I've officially set the date of my wedding: June 8, 2019. My fiance and I had been planning on being wed in late April, but just recently decided on early June since the ceremony is going to be on the beach and that time of year seems like our best bet for decent weather (fingers crossed) and not a whole lot of beachgoing onlookers (which isn't much of a concern of mine to begin with, but ya know).
I hardly consider myself as an expert when it comes to choosing a wedding dress. However, I do have a few pieces of advice for brides-to-be like me who aren't looking forward to spending hours in a bridal shop surrounded by measuring tape and enough beaded bodices to make your head spin. Sometimes, that's par for the course -- but ultimately, you just want to get married in something you love yourself in.
I chose the first dress I tried on at the first bridal boutique I visited, which is not something I particularly recommend, but that's just how it happened for me. I only spent about an hour-and-a-half there, partly because I got lucky and partly because I already had an idea, almost exact, including pictures, of what I wanted.
Thankfully so, because the particular bridal shop I visited (which will remain anonymous) was fully equipped with no air-conditioning on an 80-degree day and an extremely overbearing shop owner who I can only describe with the anecdote that, upon my mentioning that certain scratchy materials made my skin red, proclaimed with all certainly that I must have lupus. Because that's really what you want to hear when you're sweating your eyeballs out on a boutique runway. Stuck with pins and the knowledge that this shop is most definitely going to upcharge you a couple hundred dollars from what you initially saw this dress priced at online, and you might have lupus, too.
But I'm not here to complain -- just to relay my own dress shopping experience and do what I can to ensure that yours is much better! That being said, my first piece of advice is:
1. Read reviews of bridal boutiques before you visit one.
Better yet, get recommendations from friends and family members who have already gone through the whole dress-shopping process.
You don't need to do what I did and visit only one boutique, but it is nice to know that the shop you're walking into has an average of, say, 4.8 stars on Facebook and approximately 0 reviews that include the words "evil wench" and "fat-shaming." The former is only a slight exaggeration. As for the latter, my sister showed me reviews of this boutique after our visit, and we found that this boutique owner has an unforgivable history of body-shaming her customers. I was lucky enough to not experience this, unless you count her weird and inappropriate comments about my having lupus, but I can only imagine how any further body-related jabs would ruin a bride's day and, potentially, her dress shopping experience altogether. No one should have to deal with that, especially when they're preparing for a major life event where so much emphasis is placed on how you look during said event. There's nothing wrong with wanting to look beautiful -- Meghan Markle-esque, even -- on your wedding day, and there's everything wrong with telling a bride, "yeah, you won't want to wear that one, you'll look fat."
Despite the overall experience, which was almost as hellacious as I imagined it might be, I really can't complain too much because I did find the dress of my dreams, and my attendant -- not the shop owner, but a very kind, young and genuinely helpful attendant -- was incredible. She was sweet and nonjudgmental and seemed to really care about what I wanted, even if that meant trying on 200 dresses that afternoon and still walking away empty-handed. Luckily, that wasn't my case.
"The average bride tries on five dresses and usually ends up picking the first one they tried on," she said. I'd entered the boutique with a photo of a dress I saw online, from a line I knew this shop carried. They didn't have the specific dress I wanted, but they did have a very similar one from the same line, and as soon as I saw it, I knew it'd be my dress -- because I liked it even more than the one I initially fell in love with. It didn't hurt that this one was within my price range. I know I mostly just got lucky, but the fact that I only had to try on one dress brings me to my second piece of advice.
2. Come prepared with pictures.
Even if the boutique doesn't carry the specific dress you saw online that you fell head-over-heels for, bring in a picture and they might just pull out something even better.
That was my experience. The dress that I showed my attendant was an ivory-colored lace number, and the one she found in the shop for me was similarly ivory and lace, but with a slightly different top half that will soon be altered so it's not quite as low-cut.
Even if you've shopped around online for a bit and haven't found something you're absolutely in love with, don't get discouraged. That's how I felt when I was just beginning the process: everything I saw was either too fancy, too modern, too Pinterest-y or just not me. I wanted something simple, but timeless and elegant, and it was a total fluke (or, I guess, a good marketing strategy) that I just happened to come across an Instagram ad for the bridal line of my dreams in the very moment that I was actively searching for a dress online (while intermittently scrolling through Instagram). By the way, that particular dress line is here. I wish I could post pictures of the specific dress I chose, but that'll have to wait for the big day.
