Winter Bridal Shower Ideas

Winter has become  a very popular time for weddings and as a result, bridal showers. Hosting a bridal shower right before (during) or after the holiday season can present some challenges but, with a little planning and inspiration the end result will be a fabulous, festive gathering of warmth and love.

Remember, there are a ton of great ideas available without breaking the bank:

All White gives a wintry feel. Using different textures and shapes of all white flowers will add depth to the tablescape and no color is needed, except maybe a splash of silver!
Hot Chocolate Bar with various toppings and flavors will warm up your guests in no time. Cinnamon, marshmallows, vanilla, and maybe even a splash of something intoxicating will make a cocoa buffet your guests will literally drool over.
Hot Chocolate Bar
Recapture your youth with an indoor S’mores bar made by using sterno and rocks displayed in the center of a delightful marshmallow, chocolate and graham cracker buffet. 
s'mores bar!
Festive Desserts like Snowflake cookies, cupcakes, cake pops and holiday inspired dessert tables make a big impact.
Winter Candyland Party Desserts

cookiesBridgey Widgey: Winter Dessert Table
Don’t forget the invitations. There are literally thousands of winter themed ideas to compliment the invitation and they don’t have to reflect any particular holiday …at all.
Winter Bridal Shower InvitationsBridal Shower Invite
-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Let the Alterations Begin!

Memorial Day is approaching and you know what that means… wedding season is in full swing and by now, many of you are experiencing (or have already experienced) the thrill of your first bridal gown fitting. Fittings can be both exhilarating and exhausting,  the high and low of your entire wedding gown experience. The alterations process is not something to be taken lightly and you should be prepared for a snafu… or two. 

Bring a friend. Bringing an objective friend or family member to your fittings will help you answer questions, remember things and stay on top of any problems. This is especially true for the final fitting when you will need some assistance with the bustle, if you have one. This is the perfect task for the maid of honor.

Bring your undergarments. Check in advance if the salon has all of the cups, bras, etc that you will need for your particular gown in stock. If they don’t – you will need to bring these with you for your first fitting. Depending upon the style of the gown, this may include special underwear as well.

Bring your shoes. Same as undergarments. Some salons carry shoes, some don’t. Even though you may not have the hem of your gown pinned at your first fitting, it is always best to have the shoes with you.

Call ahead. Alterations season can be hectic, calling ahead to confirm your appointment is a great idea. Lets face it, things happen; seamstresses get sick, sewing machines need repair, all kinds of things can factor into your appointment being re-arranged.

Be flexible. Try to avoid scheduling your alterations appointment when you are in a rush or when the salon is at it’s busiest.

Talk to your consultant. Make sure he or she is working when you have your alterations appointments. This will avoid any conversation that begins with “but, my consultant said…”  The sales staff at any reputable salon will want to be there for you from beginning to end.

Speak up. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion or ask questions about the alterations process… or the price of alterations up front. If you are uncomfortable with your seamstress, ask to see another one.  Now is the time to ask about alterations pricing.

Remember your ABC’s…. Always Be Courteous! Even though you had a stressful day at work,  the seamstress is there to help you look your best and he or she may have  had a stressful day as well. Being polite is essential to a pleasant outcome.

Alterations and fittings can be tricky, and stressful. Making sure that you are prepared, informed and relaxed can make the difference between a good, bad or great salon experience. As much as it is their responsibility to uphold their end of the bridal bargain, you must maintain control of the situation from beginning to end.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago


Secrets To A Successful Shower

Most people think bridal showers are just giddy gab-fests jam-packed with giggly women. Ask anyone who has hosted a bridal shower recently and they will tell you that this is serious business.  Even for a small gathering you need a theme, flowers, sweets, games,  and above all; really good food. The truth is that bridal Showers have evolved into full-fledged parties complete with parting gifts and photographers.

Theme:  Don’t worry too much about choosing an elaborate theme that has never been done and matching everything to it because (as with any good party)  the theme can be color. Choose colors that compliment the location, the season and the overall feel of the wedding.  Make sure it is a color the bride loves and don’t forget the invitations to match!

