As soon as we learned that the availability for our top-of-the-list venue was limited to April, I realized that I was already behind in finding a wedding dress. Actually, this didn’t immediately occur to me, but it was pointed out instantly by every other female that I spoke to. Even the friend who mused, “Oh, I don’t know anything about weddings, but I know that you should have ordered a dress by now.” (Thanks, Jaclyn.)
With the cha-ching of venue and catering costs ringing in my mind, I began brainstorming ways to bargain hunt for a wedding dress that didn’t involve a custom order from China. I spent a few days wasting time on sites like OnceWed and Tradesy, but it’s ridiculous to think that I could have made any sort of decision without trying anything on first to remotely gauge what I did and didn’t like.
I was flipping through a Metro Detroit Bride magazine when I spied an advertisement for Bride and Joy, an off-rack store in Plymouth that essentially sold floor samples from past seasons. It seemed genius. You scored an amazing deal for a dress that had been tried on in a fitting room a few times.
Because I wasn’t sure what to expect, I made an appointment to swing by the store solo and check things out. A few days later, I pulled up to a nondescript building in downtown Plymouth after work. The lights appeared to be off, but as I neared the door, I saw a sign directing me to call a phone number to notify the shop of my arrival. (Not going to lie, I was a little bit concerned at this point.) A few minutes later, a young employee bounced down the sidewalk to let me inside and assist in trying on a few dresses.
It’s a small space, filled with dresses and organized loosely by material and style. I plucked a few from the racks, not knowing exactly what I was looking for anyway, and dragged them into a fitting room to try on. Maybe my uncertainty was obvious, because the woman who was helping me didn’t really do any favors in clipping back the samples to help me visualize what results some alterations could achieve. I didn’t realize that at the time, as it was my virgin dress visit, but I wish now that she’d put in a bit more effort. The appointment was not all lost, however. I found one strapless number that I could loosely imagine wearing; that particular Palema Blanca sample gown was priced at $2,000 (marked down from $2,750).
Feeling a bit defeated, and now realizing that the store that the samples came from – B. Ella Bridal – was just across the block, I walked over there with the employee who’d assisted me, and who mentioned that she could squeeze me in for a few minutes sans a formal appointment.
There, I tried on a couple more dresses and found one cheaper option, priced at $1,750 that I also liked. I left, assuming that I’d come back with my shopping crew in a couple of weeks. (Side note: About a month after my visit, I received a postcard for 15 percent off a dress from B. Ella Bridal.)
A week later, as I was heading toward Traverse City, I made my obligatory stop into Birch Run and was surprised to see a big store titled “Bridal” in the outlet section nearest the freeway. I cautiously approached… it sort of looked open… and ended up inside, where I was whisked into a fitting room to try on a few more dresses. Here, at Viper Bridal, the dresses were categorized by size. The staff was helpful, but the store itself is in dire need of some sprucing up.
I was instructed to pull on shapewear and a slip, and tried on several gowns and found one that I liked more than either I had tried on in Plymouth. It was a Mori Lee gown, priced at $1,350. (Side note: By this time, I had determined that I was comfortable aiming for a $1,500 budget if I were going to buy new.)
Not gonna lie. I went back online a few days later and scoured sites for a pre-worn version of that dress, to no avail. I’m not sure if the style numbers simply don’t match up at this shop, or if it was in the Birch Run store as a past-season option, but I had zero luck finding the dress online. (At the time I’m writing this, one month later, I have received a follow-up call, but no discount offer from Viper.)
Fast forward a few weeks, when life settled back down and I was ready to go at it again, this time with my Matron-of-Honor, who didn’t really know yet that she was my Matron-of-Honor, but that doesn’t exactly matter. We both checked our calendars and found that Sunday was open for us, and because B. Ella Bridal was closed that day, I booked an appointment at the only other bridal store that came to mind, the chic-looking Demetrio’s near my once-favorite Target on Maple and Coolidge Highway.
Even though some of the Yelp reviews cautioned of pretentious employees, I figured that the place was worth a look. It’s a larger store than my previous shopping experiences, and I accurately assumed that the selection would be great. My appointment was made with Angie and while my stomach was performing elementary gymnastics on the way inside, it ended up being the best experience yet.
As requested on my call to set up an appointment, I had jotted down style numbers of a few of the dresses online that piqued my interest. Angie met us and immediately went to grab those dresses, before ushering us to the back of the store where several brides were already situated with friends and families to try on their own bridal bevies.
She clipped me into those dresses with the gentlest form of archaic girdling possible – and they looked amazing. I mean, ladies, this is what I now know. You just need someone who’s going to grip that dress tight and show you what it will really look like. And then, it’s all gravy.
I fell in love with two dresses and as I was changing back into my street clothes with a promise to come back with a few more folks next week, I just happened to catch wind that the entire store would be 20 percent off the coming Labor Day weekend. Um, SCORE.
And that’s it. I’ll head back in tomorrow to try on the couple of dresses I loved once more and get a few additional opinions before pulling the trigger. Fingers are crossed that it’s a smooth and easy walk to the alter 😉