My fiancée and I were engaged for almost two years before our wedding, which left me with a LOT of time to shop for a dress. We had booked the date right away and were getting married in an outdoor ceremony at Taboo Resort in Muskoka on August 11, 2012. I knew from the start that I wanted my dress to be simple and elegant, but was not sure exactly what that meant. Looking through countless bridal magazines, scouring designers’ websites, and watching me some good ‘ol reality wedding shows on TV, I definitely knew what I didn’t want – that was the easy part – what I wanted, however, was more of a challenge.
Well before I had planned on starting my quest for the dress, I had already been to a certain store in Manhattan (Randy was in my change room!), had spent my lunch break frantically trying on dresses at a designer sample sale in Yorkville (think of wild animals clawing at their dinner), and had also been convinced by my bridesmaids to spend a Saturday afternoon going for lunch, catching up, and trying on some dresses. I knew I had at least a year before I had to make a decision, so I was pretty lax about the whole thing and did not want to commit to anything too soon, fearing that I would see something I liked even more six months down the road.
It was on a Thursday in late January and I was on the phone trying to make appointments to try on wedding dresses that weekend… apparently along with every other bride in the city. Apparently Saturday afternoon appointments booked up months in advance (who knew), but with the luck of a few cancellations, I was able to get appointments at three stores.
My first appointment was at Valencienne, which had fantastic reviews, but only made custom gowns. I had a sneaking suspicion that the price of a custom gown would be well beyond my budget, and that, really, there had to be lots of great already-designed dresses out there for me – my thinking was, why reinvent the wheel when the gowns of virtually every well-known designer could be sourced in a 10 mile radius of the downtown core? …and then I met Kim.
I remember walking into Valencienne for the first time and being in awe –it was such a beautiful space… regal and exquisite. The dresses were all so different. Each one of them was stunning in their own way. Kim introduced herself to us, and I remember initially being a little intimidated by her – she was a no-nonsense, tell it like it is, get over yourself if you’ve come with an attitude, kind of gal. I felt a little embarrassed that I was wasting her time because I wasn’t ready to buy anything just yet, and wanted to be honest with her – I explained that I wasn’t getting married for another 18 months and was only “looking” at dresses that day to get an idea of what I liked (read: please don’t try to sell me anything).
Kim invited us to look around the store and to let her know if we had any questions. It was then that she spoke the magic words… “These dresses are only a small selection of the types of gowns we make – every single dress is made from scratch… literally – you can have anything you want.” Umm, hello? ANYTHING??? I hadn’t thought about custom in that way before.
That afternoon, I tried on a few dresses at Valencienne and explained what I thought I wanted my dress to look like… simple, elegant, understated, classic… blah, blah… not wanting to commit to anything right away… and then something clicked: I didn’t need to shop for a dress. I had my gal. My gal was Kim. My gal would work with me to figure out the dress. Let me be clear – I am not someone who generally puts her trust in anyone so quickly – especially when signing on the line and putting down a deposit are involved, but it just felt right.
I remember calling my parents from outside of the store, telling them that I was going to have my wedding dress made. They were very surprised, as there had never been any talk of getting a dress made – and probably were a little worried that I had made a decision on the fly and was one I might later regret. I was, however, completely confident in my decision and felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I had my gal. My gal would deal with the dress.
My parents met Kim and saw her beautiful store at my first “ugly” (think ‘draft’ or ‘pre-construction’) fitting and they hit it off right away… every fitting from then until the wedding felt like a freakin’ reunion in the best possible way – we tried on the dress, made some decisions about the dress, chatted, laughed, and enthusiastically listened to Kim’s stories. She has many and the way in which she tells them is brilliant – I am not sure what I enjoyed more – getting the dress that I would wear on my wedding day or listening to Kim’s “lady, you need your own reality show” out of this world tales. I did not grow up dreaming of my wedding or wanting to be a cheesy princess who met her prince, so it really was an unexpected but super pleasant surprise that the dress part of the planning process was so much fun and truly memorable.
Kim and Sonia, one of her amazing staff who has worked with Kim for decades, were there throughout the entire process and didn’t blink when I asked them to make a fairly major change at my final fitting… nothing like adding in some drama at the eleventh hour. This was definitely not their first rodeo – they handled it with grace and poise and kept me calm in a situation in which I would have otherwise been a crazy, tearful, bridal mess.
I picked up my down on our way up north two days later, on our way out of the city. It was pouring rain and the forecast was not looking promising for that weekend. Planning a wedding in Muskoka, you know in the back of your head that the weather is ultimately out of your control, but everything about the weekend had been planned around outdoor activities and celebrations. I was so disappointed and felt terrible for all of our guests who would be travelling to attend, what looked like would likely be, a Muskoka wedding in the banquet facilities of a resort (Plan B).
In the store for the last time, Kim was adamant that the weather would cooperate and that we wouldn’t have to be married indoors – “It does not rain on a Valencienne bride”, she confidently stated. Yeah, right, I thought – she is just trying to make me feel better. I gave her a huge hug, thanked her for everything, and darted in the rain to the car with my dress.
It continued to rain that day. And that night. And the following day. It rained throughout our rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, and it rained some more on the morning of the wedding. We’re talking downpour rain, here – not light drizzle.
We were getting down to the wire with the time, and our wedding planner was preparing me for the fact that they needed to start setting up the chairs and floral… and that the setting was looking like it would have to be done indoors. We waited it out for as long as we could, and magically, like “storybook, fairytale, you can’t make this stuff up” perfection, the sky opened up, and we were able to get married outdoors. It was beautiful, and I chuckled at Kim’s words before I walked down the aisle….she was right, it did not rain on a Valencienne bride.