bridal store owner

A Look Back at 2018.

As 2018 comes to a close, we look back on some of the best moments of the year. We wish we could showcase each and every bride to you, but here’s a snapshot of some of the brides who have entrusted to us their most important gown they will ever wear.

Chris Sit Photography

Chris Sit Photography

Van Daele and Russell Photography

Van Daele and Russell Photography

B. Reilly Photography

B. Reilly Photography

Amanda Kopcic Photography

Amanda Kopcic Photography

Jennifer McQuade Photography

Jennifer McQuade Photography

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Nicole DeJoseph Photography

Nicole DeJoseph Photography

Bee VanRuymbeke Photos

Bee VanRuymbeke Photos

Mikaela Shannon Photography

Mikaela Shannon Photography

Life is Beautiful Photography

Life is Beautiful Photography

Nina Polidoro Photography

Nina Polidoro Photography

Photography by Heather Yvonne

Photography by Heather Yvonne

As we come to a close of another year, I want to say a big thank you. Thank you to our brides, entourages + mothers that we have gotten the privilege of meeting and working with. We appreciate you. We love that you shop at our store, share the word about the store and engage with us on social media.

To other wedding vendors who tell their brides about us, thank you! We sure do appreciate all the love.

This year has not been without difficulties.. It’s been a year of growth and refinement, of challenges and new opportunities. Of learning to do things better and more efficient.

I cannot wait to see what 2019 will bring to our Once Upon A Time Weddings family!

XO

Erin Bouchard

Owner of Once Upon A Time Weddings

Erin's Journey | Our First Big Crisis.

This month, I'm sharing some of our story of how we built and grew Once Upon A Time Weddings.  If you missed our introduction story last week, you can read it here: http://bit.ly/2KrINeE

I was in year four.  The first few years had been bumpy, but we were finally finding our groove. And then our first big shipping crisis hit.

It was a designer we knew and trusted.

We had visited his stores.

And bought his sales trainings.
We carried his line for about a year and over half of our in-stock gowns were his line.

And then he stopped shipping gowns.

Wedding gowns were late, really late.

And we weren’t getting any answers from him.

For the first time in the history of my business we were going to miss a wear date.

I had to muster up the courage, dig deep inside of me and make phone calls that I pray I never have to make again.

I’m so sorry to tell you this, but your wedding gown will not arrive in time for your wedding.

We went into autopilot. 

Survival mode.

Full refunds.

Free alterations.

Switch to any in stock gown that you want to regardless of cost.

It was hard.

It was devastating on our business.

It was all so outside of our control.

Once the dust settled and I had personally worked with every bride affected by that designer it was time to learn some big lessons. And remove all those gowns from our racks and sell them off.

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I had a big choice to make.

I could become bitter.

Or I could become better.

You see, we had just gone through one of the worst experiences of my life.  A situation that I hadn’t created or could have changed in any way.  I could so easily have become bitter because of it. It was done to me after all.

Or I could find the lesson in the situation and I could learn.

I could use what I learned and grow my business.

And so we picked up the pieces of our business, prayed that we never went through anything like that again and continued on.

One of the biggest lessons that we learned during this crisis was to always take care of our customers.  To go above and beyond for them.  It’s one of our pillars of our business. 

We don’t always get it right, but we always make it right.

We care deeply about each of our customers.  We want them to love their experience and time with us.  So we spent lots of time perfecting the customer experience over the years.  
We’re not perfect.  But we constantly striving to be better.  To do better.  To be consistent.

Things started changing. 

Sales increased.

More and more brides heard about us.

And then we were facing crisis number two dead in the face.

This time however it was much, much worse.

Join me next week as I dive into that lesson.

Blog | Advice From A Real Bride.

Happy Friday! It's hard to believe we're in May already.  The weather is finally nice and it's making us dream of summer, campfires, walks on the beach + of course, summer weddings!

