Time for some truth: wedding planning is not all it’s cracked up to be. There’s a lot of back-and-forth, tons of (wanted and unwanted) opinions and lots of “stakeholders” to make happy. I’ve had weeks of extreme stress and weeks of utter bliss. During one of my most stressful weeks, my cousin told me to savour the wedding dress shopping since it is one of the most fun parts of the planning process.
To be honest, I had been feeling equal parts excited and nervous about the whole ordeal. I’m known to be a bit of a picky (OK, super picky) shopper and I had this sinking feeling that I wouldn’t find a single thing I liked, that nothing would fit nicely and that I would hate the one thing I was supposed to love.
I’m incredibly happy to report that my first crack at the whole wedding dress shopping thing was a complete success. I’m going to give part of this credit to Jamie Lee Braunack, owner of Luxe Shopping Experiences and my stylist for the day, Elizabeth Friesen, part of the credit to the incredibly flattering dresses and the rest of the credit to my mom for being a great sport about the whole thing. I was lucky enough to test drive Luxe Shopping Experiences for wedding dress shopping – usually a $1500+ experience – and will be sharing that with you today along with gratuitous amounts of dress photos and near-squealing. Are you ready for it? It’s going to be a long one but I promise it’s worth it.
What to wear wedding dress shopping
If I can give you one preliminary piece of advice going into your first wedding dress shopping experience, it’s to try and make it a really special, down to your clothing choice. I had purchased this Pink Tartan dress a few months back and was saving it for wedding dress shopping, a fantastic idea as it turns out. It’s super easy to slip on and off, feels really bridal and is also very figure-flattering – great for your self esteem as you set off for a day of sample size dresses. I paired it with my favourite Jimmy Choo slingbacks – this particular pair tends to be a favourite for brides – and a jean jacket for warmth. At the advice of a coworker, I spent extra time on my hair and makeup so I would look as special as I felt in the gowns.
The Luxe Shopping Experience
My mom and I were picked up by Jamie-Lee, the owner of Luxe Shopping Experiences, in a beautiful Cadillac the morning of our appointment. She had put together little survival kits for the day including a booklet of suggested wedding to-do’s, snacks (almonds & Werthers – my fave!), bottles of water and perfume testers for freshening up. We made our way down to Yorkville and met our stylist, Elizabeth Friesen, for tea at the Holts Cafe. I was so excited Elizabeth ended up being my stylist – we’ve been connected on Twitter for a long time and it was comforting to have someone who “knew” me tag along. Truth be told, I’d felt a bit anxious about inviting two relative strangers along on a high-emotion, personal thing like my first time wedding dress shopping, but it ended up being a great decision.
Stop #1: Ines Di Santo
After our little tea party, we were driven to Ines Di Santo’s boutique on Davenport where I would try on my first wedding dress ever! I actually walked in a few of Ines’ fashion shows as a child – she custom designed some flower girl dresses for me – so I was happy to have her salon as my first stop.
What I wasn’t expecting: all of the dresses were runway sample sizes. Yes, runway. As in itsy bitsy. I am not an itsy bitsy girl and sample size dresses had been one of my stresses leading up to the day. It ended up being OK – the majority of the dresses in my preferred silhouette fit just fine – but there were some that I didn’t even bother to put on.
My favourite dress from Ines Di Santo is this Disney princess style below. Hello, waistline! Have I mentioned how flattering wedding dresses are? I learned in my appointment at Ines Di Santo that a dropped waist style looks best on me.
Stop #2: Sarah Houston
This store has since closed permanently and I have removed my experiences with it.
Stop #3: White Toronto
White Toronto was our last stop and the one I had been the most excited for. White carries all off-the-rack dresses including some of my favourite bridal designers like Reem Acra, Monique Lhullier, Jenny Packham, Carolina Herrera and Marchesa. It’s also the home of one of Toronto’s best bridal experiences. Cookies are waiting in the gorgeously decorated rooms for you and your entourage and bubbly is served once you’re in your first dress. If you’re shopping for dresses in Toronto, you need to check out White.
I found three dresses here that I loved – a Monique Lhullier Bliss A-line lace dress (left) and two highly embellished Reem Acra gowns that I’m still thinking of. The hardest part of trying on dresses here was deciding which were definite no’s – everything was so beautiful! I felt a bit like a wedding dress ninja by this point though, expertly diving in and shimmying out of massive gowns and executing ones that didn’t fit the bill with precision.
White is also home to some gorgeous accessories and is constantly hosting trunk shows.
Luxe Shopping Experiences 30-second review
My Luxe Shopping Experience also included lunch at Creme Brasserie (yum!) and a visit to two hair and makeup experts to discuss my options. If you have the opportunity to book a Luxe Shopping Experience I highly recommend it. At the most basic of the benefits, having a car to drive you around on a multi-appointment day was so blissful. It took the stress out of things like having to find parking and arriving at appointments felt very special. I also loved having Jamie and Elizabeth there to help me navigate wedding dress shopping.
My wedding dress shopping entourage: Jamie Lee Braunack of Luxe Shopping Experiences, my mom (Anna) and Elizabeth Friesen (stylist)
I can’t stress enough how helpful and insightful they were. Both have so much experience with shopping for wedding dresses – a whole new ballgame – and were able to articulate for me the things I loved about the dresses (dropped waist!) and reminded me to do things like twirl and walk around to make sure dresses were comfortable. They also made me feel comfortable with trying on strapless wedding dresses, something I had originally wanted to avoid. My mom and I have already talked about booking a Luxe Shopping Experience pickup & pamper service when it’s time to retrieve my wedding dress![line]
I was meaning to share my tips for wedding dress shopping, but you’ll have to check back next week for that – I’ve already been rambling for so long. Thank you so much to Jamie and Elizabeth for crafting the perfect day for me! I feel so ready to continue my dress hunt at Kleinfeld Canada in June and to visit the dress I can’t stop obsessing over at Dina Alonzi in the near future. Thanks to my Luxe Shopping Experience, I’m armed with everything I need to find and buy my perfect dress.
PS. “Sample Size” meant a size 10 – 14 in bridal sizing everywhere but Ines Di Santo where “sample” meant “runway sample”. In this case, pretty much any girl will be able to wiggle into a sample size 🙂
Make sure to let me know your favourites in the comments!