Wedding Planning | Dress Shopping / by Alaina Kaczmarski

ONE DAY | TWO STORES | TEN DRESSES

Everyone keeps asking how wedding planning is going and I basically always respond "Great! Everything's done!" Hah and while that's almost entirely true (a few details and meetings still need to be hashed out) the look we were going for was decided from the get go which made this a rather easy process.

What wasn't clear was what dress I'd wear (but that's now decided too). I kept saying "'l'll choose whatever looks best on me!" and I was truly open to just about everything. I loved the idea of lace. I loved the idea of a simple silhouette. I didn't necessarily want anything poufy or overly bridal. I was open to non-white and non-ivory options. And I probably tried on... at least 10 dresses between two stores one Friday afternoon. I went to Belle Vie Bridal Couture and BHLDN in Chicago.

My mom, sister, and best friend joined me and since two of them had to drive in we made a night of it staying at a hotel, grabbing dinner and brunch, choosing bridesmaid dresses... it was a really fun experience and I'm glad we did it up right and didn't stretch it out over weeks or months. 

And you're going to get the iPhone photos like we did in the good ole' days of blogging because 1. it doesn't change the story and 2. this was a very personal and exciting day and I didn't feel having a photographer in tow was necessary to capture the excitement and fun we had. :)

1:30pm Check-in at the Waldorf Astoria Chicago

My mom and sister drove into the city and we all met up at the Waldorf Astoria Chicago. A little back story. This hotel was formerly called The Elysian, and I've been in love with it since it was finished in 2009. Like in looooove with it. It's European style architecture makes it look like a fairy tale castle popping up in the Chicago skyline. The stone is so so white. Always! 

I had only ever been in the marble lobby and the bar area and always wanted to stay in one of the rooms but clearly never had any reason to. Their spa is one of the best in the city and we tried to book manicures so we could access the pool and hot tubs but they couldn't get us in at the same time so we just skipped that... either way. It was just as lovely as I expected. The bed was like a cloud. My sister and I woke up in a daze because we slept SO soundly. (She never gets to sleep in w/ two baby girls and she slept way longer than she's used to.) The bathroom was beautiful, almost entirely marble with huge walk-in shower and massive bathtub. And our room had a little living area attached so we were able to use that later in the evening for gifts and champagne and take-out instead of spending a lot at a restaurant or bar. It was perfect.

1:45pm We cabbed over to Belle Vie's new location at 214 W. Erie

After we checked in at the hotel, we grabbed a cab over to Belle Vie Bridal Couture who just moved locations from the Gold Coast to 214 W. Erie. I had gone in two days earlier to meet w/ Sarah and the owner Amanda and weed out options so we had three or four styles ready for me to try on, all of which I knew I'd love. And I'm fairly certain they were all Lela Rose, who has always been one of my absolute favorite bridal designers. She's an American designer and her dresses are feminine and lovely and a bit unique. You can actually see one of the lace options that was a top front-runner below. The whole process was so easy and this is where I ended up getting my gown... 

4:30pm Off to BHLDN for more gown try-ons and dress shopping for my maids of honor!

After Belle Vie we cabbed over to BHLDN for more champagne and more dresses. I had already sent over a wishlist of my favorite styles and the stylist assigned to me had them all pulled and ready to go when I walked into the bridal changing room. I have to say–the fitting rooms at BHLDN are so. damn. cool. Each "suite" has a fitting room for the people you're with and a separate changing room to get in and out of gowns. The salmon velvet sofa and vintage rug are just too good... if you didn't know, BHLDN is part of the Anthro/Urban family so yea–decor is always on point. 

Now it's common at all bridal salons that they only have certain sample sizes for brides to try on and they'll clamp the back to tailor it to your body. All of the sample dresses at Belle Vie were too small (which let me tell ya, does nothing for a girl's ego) but they were fitted in the front which kind of helped, whereas at BHLDN, the sample sizes are 4 and 12. I'm usually a 6/8 so the 4's were out of the question and the 12's were a bit too big... not really a problem since we could clamp it in the back. But a few of the styles I liked were structured in the front–like the Jolie gown, which was my favorite going into the fitting–and nothing a clamp could fix so for styles like that it was a little difficult to tell how I'd actually look in them... (the same thing happened w/ the dresses that were too small at Belle Vie). But the slinky lace options (which actually were my favorite anyway) worked perfectly! I really liked the one above and this one

I probably tried on about 6 or 7 dresses–and even did a ballgown because it was too beautiful and I wanted to see how it looked. :) The price point on these gowns are too good to be true and they're really beautiful dresses. But I think I had given my heart away at the first stop and there was no going back. I am thinking I might use the Frida for our welcome party though! It's the shorter dress I have on in the photos above. I might need to get it shortened a bit, but I am obsessed w/ it (and even considered it as a gown for the wedding) but opted for full-length for the big day.

After I finished up, we headed over to the other fitting rooms where my maids of honor got their turn at trying on dresses. They had so many adorable options to choose from, it was a REALLY difficult process narrowing them down. But we settled on mismatched short ivory dresses for both of them (not the ones pictured below–I'll show those in an upcoming post!). And apparently that's a big wedding trend this year–having your bridesmaids in white!

6:30pm Head back to hotel for takeout, gifts, and formally asking my bridesmaids if they'd do me the honor! 

Now it might not sound like dress shopping is exhausting but holy whoa it is! It was quite warm, I had my usual sinus headache, and the ins and outs trying on dress after dress really does tire you. So instead of going out for dinner we went back to our lovely room and ordered take-out. 

About an hour later, three of my best friends joined us, at which point, I formerly asked all of them if they'd help me cook up a good wedding w/ these adorable Goop x Staub mini cocottes. They loved them. We spent the rest of the night drinking champagne and talking wedding and life. They'll be in whatever style dress they want in light neutrals–grey, bone, taupe type colors... love this lace number as an option for one of them.

Saturday 10:00am Brunch at The Fremont

Only Lauren and my sister stayed the night and we woke up to a lovely April snowstorm. Classic Chicago. We had coffee delivered to the room (standard practice at the hotel I believe?) and got ready to head to a much-needed brunch at The Fremont. Danny came and met up with us. Let me just say this spread did not disappoint, and included trays of Doughnut Vault donuts, coffee whiskey cocktails, bottomless mimosas, and an amazing quality buffet with the yummiest brussels sprouts you ever did eat. I would have gladly gone back for seconds and thirds had I not filled up the first round. I'm glad we got there early because it really began to fill up at 11am and was packed by 11:30am, when we were heading out. I could have stayed all day since the lunch portion of the brunch looked as enticing as the breakfast food.

Saturday morning when all was said and done, I was REALLY torn between two Lela Rose dresses at Belle Vie (actually the one I didn't choose is the one I'm walking in above!), and I kept going back and forth between them (you'll notice the phone on the table because I just kept looking at all the photos trying to decide. No Danny did not see them.). After wavering the entire day, I placed the photos side by side using the Diptic app and that did it. One was definitely more "wow" than the other. So I went in Sunday morning and got it. It's now hanging in my office. : )

So yea! It was a really fun, whirlwind 24 hours and I wouldn't have it any other way. Lots more wedding updates on the site soon w/ vendors I plan on working with, where the inspiration is coming from, etc.! You can also see tidbits on Instagram with the hashtag #meettheschmiedskis.

So stay tuned!