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Friday, May 21, 2010

Family Time

Although my thoughts are usually of weddings and special occasions, I need to take a break to thank my wonderful niece for her duty to our country. She landed today in Afghanistan and will be there for the next six months. While she is there serving our country, her husband will also be busy at his post in the United States. Their 15 month old son will be with my brother and sister-in-law. It is really great having the little one so near us now, but we are all praying every minute for this family to be reunited as soon as possible.
I am so thankful for all our service personnel, past and present. Please keep them all in your prayers.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bridal Equals Service

In the fourteen years, that I have been involved with the bridal business, many things have changed. Some things have changed for the better but not everything. One item that many independently owned bridal stores pride themselves on is customer service. This will never change. In this post, I would like to explain to the younger generation what kind service to expect from a bridal store.
The main priority is individualized service: This means that you should have the full attention of the bridal consultant during your appointment time. This consultant should help you look for the type of gown you are interested in purchasing, help you try on these gowns, give you suggestions about how the gown fits your body type and if changes can be made to the gown to make it your dream dress. The consultant should also inform you of the time line required to order the gown, make alterations and have the gown ready for your special day.
Of course, this service will vary depending upon the store you select. Here are some things to know before you select which stores to visit.
a. If a store is very small, there may only be one person working each shift. Therefore if you do not schedule an appointment to try on gowns, you may not have individualized service. I know that I have had days in my store when there were no appointments on the book but had 3 to 4 brides show up at about the same time to try on gowns. I had to do my best to divide my attention between them. Although I do not require an appointment, it is preferred so that several brides are not scheduled at the same time or an extra consultant is available for added appointments. In our "fast food" world of today where few people want to be bothered with appointments or reservation, I do offer an added discount for those brides who take the time to make an appointment.
b. Some stores will not allow anyone to try on gowns who does not have an appointment. So don't spend lots of time on the road to visit a particular store to only be told that you cannot try on any gowns because you do not have an appointment. Plan ahead.
c. Also realize that larger stores have many consultants. So if you visited the store and really liked the consultant that worked with you, there is no guarantee that the same consultant will be scheduled for your next appointment. Again, if you plan ahead, you should be able to schedule an appointment with the same consultant from the first appointment. On the other hand if you did not like your first consultant, do not settle for her/him for a second appointment. Remember that you are the customer and the store is servicing you. If they truly want your business, they will give you a new consultant.
d. Is there an advantage working with the owner or manager instead of a hired consultant? Certainly! The difference is getting the answers to the questions you have about gowns. If it is important to you to have a direct line to the answers you need, you may want to select a small independent store where the owner works every day. In these stores, there is only one person who takes the order, places the order, checks that the order is on time, receives the order, inspects the order, presses the order and finally gives the order to you. As you can see, in a large store there could be a different person for each of these tasks who do not personally know you. Things can get lost or misplaced. They do not know exactly which gown you ordered so will not be aware of a wrong style number or size until you see the gown.

There are so many things to consider at this most precious time in your life. Please take some time to plan carefully. Here are some questions you need to answer before purchasing your wedding attire.
1. Do I like the idea of making an appointment or just showing up to shop?
2. Did I receive the service I expected at my appointment?
3. What did the consultant do that I liked?
4. What did the consultant do that I didn't like?
5. Did I feel pressured to make a purchase on the first visit?
6. Did I feel that the store valued my business?
If you are not completely satisfied with your answers to these questions, keep looking. As I stated before, you are the customer and have the final decision on how you spend your money.

