the 911 dress 411


I never thought I'd be the type of bride to cry in the fitting room after a dress fitting. But on Friday, that was me.

When J and I started to map out our wedding plans last fall, the dress was a piece of the puzzle that I wasn't terribly concerned with. Photos? Yes. Location? Yes. And so on. Dress? Not so much. Or at least that is what I thought.

You see, I waited until January to start my dress hunt, certain that I would have better luck finding something for a destination wedding after the new year and perhaps new stock (little did I know dresses come and go quite often). But when I arrived to try on dresses at a well-known local shop on New Hampshire's seacoast with my entourage (mom, sister and BFF Kara), the sales associate informed us I was quite late and would have to choose a sample dress from stock. With a limited selection and waning enthusiasm from said associate- let's call her Nancy- I tried dress after dress without success, and my hopeful disposition was quickly challenged. Frustrated, I left and decided to return a few days later when Nancy wasn't working.

This time I was paired with Michelle (again, names have been changed), who I immediately liked much better. She, too, paraded dress after dress into my fitting room and we soon had a rhythm as I dove into and out of taffeta, silk, chiffon and lace. Two hours later, I was again frustrated and my mom suggested I revisit a dress I had vetoed from our initial appointment. I liked it much better this day, when compared to my other options, and decided to pull the trigger after the seamstress pinched and pinned the oversize sample so I could get a better idea of the magic she planned for my soon-to-be custom-fit look. I didn't love the dress. But again, it needed a lot of work. I had a vision she (let's call her Karen) seemed to understand, and I was convinced I could now check another item off the massive bridal To Do list.

My dear mom and I made the hour drive to the bridal shop f-o-u-r times for fittings, each time the vision I had for the dress lessening (and the pit of uncertainty in my stomach growing) as it seemed Karen just wasn't able to make it happen. I was having trouble sleeping. I was irritable with everyone. And imagining our wedding day was becoming harder and harder as I hated picturing myself in a dress I didn't love. How interesting that the one thing I really wasn't all that concerned about out of the engagement gate was suddenly casting an awful shadow over all of the very, very good things about our plans.

On Friday, I put out an SOS midnight call to my friend Rebecca Grinnals of Engaging Concepts and host of the engage!08 seminar I went to in Orlando last fall. She is like the cheerleading captain of the wedding world, and knows everyone who needs to be known in the wedding biz. Within minutes she replied with a calming, yet concerned, email saying she would see what she could do. Saturday morning, I received a phone call from Randy Fenoli at Kleinfeld Bridal in New York. You know, "the" Kleinfeld's and Randy Fenoli, host of TLC's "Say Yes to the Dress." This sweetheart was racing around for Bridal Market Week but walked me through our emergency steps to take... email him a photo of myself, my measurements, and my top dress choices from their website. Done. His assistant checked the stock and he got back to me with what was available, and how we could make this happen if I wanted to fly to NYC this week. Amazing. Simply amazing. There's a reason why that store, and Randy, are known for their greatness!

Meanwhile, I had been emailing with Traci Romano, of Traci Romano Events, in South Norwalk, Connecticut, about purchasing a Sara Gabriel cage veil. She sent me an email this morning with a few more details, and I replied explaining my latest dilemma with Friday's fitting and that I thought I should start looking for another dress altogether and wasn't sure if a cage veil might match what I find, so we should wait to place my order (I know that's a run-on sentence, but that's kinda exactly what my scatty email sounded like, I'm sure). She wrote back right away, saying I was welcome to any dress in her store if I wanted to drive to her shop in Connecticut.

30 minutes later, I was packed and on the road.

It was a perfect day for the 4-hour trip to Connecticut, and I was feeling hopeful as I watched spring blooming much faster the further south I drove. The green grass and budding trees made me happy. Boy, was I on a little adventure!

