What’s the right amount of time to take off BEFORE the wedding?

6 Jun

Weddings? Who’s got the time?

No wonder I couldn’t find the time to do everything before the wedding. I didn’t take enough time off for two honeymoons just to PREPARE.

I’ve been reading some forum posts about women taking some crazy time off before their weddings. I know you have a ton of stuff to do, but taking two weeks off is a little much. Do you not have to work? What kind of jobs do these people have where they can take so much time off? Do you live in Germany or something where everyone gets 6 weeks vacation every year?

I Googled to get an idea, and just found a bunch of people bragging about all the time off they get at their jobs, whether they be fancy pants or not. But not everyone has this luxury.

Let’s be realistic people. I was allowed to go home early a few days so I could go to dress fittings before the store closed, but the week of the wedding, I only got two days off! And one of those was for the actual wedding, which was on a Friday.

I planned to go back to work on Monday morning but decided to return Tuesday. We still had people in town from California, Italy and Switzerland who were here and why should I return to work when people paid good money to come here for our wedding?

And I didn’t even get time off for a honeymoon until I was laid off 3 months after the wedding anyway. Happy wedding gift from them!

We would have loved to take some time off before the wedding to do things we needed to do. We had a load of stuff left to do because we planned it all in five months (We had to write off the two months I was sick). We could have had better wedding favours, fancier centrepieces, and other goodies, but we just didn’t have the time. And that’s ok because it turned out great.

How much time do you think is “reasonable” to take off before the wedding? Obviously, destination weddings require more time, since you have to travel and have your honeymoon there, which is totally cool, so let’s just talk about weddings at home.

My advice: Keep all last-minute details to a minimum to de-stress, and try not to let curious people get to you. You don’t need people asking what is still left to do on your list.  You know that you 10,000 things left, so do you really need constant reminders of the fact you’re knee deep in errands and don’t have time off work to get it all done?

Best Toronto area bridal shops for wedding dress shopping

16 Jan

That’s me the day I picked up my wedding dress! I am twirling and smiling! My dress was Maggie Sottero’s Virginia

So I went to a ton of bridal shops in my seemingly neverending search for a wedding dress. Seriously, I looked for a long time to find a V neck, only to be told it was out of style and I would never find it. Listen when they tell you what you want is out of style. I was crazy to not believe them, but I don’t believe things until I see them myself.  I kept searching and searching anyway until 1 day before it would’ve been too late to order a dress in time. I ended up going with the third dress I ever tried on :S.

I went to nearly every store in Toronto, no joke. Almost a year later, my dad is still talking about it. He was a saint, patiently driving me around so that I could get a dress I loved. I have seen the good, bad and ugly of wedding shops and here’s the lowdown. This post reviews 16 stores. It’s a long, comprehensive list, but yes, I actually went to all these places over 5 months. It was exhausting. Note, these are all “affordable” places, except for one (of course, everyone’s idea of affordable is different, but I’m assuming $500 to $1,500 and mainstream dresses from the magazines). If you’re looking to spend $20Gs on a dress, I can’t help you.

I would love to read your personal experiences with these stores. Please leave stories in the comments section.

Mona Richie: I really wish I could have bought my dress from Mona, but she didn’t carry dresses from the designer that I ended up going with. Mona is patient and kind, and you can tell that she really cares about her “girls.” I nearly fainted in her store, and she ran to the fridge to get me something to drink and sat with me, even after store closing, until I was ok. That is amazing.  I’d say her store and Amanda-Lina’s are the biggest in the GTA and have the best selections, and Mona carries all the top of the line designers like Pronovias. Go to Mona! It will be one of the nicest shopping experiences you’ll ever have. She is in what I’ve dubbed the “wedding mall” of 4040 Steeles Ave. West in Woodbridge, where there’s about 10 other wedding dress, cake, favours, jewellery, and decor stores in the same strip mall.

