thought it was great to celebrate other people’s love, but the forced mingling with people you have never met..? Well, I’m an introvert and can be extremely socially awkward, so, you get why weddings weren’t my fav.

BUT, that said, now that I’m engaged and planning my own special day, the tables have turned a bit.

Even though I have nearly two years to plan, I knew that I wanted to get my venue and my photographer booked as soon as possible. Although I don’t know much about wedding planning, I do know that these two vendors book up the quickest [my potential photographer already has a September wedding for 2018!].

The first thing I did when Mitch and I got engaged was to sign up for Style Me Pretty, The Knot and Wedding Wire. They all give you the opportunity to browse vendors local to your city and/or your general area [for example, we live in Sacramento, but some of these vendors encompass all of Northern California – Bay Area, Sacramento, Chico, South Lake Tahoe, etc.]. While I didn’t end up choosing a venue from the list, it did give me a great starting point for photographers, florists and coordinators. Instagram has also been a really good friend of mine – once I figured out the photographers I liked, I would follow their profiles and find other vendors they’d tagged in their photos [I actually found ALL but one of my potential vendors from this method].

Create a new email address that’s for wedding stuff ONLY. I can’t even tell you guys how helpful this has been. You never realize how many emails you get every day until you’re trying to pilfer through them all to find the ones that relate to your wedding. Having a separate email for our big day has been a life saver. And, bonus, I can easily remove it from my phone and computer after it’s all said an done and I’ll never have to see a wedding email again! [Although, if I’m being totally honest, I would 100% consider a career in wedding planning after this].

Don’t wait! Regardless of how far out your wedding is, get in touch with your potential vendors so you can get your name on their radar. Even though the florists I’ve contacted don’t promise their services until a year before the wedding date, at least they know I’m interested and my day is now in the back of their minds. And if you don’t want to go through the legwork of planning all by yourself, hire a coordinator!

Don’t get your heart set one one single vendor for each category of your wedding. For example, I only saw one venue [which we got extremely lucky in booking], and I really only love one of my potential photographers. We almost didn’t get our venue, and if I don’t get the photographer I want, I will be absolutely crushed [not ideal!]. The moral of the story: have some backups. Don’t narrow it down to one place or one person if you can help it. Have an idea in mind of what you like, and see as many places and interview as many people as you can before you settle. You will be much happier if you start planning your wedding with an open mind.

Get your guest list done early on. We ended up having to do this in the beginning by default due to the fact that the venue we wanted only accommodated 200 people max. It was painstaking and there were lots of disagreements, but ultimately that is the most difficult part of planning, and once this is done it will be smooth sailing afterward. Better to get this out of the way as soon as possible.

Work on your inspo boards! YES, I mean Pinterest. The best thing I ever did was sit down and organize the heck out of my wedding-themed Pinterest boards. It was so easy for me to go in and print out dress styles, floral arrangements, décor styles, etc. Whether you’re a DIY-er or you’re hiring a wedding planner, the best way to let your vendors know what you want is to give them something to go off of. Most vendors will ask you what kind of ideas you have, so having something to go off of is always a good idea!

Stay in touch with your vendors and potential vendors. Let them know what your timeline is and where your head is at. While I was working on our guest list and trying to figure out how to make our venue work for us, I wasn’t just sitting idly – I was emailing potential vendors and getting pricing, availability, etc. I couldn’t nail down a time to meet with anybody since I didn’t have a venue, yet, but I made sure they all knew what the case was and that I would reach out once our venue and date were secured.

All in all, make sure you find that ultimate wedding dream team to work with. Finding vendors who mesh well with you as a couple, as well as each other, is a huge necessity. And also, don’t forget to have FUN. Being engaged and planning a wedding is supposed to be one of the most fun moments of your adult life. Enjoy every moment of being affianced and planning your big day. At the end of it all, it comes down to just the two of you – don’t forget that! And if planning and decision-making has become all-consuming, take a step back, take a night or two off and enjoy some time together just being engaged, in love, and not worrying about wedding details.

