Shopping the 50% Off Sales

We made a trip to Hobby Lobby while the wedding stuff was 50% off and I tried on a bunch of tiaras and veils.  This is one of the longer veils I sampled.  Mom grabbed a mirror from another aisle and we hung it up so I could see myself.  It was a lot of fun picking out a veil and tiara for a fraction of the cost they would have been at a bridal shop!

As you all know, after-Christmas sales are quite the popular event.  At Garden Ridge we found a plethora of wedding-worthy decorations right there in the seasonal aisles!  Rolls of silver beads, yards of blue ribbon, ornaments with the potential of decorating a reception, and many other surprises.  The best part was the price, obviously.

Don’t assume that all after-Christmas sales are good for is Christmas supplies for next year.  Not all wedding stuff has to come from the wedding section!  As soon as a sale starts at a random store, let the wheels in your head start turning.  There are plenty of cute decorations out there just waiting to be discovered!

How to Order a Wedding Dress from China

Is ordering “the dress” from China a smart idea?  There are so many horror stories floating around the internet, but yet there are so many success stories as well.  While the promise of an inexpensive dress is tempting, one must wonder if all of the worrying, guess work, and knocking on wood is worth it!  Allow me to share my experience with you, as well as the pros and cons of ordering directly from China.

I went into this adventure knowing exactly what I wanted in a wedding gown, but faced the fact that it probably wasn’t going to look exactly like the picture.  Give them a break; all the seamstress has is a picture on which to base the final product.  In most cases, the company won’t even have a pattern, so be sure to have detailed pictures of everything you want: bead work, lace, florets, etc.

Keep in mind that the vast majority of wedding dresses come from China anyway.  While the bridal shops buy their dresses from bigger companies with patterns, sellers on eBay run smaller companies with less workers but a lot of talent.  And always remember, just because you order from a bridal shop doesn’t mean their dresses will be perfect.  People are just human wherever you order from and mistakes can happen.

One of the first things I did was my homework.  There are many inexpensive dress makers advertised on eBay and other online sites, but that doesn’t mean they’re all real people.  I found several eBay sellers, looked at their feedback, and then checked the rest of the internet for reviews on their work.  If I couldn’t find their names elsewhere on the web, they weren’t verifiable and I dropped them like a bad habit!  I narrowed down my list quite a bit by finding what was spam, who just wanted a quick buck, and who the REAL people were.

Just for a well rounded viewpoint, go visit some sites that say how horrible “knock-off” dresses look.  99% of the time, the original was a $1,000 dress with ten layers and more detail than it takes to plan a wedding, while the cheap version cost $50 and consisted of two layers and little or no bead work.  There are several things we can learn from sites like these:

  • Most of these websites were created by people in the bridal industry who would rather you spend money in their bridal salon!  To be honest, I thought most of the cheaper dresses were gorgeous… they were just shown beside the designer gown in order to show how “bad” they looked.
  • eBay dresses do not equal designer dresses!  So get it all of your fantasies of ordering a Maggie Sottero for 95% off out of your head!  What you will get is a dress based on the designer gown, created from a picture.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Don’t expect a $1,000 dress for $50.  Use a little common sense: how could someone purchase at least ten yards of Duchess Satin, labor on it for weeks, send it half-way across the world, all for the price of an iPod shuffle, and you be completely wowed by it?  It won’t happen.  Either order a better quality dress or set your expectations way lower than the picture in the catalogue.

In case you’re completely terrified now, let me ease your nerves by sharing my story.  I found a dress online and fell in love with it.  My mom used some Photo Shop magic to make it look exactly how I wanted while I researched various China-based companies.  We decided on our candidate, emailed her the pictures (front and back of the dress), asked her if she could make it, she said yes, and we showered her with DETAILS.  Let me say it again: DETAILS!!  The neck must be this high, the train must be this long, the bead work must cover this much, put florets here, add lace there, and so on.  We used simple words (remember, English is their second language and it’s not the easiest thing to learn) and put each request on a separate line, like this:

The dress must be white.

I want the bead work to cover the bodice.

I would like florets on the skirt as shown in the picture.

Communication is the key to any relationship, and this is no exception.  Make sure your seller is communicative; ours responded to our emails within an hour, no matter when we sent them, and we started wondering when these people sleep!  If your seller seems stand-offish and awkwardly quiet, go find someone different.  Better safe than $100 in the hole over a faker who just wanted your money.

Next my mom looked up YouTube videos on how to measure someone for a wedding dress.  Do NOT attempt to measure yourself.  Take more measurements than the seller asks for and email them every single one.  My mom even sent an additional picture of the dress, but with all the measurements included next to their respective areas.  I’m pretty sure we completely overwhelmed these folks with details, but it’s better to do that than forget to mention an important feature and be disappointed when the dress arrives.

A tell-tale sign that we had found a gem of a seller was the realistic amount they asked us to pay.  When we insisted on having the magnificent bead work featured on the original dress, our seller warned us that it would be an extra $35.  I was overjoyed!!  Even though this brought our total to $195 (including shipping), this meant they were actually going to put all that hard work into the beading!  I took the extra charge as a big hint that this was going to be a high quality, gorgeous dress.