Amanda-Lina’s: This store is huge, and has a beautiful selection of what I thought were the most fashionable wedding dresses, mother of the bride dresses, and bridesmaid dresses. They get a lot of the trunk shows early. The fitting rooms are huge and it is definitely magical to go outside into their section full of mirrors and see yourself in a wedding dress for the first time with their soft spotlights on you. You cannot be shy here as the consultants tell you to strip down so they can get you into the dress (I guess they don’t want people to damage the samples, which is fair). This store cuts out the designer labels from the dresses so you can’t come in with a style number — you actually have to bring them a photo of the dress you want to try on. This is where I found the dress I ended up buying but when I came back, they had sold the sample off at their January annual blowout sale so I couldn’t trace the dress but was lucky enough to find it elsewhere again. It worked out because it cost $400 less at the other store!

Superior Bridal: This is a smaller bridal shop in Markham, but the ladies here are a true gem. Vy and Elena (two sisters who are consultants) put up with my request for dress after dress, and never complained and were never, ever rude to me. At one point I got so frustrated that the type of dress I wanted was not in style and unavailable, that I started to cry. Elena took me aside and comforted me. That’s customer service + 1000. They didn’t carry the sample of the dress I wanted to buy, but because they carried the designer, they could still order it for me. I wanted to be sure that these guys got my money because of their amazing service. They charge a flat fee of $400 for alterations which I found rather expensive for mine, considering the size was fine, and all they’d have to do was cut off a bit of the bottom to hem it. They also get the trunk shows earlier than other shops.

Bridal and Beyond: This has two locations (one in Leaside, one in Mississauga). I’ve been to both. I found that the one in Mississauga had experienced bridal consultants and the one in Leaside had teenagers. Pick depending on the experience you want. If you need help figuring out what you want, go to Mississauga. If you want to be left alone to try on a bunch, go to Leaside. I found the prices here in line with the other places, and they were one of two stores in the city that had the sample of my dress (a large one, size 14). They also had the Disney by Alfred Angelo wedding gowns in stock to try on while others didn’t. The nice thing about this store too is that it has stuff like invitations, favours and other accessories, making it a one stop shop. I think they give you a membership card for discounts on other merchandise if you buy your dress here. Ask for Josie at the Mississauga one. They also have a great website that will tell you which location has which dress samples.

Impression Bridal: A warehouse type store in Mississauga that is the home of labels like Impression Bridal and Simone Carvalli wedding gowns.The lighting is super harsh, but the consultant, a fashion student at Ryerson, was very good. She said she had actually done fashion internships in Italy. I actually found what looked like a knock off of the dress I ended up getting. Only difference was the fabric and an extra flower on the belt. And $400. It was cheaper here. Didn’t go with this place because the fabric didn’t feel as nice and it was only available in a harsh bleach white which looked really bad on my pasty skin, but I have no complaints and recommend this place.

Windsor Bridal: This is on Orfus Road. Yes THE Orfus Road with all the outlet stores for cheap clothing . The dresses aren’t cruddy brands though, they have quality labels (I tried on Madison Collection, Mori Lee and Private Label by G) and they had received the new shipments before any of the other stores in the city. Large selection. Lighting is harsh and there can be a long wait for a consultant and fitting room, and customers are not allowed to touch the dresses which are closed up in clear garment bags…a little annoying because how are you supposed to find something if you can’t sort through their hundreds of dresses in racks? A consultant will help you in and out of the dress and you have a maximum of 8 and one hour. Bring a stopwatch. Wanna go back in time? Check out the outlet store next door with dresses out of an episode of Friends from 1994.

Beckers Bridal. This is the oldest store in the city. Consultants were helpful, but the store has a smaller selection than the places in Woodbridge, (which makes sense with Danforth real estate being slim). But it’s across the street from Chester station so probably the easiest of all boutiques to get to. They carry dresses by a particular designer (Barbara something) whose dresses are only sold in 3 stores (in Toronto, New York and Vancouver). They are made of  gorgeous silk and look great, but cost $3,500.  They did have the usual suspects like Pronovias though. And please do me and everyone a favour. The shop is small, so don’t bring your posse with you. One person is enough. I had to try on a dress with a girl’s entire family, bridal party and fiance spilling over into the area and staring at me. Very uncomfortable, especially because I was alone.

The Dress Room: Closed every single time we tried to call them or go there so no clue about this place. My friend got her Demetrios dress here on sale here for 50% off because it was a floor sample and she looked great. This is owned by the same people as Beckers Bridal.