Seattle Birthday Weekend [Plus The Best B-Day Gift, Ever!]

Years ago, I was bitten hard by the travel bug. Given the opportunity, I will jump at the chance to travel – whether it’s someplace I’ve been before [Glenbrook and/or Capitola], or someplace new, I’m allllllll over it.

After spoiling the heck out of my guy for his birthday this last December, he made a suggestion that, moving forward, perhaps our money would be better spent on vacations instead of gifts for our birthdays. I, of course, loved this idea, and so for my BIG 30th birthday trip, we booked a trip to Seattle.

I am usually not a city girl. In fact, country backroads with no neighbors for miles is really more my style. But with Seattle being on the same coastline, and never having visited, it had always been on my bucket list of mainland must-sees. [Sidenote: also NOT a fan of rain, which Seattle is, like, known for. But, it comes with the territory if you want to visit that city.]

Seattle is also known for overpriced [albeit, beautiful] hotels, so Mitch and I lucked out with finding a condo rental that backed up to Pike’s market and was only a block from the harbor. And, with it being off season for tourists, the price was totally right. We arrived at our condo at roughly 11:15 am [highly recommend NOT driving yourself if you can help it, traffic is an absolute joke in the city] – we immediately dropped off our bags and headed to scope out the grounds. We’d read on the rental site that there was a rooftop deck, and since we happened to arrive on a rare, sunny spring day, we wanted to enjoy the weather while we could [in Seattle, you really don’t know how long the sunshine will last].

When we got to the rooftop, we were ecstatic to find that we had unobstructed views of the Seattle Great Wheel and the harbor. There were a couple other tourists on the deck, so we did the customary exchanging of and posing for the cameras, and then headed back to our room to make a game plan for the day [while we had access to our condo, the cleaners hadn’t been there, yet, so we technically weren’t allowed to use the room until 3 pm].

Seattle City Suites – our view from our communal rooftop patio.

We realized we were both starving, so we decided to do a little exploring and find a fun spot to eat on the water. As we were walking back onto the rooftop to exit the building [the “rooftop” patio was actually more of a side deck for many of the units, including ours, with a back exit access to the upper street], Mitch whipped around in front of me and said, “I have to do this, I have to give this to you now, I can’t carry it around with me anymore.” Being the anxious, panicky type that I am, I immediately felt my stomach drop, and responded “What’s wrong? Is everything okay?” And it was right then and there, in the beautiful Seattle sunlight, alone on a rooftop overlooking the Puget Sound, that he got down on one knee, flipped open a little navy blue ring box, and asked me to be his wife.

My reaction, naturally, was to stammer “Ohmygod” about fifty times, followed by an occasional “Are you serious?!” before he finally asked if that meant “Yes.” Which, of course, it did. We took a few minutes to enjoy the peace, enjoyment and shock [on my end], before we called our families and tearfully [once again, on my end] and joyfully shared the news with them.

Engaged on a rooftop overlooking the harbor and the Seattle Great Wheel

Beautiful views – in more ways than one.

It took us about an hour-and-a-half to call all of our family members, at which point we were seriously famished. We did the customary social media post, and finally left our little rooftop to find some food [and some celebratory drinks, of course!]. We chose a restaurant with outdoor seating on the pier, right at the base of The Great Wheel, where we shared a couple of dishes and each drank a glass of wine. After lunch, we decided to ride the ferris wheel, explore the city area close to our condo, and grab some food and drinks for our room [FYI for any newbies heading to Seattle soon, there are NO liquor stores! We ended up going to a Target that was luckily only a few blocks from where we were staying].

Since the sun was still out, we took some snacks and drinks to the roof and talked about our engagement and our wedding as we watched the sun go down. We had planned on heading back to the room to regroup and get ready for the night, but the minute I got inside and sat down my energy was zapped. It had been an early, emotionally exhausting day. My poor fiancé tucked me in bed early and spent the evening watching sports on TV and eating a crappy pizza from the restaurant downstairs. Such a wild, newly engaged Friday night! Not.