It only took a few weeks for it to arrive, as opposed to the six months you would wait for a dress from the bridal salon.  Considering all the hard work that went into making it, the shipping time was very reasonable.  Actually, it arrived a few days earlier than the shipment tracker predicted!

I am extremely satisfied with my dress.  The only thing that we need to change is the sleeve shape, which is a relatively minor alteration.  I would also prefer the waist to be dropped a bit more, but that is also an easy fix.  We will address these issues as well as “the fitting” next time I travel home.

I’m sure you all are chomping at the bit to know who this wonderful seller is.  My family and I are happy to introduce you to Yu Yang Wang and highly recommend them.  We are impressed with the workmanship and communication of this eBay seller and encourage all cost-conscious brides to seriously consider buying from them.

I know for a fact that there are other good sellers out there, but I want to make it easy for you and recommend the one that worked for me.  Just remember everything I just said about communication, pictures, and measurements.  You CAN have the wedding gown of your dreams!  Just do your homework, use common sense, and enjoy having money to spare for your wedding shoes!

Richmond Bridal Showcase

So many vendors, so little time!  I put on the provided heart-shaped “bride to be” pin and started collecting business cards, cake samples, and information packets as Mom and I made our way through the Bridal Showcase in Richmond.  I had been to the Greater Richmond Convention Center before, so I kind of knew how many venues, photographers and caterers would be represented there… but when I actually saw it all I was completely overwhelmed!

Aren’t these flowers amazing?  My favorite is the blue shoe with a rose in it (ha ha, go figure).  I like them all, of course.

Just a tip, if you ever go to one of these: don’t eat before you come!  Can somebody say “more caterers than you shake a stick at!”  We got to nibble on some pretty delicious samples, plus cake!  Oh boy… my diet just took a major blow.

Before I started digging into the vast world of wedding planning, I had no idea what a “groom’s cake” was.  For those of you who are going “Huh??” it’s basically a dessert to honor the groom, whether it’s a literal cake or not.  Less conspicuous ideas include a dish of his favorite candy or cookies.  Whatever the choice, it’s just a special touch meant to include the groom’s personal taste at the reception.  In my case, however, Tim likes to be very involved in the wedding planning, so his touches will be just as integrated as mine!  (But I don’t mind setting out his favorite sweets anyway.)

The vendors at the Richmond Bridal Showcase featured a fashion show, a free photo booth session, and door prizes.  I didn’t win any, but my friend from church did!  I kept my “bride to be” pin and I’m wearing it everywhere, and I’m currently sorting through the hundreds of information packets I received.  I will remember our fun day at the showcase for years to come!


So Many Invitations!

I know most engagements don’t come with an instruction manual, but nobody warned me about the thousands of invitations I have to look through!  Mom assured me, however, that she had to do the same thing when she was planning her wedding.  And these binders are huge… not the cute little pink three ring binders I anticipated.

If this adventure lies ahead of you, save yourself some heartache and decide what style you want before you even step into the store.  I settled on the vintage/shabby chic look ahead of time, which kept me from getting emotionally attached to formal, traditional invitations (which were beautiful, but just didn’t go with the theme).  I narrowed my “I like” list down to a few designs and will give myself some time to think about which one is my favorite before making a final decision.

In case anyone in our area is looking for invitations, we went to the Cordial Cricket in Chester.  They had a very nice selection in whatever style, color, and paper you can imagine.  One of my homeschool friends works there, and I enjoyed getting to catch up with her as it’s been years since we’ve seen each other. =)


The Great Pursuit for “The Dress” Begins

How am I supposed to pick out just one?  There’s only fifteen billion gorgeous wedding gowns out there to choose from!  For my first attempt at chasing down “the dress,” I tried on several styles at Sestra Bridal in Chester.  It was here that I familiarized myself with terms like dropped waist, pick-ups, florets, and rouche.

Standing in front of a mirror with a wedding gown on seemed so surreal… the reality of getting married finally hit me!  This jump start to my year of wedding planning is motivating me to get plenty of things done this summer.  Hopefully buying the dress will be one of them!  (Speaking of goals, I’ve got a bit of “junk in the trunk” I’d like to lose before next summer!)

Let me encourage all brides-to-be to try on plenty of dresses at several bridal shops.  If you’re thinking, “But I don’t plan on buying it from this exact store,” or “I’m actually thinking about buying mine online,” my answer is, try them on anyway!  It will give you a good idea of what styles look good on you, which don’t do much for you, and the ones to avoid like the plague.  Until I visited Sestra, I never knew that a ball gown made me look like a giant cotton ball, or that a dropped waist made me look taller.  It will also help you see how different shades of white, ivory and oyster compliment your skin tone.  In addition, you will have the chance to decide which fabrics you prefer, whether it be elegant satin or summery taffeta.

Just the Right Flowers

It is rare to find my exact shade of blue in a Gerbera Daisy, so when I found a plethora of them at Garden Ridge in Chesterfield Town Center I had to snatch them up!  I want to use mostly silk flowers for our wedding, and buying them a year in advance certainly can’t hurt anything.  Aren’t they gorgeous?

This marks only the beginning of my flower shopping, but at least I started out right by finding my favorite flower in just the right color!