London weddings

A Real, Honest Blog.

DISCLAIMER: This is a bit of a more personal blog.  It's meant to show you a little glimpse into what running a bridal store is REALLY like.  I ADORE what I do and I LOVE working with brides.  This is just a bit of my real life.  

When I first opened the doors to Once Upon A Time Weddings I was shocked by how many bridal stores didn’t have great customer service.  I was shocked that anyone could be helping a bride during the most important & exciting time of her life and not LOVE their job.  Or at least smile.

Fast forward five years and now I kind of get it.  This business can be a bit ruthless.  Sometimes it feels overwhelming! {much like wedding planning does, but hang in there, the best moments are coming, I promise}  

Don’t get me wrong – I still love it and live and breathe it every single day.  But it can be oh so exhausting.  I’m not talking about working with brides, that part I love.  I’m talking about working with everyone else.

Here’s some examples of what I mean:

·       In my second year of business I attended a bridal show that also had a fashion show.  The other two stores were fighting and yelling about who had more space for the models to change in.  So the producer of the show had to literally put masking tape down to show whose side was whose.

·       In my third year of business I had a designer who I carried deeply in my store, go bankrupt and stop producing gowns suddenly.  I lost about $8,000 and for the first time had to call a bride and tell her that her gown wouldn’t be here before her wedding day and that she had to pick another one.

·       In my fourth year of business I had a designer who got so behind in production that we were unsure whether bridesmaids, mothers or prom gowns would arrive in time for their events.  We had to cover customer’s alterations, source the gowns through other stores and just pray that everyone got what they needed in time.

·       Last year I had to deal with my old landlord situation which destroyed a lot of my trust in people and ultimately cost me over $6000 in unnecessary rent.

·       I have also discovered this year that one of my competitors is transhipping gowns.  This basically means they don’t carry the line of wedding gowns, but they have another store order the gowns in for them and ship to their store.  Which means that although I’ve carried the line and have invested in the stock pieces that I have, they are telling brides to come to my store, try the gowns on and then they’ll order the dress for below what the manufacturer allows us to sell it. This kind of thing happens on all the time with designer gowns.  It’s so unethical and frustrating but unfortunately most designers turn a blind eye because at the end of the day they are still selling gowns.

·       This year I found out that someone who I trusted deeply in this business and whom I have talked openly about bridal gowns, designers and my business plan took that information and behind my back started a competing bridal business.  Then when I found out and called him out about it, he lied directly to my face.

Somehow, I have survived each and every one of these things and so many more that I could write about.  I’ve learned to work through brutal situations and keep on going.  After all I’m an entrepreneur.  It’s what we do.  But by the Grace of God.

So, why am I sharing all this with you?   I guess it’s a reminder that we’re human.  That even though I am the face of Once Upon A Time Weddings, there is so much that goes on behind the scenes.  So many things that I CANNOT control {even though the control freak inside of me wishes I could}.  So many designers, sales reps, UPS drivers, and more that I have to rely on to do my job.  Have I made some mistakes along the way?  Absolutely!!  Will I make more?  Most likely. But never the same ones, as I try my best to learn from them.  Every day I wake up and I’m so thankful for the job that I am entrusted with.  I’m so thankful that I get to spend a small window of time with each and every bride that comes into my store.  Sometimes after a particularly crappy day, I will sit and read through my facebook reviews.  The kind words left from brides means the world to me!  When I sit and reminisce about all the brides who said YES to their DRESS at Once Upon A Time Weddings, it makes me so proud.  They are why I keep pushing through the difficult situations.  I ask of you to remember that store owners are people too and if they have given you great service, let them know.  It can make a world of difference.

The Question I Really, Really Dislike.

I was at the dentist a few weeks ago doing a routine cleaning. If you know me at all, you know I am not really a sit still kind of girl. As I was sitting up in that big old chair, I got to thinking about how customers sometimes ask if that’s the best price that I can do on a wedding gown or accessory. This little blog, like blogs often do, has been rolling around in my mind ever since. I seriously dislike the question, “is that the lowest price you can do“. And here is why…

                                        An inside look at one of our beautiful wedding gown.

                                        An inside look at one of our beautiful wedding gown.

Sometimes you get what you pay for.

First of all, Once Upon A Time Weddings is not competing in the lowest price gown category. We carefully select our gowns {from literally thousands & thousands available for us to buy} based on the quality and workmanship of the gown itself. I am of the belief that you get what you pay for and sometimes spending a bit more to get a better quality is necessary. Sure, you can find gowns that are cheaper than ours at other bridal stores, but we want you to purchase a gown that’s well made so it alters easier and is comfortable to wear for an entire day. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you want to take your gown off before dessert has even been served.

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I spend a great deal of time developing my skills & honing my profession.