Vogue Sposa: Down the street from Beckers Bridal on Danforth, with an even smaller selection. But had some unique Anjolique brand wedding dresses that I could not find in other stores. Staff was fine. They advertise their in-house designer on their website but those were more asymmetrical dresses that aren’t my thing.

Lowon Pope: These apparently are all designed at the store, which is amazing and exciting and great to support a locally operated business. So I went but turned right around once I looked in the window. This store has vintage style dresses for Olive Oyl (of Popeye fame) skinny things. Don’t bother heading out to Liberty Village if you ever ate a cheeseburger.

White Toronto: This is in Yorkville so make a stop at the bank first to plump up your wallet! Some dresses here go for $10 grand or more. I didn’t have too many dealings with them to judge their customer service. They were very polite on the phone when I called them for an appointment to their sample sale, their consultants were friendly and everyone was pretty civil at their blessed event. But just keep in mind that if you go here, the dresses are more haute couture than classic styles. You will actually find the lopsided, high fashion dresses that look like potato sacks on the models in Martha Stewart Weddings. That’s fine if that’s what you want, but just not my thing.

Chez Jordan: In the same plaza as Mona Richie and Veronica Di Santo (keep walking if you don’t wanna drop $5 Gs on a dress at Di Santo). Chez Jordan had nice sales clerks and an ok selection of dresses, including some really unique looking ones that I hadn’t seen in any other store. From their website it looks like they have an in house designer which would explain this. The sales lady said they also get stuff from European labels. Had a nice selection of mom dresses too.

Royalton gifts and Jewellery: This looks like a wedding favour and decor store but they snuck in some wedding dresses and mom dresses in the back. Ask for Teresa, she was really nice and patient. Has a bigger selection of bridesmaid dresses and had a few “out there” wedding gowns with see through bodices. Watch out in the wedding favour section, the ladies will be all over you so don’t show any sign of weakness. Go with an idea of what you want. My neighbours bought their favours here and they were super nice. This store has no website or I’d link, but its at 4040 Steeles along with Mona Richie.

David’s Bridal: This chain’s first Canadian stores opened AFTER I already bought my dress, so I can’t talk about my wedding dress personal experience there, but I know they do sell dresses for as low as $200 if that’s what you’re looking for, and they do have Vera Wang line that is more affordable. The Scarborough store was big, but the few times we went it was really crowded. My bridesmaids bought their dresses there. Great part was that they had lots of bridesmaids dresses in stock so the girls bought them off the rack.

Ritche: This is arguably the most famous bridal shop in the city, with ads on tv all the time and a wide selection. But they’ve got some pretty rude staff. Takes forever and a day to get an appointment, then you are either told to wait or told to leave. Read about my awful experience with these guys in my previous post. If you do go here, ask for Megan. She was the only nice one and seemed to know what she was doing.

Felichia bridal: Walked past here about a week after I got engaged so I was really excited and walked in to look at stuff on the rack. God forbid. One sales lady was helping someone with an appointment.  But the dude who was sipping a pop and reading a magazine at the front desk told me that no one could help me without an appointment and he looked a little annoyed that I had just waltzed in, even though I didn’t ask to try anything on.  I took that to mean “don’t bother even looking.” So I didn’t bother making the trek back to Yonge and Eglinton for this store. Don’t know how they treat you when you do have an appointment.

How to prevent wedding expo disasters. Part 2 of 2: survival guide

7 Jan

One of the fun parts of the bridal expo: The fashion show with all these gorgeous wedding dresses

After the overwhelming response from part 1 (how to use wedding shows to save money), here’s part 2 on how to physically survive an exhausting bridal show full of lots of standing, talking, lugging around brochures, and sugar overdosing. Bridal shows are great because you can talk to wedding vendors in person and avoid hours and hours and hours of Google search and phonecall time, all in one place. We tasted cakes at the wedding show and one was so good that we decided then and there that it would be our bakery. Took one thing off our list right away! When we went to buy was a pleasant experience.