Traci left her family gardening while she scooted over to meet me at her darling waterfront boutique with open arms. And hallelujah, wouldn't you know, the first dress she showed me I loved and... is now mine. It was that easy! Seriously! Can you hear my sigh of relief?

I've learned a lot of things through this planning process, both about being a bride and a business owner. In retrospect, I wish I had given greater importance to finding the right dress initially and trusted my instinct on the second fitting, not waiting until two weeks before our wedding at the fourth fitting to realize my 911 dress emergency. Dress #1 is just a dress. Dress #2 is an experience. I feel amazing in my new dress- my dream dress- and I cannot wait to marry J wearing it (For the record, I never thought "my dream dress" would ever part my lips, either, without being followed by a finger-down-the-throat puking motion). Feeling beautiful shows.

I can't say enough about Traci as a model businesswoman. She made me feel like the most important person today. She showered me with the kindness and grace that I can only hope my clients feel, but that is missing from too many other bridal appointments. I could go on and on about the other dress shops I visited in between or the other vendors I have interacted with, but I'm going to assume you can guess that exceptional customer service is lacking in most. Today's adventure goose chase, however, most certainly also reaffirmed my belief in the human spirit. Traci is one in a million (she even had a friend with another boutique in town on stand-by if I couldn't find anything at her shop! And her seamstress, too!), and I cannot wait to send brides her way:

Traci Romano Events

Just 10 hours later I am home and I can now, most contently, return to normal, minor last-minute wedding chores. 2 weeks til we leave for St. John, 20 days til the wedding!

Thank you Rebecca, Randy and especially Traci! I am so proud to be part of such a loving, kind network of industry pros. xoxoxoxoxoxo


  1. Anonymous5:29 AM

    Phew...brilliant that you found your perfect dress & an even better story to tell..

  2. What an amazing ending to such a frustrating ordeal! I'm so happy for you emilie! I can't wait to see photos of your wedding, and the new dress :) Meg

  3. Anonymous11:06 AM

    Congrats on a happy ending to your nightmare. On a side note, I too had an unpleasant experience at the same dress shop. We must have had the same "Nancy." Love you, Em and best wishes for a beautiful day. Just remember, you could look absolutely stunning even in a potato sack :)

  4. Anonymous12:30 PM

    I hear your smile through this post. It, and you, are beautiful -- your dress will simply showcase it even more. So happy for you.

  5. Yay!! So glad you found your dress!! What a story!

  6. wow, you have been so busy! so all this post and then no picture of the dress! torture :) you are going to be fabulous and I guess i will have to wait to see it like J :)

  7. Being a bride was the best thing that ever happened to my business. I realized so much about how much stress surrounds these event even when you are determined NOT to have any...I'm so sorry to hear about your dress. I hope it didn't blow your photography album budget. :) HEE HEE.

  8. Angela Newton Roy4:48 PM

    Congrats on finding your prefect dress! Glad it worked out in the end with not a moment to spare. I am interested to see what you picked, given the climate and location. Looking back, I could have opted for much less crinoline! :-) Your story was hysterical and so entertaining! I laughed out loud several times. Not only a gifted photographer but also a gifted writer??? That makes you one talented lady!

  9. emilie- you crack me up. As a wedding photographer/bride-to-be myself I'm SO glad you posted this all. I've left the dress to the last minute too! d'oh!

    studio nouveau

  10. Anonymous10:52 PM

    Oh my...I totally know how you feel. I went to try my dress on a few weeks ago and it was too SHORT (with bare feet), like 3 inches off the ground. Luckily like you I found a wonderful shop to rush a new dress and calm my nerves. Good luck with will be a beautiful bride!

  11. Whew! You are going to be so beautiful-and now you will feel that way too! Loving your dress is so important to how the day will feel, happy to hear you were saved!

  12. Looking back, I could have opted for much less crinoline! I laughed out loud several times. Not only a gifted photographer but also a gifted writer??? That makes you one talented lady!


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