Saturday morning we had a food tour of Pike’s market scheduled, so we were up early to find a cup of delicious, local Seattle coffee before our tour. If you are going to Seattle, I highly, highly recommend the tour we did. Pike’s market is always bustling with not only tourists, but locals, too. The dozens of famous food vendors in the market had lines that were out the door and wrapped around the buildings. Our food tour allowed us to go right up front and grab samples from all of these places. PLUS, we got a little business card that gave us 10-15% off at a whole list of local Seattle restaurants! A bonus, because the food we tasted was absolutely delicious. And we learned so much about the market and its history, which was great for my history major fiancé.

Rachel’s Ginger Beer – they make their own, AND they have mules on tap!

The famous Pike’s Market sign

Had to take a selfie in front of the gum wall

After the tour, we walked to the Space Needle. Prior to our trip, we learned through word-of-mouth about the City Pass, which happened to include a bunch of the attractions we were hoping to see during our trip [and, as luck would have it, it also just so happened to be majorly on sale]. Many of these were on the same block as the Needle, so we were able to knock out three things in one afternoon. The Needle was as you’d expect: really cool to see, and also really touristy. We stayed up top for about 45 minutes – took in the views of the city, snapped a couple of photos, and had a couple beers, of course.

Brews at the top of the Needle.

After the Space Needle, we toured around the MoPop Museum – I don’t think either of us were really that enthused with it [I definitely would not pay full price for a ticket], although the guitar tower in the entry way was pretty freakin’ awesome.

Tower of guitars at the MoPop.

After the museum, we checked out the Chihuly Garden – also kind of anticlimactic and something I wouldn’t pay full price for, but a really neat concept, and pretty cool that a single man made all of the amazing glass sculptures at the studio.

After hitting all of the spots we wanted, we walked back to our condo, had a cocktail, and decided to hit up a spot we’d passed called Some Random Bar for dinner. We had asked around about finding a spot with live music, and we lucked out that there were two. Both Mitch and I love live music, so it was fun to experience that in a different city.

Sunday was my THIRTIETH BIRTHDAY! I woke up feeling on top of the world – I’d finally left my twenties behind, I was newly ENGAGED, and I was enjoying exploring a new city with my fiancé. We headed out to have breakfast at a spot recommended to us by a friend called Local 360, where all the food was sourced from a 360 mile radius from the restaurant. The server checked our IDs, and, discovering it was my birthday, sent over complimentary PB+J Bon Bons. While the food wasn’t anything to write home about, the ambiance was adorable. As many farm-to-fork restaurants are these days, it had a rustic modern feel of reclaimed wood and rusted metals, with antique décor to round out the whole vibe.

B-Day PB+J Bon Bons

We left 360 and wandered back toward our condo to check out the aquarium [yet another attraction I would not pay full price for, but happened to be on the City Pass]. If you have kids, this is a great aquarium to take them to, as it had tons of interactive stations and things for young ones to do. For adults, it’s not very exciting. We breezed through it in about 20 minutes, and decided to hang out in the condo the rest of the day, as it was steadily raining. We had dinner reservations at a restaurant a few blocks from us called Heartwood Provisions. The food was delicious! The restaurant had a really cool open kitchen concept, where you could sit at a counter that overlooked the kitchen and watch as the chefs prepared all of your food. We chose the chef’s tasting menu, which had five courses with cocktail pairings for each course. We opted not to participate in the cocktail pairings, and instead ordered a half bottle of Darioush cab. We called it a night after dinner, as we had a very early flight to catch on Monday morning.

Overall, I had an amazing time in Seattle. The tourist attractions were nothing special, but the city itself was so much fun. Lots of local restaurants – not a lot of chains, which both myself and chef fiancé really appreciate. I wish we could have had one more day to explore more of the restaurants and the night scene, and we were too early to see Orca whales, so it’s safe to say that we will definitely be back.