Bridal Shower: A Black-and-White Damask and Green Theme
Although a giant ice cream or candy buffet may be too causal for the wedding that your bride has in mind, this is the perfect place to implement some of those creative ideas. Cake pops, decorative cookies, cupcakes and decadent candy are all inviting additions to a scrumptious sweet table.
Even with a casual, buffet style party, having good food will ensure happy guests.  There is nothing that says you have to serve  a seven course meal; have a wide array of sandwiches, snacks, appetizer and remember: presentation is everything!
A few touches of beautiful flowers at each table and scattered around the room will add the finishing touch that every good party needs.  Try to make sure the flowers accentuate  the theme and decor of the entire party.  You don’t have to go crazy or spend thousands of dollars on the flowers, simple arrangements can make a big difference.
Choosing favors is difficult since everyone has different taste; for every person that loves Precious Moments figurines, there are as many that despise them.  Favors that are edible or that can otherwise be consumed are always a good bet as are favors that also act as a keepsake. The favor is a memento, something that you take home and enjoy, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune or be life-changing. It is a simple token of your affection and should reflect just that, and should be accompanied by a tag or card noting the date and occasion.
 Gerber Daisy Favor Boxes with Personalized Labels
When planning a bridal shower the single most important thing to keep in mind is…. The Bride.  This party is for her,  so although you would prefer a Moroccan theme with chicken curry and exotic flowers, she may prefer tulips and finger sanwiches.  Planning a party around someone else’s likes and dislikes take some patience and planning but, with the right combination of both, it is sure to be a huge success.
-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Bridal Myths Busted ….. the truth comes out!

For the almost thirty years I have been working in the wedding industry I have heard the same mistruths over and over. Most of the time I sit quietly and listen as people express their various opinions since I realize that I am probably never going to change their mind. Sometimes I try to convince them of the truth in a quiet voice knowing that an argument is inevitable when your become confrontational. Today, I would like to address a few “Bridal Urban Legends” and hopefully begin to dispel those rumors once and for all. 

Do you need to order your bridal/bridesmaid gowns early? TRUE!  Having worked in a bridal gown manufacturing facility I can explain to you the production process. The designer and manufacturer work from a schedule that is usually at least 6 months from the delivery date. The ‘cutter’ stacks up to 10 layers of the fabric, rolls the paper pattern over it and uses a sort of fabric  jigsaw to cut through all layers simultaneously then stacks the pieces for production. This is done for every size of that gown. The pieces are handled separately and sewn together in segments by different seamstresses to make each gown. So, depending upon the size of the company, there can be dozens of gowns  being produced at the same time. When a special order comes in, the production line is interrupted for that special order. Whether it is extra length, extra size or a rush order, the manufacturer has to cut, assemble and finish this one gown by itself which takes extra time, money and sets production back by a period of time. Ordering as early as 6 months before your wedding ensure you will fit into the production schedule and your gown will arrive in plenty of time.

The Bridal Salon makes tons of money on special orders. FALSE! The charges for rush orders and special sizes are imposed by the designers, not the salons. If this were true, salons would charge hundreds of dollars for these changes, not a standard percent. In reality it costs the salon extra to take these orders. Special orders require a lot more attention, phone calls, alterations, overnight shipping and TLC. If the salon is able to get a gown for you in 10 weeks even at an extra charge, they will be working twice as hard to make sure that gown arrives on time and in one piece.

You get better deals at a Trunk Show. TRUE! At a trunk show, the designer or an authorized representative will be on hand to help you. They know everything about the gown you are trying on and they are familiar with the production schedule  and the designer’s ability to make changes to that particular gown. In addition there are trunks how specials and incentives to buy. The best part is that they will have the opportunity to meet you and instead of an order number, you will become an actual person who they have a vested interest in pleasing.

Cats are hazardous to  your bridal veil. TRUE! I have seen this one first-hand.  When  I took my first bridal job ever I was trained to ask the brides as they were picking up their gowns “Do you have a cat?” If the answer was affirmative I then launched into my speech about how you must keep the gown and veil away from cats and better make sure you distract them with Blue Buffalo reviewed treats. I never questioned it, I just accepted it as the truth. Fast forward 10 years when I was helping a headpiece designer  pack his veils for a show. FYI – he had two cats. When we began to pack the veils, I was in total disbelief when I realized there were holes all over the veiling. Seriously? It seems that cat saliva dissolves veiling. Netting, illusion,tulle, whatever you call it… cat saliva will destroy it and cats love nothing more than to get their paws and jaws on a tantalizing veil. Keep your cats away from your gown and veil.

Salons order gowns big so they can make money on alterations. FALSE!  I saved the best for last. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this and I can’t believe this one is still around. With Designers measurement charts posted clearly on the internet, after seeing hundreds of too-tight disasters, brides and bridesmaids are still repeating this as if it were true. Here is the absolute 100% truth that you can bank on: Part 1) Salons are obligated to measure and order the gown in the size determined by the manufacturer’s measurement chart. The measurements are not flattering or easy to stomach since an average size 8 woman will more than likely measure into a 12  bridal or bridesmaid. If the gown is too tight, there is a problem. If you sign off on a smaller size due to vanity or mistrust of the person measuring you and your gown comes in too small – you are looking to spend up to double the price of the gown to have it made bigger. If the gown comes in too big, you can have it taken in. Have your measurements taken by the salon and order the gown that the salon recommends based on which will fit the largest of  your bust, wait or hip measurement.  Part 2)Alterations is a big expense for the salon and rarely a money-maker. Somehow people over the years have this impression that the alteratins department has a profit margin akin to  Wall Street. The alterations department is the place where miracles happen but, it takes time and talent. Seamstresses work their fingers to the bone (literally), hand sewing and beading complicated gowns that take not just hours but sometimes several days to complete. They do not want to rip open a $7,000 gown but they can and they will if they have to. Your job is to be as calm as possible  so they can get their work done to absolute perfection.