Just browse around for what you might like, pin dresses you're even somewhat into on your Pinterest board or do it the old fashioned way, printing them out and sticking them in a wedding notebook, noting what it is specifically that you like about each dress. Maybe even write down a few words that would describe your dream dress -- romantic, A-line, lightweight, vintage, trendy, etc., etc., etc. -- then when visiting your first bridal boutique, show them everything you've dreamed up.
3. Stay open-minded.
I know that not everyone's going to be like me and end up getting married in the first dress they try on. In fact, I wish I could say I tried on hundreds upon hundreds of dresses before actually saying yes to a dress, because "the more, the merrier" is much better advice than, "just go with the first one!" That is terrible advice, and absolutely not what I'm endorsing. I just got lucky.
Seriously, if you're unsure, try on hundreds more dresses. If you really love a dress and can envision yourself standing at the altar with your partner while wearing it, then that's probably "the one." You don't have to cry. You don't have to shriek "this is it!" And you certainly don't have to jump up and down next to a sign that says "I said yes to the dress" at the boutique owner's request for a Boomerang that will then immediately go on the shop's Instagram (again, I beg you to please follow tip #1). You just have to love it, and love yourself in it.
I know I found the right dress because I love it, I love myself in it, and whenever I show people pictures, their first response is usually "that's so you!" And then I'm like, thank you -- because if this dress that I love so much is so me, then style-wise, I must be doing something right. Stay true to yourself!
As I've said before, I'm getting married -- almost exactly a year from today, in fact -- when I myself have never been to a wedding before. So the planning process is especially intimidating; until now, I've had absolutely no idea where to begin. Should we make a guest list first? When do we need to decide on our venue? Are artisanal cupcakes always this expensive?
I'm sure the overwhelming prospect of planning such a huge event isn't exclusive to me, and even seasoned wedding crashers start to stress out the first day post-engagement. Whether you're inviting 500 guests or limiting attendance to immediate family only, the pressure is on. Tradition holds that this is supposed to be the most special day of your life, or whatever, second only to childbirth and maybe your Disney World honeymoon. If you and your guests don't have the absolute time of your lives, you failed! Obviously that's not true, but it can feel that way sometimes. Especially if you can't afford a wedding planner -- guess what? You're a wedding planner now.
I'm lucky enough to live in a beach town where couples come from all over the East Coast to marry. There's lots of wedding services in this region, which is certainly a positive thing, but it also adds another element of doubt: how do I know I'm getting the best services for my vision and for my budget?
That's where the expos, conventions and bridal shows come in. In January, when I was freshly engaged, I started doing a little research and found that there was an annual bridal show in Ocean City. I immediately ordered my tickets, which totally wasn't necessary because they were for sale at the door day-of, but I was just so excited that my prayers had been kind of answered; some of the peninsula's top wedding services and vendors would be gathered in one place, and I'd get to interact with them face-to-face instead of staring at a screen or leafing through a brochure.
That brings me to what I've discovered to be the ideal first step in the wedding planning process:
Take advantage of the expos!
Because unless you work in the business yourself, you probably won't immediately know exactly which florist, caterer and hairdresser is going to suit your specific needs. Besides getting advice from trusted and experienced friends and family, the bridal show/wedding expo/'bout-to-be-married convention/whatever you want to call it is the best way to start making local contacts and getting ideas.
I attended the Ocean City Bridal Expo, hosted by Rox Weddings at Seacrets Jamaica USA, on April 8. My fiancé and I met up with my family there, and we spent hours at the different tables where we talked to vendors, sampled finger foods and collected business cards. There was a fashion show that featured suits for the grooms and groomsmen and dresses for the brides, bridesmaids and mothers-of-the-bride. The vendors raffled off prizes, and I won a five-piece luggage set courtesy of Bethany Travel (although I promise I would have written this raving review of the bridal show even if I hadn't won anything).
Even if you're not sold on any of the particular services offered at whichever bridal show you attend, you'll certainly leave with a clearer vision of how you want your wedding to be. So before you pick a date, check when the next wedding expo is coming to Ocean City, or wherever it is you're getting married (although I, of course, highly recommend OC).
After that, download The Knot. It's an app, and it's not related to expos or conventions per se, but it has been extremely helpful to me in organizing a checklist/timeline of all the things I need to do, by when. Then after that, ask any recently-married friends and family members which vendors they'd recommend, in addition to how they stayed sane through it all. Then finally, when the day comes, hit the bridal show, sip a cocktail or two and collect oodles of information that'll help you further down the line.
By Traci of Beach Bride Chic
As a fairly new Beach Wedding company, our first wedding expo was a great introduction to what our beach brides are looking for!
