How Does a Bridal Store Owner's Daughter Choose a Wedding Gown??

Hello, my name is Ciara. I am the daughter of Lisa Downs, the owner of Ellen’s Bridal & Dress Boutique. As I have started working in the store more and more, many brides and their families ask me how I went about choosing my wedding gown. Well, the answer will surprise you because I did almost everything we tell our brides not to do!!


It was September 2013, and my mom and I were headed to Chicago for the National Bridal Market. At the time Ellen’s primarily sold prom gowns, and we were just starting to dabble in purchasing new wedding gowns. Ellen’s was a consignment store, meaning the majority of our gowns came from other stores or customers that were ready to sell their gown. (Wow! Ellen’s has grown and changed so much since then!) Therefore, our main goal of market was to look for new prom gowns for the upcoming prom season and to check out some new wedding dress designers. Of course I was keeping my eyes out for my dream gown too…

I had been dating my boyfriend (now husband) for going on 5 years at the time, so I was hoping a proposal was in the works; however, I was not engaged yet…little did I know, it would be coming a month later!! My boyfriend had already asked my dad and my mom for my hand, so it was driving my mom crazy not to say anything as we looked at wedding gowns and I dreamed about the day when I would choose mine.

I will never forget when I first laid eyes on what would become my wedding gown. My mom and I were sitting in a runway show at the end of a long day at market. We were a little late, so we were sitting towards the back. We had line sheets which tell you the designer, colors, price, etc. of each gown on the runway. I looked down at my line sheet and when I look up to the runway THERE. IT. WAS! I immediately looked over at my mom, and she was already looking at me to watch my reaction because she knew I would love this gown. I immediately said THAT IS IT!

My dress was made by Allure, so the next day we asked to go into their booth so I could get a close up look at this beautiful gown. I smiled and said “someday,” and walked away with hopes that it would still be available when I got married in the future.

Well, on October 8th 2013, my boyfriend proposed! It was perfect in every way. I was a sophomore at IU at the time, so we were both in Bloomington. He told me that we were going ring shopping in Indy that day, so I painted my nails and dressed in my favorite outfit because I was so excited. He said he wanted to stop at Assembly Hall (the basketball arena) to shop at the gift shop before we left town. We were walking around in the gift shop for a bit, and then he pulled me aside and said we should see if we could go get on the basketball court. Now…I am a rule follower, so I almost ruined the entire plan because I didn’t want to go onto the court without permission. He took my hand and pulled me down the hallway towards the doors to enter the court. We ran to center court and quickly took some pictures. After one of the pictures, he dropped down on one knee and proposed! He even had our friends hiding in the stands to capture some great pictures! We still ended up going to Indy where he had arranged for both of our families to meet us for dinner. It was such a fun day!

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I quickly remembered my dream dress that I had seen on the runway at market. I tried on a few other gowns at Ellen’s just to be sure, but nothing compared to that gown I had seen on the runway. Now here is where we go rogue…if you are a current bride, DO NOT DO WHAT I DID. I took my measurements, texted them to my mom, and we ordered the gown. I had seen the gown in person, but I had never…ever…ever tried it on! When a bridal store takes your measurements, they compare it to a size chart specific to each designer. That size chart then recommends a size based on your measurements. In fact, my mom thought that the size it recommended would be too big, so we went down a size. It was such a gamble. I didn’t know if I would like the fit, I didn’t know if the size would be correct…ah!! Just don’t do it! Luckily, it came in and fit almost perfectly. With some minor alterations that my mom was able to do, I was finally going to wear the wedding gown of my dreams.

*Click to see the details of my gown. A huge thank you to Nichole A. Howard Photography for the beautiful wedding photos!

And that’s it. That is how I found my wedding gown. It wasn’t the traditional way, but a bridal store owner’s daughter probably wouldn’t find her wedding gown a traditional way after all. I still love my dress to this day, but of course I play dress up sometimes when new dresses arrive at Ellen's!

*Disclaimer!! This is not how every bride finds her gown. In fact, most brides don’t immediately know when they see and/or put on their wedding gown. It is normally a longer (but fun) process. Also, I never cried when I saw my gown or when I tried it on. I think there is a big misconception that you will cry when you finally find the perfect dress for you. In reality, many brides can’t stop smiling! Some do cry, but don’t feel like it isn’t the one just because you don’t cry!

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