Our laws in Ontario state that only clergy and justices of the peace can officiate marriage ceremonies. Too often people are disappointed when they find out that a friend or relative, even one who is licensed in another province or country, is unable to perform their ceremony.
The disappointment is understandable. After all, a bride and groom are making lifelong promises to one another and would love to have someone they know and love standing with them and leading them through this moment.
If this is important to you, I may be able to assist you in fulfilling this wish. Please contact me for further information.
When I pulled up to the door of Savvy Bridal Consignment Boutique in New Sarum it was a very cold, snowy Friday night. When I opened the door I was immediately comforted by the warm, inviting atmosphere of plush carpeting, deep tan-coloured walls and the wonderful sight of wedding gowns. The little girl in me jumped up and down. Why, though I’ve been married a decade, do I still enjoy the sight of a bridal gown? I wasn’t even there to try on a dress but I couldn’t help feeling overwhelmed by nostalgia and giddiness at just being able to look at so many beautiful dresses.
Tamara Witlox Peters, owner, greeted me warmly. At first I was too stunned by the beauty of the shop to properly shake her hand and introduce myself. The skylights! The picture-perfect balcony! I had no idea that a consignment shop could be so polished looking. There is nothing used looking in this boutique. To me a boutique is quaint and quiet where you receive personal service and are treated with kindness. A boutique is small but not cramped. Savvy Bridal is all of these things. Tamara has done an amazing job at ensuring her shop has a designer feel. And why not? The gowns she’s selling on consignment are mostly high end labels though no gown is priced over $850. After all, they are priced to sell along with the jewellery and other accessories artfully displayed in simple cases.
“Today’s brides,” Tamara informed me, “have a different mindset than past brides. They are environmentally conscious and don’t want to be wasteful. They see the value in their money and buying a previously owned dress, not even necessarily previous worn, is both budget friendly and eco-friendly.” Tamara added that sellers “are not as sentimental about their gowns anymore. They recognize that the longer their dresses hang in their closets the less value they have.” Most gowns in the boutique are less than three years old so the styles are current and owners receive back a large portion of their original expense.
Tamara is passionate about the environment and recycling so operating a consignment shop is the perfect occupation for her. The space, an extension on Tamara’s home, has a private entrance and feels very spacious due to the high ceilings and amount of natural light. Tamara saw a niche in the market for consignment gowns and plunged into the business. She began scouring Kijiji for ads selling bridal gowns in spring 2013. She messaged the sellers with her plans asking if they would be interested in taking part and received overwhelming support. In fact, she had to open in June 2013, one month earlier than anticipated, because she had already collected numerous dresses. Savvy Bridal was born!
Today her stock consists of approximately 200 dresses, both bridal and formal which include mother-of-the-bride and flower girl. Mothers are often returning for their own appointments once they see the large selection of mother-of-the-bride dresses. The average price of these dresses is only $100.00. She uses the Internet when advertising her shop as well as looking for specific dresses. If a bride simply cannot find her gown in the boutique, Tamara will assist her in searching for it as best she can. She keeps a record of what brides are searching for and will send them the Internet links if she locates it.
I was quite impressed with Tamara’s approach to the business world. “I want to run an honest business,” she tells me. “Many of the dresses in this shop are here because the seller impulsively bought it, either because of excitement or pressure, and then realized it wasn’t the dress for her.” Tamara provides purchasers with her “24 hour rule” which means they can wait one day before committing to buying the dress.
“If they go home and wake up in the morning still thinking about that one dress, then it is the one for them.” She simply asks for a $50.00 non-refundable deposit to hold the gown. Other brides who have been shopping before come in knowing exactly what they want and do take the dress home with them that same day. The 24 hour rule is not mandatory but certainly provides many girls with peace of mind knowing they are unlikely to make an impulsive purchase.
“Trust is very important in this business,” Tamara informs me. “And it goes both ways. The owners of these gowns trust that I will do my best to sell them. And I trust that they will do their part as well.” For her part, Tamara ensures that gowns of a similar size and style receive equal opportunity. This is why is it important for a bride to come to her appointment with a general idea of what she wants. Tamara will pull all gowns fitting the criteria which may mean digging into stock that she does not have room for on the boutique floor. For sellers, trust means ensuring the gown is professionally cleaned and providing receipts (if possible) to confirm the original purchase price. Or it may mean simply being honest about the original cost and amount of wear an item received.
Tamara walked me through the process of selling a dress on consignment with Savvy Bridal. The seller first makes an appointment to bring her dress in and, after Tamara’s inspection of the gown to confirm its chances of re-sale, will enter into a contract outlining the details of the arrangement. The seller will pay a one-time $10.00 administration fee. Gowns, whether bridal or formal, are priced at 30% to 60% of the original price. The seller receives 70% of the re-purchased price. Prices are non-negotiable due to these contractual terms.
Tamara has a high standard for her gowns. “I have to ask myself, would I want to try this dress on? And if I wouldn’t because of staining or scents attached to the dress then another bride likely wouldn’t either.” It is due to this high standard that Tamara asks that girls, including friends and relatives, visiting the shop ensure they do not wear any scents or creams as they are easily passed along to the dresses and may linger in the shop potentially deterring other would-be purchasers. Women should also come make-up free if they wish to try on any gowns.
