So sometimes we do get to sneak in a little bit of family time, even in the busy Summer months! When our dear friend, and one of our favorite photographers, Studio Laguna, was able to come up to shoot a wedding with us we snatched her away for a mini family photo session at McCugh Creek. I selfishly and shamelessly used our prop closet to set up a vignette with a TeePee from Joss and Main, some vintage suitcases and a super lush green garland (thanks Bloomsbury Blooms) and a collage of pillows and a throw blanket. We love the outdoors in our house and we wanted to capture some photos together before the weather gets too cold! It's a nice change to spend some time in front of the camera instead of behind the scenes.
Although we know a lot, about a lot, when it comes to the wedding planning process, sometimes we get questions that we find ourselves referring to trusted vendors for answers. Finding a wedding gown is one of those aspects. We decided to ask Tara Gondek, the owner of the lovely Bateau Bridal Boutique in Anchorage, to give us the skinny on some common wedding dress questions. Here's what she shared with us:
Q: How can I find the right style for my body type?
A: When looking for the right style of gown for your body think about what is currently in your wardrobe. What type of dresses do you have that you feel your best in. It is important to remember that gowns often look completely different on the hanger than they do on, so try many different styles because you may be pleasantly surprised. That is where working with an experienced bridal consultant can be helpful as they can point you in the direction of specific styles that look best for your body type or after seeing a bride try on several gowns they can often make recommendations. Brides often have an idea of their dream gown but often end up selecting one they thought they would never wear and guess what that is okay! You want to feel good in your wedding dress and accentuate your best features.
Q: What should I be looking for in a dress and what marks good quality?
A: Trying on bridal gowns especially for the first time a bride can often overlook the quality of the gown. The biggest thing to be aware of is comfort, what is the inside of the gown lined with, does the material feel itchy or rough when on and if going for a lace gown does it look uniform and smooth (not stiff, frayed or scratchy). If you are uncomfortable in the gown just wearing it for a few minutes you will most likely not be comfortable wearing it all day. Wedding gowns can range in a variety of prices, which means you will often pay more for quality as the fabrics used and production time are a factor in price. However there are many amazing designers out there that make gowns under $3000 and are a dream to wear on your big day.
Q: When should I schedule a fitting and how many fittings should I have?
A: It is recommended that a bride start the dress process about nine months before the wedding day. It doesn't mean you have to order your dress nine months in advance but it is good to give yourself time to really figure out what type of gown you really like. If you can avoid it you really don't want to feel rushed or pressured to make a decision and it is good to give yourself time to think on your purchase. It is best to order your gown about six months in advance as you need to have time for alterations and not be picking up your gown a couple days before your wedding. Many designers take about sixteen to twenty weeks with some being longer if you are requesting customizations. You most likely will need two fitting at the tailor, the initial visit and then if any minor changes need to be made that can be done at the second fitting. The most important thing to remember is to have your shoes so that the dress can be tailored to the right height.
Q: How do I properly budget for my wedding dress?
A: Many experts suggest setting aside about 10% of your wedding budget for your gown. The average spent on a wedding dress is somewhere between $1500 - $2000. Many boutiques will allow you to put 50% down to order the gown and then pay the remainder once the gown arrives. If you are a bride on a budget there are many options for finding a less expensive gown such as sample sales, off the rack gowns (gowns sold as is), or consignment. Brides often are tempted to buy online, but that can be risky as there are many fraudulent websites out there claiming to make designer gowns for less. It also makes a big difference being able to try on a gown before your purchase it because the majority of the time a gown cannot be returned.
Q: Why do gowns cost what they do?
A: It can be hard to imagine spending $2000 or more on a wedding gown, however there are many reasons why wedding gowns cost what they do. The material is a huge factor, what the gown is lined with, the lace, silk, etc. all plays a factor into cost. If you try on a wedding gown and it is itchy or uncomfortable just in that short amount of time it could be bothersome on your wedding day. Another factor can be where the gown is made, if gowns are made where higher wages are paid such as the United States or Canada gowns of course will cost more. There are many amazing designers out there that actually personally oversee production and often help put the gowns together. One benefit when working with smaller boutique they often have personal relationships with designers and if a bride needs special accommodations such as split sizing they can be handled easier than dealing with a huge manufacturer.
Q: What should I expect when setting up my dress consultation?
A: A bride should expect to have a relaxing and enjoyable experience. You should be given at least an hour to try on gowns. Many boutiques will allow you to select a maximum of 8 to 10 gowns as this gives a bride a chance to try on several different styles and time to try on her favorites again within the allotted appointment time. A bride should expect to work one-on-one with a consultant who will help them select the best gowns for their body shape and assist them with trying them on. If a boutique is by appointment you will want to schedule your appointment at least one to two weeks in advance as they can book up quickly especially during the busy bridal season (January - March).
Q: Can you offer any advice on how to accessorize:
A: With accessories you can really bring out your personality and it is a chance to be creative. If you have a dress with a lot going on you may only need earrings and a veil if you decide to wear one. If you have a simpler dress you may decide you want to really have fun and go all out with accessories. If you are person who usually wears a lot of jewelry it may make sense do to the same on your wedding day, but if you don't in your every day life don't feel like you have to just because it seems like you should. If you don't ever wear necklace you probably won't want to wear one on your wedding day. Sometimes less is more too, you don't want to many pieces clashing and taking away from you as the bride.