The second reason that this question bothers me is that I have spent thousands of dollars on my training. I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to sell wedding gowns. I attend conferences twice a year and stay on top of industry standards and trends. I belong to a group of talented bridal stores from all across the world that I spent time networking with and learning from. We strive to be the best in our industry - an industry that’s highly competitive and constantly changing. It’s not a job we take lightly or do because it’s so much fun {although it is fun, well most days}. It’s not a hobby or an after school activity. As I sat in my chair I thought of what would happen if I got to the counter at the dentist office and asked, “is this the best price you can give me?”. I wouldn’t dream of it, because I respect the dentist, the schooling he has and the work he does. But then, why do wedding professionals get asked that question all the time? Why is it okay in one industry, but no one would dream of asking it in another?

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I take it personally.

If I’m being completely honest, the third reason I hate the question is because I take it personally. My entire life is wrapped into this bridal store. I spend insane amounts of time working, developing, planning, strategizing and so much more for this store. Often when I get asked this question it’s after I have spent a good amount of time working with my bride. I feel like I have taken the time to get to know her and that I’ve connected with her. When the dreaded question comes up, I feel as though the amount of work I’ve spent both before she’s ever arrived to my store and during the appointment have in some way not been good enough. Or that maybe they don’t value my expertise.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m female, which means I’m all for getting a deal. The rush of getting something on sale. I’ve been known to purchase something simply because it was on sale. I tell my husband all the time, that I’m determined to be successful because I love pretty things. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get a good deal or save some money. It’s why if you have come to a bridal appointment at Once Upon A Time Weddings, you know we don’t like to put you in a gown above your budget without your expressed permission. It’s just that the question of, “what’s the best price you can give me on this gown” tends to be a bit insulting.

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If you still dare to ask it, you’ll most likely be greeted with a warm smile and the response, the best price I can give you is the one that’s on the price tag. Because to be honest, I don’t run this business to be a millionaire. We take time to strategically price our goods to offer both good value to our customers and to make a living to us. This is our livelihood. It’s what we do to feed our family and make sure they have what they need. So, if you would be offended by your boss strolling into your office and asking what’s the lowest you’ll accept on your next paycheque, then please think twice before asking that dreaded question.

 

New Accessories Line!

Ever since we returned from Chicago Bridal Market, Sharon & I have been anticipating the arrival of our new accessory line.  We're super thrilled to carry this line in the store for two reasons...

1.) They are sold exclusively at our store.

2.) They are made in England. {instead of China}.  This means they are of higher quality and more of a handmade look than a rhinestone look.

To book your personalized accessory finding experience visit www.onceuponatimeweddings.ca/appointments

What I Wish Every Bride Knew, Part 2

What I Wish Every Bride Knew About… Shopping for Her Gown

By: Erin Bouchard

Owner of Once Upon A Time Weddings

Happy Friday!  Have you ever wondered where to begin shopping for your gown?  Have you searched Pinterest and have no clue what style of gown to choose or where to begin?  Are you so excited about being able to Say Yes to YOUR Dress?  Then you’re in the right place! Today, Owner of Once Upon A Time Weddings will dive into four things you need to know before shopping for your gown, three things to keep in mind while shopping for your gown and two things you have to know after you say yes to the dress!  READY?!

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Four Things You Need to Know Before You Try Your First Dress On.

One of the most important things you need to know before you start trying gowns on is how much you want to spend on your gown.  Before you can do that you have to know how much wedding gowns cost.  At Once Upon A Time Weddings, our gowns range in price from $799 up to $2299.  The average bride spends about 1200-1500 on her gown at our store.  We chose our gowns based on the quality of them and they have corsets & crinoline built into them.  So before you come to our store discuss with your fiancé and your parents how much you want to spend & who will cover what.

Another thing you need to keep in mind before you book your bridal appointment is to be realistic about pinterest.  I could seriously write a whole blog on this one point! I love pinterest, I really do.  It’s so fun, addicting and I’ve gotten some great ideas off of it.  But the problem is when we pin all these beautiful wedding ideas, gowns & wedding decor that are way out of our price range.  There’s no shame in having a budget and sticking to it.  The problem is when we imagine all these expensive, elaborate details being part of our wedding day and then when we realize we can afford ¼ of it, we’re disappointed.  Same is true of gowns.  I hear brides say I want all over lace, fully beaded with a cathedral train and a sparkly fully beaded belt and I want to spend $500.  Your budget doesn’t match your expectations.  You can’t have all those details in a well -made, easy to alter gown.  You are going to have to sacrifice something to remain at that price point.  There’s no shame in only wanting to spend $500 on your gown or wanting to keep your budget at a certain place, just be realistic about what your budget will get you. 

