I got engaged last summer on the back porch of a cabin on Sugar Mountain. We were in our sweatpants drinking beer, and it was perfect. Shortly following our beer-drinking, sweatpants-wearing engagement, we started shopping around for wedding vendors and ticking all the Big Things off the list.
We’ve been lucky; wedding planning has gone smoothly. (So far. Fingers crossed it stays that way.) A few weeks ago all we had left of the Big Things was a dress and a cake (although in lieu of a cake, I’m still advocating for a Duck Donuts donut tower).
I really wasn’t sure where to start with my wedding dress. As a proud reality TV junkie, my only knowledge about wedding dress shopping is from “Say Yes to the Dress,” but I knew my own wedding dress experience wasn’t going to involve Randy pulling Lazaro gowns from the back stockroom at Kleinfeld’s or Monty and Lori “jacking me up.”
So with some tips from the Internet (The Knot will instruct you on which undergarments are appropriate to wear for wedding dress shopping) and some key — more helpful — tips from close friends, my sister and I braved the world of bridal shops in Charlotte. What started as a casual day of scoping out options turned into a truly triumphant day: I bought a wedding dress and my mom learned how to use FaceTime.
I ended up buying my dress at J Major’s; I loved their space, their wide variety of gowns, and the fact that my consultant, Heather, was a dream to work with. The process was easy, painless and practically effortless.
Luckily for a Queen City bride, one of Charlotte’s many dress boutiques is sure to have something to strike your fancy.
(1) Hayden Olivia
(4) The Lily Rose
(5) Winnie Couture
(7) Poffie Girls
(8) Anjolique Bridal
6 hard-earned lessons from my shopping experience
(1) You don’t have to go to every single bridal boutique in Mecklenburg County to find “the one.”
P.S. You technically have already found “the one” because you are shopping for something to wear when you walk down the aisle to marry him or her.
(2) If the shop offers appointments, book them.
This may sound like obvious advice, but a set schedule of appointments will not only give you dedicated time with a bridal consultant, but will also help you achieve your goals of having a set schedule and making sure you eat. Plan your appointments geographically; you don’t want to be perusing in Pineville at 3:15 when you have an appointment in Dilworth at 4.
(3) Bring snacks!
A full day of shopping is a marathon and not a sprint, and you don’t want to end up scarfing down some fast food at SouthPark mall’s food court (I mean, food pavilion) and chasing it with a beermosa from Brewpublik’s holiday kiosk. Instead, throw a few granola bars or some trail mix in your purse and thank me later because you’re going to need it.
While you’re at it, pack a cute tote with mimosa supplies or a few bottles of champs. Many shops will let you and your entourage enjoy some bubbly during your visit, but make sure you call ahead and ask them their alcohol policy because there’s nothing sadder than warm champagne sitting in your car.
(4) Consider shopping during off-times.
New York Bride & Groom has a great do-it-yourself, casual atmosphere, which I loved (you can pull dresses off the rack yourself and try on up to six at a time). However, going during peak hours on Saturday meant that we had very limited time with a consultant to ask important questions about price, delivery and accessories. Try to go at the beginning or end of the day, when it’s guaranteed to be less busy, or maybe just pop by on a weekday afternoon, which is totally an off time for wedding dress shopping.
(4) Stick to your budget.
At the dress shopping point in your wedding planning experience, you should have an idea (or maybe you have a color coded spreadsheet) of your wedding budget and how much money you can spend on your get up. You’ll hear this time and time again, but make sure that you’re only trying on dresses that are in your budget. You don’t want to fall in love with something you can’t afford.
I tried a beautiful blush number on at J Major’s without looking at the price tag. It was truly stunning, and blush is a great color for a beach wedding. One look at the price tag spiraled into a five-minute discussion, which totally sucked because I really loved the dress but couldn’t afford it. I finally had to convince myself that I didn’t really like the dress because the top made me look more look like a figure skater than a bride. Avoid the slow and painful road of figure skater costume versus wedding dress and check the price tag before you try it on.
(5) Call ahead/do research on designers in advance.
I could have saved myself an Internet order and an afternoon in Georgetown rush hour traffic by doing a little research. When I first started thinking about wedding dresses, I saw myself as a a flowy, beachy bride, and so Anthropologie’s offerings seemed right up my alley. I found one I liked, it was on sale, and I had to order it immediately in case it was going to turn into the gown that got away. After a little bit of prancing in front of my friends and my cats, the gown went back in the mail, and I felt like I had to go to an actual Anthropologie store.
Turns out that while Charlotte doesn’t have an Anthropologie/BHLDN store in the flesh, a lot of Charlotte’s bridal boutiques carry the same designers, lines and dresses that Anthropologie does (I saw my Internet dress hanging up first thing when I walked into J Major’s).
So peruse online (Charlotte Wedding is a great resource for which boutiques carry which designers and so are the shops’ Facebook pages) or give the shop a call to save yourself some headaches and heartaches. The dress I ended up buying was from a BHLDN designer, and it was right here in Charlotte all along; no trip to DC required.