Today on the blog, we're sharing some Real Bride advice.  This month we're featuring Alexa Wallace who tied the knot on May 27, 2017.  Happy almost Anniversary!  I still remember doing her bridal appointment.  She came in thinking she'd end up in a fitted gown & left with the most beautiful ball gown.  Let's dive into her bridal advice.

What is the biggest piece of advice you would give a newly engaged bride-to-be? Please explain:)

Enjoy the process! You only get one engagement, one time to call each other fiance/fiancee, one time to plan this whole thing! Have fun with it, and remember above all else you're planning a moment where you're closest friends and family witness you two commit yourselves to each other. The party for us, while immensely important as I LOVE to plan parties, was always secondary. Not that we skimped, we made it as fabulous as we wanted it to, but we made sure that our ceremony, that moment where we become husband and wife in front of our loved ones, was the highlight and the most important aspect of the day and planning since we saw it as Day 1 of the rest of our lives together.

What is the best advice you would give for a bride-to-be who is searching for her dream dress?

I think don't go in to it with expectations, as hard as that is because for a lot of us we've had this idea in our heads of how it'll look or how we'll feel for so so long. So do your best to breathe, wash away those mental images, and just be very present in the moment and true to yourself and how you feel. My dress was no kidding the absolute complete opposite of what I pictured myself in, but as soon as I stepped in to it, I saw in my head myself walking in our venue and seeing my husband waiting for me and it all felt very right. And believe in the words you tell Erin and the girls to help them help you find the right one!
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What is the best advice you were given as a bride-to-be?

I'm not sure if any one thing sticks out to me, but probably similar to what I mentioned earlier, to just relax and enjoy the process, it'll all fall in to place and really, you're just planning a big party! I think focusing on the real meaning of the day, marrying your best friend and committing your lives to each other, and staying true to what feels right and represents the two of you and your relationship, will help you stay calm and at ease in the planning.

What is something you regret when wedding planning?

I really wish we had hired a videographer or even asked a family friend to video the ceremony at the very least, it was so special to us. I remember how I felt saying the vows, and I'll always know what we said as I have it written down from our rehearsal, but I think to see it all over again and be able to re-live it is something we would have really cherished having. It all happens so fast, a beautiful blur of a day!

What is one thing you're glad you did when you were planning your wedding/engaged?

Since we bought our house halfway through our engagement before our wedding, we had a lot of time, energy and finances that were being dedicated to renovations! So we would spend a couple weeks tackling some wedding items, then put it on the back burner for a couple months. That back and forth helped it from being all consuming, kept us on track to really hammer out details and stay focused to what we wanted for the big day, and it kept us relaxed and enjoying our time together as an engaged couple and not just a couple planning a wedding.
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Is there anything else you'd want to tell a future bride?

Stay true to what you and your partner want out of your big day and what truly represents you as a couple! At the end of it all, you gain a spouse and partner for life, so make sure to focus on that first and foremost and let the party planning be a fun aspect of the whole process! Place subtle details and memorable touches here and there, but don't stress if something gets forgotten or missed, by the time the food and drink get flowing all that matters is you're enjoying this moment surrounded by the ones you both love and who love you! Cheers lovely!

We love, love, love our brides here at OUTW and we have the best brides in the whole world!! We hope you enjoyed reading through Alexa's best wedding advice. She has some wise words as you prepare for your own walk down the aisle.

Book your experience here too say yes to your dream dress.

Photography: Mariangelica Photography

3 Ways To Make Sure Your Wedding Is Unique.

1.     Start with an unique gown.

Choose a wedding gown that reflects you and your personality first and foremost.  Choose a gown that you haven’t seen walk down the aisle fifteen times already.  Don’t be afraid to try something on that might be outside of what you thought you would wear.  It’s true, that you just never know until you try gowns on.  The worst that can happen is that you don’t like it and you move on to the next gown!

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2.     Choose elements that reflect you & your fiancé

It’s your wedding day after all.  Think about things that reflect your personality.  Do you both love hockey?  Are you all about books? Travel? Cooking?  Whatever it is, find ways to incorporate touches of the two of you.  An ode to where you met, the timeline of your love story, there are so many ways to corporate small details into your wedding day.  Don’t feel like you have to do certain elements because it’s “tradition”.  There used to be a lot of rules when it came to wedding days, but now, there’s not as many.  Find what makes your heart get excited and follow that.