Another thing to keep in mind before you book your first appointment is to think about the overall theme or feel that you hope to accomplish for your day.  Your dress should incorporate into that feel.  It helps to have your venue booked or at least narrowed down so you can think about your venue while choosing gowns.

Finally before you attend your first bridal appointment you should decide who to bring with you to your appointment.  I get asked this question all the time and it can be a tricky question!  You should bring those people with you who you would want there when you make a decision – your mom, grandma, mother in law, sisters, maid of honour, etc.  But only bring them if you believe they will be supportive and will allow your opinion to matter most.  Now that you’re ready to book your first appointment, here’s what you need to know while shopping for your gown.

Three Things to Keep in Mind While Shopping For Your Gown

Stick to your budget – if you’ve determined a budget or a price point you want to stay in before coming to your bridal appointment then stick to it.  Sometimes brides ask me if they can try on a gown outside their range “for fun”.  This is so difficult because what happens if you fall in love with that gown & you can’t or don’t want to spend the money on it.  You will compare everything else to that gown and it won’t make it easy on you.  So my advice is and always will be only try something outside of your initial price range if you’re willing to go up to that amount.  If the answer is no, skip the gown and stick to what is in the range you want to spend.  It will be easier on both of us!

How will you know it’s the one – what if you don’t cry?  What if your mom doesn’t cry?  Guess what, it will still be okay and it might even still be YOUR gown.  Wedding gown shopping is just like any other shopping or life experience – everyone is going to react differently.  Some brides know right away.  Some take longer.  Some brides cry.  Some brides don’t want to take it off.  Some brides have to picture walking down the aisle and imagine getting married in the gown before they know.  There’s no right way to react and there’s no wrong way.  You want to love your gown & you want to feel amazing when you say yes to the dress, but remember that each & every bride’s experience is their own.

Simply become who you are.  It’s not a coincidence that this is posted in our fitting rooms.  Your bridal appointment and your bridal gown purchase is about who you are.  Not who your mom or maid of honour, or fiancé or best friend from high school wants you to be.  It’s okay to choose a gown that everyone won’t be expecting.  It’s okay to think outside the box.  It’s about becoming who you are meant to be.  While all your entourage’s opinions matter, at the end of the day the opinion that matters most is YOURS!

Two Things You Need to Know After You Say Yes to the Dress

Now you’ve set your budget, found your gown, what’s next?  Now is a great time to choose bridesmaids gowns, book in your tuxedos and meet with your decorator.  Your gown will set the theme for the rest of your day so happy planning!

What if you second guess your decision when you get home?  Sometimes this happens. Sometimes brides freak out or get overwhelmed with their decision.  That’s okay.  Take a deep breath and think about what it was about your gown that made you fall in love.  It’s okay to feel scared or overwhelmed.  Purchasing your gown makes your marriage real.  It’s really going to happen & that’s okay.  Think about falling in love with your fiancé and all the reasons why you said yes when he proposed.  If you still feel overwhelmed, call us or text us and pop back into the store to try your gown on again & remember why you fell in love with it!

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Thanks for joining us this week through this blog post.  We love walking with our brides through their gown shopping experience and would love for you to join our Once Upon A Time Weddings family.  You can book online here, call us at 519.245.7997 or text us 519.319.9441.  Join us next week as we discuss Everything I Wish Brides Knew About Setting {& Sticking to} A Budget.

What I Wish Every Bride Knew, Part 1

What I Wish Every Bride Knew… About Being Engaged.

By: Erin Bouchard
Owner of Once Upon A Time Weddings

 You’re engaged!  Whether you’ve been waiting for a long time for that shiny ring of yours or your fiancé completely surprised you, you are about to embark on a new journey together.  This is the first of a 5 part blog series that will help you navigate through some of the big decisions you will need to make now that you’ve gone from girlfriend to fiancé!   In this first part we’ll tackle what to do first, how to announce your engagement in style, as well as cover three important decisions you should make ASAP.  So grab a glass of bubbly and get ready to jump in!

The Essential Thing You Must Do Now That You’re Engaged.

The very first thing that you should do is call your insurance company and add your engagement ring to your policy.  Because if heaven forbid something happens to your ring, I’m betting your fiancé doesn’t want to have to buy you a second one!  Insurance can be purchased as an extension or sometimes called adding a rider, to your renter’s or home insurance.  Call your insurance company today to get it added on.

Announcing Your Engagement

There are so many cute ways to announce that you’re engaged.  Before you post it on social media make sure you have let all close friends & family members know personally.  Send them a quick email, text or give them a quick call.  Then post away on facebook, Instagram, twitter, etc.  Be prepared for lots of questions regarding date, venue, etc!  Throwing an engagement party is a good way to celebrate with family, friends and a great way to introduce members of the wedding party.  Or it might even be a fun way to ask your guys & girls to be part of your wedding party.  An engagement party can be as low key or as formal as you want it to be.

