Starting around September of 2017, when this was all just a concept, I started getting asked, “What makes Bridals by Madison different?”. And to be frank, I was stumped. I always came up with something, “Oh our gowns are designed in the Netherlands and Europe!”, “Oh, well no where else nearby carries these gowns!”, “The brides will get to work directly with the owner!”. While these things are true, it really wasn’t what made Bridals by Madison any different. Tons of boutiques have gowns from Europe, or an exclusive line, or has the owner (or family of) there. The truth was, I had no idea what would set me apart from anyone else. I only knew who I was at other boutiques and stores. I knew every in and out of the places I had worked. I knew a lot about bridal and the wedding industry as a whole, but I had no idea of my role in it. Yet.
Now, what makes Bridals by Madison different? You. My brides. You are what makes my boutique different. You are what sets us apart. You’re unique, but timeless. You’re whimsical. You’re romantic. You see and feel the difference in quality in the gowns. You come in and laugh, and cry, and make memories with us. You have made my boutique into far more than just another boutique that sells pretty wedding gowns. You have made it an experience. A Bridals by Madison Bride wants to be a Bridals by Madison Bride. I have had the absolute BEST experience with all of you. You’ve turned a boutique into a lifestyle. You’ve taken a moment where you feel your prettiest, your happiest, your best, your most YOU, and ran with it. No where else that I have worked, have I gotten to witness anything like this. I can now say, because of each of you, Bridals by Madison is the place to feel like the best version of you. At the end of the day, when its all said and done, what made Bridals by Madison “Bridals by Madison” is each of you who want to be a Bridals by Madison Bride, and we want that too.
So much of the entire bridal/wedding process is entirely new to a lot of people. Therefore, there are tons of pieces to the “perfect day” puzzle that are hard to find where they fit, or are entirely unknown. One of the pieces I get the most questions about is alterations. So, here’s just a little bit of the basics to help! For information regarding specific alterations, I would highly recommend reaching out directly to a seamstress.
First, what even are alterations? By definition, alterations are the action or process of altering or being altered. What does this mean in bridal? Alterations are the next step after you have purchased your gown, whether its a new order gown or off the rack, almost every single bride will need some level of alteration to make that special garment fit just right.
If I ordered my gown, why would I need alterations? Most of us are not children of fortune 500 CEO’s, royals, celebrities, etc. That means most of our day-to-day clothes comes from ready-to-wear manufacturers. Ready-to-wear is exactly what it sounds like, clothing that is not intended for tailoring and is already ready to wear when purchased. This can be purchased from any department store, Target, Walmart, etc. The clothing is NOT meant to have a “perfect” fit. The same shirt, dress, pair of pants, etc. will fit people differently based on their stylistic preferences, sizing choice, body shape, etc. but is not designed with the intentions of the garment being tailored to the purchasing individual, it is designed to be worn as-is. Bridal is a lot of people’s first, and only, step into the world of couture, or rather, the direction of couture. Most bridal gowns, worn by the average bride, are not actually couture pieces, but the closest a lot of us will come to a couture dress-making experience. You are not face-front of the designer having them work directly one-on-one with you, which is what keeps costs down, but they are certainly NOT ready-to-wear garments. Gowns are designed with the intentions of the garment being tailored to the purchasing individual. Measurements are taken at the time of purchase, for new order gowns, but this will only get you so close since you are not face-front of the designer having them work directly on the gown on you. The measurements taken at your bridal appointment are used to order your gown from the designer to the CLOSEST standard size, not to exact fit. However, unless the bride has fluctuated in weight since the time of initial measurements, the gown is usually very very close in fit. From there, to get the perfect fit which every bride wants on her wedding day, you will need to see a seamstress who is a specialist in bridal or formal alterations.