Skip the traditional.  Having a more laid-back affair? Skip the traditional wording.  Have a favourite song?  Incorporate the lyrics into your vows.  There are tons of ways to make sure that the wedding reflects you + fiancé.

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3.     Don’t let fear stop you.

Don’t be afraid to do something different.  It’s your day.  If you want to have food trucks, then do it! If you want to play lawn games and then have a bonfire, do it! The best weddings I have been to have been where the bride and groom truly enjoyed the day.  That joy will radiate in your pictures and you’ll look back on the day with fondness.  It’s okay to be the first of your friends to try something new!  

 

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OUTW Takes on Chicago Bridal Market!

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Last week, Sharon and I headed down to Chicago to purchase our Fall 2017 stock for the store.  It’s one of my favourite things about owning a bridal store, because it gives us a chance to analyze our stock before we go.  It’s also cool to meet with other store owners, hang out with friends and check in with owners of the lines that we carry.  While it’s a lot of fun, it’s also a lot of decisions in a short amount of time.  Today on the blog, we're taking you on a behind the scenes look at what it’s like to go to market and purchase stock for the store.

 

            Fun fact: 46% of the gowns we sold last year were ivory!

 

            We headed down to Chicago on Sunday morning.  I am not a morning person at all {something I’m trying to change} so the 4 am wake up was not a highlight for me.  In true Erin- fashion we made it out of town when I realized I forgot my visa card at home, so we turned around and headed back.  Once we got to Chicago we checked into our hotel and headed over to market.  Day one is always just a browse and see what’s new.  Check in with some of our designers, find out whose showing where and get a lay of the land.  We had dinner with some friends and crashed early!

 

            Fun fact: We sold more size 16 wedding gowns than any other size last year!

 

            On Monday morning some of my coaching stores came over to our hotel and we did a live webinar on selling to different personality types and then went for a group breakfast.  I love the stores that I’m coaching right now and getting to hang out in person with them is always an added bonus.  Then we hit the market floor and got ready to buckle down and make some decisions.  We ended up picking up a new line of gowns that I’m SO excited about.  I almost picked up a different new line, but something was off.  It’s so weird but I feel like my intuition is right sometimes.  {Do you ever feel like that or am I just cray cray?}  I’m so glad I held off because the line that I found is going to be a perfect fit for our store and I cannot wait for them to come in!

 

            Fun fact: We sold more blush colored gowns last year than we did white!

 

            We wrapped up market on the Monday so that we could have Tuesday in the city.  We finished the day Monday with deep dish pizza and great company!  Tuesday we enjoyed sleeping in and then headed off for pedicures and shopping.  The perfect last day before we head back to the grind.  A quick but very productive trip!  I’m always anxious to get back into the store and get back to work after being away for a few days!!

 

            Fun fact: We currently have more fitted gowns in stock than any other shapes!

Holy train batman!!  Many booths at market have live fashion shows throughout the day!

Holy train batman!!  Many booths at market have live fashion shows throughout the day!

Super excited to get this chiffon gown with beaded straps in to the store!

Super excited to get this chiffon gown with beaded straps in to the store!

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.

Time To Embellish - A Fashion Fundraiser.

We're so excited to share with you all that Once Upon A Time Weddings will be doing a fashion fundraiser again!!  This time we'll be working to give local kids from lower income families a summer camp experience!  The fundraiser will be a fashion show with the latest in casual and formal wear.  It will be held on Friday, October 21st at the Seniors Centre in Strathroy.  WE CAN'T WAIT!!! 

Tickets will be on sale this summer!  We'll keep you posted!! Also, we're going to need models that wear pant size 4-16.  So shoot us an email to info@onceuponatimeweddings.ca if you're interested in walking the runway!  

Be Beautiful!!

Erin Bouchard