  •  The most important tip: Go with your fiance!!! I can’t stress this enough. Number one, it’s his/her wedding too so they should have input. Number two, at Canada’s Bridal Show they called up the grooms on stage to do silly dances and the winner got a $5,000 diamond ring! A second set of eyes is great, and your fiance will be able to help you cut down on which vendors are a definite no so you can cut down on the number of heavy brochures you’ll have to lug around the rest of the day. You two are marrying to become a team, start practicing teamwork now!
  • Wedding expos are usually held at ginormous convention centers. This means don’t wear stilettos and don’t wear thick jackets. You will do lots of walking. You will get hot and bothered (literally, not figuratively). Today is time to put away the Louboutins and stick to the Nikes.
  •  The first items you will see when you walk in are the wedding magazines. Make these the LAST items you pick up.  Some of these are as thick as these ancient devices of the 80s called catalogues and phonebooks. I know you’re trying to get in shape for the wedding but you will get tired, fast if you pick them up first.
  • Figure out your nourishment strategy. You will need lots of energy to carry around all those brochures. Remember, convention centers often equal quality food like hot dogs or greasy pizza for $7 per slice. I personally went on a half-full stomach because I knew there would be cake samples. You don’t want to feel sick by stuffing your stomach full o’cake on top of a regular meal. I am also happy to say I did have a few lunches that consisted solely of cake :). Take this knowledge my child and do what is best for you.
  • In the last post we discussed how to get discounts at the wedding shows, but don’t assume everything is a bargain! Make SURE you shop around.  I’ve bitched and moaned about wedding price gouging on this blog over and over and over again. Just remember that you can get a lot of stuff you need from vendors that are not in the wedding show circuit, and don’t charge you your first born child as payment. The florist down the street from my parents’ house offered a MUCH better deal than the “wedding specialist florists.” They were still gorgeous, cheaper, and our florist knew the local church so there were no issues with deliveries. You can find much cheaper prices online even, on stuff like wedding invitations.

Sure this looks great, but talented florists can be found away from the wedding show circuit too.

  • Take the organizers.  These are agenda books with checklists and schedule on what order you should do your wedding-related tasks. These are full of ads, but very, very good in helping you plan the long list of things you’ll have to do and will point out things you may never have even thought of.
  • DON’T buy a clearance wedding dress at a bridal show! This will probably be your first exposure to wedding gowns and you will be so starry eyed about your new engagement, you will find every dress gorgeous. Don’t fall into the trap! You should look at photos of gowns in those magazines, and then go to a place where you can try on those dresses with good lighting and proper mirrors. That way you won’t be stuck with a clearance dress from two years ago that may be damaged (the lighting sucks! It might be damaged and not even the vendor knows it). Because you know as soon as you drop the cash you’ll see one in a magazine that you like better. You want to go to a place where you will have recourse in case there’s issues with your dress. I mean if you’re spending, $1,000 do you really want to get it at what is basically sidewalk sale? Seriously, it may be tough, but I promise you will have a better experience if you wait it out and go to a store. I will be posting about Toronto’s best bridal shops soon.
  •   Watch out for contests. There will be hundreds of vendors offering hundreds of contests. Some of these we’ve found weren’t actually “contests.” The vendors will call you back 2 weeks later saying you’ve “won” something, but in fact, everyone who entered “won.” And it often involves stuff like “winning $500 worth of stuff if you spend $2,000” or buy only their most expensive package.  Just be aware of which contests you’re actually interested in and how reputable the vendor is. . And added incentive to be careful. Blogger Rogue Bride found out her information was sold to scammers! If you do end up entering contests, some people suggest printing out stickers or business cards with your contact info in advance, so you don’t have to fill out endless forms all day. We didn’t do that, so it helped us cut down on the number entered.
  •  Focus on the owners to avoid “wedding vendor factories.” We found some photographers, for example, that have a pool of 20 photographers and you get some random one at your wedding. That means the one you get could have a completely different style from the one whose album you’re looking at. Focus on the places where the owners are the only photographers available and you know you’ll be getting what you paid for.

So hopefully you’ll have planned this out so the wedding show will be a fun experience. They can be overwhelming, but are worth it alone for the fashion shows. They bring out some fun DJs, and you can drool over wedding dresses in action on the catwalk. I hope you have fun at your shows and come out ahead and congrats on your engagement!