About our author: Tara Gondek opened Bateau Bridal Boutique in November of 2013. Her vision was to provide Alaska brides with the boutique feel that they often travel to the lower 48 in search of. They are a "by appointment" only boutique committed to making each bride feel special and doted on during each consultation. They offer a variety of sizes and price points and a wonderful selection of accessories. Tara travels to fashion week in NYC each Spring and prides herself in working personally with all of their designers.
A few weeks ago we spent our Sunday hanging out with Tyler Rye Photography (all the way from George, Utah!) in a mini styled shoot. We had big plans, but Mother Nature always has a mind of her own! The forty mile an hour winds and rain were unexpected, but Tyler did a great job of making lemonade out of lemons with these beautiful photos. It was so windy at Beluga Point that we had to make sure the bride didn't take flight when standing on the rocky cliffs! It was cold, rainy, adventurous and thrilling to say the least.
Photography: Tyler Rye Photography
Styling: Blomma Designs
Gown: The Dress Theory
Bouquet: Alaska Knit Nat
Peonies: Alaska Blooms Peony Farm
Hair and Makeup: Cara Does Hair
Outdoor weddings are often a good fit for couples who want to plan something unique, fun and laid back. Choosing to have your wedding ceremony and reception outdoors definitely has it's advantages! Many times you aren't held to as many hard and fast rules by a venue, you can have fun activities like yard games and roasting s'mores, and it's usually far more beautiful outside than in. That being said, planning an outdoor wedding is much more difficult and has more moving parts than a traditional indoor celebration.
These tips will help you avoid some of the most common mistakes or oversights that I see couples make:
- You MUST have a backup plan! You MUST have tents! We live in Alaska. Weather is unpredictable and oftentimes we have wet and cool summers. Make sure that you have the necessary tent space to accommodate your ceremony and reception should it rain or become extremely windy. It's also very important that you are ok and comfortable with your back up plan should things shake out that way because it's entirely possible that it will.
- Hire an experienced caterer. Catering outside is a whole different ball game than cooking for a large group in the comforts of a kitchen. Make sure your caterer has experience working in all types of weather and situations and that they have the proper equipment to execute the event. It's perfectly ok to ask them how many times they've catered an outdoor event and what their "rain plan" is.
- Let guests know it's a completely outdoor event. In your invitation suite indicate that it's necessary to wear proper shoes (i.e. no ten inch heels) and that bringing warm clothing is necessary. There is nothing worse than seeing one hundred guests freeze their tushes off because they thought wearing spaghetti straps and stilettos was ok.
- Rent space heaters. Again, we live in Alaska. Always plan for the worst and hope for the best. Space heaters are great because even if it's gorgeous out, you can turn them on when things get chilly at night and your grandparents can cozy up to the heat with a cup of coffee and stay and enjoy the event.
- Bathrooms! Do you know the bathroom situation at your venue? Or, should I say, let's make sure there isn't a bathroom situation at your venue! This gets overlooked way too often. If guests have to walk two miles to get to a bathroom, or there isn't really a proper bathroom area onsite, it is a requirement that you rent in port-o-potties. Some companies offer a more upscale choice of an actual portable bathroom with a sink and washing area. If your budget permits those are definitely the way to go!
- Have a "just in case" basket of goodies. I usually recommend having a little basket of bug spray, sunscreen, hand sanitizer and moist toilettes or baby wipes. If you're in the middle of nowhere you'll want to have these to make your guests more comfortable.
- Transportation. How far is your location from hotels, the nearest city and where you're staying? You'll want to really take this in to consideration and possibly charter a shuttle or bus. If it's really remote you don't want guests drinking for six hours and then send them off to drive home a really long distance. You also have to factor this in to your timeline. If it takes thirty minutes to get to the venue from your hotel, expect that everything will take a bit longer than anticipated and account for the fact that some people may get lost or arrive late.
- Hire a professional DJ. This is soooooooo important! Outdoor wedding ceremonies can be very difficult to hear, especially if it's windy or rainy. A professional DJ will have all of the necessary equipment, including speakers and microphones, and they'll know how to set up correctly to ensure there aren't any hiccups. I can't tell you how many times I've attended an outdoor wedding where no one can hear anything that's going on with the ceremony and it's awful!
- It's better to have too much than not enough. If you're providing all of the beer and wine, the ice, the firewood or if you're bringing all of the s'more supplies for roasting over the fire, it's always better to have too much than to run out. Usually when you're outdoors, it means that you're not close to town or a grocery store. You'll want to have enough items so that you don't run out. No one wants to leave your event to drive for two hours to get more ice or more beer. Sometimes this may not even be an option depending on where you are hosting the event.
In general it's good to be open to the suggestions that your vendors have for you. Heed their advice. If your catering is going to cost a bit more because the chef needs to bring out additional equipment, or if your DJ recommends a slightly more expensive package because they need more equipment because it's outdoors, don't haggle them. They are only telling you this because it is true and it's for your benefit. It's a misconception that outdoor events are simple. I LOVE outdoor weddings in Alaska, but just be sure to plan for the worst and hope for the best!