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Three Important Decisions to Make Right Away

The first important decision to make is where the wedding will be held at.  This is crucial because it will determine your wedding date.  Start researching wedding ceremony and venue locations right away.  Draft a rough draft or your guest list so you have an approximate idea of number of guests before narrowing down your list of potential venues.  Schedule a few tours and get some more information on your top choices.  If you’re planning a backyard wedding or a wedding at the family farm, call a couple rental companies and ensure availability of a tent.

The second important decision is to decide on your wedding party.  Talk to your fiancé about how many people they are planning to ask to stand up with them.  Then ask your wedding party to be part of your big day.  Search pinterest for this as there are a ton of cute and fun ways to ask.

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The final decision you should do right away is research local wedding shows.  Bridal shows are a great thing to attend when you’re first engaged as they are a great way to meet local wedding vendors, chat with other local brides and see some fun bridal fashions.  For a list of bridal shows in Southwestern Ontario check out the Wedding Ring’s list http://www.theweddingring.ca/year.listevents/2011/03/23/.  Browse through your local bridal shows and choose a couple to attend.

I hope you enjoyed this article and got some good information on what you should do now that you are engaged.  Next Friday I`ll tackle What I Wish Every Bride Knew About- Setting A Budget for the Wedding.  If you have any questions, concerns or need to reach me you can email me at info@onceuponatimeweddings.ca, call me at 519.245.7997 or text me at 519.319.9441.

Be Beautiful!


Erin Bouchard

Owner of Once Upon A Time Weddings.

Finding Balance.

One of the hardest tasks of being an entrepreneur is finding balance in life.  Learning to find time to accomplish all that I would like to accomplish can be challenging.  It’s been almost four years since the doors to Once Upon A Time Weddings have opened.  We have literally helped hundreds and hundreds of brides.  I have been so committed to running Once Upon A Time Weddings and have made many sacrifices throughout the years. 

Last May, my life changed forever.  I drove to Brantford with my husband and picked up my two little babies and brought them home.  Yes it was a long time coming, but nothing could have prepared me for those early days.  I remember falling into bed at nine exhausted from the day’s events.  I had to learn how to juggle running a business and being a mom.  I had to deal with the guilt of leaving them to go into work.  I had to deal with the sadness I felt when I came home and they were already in bed.

This past year has been hard on our business.  We’ve had to deal with the frustrations of two designers not coming through for us.  We have had to deal with some staff turnover.  We have been knocked down and had to get back up again.  But we’re still here, still learning to better our business.  We’ve developed new processes to ensure that the mistakes that we made in those early days don’t get made again.  And we’ve had to do some pruning.  Some changes.

Part of building a lasting business is learning what is successful and what isn’t.  You have to make changes.  You have to take risks.  It’s why we made the decision to stop carrying bridesmaids and mother’s gowns.  It’s why we’ve changed our hours to only be open by appointments.  We want to be available when it’s convenient for our brides.  We want to be reachable when they need us.  But we want to maintain balance in our individual lives. 

We would love your feedback on the recent changes we’ve made to Once Upon A Time Weddings.  We would love to hear your thoughts.  Send us an email to info@onceuponatimeweddings.ca or text us at 519.319.9441.  So far brides seem to enjoy that they can make an appointment whenever is convenient for them.  They like our small, quiet atmosphere.  We try our best to schedule appointments one on one.  It ensures that you have our full attention for the duration of your appointment.  We’d love to hear your thoughts as we continue to develop, grow and serve our customers.

                       Packing up bridesmaids gowns - the end of an era at Once Upon A Time Weddings.

                       Packing up bridesmaids gowns - the end of an era at Once Upon A Time Weddings.


During the fall our store operating hours will be Tuesday & Thursday 3-7 and Saturday 10-3.  Our store appointment hours will be Monday-Friday 10-8, Saturday 9-7 & Sunday 1-7.  To book an appointment visit www.onceuponatimeweddings.ca/appointment or text us at 519.319.9441 or call the store at 519.245.7997.  We look forward to helping you find YOUR gown.

1/2 Off Wedding Gown Facebook Contest!

In Once Upon A Time Weddings tradition, we'll be hosting another Facebook Contest giving one lucky bride any wedding gown of her choice from our store selection for half price.  

Photo by Amanda Kopcic Photography -  www.amandakopcic.com

Photo by Amanda Kopcic Photography - www.amandakopcic.com

If you would like an opportunity to be part of this facebook contest and would like the chance to win 1/2 off your wedding gown then please email info@onceuponatimeweddings.ca with the following information

* name

* fiancé's name

* wedding date and location

* picture of you & your fiance

* a story of how the proposal happened

Full contest rules will be emailed to you once we've received all submissions.  For more information please email us or call at 519.245.7997. 

 

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