Where/when do alterations take place and how much does that cost? Alterations are never included in the cost of the gown. Alterations are always billed as a separate service whether the alterations take place in shop or elsewhere. There would be no way for the shop to ensure they cover cost of alterations without grossly overcharging everyone as every single bride’s needs and wants are different when it comes to gown fit. Some bridal shops offer in-house alterations with a seamstress who travels to the shop for fittings. Typically speaking, this is when and where alterations will be the most expensive. One, because the seamstress has to commute to that shop to provide their service and two, because, typically speaking, the shop will take a commission of up to 40% of what the seamstress charges for their services from their profits. Therefore, they will need to increase their pricing to cover the lost profit margin. Other shops do not offer in-house alterations, but will offer a list of trusted seamstresses they refer out to. This is typically when alterations will cost a little less because the customer will travel to the seamstress (vs. the seamstress and the bride commuting) and the shop will take a much smaller referral fee from the seamstress, if the shop charges a fee from the seamstress at all. Some shops do not offer in-house alterations nor do they offer a referral list, in which case you will need to independently source a formal wear specialist to handle your alterations. In my boutique, we do not offer in-house alterations, but I DO have a referral list of three highly talented women who I whole heartedly trust to bring your already gorgeous gown to the level of perfection. I do not take any commissions or referral fees from my seamstresses. Whether the shop you purchase your gown from has in-house alterations, you choose to use an independent seamstress from a referral list, or source your own, I would expect basic bridal alterations to range anywhere from $300-$800 depending on the style, level of intricacy of the gown, and where you purchased your gown (services in larger cities/more affluent areas will likely be on the pricier end of the spectrum). Alterations including customizations to the gown (like adding sleeves, changing the back to/from a zipper/corset or lowering the backline, a custom overskirt, a custom cape, changing the neckline, etc.) may cost more. Additionally, the cost of alterations are based on the labor, skill, and costs of the seamstress, NOT the cost of the gown. Purchasing an inexpensive gown does not mean the cost of alterations will be less expensive and purchasing an expensive gown does not necessarily mean alterations will be more expensive. Many brides are a little bit shell-shocked when they purchase a gown, typically off-the-rack or second-hand, for a great value and find the alterations are more than the gown cost. Don’t let this keep you from purchasing off the rack or second-hand, that will still typically get you the absolute best value for that gown, but do not expect what you paid for the gown to change the cost of alterations.
All in all, if you are wanting that bridal magazine, Pinterest worthy, envy evoking, total PERFECTION fit, alterations are an absolute must. Whether it be just taking up the straps, a hem, adding a bustle, or completely customizing your gown, proper alterations are what will really level-up your bridal look and give you that perfect couture level fit.
Hello! Me again! So as we have grown and had more brides wanting to shop with us, we have had to start actually enforcing some of the shop policies. One of these being the need for an appointment. We are open by appointment only. To view our selection in person at any time, you need an appointment. And, much to my chagrin, this has peeved some moms and even brides recently. So I figured I should explain the why behind it. Trust me, it not because we don’t want to work with you/ your daughter/ your sister/ whomever, its because we do.
So why be by appointment only then?
Space. I love my boutique more than anything, but it is small. It is an intimate, personal, shopping experience. Every. Single. Piece. of my sweet shop has been meticulously considered. There is enough space for one bride with up to eight guests to shop without being overwhelmed simply by the person to space ratio. It was meant to never incur a chain store feel.
Time. I block off two hours for each new bride. Which, if you’ve asked around, is on the longer end of appointment slots. It is of the utmost importance to us that no one feels rushed. I am not a pressure salesmen, not pushy, not rushy. When you accept walk-ins during appointments it causes the bride already in store to feel rushed. It tends to make the bride feel like her time to feel all she needs to feel, see all she needs to see, is over. Picking a gown is an emotional and analytical process so it is super important that each of our brides has the time in our boutique to process all that she needs to when finding her gown without added distraction.
Preparedness. Like we’ve said, this day is all about YOU. The wedding is about the couple, the gown shopping experience is about the BRIDE. I want this day to be so so so special for you! Booking an appointment, having a level of preparedness, knowing the basics of your info prior to your visit allows me to provide each bride with an individualized, stress-free, experience!
Down-time. Now trust me, I know what I signed up for, and this is the last on the list because it’s truly the last fundamental reason why we require an appointment… but I do work a second job. I am a Starbucks Shift Supervisor and barista trainer. I love my second job trust me, but its a necessity not a hobby. Between Starbucks and my boutique, I would have virtually no time with my family, friends, days to just take care of myself too. I accept appointments six days a week and I open or close Starbucks depending on what day. So when the stars align and I don’t work Starbucks or have appointments, I take a personal day to be with my friends, family, and fur-babies. Bridal boutique owners need their hair done, to be able to grocery shop, and see their families too! lol!
As we continue forward, I just want to thank all of you for your continued support. I am so grateful for all the opportunities we have been given! We can’t wait to help you find the gown of your dreams!
YAY! You’re engaged! You and your Pinterest have been dreaming of this day since… well… forever practically! And, you are ready to dive in! Here are my best tips and advice for your wedding gown shopping journey:
Don’t start until you’re ready to make that purchase:
You’re excited, and we totally get it! We’re excited for you! But if you’re planning a long engagement, and aren’t getting married for three years after he pops the question don’t run straight to your local bridal store. Here’s why: First, styles change a lot in three years. Second, you could change a lot in that time. Babies, families, sickness, a new healthier lifestyle, a lot can change in three years! Third, what happens when you do fall in love with a gown and you’re not ready to make that purchase? Chances are, by the time you come back for it, it will be long gone. What you don’t want is to fall in love and let that be the gown that got away. Fourth, if it’s a smaller boutique that runs on an appointment based schedule, you’re taking that appointment potentially from a bride who needs a gown! If you’ve got a while, start really honing in on your style online with tools like the knot, Zola, and Pinterest and researching shops in your area (or within your travel range) that fit the look, timeline, and budget you have in mind!
