This weekend I went to Boston to wedding dress shop with my daughter. The wedding is November 4, 2023, in Miami so it is time to find a dress! Full disclosure, we set a price that was reasonable - but on the low side if you watch "Say Yes to the Dress." We set off to shop - with Lise Courtney wearing her new jean jacket announcing her soon to be new name! We were a party of four - my daughter, her maid of honor and best friend for twenty years, my daughter's future mother-in-law and me.
We first went to a wedding dress shop at the Copley Plaza in downtown Boston. This store was an established family owned business that collaborates now with Vera Wang. This store was very elegant, small and subdued. Lise Courtney had picked out several dresses which they had waiting for us. It was nice that they were ready for us and prepared.
There was one other client in the store while we were there. She found her dress while we were there - and her family and friends cheered and hummed "Here Comes the Bride." Even though she was not in our direct sight line, we got snippets of what was going on and their enthusiasm added to ours.
We expected that this was going to be the store that had her dress. There were two dresses that Lise Courtney liked a lot but neither one was the clear choice. We left feeling excited and optimistic - and that the pressure was off. Now we knew that there was a dress out there for her. Lise Courtney was not ready to make a decision yet since she wasn't certain - and there were three more appointments on Saturday.
We appreciated that the first sales person was not pushy but her energy level was a little low. Perhaps it was the time of the day - 5:30 - and she was tired - although she did say that she only had two clients that day. I think that her lack of enthusiasm dampened our reactions to the dresses.
The next morning found us at Vows, a suburban store with 3000 dresses to choose from. The sales person assigned to us was a gem of the first order. Her name is Mandy White - and if anyone needs to buy a wedding dress, tell them to fly to Boston and shop at Vows with Mandy.
She greeted us with big smiles, lots of energy (LOTS OF ENERGY!), and so much enthusiasm for what was to come. She asked when and where the wedding is going to be. She asked how Lise Courtney met her fiance and she enthusiastically admired Lise Courtney's engagement ring. She asked our price point and told us that there were lots of dresses in our price point and that finding one would not be a problem. Then she asked what Lise Courtney was looking for in a dress, asked a few more clarifying questions and then suggested two designers who would match her ideas. Finally she showed us where those dresses could be found in the store and encouraged us to pick some dresses to try.
This turned out to be very different from our later experiences. The next store, on Newbury Street in Bostson, did not listen to Lise Courtney's wish list at all and barely asked about the wedding venue and time line (not as a courtesy but simply for further information about how to match her dress to the wedding she was planning.) We could smell the sales lady's commission breath and sense the lack of interest from across the room. The sales woman did not help Lise Courtney get into the dresses or interact with her. We were so offended by the store's attitude that Lise Courntey tried on several dresses that she knew she would never buy just to see what they were like.
When the sales person asked if we had any other appointments and we told her where we were going next, she rolled her eyes and told us we would be back. As someone in sales, I found that attitude very foolish.
Across the street at the last store, we found our second great sales person of the day. This woman was about the age of my daughter, recently married, and a transplant from New York. She had worked at Kleinfeld, where Say Yes to the Dress takes place. She was warm and casual in demeanor and asked all the right questions. Based on the information Lise Courtney shared - and a picture of the dress that was probably "THE DRESS," this sales person was able to show us several dresses that were close seconds. After half an hour though the sales person looked at Lise Courtney and said - "You know, we are just trying to recreate that dress that you already love. You should just go back and buy that dress."
And - we did! and it is beautiful - and perfect for my daughter!
Take aways from wedding dress shopping.
Mandy's energy level was amazing. We joked that she must be beyond fully caffeinated! She clearly loves her job and her enthusiasm carried us along - Not that we weren't already incredibly excited already! Her enthusiasm made us even more excited and we wanted this to be the place where we found THE dress - and we wanted Mandy to be the one who sold it to us. Mandy reminded me of how important it is to be excited and upbeat when someone comes in to an open house. The people looking for a new home typically are excited about the process - although sometimes they are a bit fearful - so they need us to enthusiastic, open and helpful and able to give them the information and energy that they need.
Mandy asked great questions that moved the process along. She listened to Lise Courtney and built on that information. The additional dresses that she brought to us - beyond the ones we had picked out ourselves - reflected that she had thought about what Lise Courtney wanted and magnified that. The dress that Lise Courtney chose was consistent with what she had thought she wanted before we started shopping but was a little different. When Mandy gave us the free range of the store we were able to expand our search beyond what Lise Courtney had thought she wanted and to confirm her final choice. It isn't that all buyers are liars - but sometimes buyers don't know what all the options are that are available. It is the job of a good sales person or Realtor to show the buyer what those choices are - based on the initial search criteria and then the feedback that the buyer gives (based on good questions from the Realtor.)
Mandy respected our price point. When Lise Courtney said what our limit was, her immediate response was - We have lots of dresses for you to choose from at that price point. She never made me feel like as the mother of the bride I was skimping out on my daughter's big day. In fact, the dress Lise Courtney chose was less than my price limit. Homes are expensive now. No buyer should feel that they are poor in this market. A good Realtor should help the buyer find the best home available for their price range and to feel like they aren't settling - but making a good financial decision and getting a great home to boot!
She made us feel that she was vested in our outcome - not just the sale. Mandy shared with us that she is getting married in March and she ordered a dress from a designer that she knew they would never carry in the store - easy to accomplish since she is the manager. She wanted a dress that she did not associate with any other bride. To her, every dress that she sells is now that particular bride's dress. To her, the dress we bought will always be Lise Courtney's dress and so she could never buy that dress as her own.
Now, I know that she must sell the same dress to many different brides during the course of a year, but the idea that she saw the dress that my daughter bought as her special dress was sweet. We felt like she really cared when we made a choice - and that she thought it was as perfect as we did.
Mandy shares the moment - When Lise Courtney put on THE DRESS and came out to show us, there were tears all around. I cried. Her maid of honor cried. Her future mother-in-law cried. Mandy said she started to tear up too. (I don't know that that was actually the case, but it made us feel like she was really there in the moment with us!)
FINAL BIT OF ADVICE FOR DRESS SHOPPING - NOTHING TO DO WITH SALES
If at all possible, keep the group small but include the future mother in law. When my son was engaged, his fiance included me with her mother in the dress shopping and it was such a gift of generosity that I will always remember. Plus- it was fun. We included my daughter's future mother-in-law who has two sons and no daughters. She thought that she would never have the opportunity to go wedding dress shopping so this was a special treat.
Make it all about the bride. It's her day and her choice.
Include some breaks for breathing, eating and celebration. It gives the shoppers a chance to distill the choices, take the pressure off, and to replenish your energy reserves. We had a nice dinner Friday night after the first shopping spree with Lise Courtney, her dad, her fiance and his parents. Saturday after our trip to Vows, we had brunch on Newbury Street with Bloody Marys and dinner Saturday night included prosecco!
Every bride is beautiful on her wedding day. Ultimately, it is not about the dress. It isn't even about the wedding. It is about the marriage. This weekend, I saw skinny brides trying on dresses and ones that weren't. I saw pretty girls and ones that weren't. I saw some who were joyful and others who were nervous and earnest. The one thing I knew though was that they would all choose a great dress and be beautiful on their wedding day - because every bride is beautiful on her wedding day.
Bring tissues. As the mother of the bride - you are going to need them when she finds HER DRESS. (and I am not even that person who cries at everything - but when she came out in THE dress, I started to cry.)
Most of all - Enjoy it. It is an incredibly precious day when you shop with your daughter for her wedding dress.