Choosing Wedding Gowns for Our Bridal Store

I am so excited to tell you all about the process that we go through to bring beautiful wedding gowns into Ellen’s! Have you ever wondered where we get our wedding gowns? Sure, we get them from designers, but how do we go about picking and choosing which ones we want to have in the store?! Let me tell you…it is a fun and tedious process!


Market Day one

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We recently returned from our trip to Chicago where we attended The National Bridal Market. We worked all day at Ellen’s on Saturday, and then we piled into the car to make the drive to Chicago. While we were in the car, we talked non-stop about what our goals were for market this fall. Some of our goals included: finding plain gowns, finding more A-line gowns, and looking for some styles that would be unique to Ellen’s.

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We hit the ground running.

As soon was we arrived in Chicago, we dropped our bags in our hotel room and rushed off to see the first gowns of fall market 2019. Although most of the designers are in the Merchandise Mart (more on that later), the first designer we had on our list was in a hotel down the street from The Mart. There were 40+ gowns for us to comb through. This is where the process gets tedious….we (Lisa/Owner, Cindy/Manager, Ciara/Marketing Manager) like to go through each gown as individuals and make a note on if we like it, dislike it, or if it is a maybe. Going through the gowns independently of each other allows us to make our own notes, and then we sit down and compare our notes with each other that night. We talk about the gowns we all like, the ones we all dislike, and the maybes. If 2/3 of the group says yes, then we add that to the final order.

After a day of travel and a slightly overwhelming time at our first stop, we were STARVING. I’m not talking like “let’s get some fun chick food in Chicago.” No…I’m talking “get me to one of the best restaurants in town where you will have to roll me out because I can’t move.” That place for us is The Grande Lux Cafe. Their food is delicious, their servings are huge, and I highly recommend ordering the apple pie!!

Take a look at their menu! —> https://www.grandluxcafe.com

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and compared our notes from the first stop; however, we didn’t finalize our order yet because we had a big day ahead of us!

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View from our hotel room.


Market Day Two

The Merchandise Mart of Chicago (or The Mart)….this is where the majority of designers set up shop. If you have ever been to Chicago, you have probably seen this monstrosity of a building along the canal. The building spans 2 blocks and is 25 stories high! If you haven’t been to Chicago, imagine the biggest rectangular building you can covered in windows. This building is filled with floors of vendors for different specialties: home decor, casual wear, cooking, remodeling, etc.. The National Bridal Market rents out an entire floor of this building and calls it home twice a year: spring and fall. Designers then rent space on the floor to set up their booths. Altogether, this fall’s market had 194+ vendors! The vendors line their booths up to create aisles for store owners to walk through…it’s almost like a grocery store for wedding gowns!

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But first…coffee! Starbucks is set up on one of the first floors of The Mart…and of course we always make a stop there!

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After getting our coffee, it was time to head up to the market floor. We planned ahead and had several designers we know and love that we wanted to go see first. Here is an example of the entrance to a designer’s booth! —>

Many of the designers will offer runway shows which provide a great way to see the line of gowns. Our first day on the market floor started with a runway show. Again, we all make notes about which dresses we like, dislike, and ones that are maybes. Our notes are then compared later when it is decision time. Below are some snapshots from one of the runway shows we attended!

Dinner at Lou Malnati’s!

After getting a first look at all the designers on our radar, it was time to refuel. Our second day ended with dinner at Lou Malnati’s which has delicious deep dish, Chicago style pizza (be sure to order the butter crust)! After we all downed individual sized deep dish pizzas, we walked back to our hotel to compare our notes from the day.


Day Three

On night two, we took a lot of time to narrow down which gowns we really liked and which ones we needed to look at again. Sometimes you have to look at a wedding gown 2-3 times before you decide to buy it and bring it into your store. The process of determining if a gown is a good fit for our clientele is challenging. Will brides like this lace placement? What color should we order (white, ivory, champagne, blush, etc.). Will this part sit weird on the back? What size(s) should we order?!? You can see how it quickly becomes overwhelming. Day three was dedicated to taking those final looks and determining which gowns made the cut. All of this called for some refreshments! Luckily, the designers provide food and drinks (pictured below). If you miss the food in the booths, ice cream is served at 3PM followed by a champagne cart around 4:30PM!

Day three quickly turned into the best day at market. Why you might ask? Was it because we found every gown we ever wanted?! No… was it because we made our decisions so quickly that we had time to shop for ourselves around Chicago?! No…

BECAUSE WE GOT TO MEET RANDY FENOLI FROM SAY YES TO THE DRESS!!

Randy is just as sweet and genuine in person as he is on Say Yes to the Dress! And bonus…he had his dog Chewy with him! Chewy was adorable and ran around everyone’s feet as we looked at wedding gowns and absorbed every word that Randy said. Definitely a day we will never forget!


Market Day Four

After taking our final looks at the gowns on the market floor on day three, we stayed at the hotel on day four to place our final orders. First, we had a delicious breakfast at the hotel. We talked over the designers we wanted to order from, what styles we needed to make sure we had covered, and our overall budget for buying the gowns. After breakfast, we moved to the hotel lobby to write our orders. This can be the most stressful but exciting time of market. We go through each gown and look at the style and what colors it comes in. We make final decisions on the color and what size we should stock at Ellen’s, and then we write the style number on the order form and call it a day!

And now we wait! Once our order forms go through, the designers begin making the gowns we ordered. Then they ship them to Ellen’s were we unbox them and steam them. After placing price tags on them and photographing them for social media, we add them to our inventory. When a bride says yes to the dress, we order a new gown for her directly from the designer. It is a long and detailed process, but it should be for one of the most important garments you will ever wear! We so enjoy every minute, and we can’t wait for you to see the gowns we ordered!

Oh!! I almost forgot! No trip to Chicago is complete without a stop at Albanese candy factory! On the way home, we made sure to stop and get our share of delicious candy! Albanese is located in Merrillville, IN, and it is home to some of the best candy you will ever have! One of us may have spent almost $40 on candy…but it is SO worth it! I definitely recommend stopping there to and from your next trip to Chicago!