We just loved hearing the "oohs and ahhs" from people with large smiles on their faces as they looked at our novelty items, like the wet bikini bags for beach honeymoons and the handmade boutonnieres made from recycled wine corks. Being such a niche company, it was nice to stand out but also learn from the masters of the wedding industry who have been creatively planning local weddings for years.
There was a beautiful set up by BB Wed from Barefoot Beach Bride, who also won top placement in the Ocean City, Maryland St. Patrick's Day Parade the day before the expo (it was a very busy weekend). They have some great connections to some of the most beautiful places on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware.
We were also able to try great food and desserts, of course! The tuna poke from Taste Events was our absolute favorite. The tuna poke tasted like it was straight out of the ocean across the street. Taste Events has award-winning chefs that help every bride and groom pick stellar items, especially when it comes to coastal cuisine. Harrison Group was there as well to show all their beautiful hotel locations, where views of the ocean and bay are possible in every picture.
This expo definitely made us feel welcome in the local wedding community because everyone was helpful and appreciated our individuality. Helping each bride in many different ways is what we're here for, and it's easy to help them here thanks to our beautiful water views and clean sandy beaches.
Beach Bride Chic started because we are from the area, born and raised, so every time we saw a beach wedding it was always beautiful because of the gorgeous backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean.
Thanks to Premier Bride for putting on their 6th annual Bridal Expo this year. I know we felt welcome and organized for our first show. Even one of the lucky brides who attended won a free honeymoon to Hawaii, a getaway anyone would want to win. The setup and clean-up time was worth it when we had happy soon-to-be brides and views of the ocean and bay on both sides!
Yes, it's true. I, the editor of OceanCityWeddings.com, got engaged a few days before Christmas. It looks like I'm going to be planning a wedding!
What I'm most excited about is, obviously, getting to be married to the love of my life, who I already essentially feel married to (we live together and have a dog), but why not make it official, for perks like joint bank accounts and visitation rights if either of us is ever hospitalized and what not. And love.
But what I'm second-most excited about is getting to document my wedding planning experience here on this blog. It's not so much the wedding planning that excites me; my hands are already very full with my full-time and part-time jobs, running a film festival, keeping the dog happy and exercised, and finding just enough spare time at the end of the day to maintain my sanity. Adding a wedding on top of everything else sounds a lot like adding that last playing card that brings the tower down.
We're not getting married immediately. As of now, we're thinking March or April of 2019 for the big day, which gives us a little over a year to plan. I would be happy eloping, but for the sake of my family and friends and the hope that I'll get to pass on some advice to future newlyweds, we'll be having a small ceremony here in Ocean City. There's a possibility we might decide on a beach wedding and push the date back further, to May or June (we know how downright freezing it can still be here before then).
The date is all we've really thought about at this point, and even that is up in the air. The date, and that we'd like to do this somewhat frugally, in order to save money for a honeymoon that'll possibly happen somewhere in the United Kingdom.
The first wedding I'll ever attend will be my own, so everything about this experience is totally new to me! We'll be taking the planning at a slow and steady pace, and I'll be keeping the blog updated with the experiences I have, from dress shopping to flowers to deciding on a venue, whether it's the beach or a hotel or a schooner in the middle of the Atlantic.
Please wish me luck as I embark on this totally alien journey, and feel free to send any advice my way, especially as it pertains to getting married in Ocean City. I'll be relying on our trusty professional wedding planning bloggers more than ever in this next year, but I always appreciate the knowledge of those that have done this before!
By Tony Russo
Ocean City is a fantastic couple’s getaway which is why proposing on the beach is so popular. It isn’t as if you need a reason to propose in Ocean City. After all, for so many people who visit here the beach is as central a part of growing up as any other of the milestones. From your first getaway alone during Senior Week, to your first getaway as a couple to (hopefully) your retirement home.
There are a million great reasons to propose in Ocean City, though, but here are four of our favorites.
This article first appeared on OceanCity.com on June 5, 2017
1. It's the perfect automatic backdrop
2. It's the perfect way to commemorate something you love to do together
3. It's a perfect and permanent memory
"This photo was taken June 16, 2016. My fiancé of now four-and-a-half years proposed to me when we were waiting to go on the Get Sum fishing charter on the dock. We had always gone on vacation to Ocean City with his family or with my family. It was our first vacation together when he popped the question! We are getting married this year July 15, 2017 and of course our honeymoon is going to be well spent in Ocean City! My name is Rebecca Haschak and my fiancé is Brian Cunningham."
4. It's the perfect prelude to a stunning beach wedding