A bridesmaid dress on sale at the bridal show for just $30! I wouldn’t make the bridesmaids buy on the spot with no colour selection, but you can wear this at your rehearsal dinner, or bachelorette. Look great, and it’s cheap.

Some wedding shows in the Toronto area: Canada’s Bridal Show. The Total Wedding Show. The Wedding Co. Show. The Wedluxe Wedding show, the National Bridal Show.

It’s bridal show season! Part 1 of 2. How to score bargains

6 Jan
Canada's Bridal Show

A model shows off a wedding dress on the catwalk at Canada’s Bridal Show in Toronto in January 2011.

Hunting season has begun! With the holidays being a hot time for people to get engaged, it’s no wonder wedding shows use January as their prime season to target those sparkly-eyed brides excited about planning their upcoming nuptials.

We went to about 6 shows all over the Greater Toronto Area so we became veterans of this exhausting circuit. Seriously, you will be overwhelmed and tired, but it’s well worth going to score some money-saving deals.  Sure, you walk around meeting endless vendors, picking up heavy brochures, filling out prize ballots, watching fashion shows, and testing out limos. Everything will start looking the same.  But you do at least get a sweet reward when you go to the bakery booths and get to taste wedding cakes!

Here is the first of a two part series: How to find deals at the bridal show. Next instalment will be a survival guide!

  • Some wedding shows are free. Others make you pay. Some are free for brides only, but since they don’t ask you to prove whether you’re getting married, if all your friends and even your mom are conveniently brides too *wink wink* they will also get in for free. Your fiance will have to pay, unfortunately (ridiculous)
  • Paying to get into a wedding show sounds dumb, but going can help you save HOURS of Googling and phone time by exposing you to hundreds of vendors all at once. You can get a general idea about pricing, and if you keep your eyes peeled, you can snag some deals there too.

Here’s how to save money through the wedding expos:

  • Be an early bird. Look at the bridal show websites in advance. They often have a $5 off discount or 2 for 1 admission coupons. I have seen Canada’s Bridal Show in Toronto do this several times.  If you buy online, you can skip the lines which can be brutal. (We once waited 1 hour just to get in!)
  • Wait until the show to open a wedding registry. The big department stores give you some kind of incentive for signing up for a registry at the show. When we signed up, The Bay, Home Outfitters and Sears were offering $10 gift cards and entering couples into draws for thousands of dollars in appliances. If you’re going to sign up for a registry anyway, you might as well wait for the show, and get $10 bucks for it, right? And bonus if you win a food processor!
  •  Don’t spend a dime on bridal magazines or planners. You will get about 4 issues of popular ones for free at these shows. In Canada you usually get the fall and winter issues of both ‘Today’s Bride” and “Weddingbells” and “Wedluxe,” not to mention wedding magazines specifically for your region.  These can go for as much as $7 each.  Collecting these on your way out of the show can potentially save you up to $45.
  • Look for the wedding show specials. If you find vendors you like, check if they offer a “wedding show special.” We were very close to booking a particular photographer, but we saw that they had a “wedding show special” of a free photo album. We were going to book with them anyway, so it was nice to get a little bonus for signing up within a few weeks of the wedding show. This bonus was worth $600!
  • Look for cheap accessories: If you know exactly what kind of accessories you want, buy them at the show. Shoe and jewelry vendors often do clearance sales at wedding shows. We saw bride and bridesmaid shoes for $20 and bridesmaid dresses on for $30 (these can cost $200). So if you don’t care if you get last season’s shoes, and your bridesmaids don’t want identical dresses, you can snag a great deal.
  • Look for freebies. I got a free garter, some feather boas for the bachelorette party, and bridal organizers that totally saved my butt a few times. These organizers are gold. They’re like day planners, and they have handy checklists and give you tips on what you should do, and when, when planning a traditional wedding. You can buy them for $20 at the bookstore, but why should you when you can get it for free at the show?

Anyway ladies, I wish you luck at the wedding conventions! They can be exhausting but they’re a great way to save money.