My final three words of wisdom about the bridal industry are:

1. NEVER GIVE YOUR MONEY TO SOMEONE THAT YOU DON'T LIKE! This applies to anything you do. If you are not happy with the business you are doing business with, GO SOMEWHERE ELSE! You never have to settle for bad service or rude behavior.
2. What if you found the gown of your dreams at the store with the terrible service? This is why you need to plan ahead. Do some research about what each store carries. Look at the designers on the store websites or look for store names on designer websites. You will quickly find out that the best designers are available at numerous stores. So unless you select a gown that has been discontinued, you should be able to find the gown in another store. If you cannot get the gown somewhere else, you still may have fewer headaches selecting a new gown than dealing with terrible service.
3. Although many websites feature the horror stories about weddings, there are hundreds of reputable bridal salons. There are plenty of really good people working in the bridal industry that live to make brides happy. If you don't already know one of these people, ask around. It is very likely that someone you trust will know where to find a great bridal salon. But the last word of warning is to remember that people do make mistakes. Hopefully it won't happen to your wedding, but if it does, give the store a chance to correct the mistake. A truly genuine store will bend over backwards to correct a problem. I think this is a whole new post, so read the next one on how to handle the problems.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Passion for Weddings

To truly understand where I get my passion for my business, you need to understand a little about my family. From the time I can remember, I have attended family weddings for aunts, uncles, cousins and close friends that are like family. Almost every wedding is a royal occasion with numerous bridesmaids, groomsmen and guests. In the Midwest, many wedding are not formal affairs with seating charts and sit down dinners but rather a big celebration with lots of food and fun. The guest list includes all your family and friends and the occasion is talked about for years at the family reunion. Now with the invention of social networking, I have even seen pictures from weddings I attended many years ago and fondly remember special moments with the bride and groom. When it was time to plan my own wedding, I wanted nothing less than all the things I had grown up seeing, 7 bridemaids, 7 groomsmen, flowergirl, 2 ringbearers, 400+ guests, huge buffet dinner with a band for dancing into the night. What more could a girl want?
But while thinking about my business plan and why this is so important to me, I realized that one of the most important things for the wedding day was the ceremony. I spent more hours planning the ceremony that almost any other single item of my wedding. I thought about which song to sing at what time, what scripture readings to read and exactly how everything would fit together. Although I wanted a great reception, I was content to have someone else to plan most of that, mainly my mother. But the ceremony was all me. Why? I guess I have to go back to the family history. I have parents, grandparents and many sets of aunts and uncles that have been married for over 50 years. For them and for me, the wedding was a once in a lifetime occasion. It had to be just right the first time, because there was not going to be a second opportunity.
Fast forward 10 years after my wedding. My friend who owned the local bridal store in Rushville, Indiana was wanting to retire. I had enjoyed planning my wedding and attending so many others, that I thought this would be a perfect fit for me. I also wanted to include my mother who had done so many things for my wedding. So I purchased her business in the summer of 1996.
At first I wanted to take on all aspects of wedding planning, consulting, ordering gowns, renting tuxedos and everything else imaginable for weddings. I soon realized that I needed to be a little more specialized. So today, I have all types of attire for everyone in the wedding party and a few accessory items for the ceremony and reception.
As I continue this blog, I will include information about all types of gowns from various designers, tuxedos and many accessories.
Until next time, have a great time at your next special occasion!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

First Blog

WOW! I am so excited to finally have the chance to write about my passion. This is something that I have wanted to do for some time but just wasn't sure about. I am not a computer expert so I had to do some research about what type of blog to write and how to "put it out there".
While studying the different types of blogs and what can be done with them, I also found lots of information about how different companies are using blogs to help improve their business. But being in a very small rural town in middle America, I just wasn't sure that a blog would be that beneficial to The Bridal Boutique.
But as I work with my customers, I realized that many of their questions are the same and if a blog was available, I could save time answering question. And in the long run that would benefit my business. I would have more time to concentrate on bringing in more customers. Or more time to blog!
So my first priority with this blog is to educate people about formal wear for weddings, proms and any other special occasion you can imagine. Secondly, if it generates more business for The Bridal Boutique that would be great but not overly expected. Third, is to connect with others who have a passion for wedding and special occasion.
That will be the topic of my next post, "Where did I get this passion for weddings?" Until then, I hope you have a great time planning whatever special occasion is coming up next in your life!
Debbie