Don’t wait too long to come in:
On the flip side of the aforementioned too-early bride, do NOT wait until the last minute to start your hunt for the gown. Gowns typically take 4-6 months to come in depending on the designer! I know, I know that seems like forever away and you’re planning on losing another 10 pounds but trust me on this one… You will want to have your gown purchased 8-10 months prior to your wedding. Then, you’ll have ample time for alterations and there wont be any last minute anxiety attacks about your gown arriving on time!
Do look through your various local bridal stores’ social media beforehand
Don’t waste you and your bridal party’s time scheduling 137 appointments across the continent without looking at their social media and selection online first. You’ll learn a lot about the store, their gowns, their vibe from their online presence. If you’re wanting a glittering, sparkling, dazzler or lacey bohemian moment, or an angular ultra contemporary piece and you book at a niche boutique that specializes in vintage all satin gowns because you assumed all bridal shops carry all styles… you, your guests, and your stylist will be locked in the world’s longest, most awkward-eye-contact-stare-off until your appointment is over leaving you all feeling defeated because no one will no what to pull since the shop and your style do not align. Okay that might be slightly dramatic, but it does get overwhelming for all involved when you have something in mind, that’s not what that store carries or specializes in, couldn’t find something to try that you actually liked and were looking for, and are just now exhausted and quite possibly hangry. You can make your search a lot easier and more fun, your stylists job a lot easier and more fun, and it’ll be a lot easier and more fun for your most special people to be present for trips to a few pre-vetted shops to find THE dress vs. a month long parade around the continental US.
Do ask what forms of payment are accepted/price range of gowns before you go if budgeting could be an issue
If you’re boutique shopping, it is not uncommon to have to pay the entirety of the gown up front. Some larger stores do have payment plans or have actual loan programs to borrow the full or partial amount of your gown. Typically, most stores take cash (in the exact amount as most boutiques do not have cash registers because this is the least common form of payment), check (if it is a sample gown they will likely hold the gown until the check clears), or card! Don’t start shopping until you have the funds to purchase your gown. If you find a sample gown that you love, but don’t have the money to buy it that day, chances are they will not hold it for you and it will be gone by the time you get back in. If you’re a bride on a tighter budget do ask the price range of gowns before coming in. The average amount spent on a wedding gown in the USA as reported by The Knot is approximately $1900, not including alterations. If you schedule a bridal appointment at a boutique who’s price range is $3000-$5000, but have a budget of $1500 it could end up being an honestly hurtful experience. It is better to know upfront what to expect. Also, be honest about your budget while shopping! There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a budget savvy bride! Just don’t tell your consultant more than what you actually want to spend or they will pull in that full range of what you had told them and you run the risk of either over extending yourself financially for your dream dress or falling in love with a gown you cannot purchase.
Do be selective when choosing your “I DO CREW”
On your journey to the perfect gown, you’ll want your most supportive people in your life there that day. I know you may want everyone you’ve ever met to see how gorgeous you are in that shimmery floral Madi Lane gown you’ve been stalking… but there is such thing as too many opinions. Having too large a group or the wrong mix of people can make the happiest bride the most miserable bride when it turns into a squabble-fest instead of a celebration of you and your SO’s love. Same goes for your bridesmaids. Select the people who will only be there to make your day better. No ulterior motives here.
Don’t be afraid to say Yaaaaas to the dress on your very first trip (but don’t get pressured into it)
Okay so your best friend for life Becky is with you. You love Becky. We love Becky. Becky is fine. She’s awesome. Buuuuuuut…. your wedding is starting to become Becky’s wedding. And you’ve found the dress. It makes you feel the way you felt the first time your soon to be hubby or wife told you that they love you. You love the gown. But Becky went to 8 million stores to try on gowns before she bought her gown. Well that’s all well and good for Becky, but you are not Becky. You are you. Do NOT let your friends or family push you into show-ponying for them. It’s like when you found your partner; when you find the right one, you need to stop looking. Especially if you are someone who is easily overwhelmed. This should be a fun joyous experience for you. Also, don’t let your consultant push you into buying that gown if you didn’t get that feeling. Your consultant should have your best interest at heart, they should want you in whatever gown gives you THAT feeling even if it’s not one of theirs. So, if you’re a bride who tends to lean on the people pleasing side, this is the time that the only person you should be concerned about pleasing is you.