Brides hoping to purchase a dress from Savvy Bridal should call ahead to book an appointment providing details of her dream dress along with her size. This allows her two hours to shop with Tamara’s undivided attention and gives Tamara an opportunity to organize all gowns that fit her criteria. “But be open minded,” Tamara asks. “The gown a bride thinks she wants may not be the best look for her and we can play around with different styles and have fun.” Tamara encourages brides to bring others but asks for no more than three to ensure the bride has a positive experience rather than one with too many opinions (have we not all seen Say Yes To The Dress?).
The sought after style continues to be the fit and flair but Tamara informs me that ball gowns are beginning to make a comeback. Although many of the sellers provide crinolines the purchasers are not taking them so she does have a small collection available. Hoops are in style because they allow the bride to walk more naturally rather than having to kick a crinoline out as she steps forward. And hoops allow the dresses to fall nicely without making the dresses too poufy.
If alterations are needed Tamara can provide seamstress recommendations. She cautions girls when selecting a seamstress of their own to alter a bridal gown. “Ask how many other gowns she is working on or look around her workspace. This will tell you whether or not she is truly comfortable and capable altering bridal gowns.”
Savvy Bridal is open through appointment only and appointments can be made during the following hours: Monday-Friday 10am-7pm and Saturday, Sunday 9am-5pm.
Her calendar is booked and the appointments are flooding in. She hasn’t yet noticed a “slow time” which shows that brides are not only looking for a great dress for a reasonable cost, but are looking for the full bridal gown shopping experience and Savvy Bridal is providing it.
Visit Savvy Bridal at www.savvybridal.ca or through their Facebook page for contact information and updates.
In the heart of Belmont lies Utopia . It is the local salon for many in the village and surrounding areas. The friendly chatter, delicious coffee and occasional treats make the atmosphere inviting and cozy. There is much laughter and if you don’t know the person sitting in the chair beside you, you will quickly be introduced and share stories. Belmont is small so the person you thought was a stranger may be your neighbour or a friend of a friend. Connections are easily made in this small village. In fact, the atmosphere and friendships are why clients come from London, St. Thomas and even as far away as Milton. The interior has recently been re-done with a rustic, chic, city meets country vibe which only adds to its charm.
Jane Robinson and Annie Quiring are the stylists. Jane, Utopia’s owner, began styling hair as a teenager 38 years ago. She opened Utopia in 2002. Annie has also been styling hair since her teens and joined Utopia in 2010. I have had the pleasure of watching Annie and Jane style hair for wedding parties, proms and other celebrations. Annie is my regular stylist and they have both styled my hair on numerous occasions with wonderful results. While I always visit the salon to have my hair done, Jane and Annie want to ensure your wedding day is as relaxing as possible and will come to you in your home, hotel or wherever you and your bridal party are.
I spoke with Annie at the shop on a busy Wednesday morning. She had some wonderful suggestions to brides and bridesmaids regarding their wedding day look, including booking your appointment as you would your venue, photographer and other important vendors. “Book your hair appointment as soon as you know your wedding date. We have had to turn bridal parties away simply because we were booked for too many other weddings that same day.”
She also suggested that brides have a hair trial, usually a month before the wedding, being sure to bring accessories to the appointment. If you are the bride and wish to colour your hair, have that done one week prior to the wedding. There is a charge for hair trials but is usually half the cost of the wedding day styling “since we don’t use all the products to strive for the same polished look as we do for the wedding”. The hair trial is simply to confirm the style you have chosen and gives both you and the stylist the opportunity to try something new that you may not have thought of before. If you are looking for ways to save money with your wedding day hairstyle (average cost at Utopia being $50.00) consider having your hair trial on the same day as a bridal shower, bachelorette or another important occasion. If you want the wedding look itself to be kept secret, any tight waves or curls will be brushed out so the hair still looks great for the remainder of the day.
With the current style being long hair in loose, natural looking waves, brides are opting for clip-in extensions to help achieve this look. Annie cautions brides to be selective while choosing extensions and to consider a few things. Firstly, consult with your stylist as to whether clip-ins are even right for you and if so, what type of clip-in to buy. Secondly, if you are colouring your hair, choose the extension first and then have Annie or Jane colour your natural hair to match the extension. “It is very difficult”, Annie says “to try to colour the extension itself to match the bride’s colour.” Remember that your look is to appear natural. The Utopia team will do their best to ensure the clip-in isn’t noticeable, but that starts with you purchasing a high quality one. She also reminds us that real hair extensions, though costing more, will take heat and hold curls much better than synthetic hair. Perhaps you’ve noticed the abundance of articles published recently about the process of making real hair extensions. If you are concerned, ask the supplier where the hair comes from and any reputable supplier should be able to give you this information.
Having been a bridesmaid several times myself, I asked for tips for bridesmaids and mothers attending a new salon for a wedding and having a stylist they’ve never met do their hair. Annie suggested bringing more than one picture with your reasons as to why you like each style. This will help the stylist decide what works best for you. You may not leave with the result you thought, but hopefully you are surprised and pleased.
Utopia even has a tanning booth. This is quite helpful to brides wishing for a sun-kissed glow to set off the bright whites in their gowns or just to prepare for their honeymoons in tropical locations.
Jane, Annie and the rest of the Utopia staff enjoy experiencing the excitement of bridal parties over their wedding day looks. Whether the styles are matching or different, they hope each girl will feel beautiful and ready for the day ahead. Be sure to visit Utopia on the web at www.utopiadayspa.ca or their Facebook page for salon hours and additional information.