Models at the fashion shows show off everything from gowns, hair and makeup vendors, shoes, and even bouquets like this one.

Some wedding shows in the Toronto area: Canada’s Bridal Show. The Total Wedding Show. The Wedding Co. Show. The Wedluxe Wedding show, the National Bridal Show.

Next instalment: a wedding show survival guide

Crazy cheap Vera Wang Wedgwood china deal at The Bay this weekend

2 Dec

A place setting from our Vera Wang Wedgwood Lace Gold fine china set

Attention all of you who have a Vera Wang Wedgwood china pattern on your gift registries at The Bay in Canada!

The Vera Wang patterns are 25% off at The Bay this week! And if you go this weekend and use your store credit card, you get ANOTHER 20% off! The only catch is that you can’t use your 10% off registry completion discount, but take what you can get because these NEVER go on sale!

All those discounts mean one place setting that normally costs $179.99 will actually cost you $107 plus taxes. We bought all the outstanding place settings we needed to complete our registry!  And if you use a points card along with your credit card, you almost get enough points to claim a $10 gift card too. Better than buying from Amazon U.S. and being stuck with a surprise expensive duty charge when it crosses the border. Those can add up. Husband once sent me a $50 gift when he lived in the U.S.   The UPS guy held it for ransom until I paid $50 more in duty on it.

Back to the Vera Wang: The lady that served us was super nice and patient with us. The store didn’t have enough in stock, so you can still get this deal if you pay now and have them ship it to the store in a few weeks.

Now is the time for you to buy these at The Bay if you didn’t get them as wedding gifts (or if you still haven’t had your wedding yet, point your family and friends in the right direction so they can save money on your gift). These never, EVER go on sale. Trust me, I’ve checked. The Vera Wang is always listed as the only exclusion when the other china patterns are on sale. So seriously, go and take care of business this weekend on a once in a lifetime sale. Leave a comment if you buy them!

BTW: Our pattern is Lace Gold

Real Housewife Kim Zolciek’s wedding dress: Dismal damask

18 Nov

So up in Canada, the “Real Housewives” shows are on channels that cost extra, so I’ve never seen an episode and never seen the need to download any of the 6,000 permutations of the show. So no clue who this Kim Zolciek woman is.

However, I saw this photo in a celeb mag and couldn’t resist sharing this trainwreck dress with you all.

I assume she was going for a Marie Antoinette look, but all I can think of is that a monster ate up sheets, curtains and upholstery and then threw up this gem.  What is that god awful crumply thing in the hips?!?!?! Ewwww. Ewwww. Ewwww.

I like how her dress is indistinguishable from the curtains in this photo!

Maybe she was going for Scarlett O’Hara’s famous “curtain dress” look. For you youngins, here’s an explanation of what I’m talking about from the old movie “Gone With the Wind.”

I’m sure that whoever designed the first Damask pattern had seat cushions in mind, rather than Zolciek’s $58,000 dress. Damask inventor is rolling over in their grave.

This dress takes the whole concept of “color, texture, pattern, shine”  to a whole ‘nother level.

And an aside: is it just me or does this thing make her look waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay older than the 33-years-old that they claim she is?

Unhappy bride is back with a new focus!

15 Nov

I gave up on this blog right after the wedding in July of 2011, (I had tons of stuff to do, we went on an amazing Mediterranean cruise honeymoon, and husband thought that venting on here was just making me more upset about some stuff than I needed to be).

But I just logged in and saw a ton of hits on this blog, even though it has been inactive since August. This has me thinking that since there’s 100s of people a day coming here and looking for help with their wedding, who am I to stop helping?

I’m still going to throw in my two cents about celebrity weddings, (it feels good to snark it up sometimes), but I’m also going to try and help you guys cut down on wedding costs, and handle some sticky situations like pushy parents or judgmental bridesmaids.   I will also talk about some of the challenges we are facing as newlyweds (major! Husband likes eating chicken nuggets. Nothing else. I come from an Italian family! I feed the soul!)

Too bad I can’t change the username to reflect that I am happily married, had a lovely wedding, but was just annoyed at all the wedding drama.

I hope I can be some help to you, please leave some feedback!

-Unhappybride

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