Order your dress as early as you can, order the recommended size, keep your cats away from the gown and veil and you will have a glorious day!
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– Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Let the Alterations begin!

It is that time of year when the flowers are in full bloom, pollen counts are high and brides everywhere are awaiting the arrival of their gown to begin the alterations process! I know you have all heard horror stories about half-done alterations and demanding brides. Those stories truly are the exception rather than the rule. I have personally lived through hundreds of bridal alterations and I can tell you there is one thing that will carry you through the entire process without fail,  “Always Be Prepared”. Once again the Boy Scout motto will help to guide you through a sometimes prickly process. If that seems too vague, I have some tips for stress-free alterations.

Better safe than sorry. Make sure the salon and fitting rooms are clean and that you or no one else brings food or drink of any kind to any fittings. Not even bottled water. Nothing. Ever.

Try on the gown as soon as it comes in. Call the salon, speak to your bridal consultant and make an appointment to try on the gown. You will want to make sure your consultant or an alterations expert is available to help you at least get in and out of the gown. It is critical that you have some assistance because this is the time you will be deciding on what type of undergarments to buy. Will you need a petticoat? If so, what kind? Yes, there are several types. Will you need a strapless bra, merry widow, or cups? Do they have these available or do they have recommendations where you should buy?  If the gown is tight, this is the time to decide if you are able to lose weight or if you are looking at making the dress bigger. Bring a scarf or makeup hood so you do not get foundation, lipstick or anything else on the gown. Use this every time you try on the gown. At this time the seamstress will not do any pinning but you should have a good idea of what kind of alterations lie ahead. If you have selected a headpiece or veil, try it on with the gown. If you have not – now would be a good time to do that.

Be prepared for your first fitting. Bring your shoes, undergarments and arrive on time. Schedule at least an hour  for this fitting. During the busy alteration season it may take even longer. Don’t be in a hurry and don’t rush the seamstress. It is always best to call ahead and it is also wise to schedule all fittings during a time of day when you are less stressed, not after a big meal, and not a time of the day, week or month when you are bloated (wink, wink)  if at all possible. If you can – bring a trusted friend, maid of honor or family member with you. If you are not comfortable with your seamstress at any point in time, talk to your consultant and request another seamstress.

No distractions. DO NOT schedule bridesmaids fittings at the same time as your bridal fitting. This to much to worry about at one time. You and the seamstress will need to focus on the bridal gown right now and not the needs of others. You also don’t need several varying opinions on what, when, how and why.

 Ask questions. Before you are pinned into the gown, ask about the pricing for alterations. Bridal seamstresses spend years learning their craft, they spend hours working on a single gown and are skilled professionals and therefore deserve to be paid fairly.  If you fear you cannot afford the alterations, don’t ask the seamstress to pin you. In all fairness, a good pinning is complicated and you might be charged for it or the seamstress will remove the pins if you choose to alter elsewhere.

Second fitting. At your second fitting you might be trying on the gown in the middle of the alterations. It may not be sewn shut, it may still have some pins or it may be completely finished. Speak now or forever hold your peace about any concerns you may have. The hem might have to wait until the next fitting, depending on the gown… since not all gowns are created equal.

Final fitting(s). When you arrive for the last  or even second to the last fitting, the gown should fit well and be near completion. If the hem has not been finished, this is the time to finalize that as well. Generally this is when you will also finalize any details of your headpiece, jewelry, etc.   Someone should be with you to learn how to handle the gown, especially if there is a bustle involved.

Pick up/try on. When you schedule the time to pick up your gown, you might want to try it on one last time to inspect it and make sure there are not problems. You may not need to try it on, you decide.  Either way, an appointment is required so the gown can be steamed, stuffed, bagged and ready to travel home with you. This kind of preparation  requires time and planning on the part of the salon. You will probably be escorted into a room where you can either try on or inspect the gown in private. This is your last chance to make sure everything is the way you expected. It is important to note that you should not double-park for this. This might take longer than a couple of minutes and you don’t want to be hurried…. or worried. Take your time, do this right and you will have one less stress headache. If there is a balance due, some salons do not take a check at the time of pick up.

Alterations can be the most pleasant experience of your entire wedding  process and it can also be a nightmare (from all angles) if not handled properly. Always, always, always ask for references, check with the better business bureau and communicate with your seamstress.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago