It’s no secret that we love Blush Bridal & Formal.
We have an official partnership with Blush Bridal & Formal—a wedding, prom, and formal dress shop—that prioritizes our wedding garment care services for Blush customers. Why? Dresses and gowns bought from Blush are high-quality and ultra-fashionable, and they deserve special treatment. We eliminate any imperfections caused by storage or travel, and make sure the fabric is primed to fall flawlessly, so your dress is runway-ready for the big event. We also take care of it immediately afterward to make sure any stains are removed, and it’s preserved to retain its value. Incorporating this service is just one way Blush goes above-and-beyond to make sure customers have a once-in-a-lifetime experience at their stores.
Learn all you need to know about special event dress shopping from Blush style experts.
We sat down with Blush’s owner, Courtney Wetzel. to ask her about the Blush philosophy and get her expert take on wedding gown and special event dress shopping. Plus, she shared some news about Blush’s exciting South Portland expansion! Read on for details.
Courtney, how did you get into this business? What made you open a bridal shop?
CW: I’ve always wanted to own my own business, but had no idea it would be a bridal shop. I actually bought my first store in 2011 from my best friend’s mom when she was looking to get done. She owned what was “Pancsofar’s Bridal Shop” in Presque Isle. Presque Isle is limited by population in terms of growth, so I always dreamed of someday being statewide. In 2016, we opened our Bangor location from scratch after finding the perfect location in an old bank. Four months later I purchased a women’s clothing boutique in Portland, called Tavecchia at the time. We transitioned that store over to bridal and formal attire gradually and by 2017, the Presque Isle and Portland stores were re-branded and all three carried the Blush name.
Wow, it sounds like you’ve been super successful to grow so fast.
CW: We’ve been very blessed by customers who truly appreciate and identify with our mission. We didn’t intend for things to move so quickly, but took advantage of opportunities when they arose. We’re actually in the midst of a very large new expansion that’s going to revolutionize formal gown shopping in Southern Maine. Our Portland store is moving to a new 5300 square-foot space in South Portland. We’ll be able to offer four private bridal suites, two bridesmaids suites, twelve formal fitting rooms, a runway, and a private room for pageant or Luxe appointments!
Tell us about the experience you want customers to have in your stores.
CW: At Blush, every single person is going to be catered to from the second they call to make an appointment until they walk down the aisle. For us, it’s not just about the two hours you spend choosing a dress. We want to make you feel special and we want you to have fun. For example, all our bridal suites are private or semi-private. We have divided spaces for every bride, so you’re not on display in front of strangers. Customers appreciate having a personalized, private appointment. We’re also totally “hands on,” so we invite you to join us looking through the inventory and selecting dresses. Our stylists work with you personally to bring your vision to life.. and sometimes surprise you with something you never would have pulled off the rack. Many stores don’t let you touch or see the inventory, but we think it’s important to involve brides in every step. Then when you find the perfect dress, we have a Champagne toast to celebrate! We personally manage all our orders & communicate with you through the whole process. Most of our brides become our friends. They come back to the store just to say hi. It’s a genuinely caring atmosphere.
Does Blush sell dresses for any budget, or do you cater to a certain market?
CW: We have a pretty broad range. Our special order wedding gowns usually cost between $800-$4000. We’ll be adding even more lines with the South Portland expansion, so we’ll offer more dresses in every price point. It also depends on the store you visit—they’re very different markets. We do share some lines between stores, but there’s quite a variety. Based on experience, we know what our customers are looking for in the different regions. But no matter which store you choose, each appointment is one-on-one with a highly trained stylist. We have a rigorous, standardized training program, because we want the customer experience to be the same no matter which store you visit. We’re particular about making sure you get the experience our stores are known for.
How do you choose what dresses to stock?
CW: I travel all over the country with my team to markets and shows to make sure we have the quality, variety, and style our customers are looking for. We have personally hand-selected every dress we carry. We hand-write every single order. Fashion is a risk, you have to predict what’s going to be popular. For example, I just ordered dresses for Prom 2019, and we’re 9 months away from prom season. To be successful, you have to be in tune with fashion yourself. I follow social media, I keep up with the big-name designers and red carpet events, and I rely on data pulled from our computer systems to determine what to buy.
Speaking of buying, what's the best time to shop for a wedding dress?
CW: There’s no better or worse time of year. We notice a dramatic increase between November and March, but wedding dresses arrive all year long. The sweet spot for choosing a dress is about a year before your wedding. It’s not too early that you’re scared to make a decision, and early enough that you have all options at your disposal. Special order dresses can take 4-5 months to ship, and custom dresses can take 6+months to arrive, and you want plenty of time for alterations, accessory shopping, etc. We do have many options for brides on a tighter timeline, including rush cuts and samples for sale right off the rack. We actually have an annual “Christmas in July” sample sale going on right now, so it’s a great time to shop!
Do you offer alterations and accessories on site?
CW: We don’t have in-store alterations, which is actually a positive. A bridal shop has to make a markup on seamstresses, so they’re usually more expensive, and you can get a much better price if you shop around. We have a master list of many seamstresses in the state and provide options to every customer. We do sell shoes, jewelry, and accessories, and we have a whole ready-to-wear section with dresses for rehearsal dinners, receptions, and other events.
What are the advantages to buying in a bridal shop versus shopping online?
CW: It’s all about experience. When you shop online, you’re missing the entire bridal experience. Choosing your wedding gown is the most memorable part of the wedding planning process. It’s the story people tell over and over: the moment they found their dress. I always say that bridal is the aspect of the retail world that will never die. Millennials crave experience, they’re driven by meaningful memories. Anything we can post about on Instagram, we love. We’re part of a culture that really values experiences, and finding your wedding dress is no exception. There’s also the security factor of buying from a bridal shop. We’re here to intervene for you with designers. I personally get on the phone and advocate for customers when something goes wrong. You don’t have that ally when you buy online. Plus, you risk ending up with a knock-off when you purchase online. It’s not worth it for something so important.
What trends do you see for bridesmaids’ and mothers’ dresses? What advice do you have for bridesmaids shopping?
CW: Mix and match is big on Pinterest. Right now, we’re seeing a lot of pastels, like sea glass, blush pink and barely-there blues. There’s always the classic black, eggplant, and navy—I don’t think those will ever disappear. We’re still seeing sequins and florals. For moms, most women are actually steering away from traditional “mother-of-the-bride” dresses, they want something a little more casual. Many of our moms buy some of the more sophisticated bridesmaid dresses. Some buy from our casual or evening gown selections as well.
For bridesmaids shopping, it’s best to at least have an idea of what you want before you come in, like a ballpark of color and style. That gives us a good starting point for your whole party. Without any direction, it can be challenging for a bride to arrive at a decision in such a short time frame, and confusing for the whole group.
What advice do you have for women who are looking for the perfect dress?
CW: For bridal, we have a great article on our website called “Our 7 Best Tips for Wedding Dress Shopping,” and that pretty much says it all. I’ll just add, trust the experience factor. Whether you’re shopping for bridal or prom, these are such important times in your life. Enjoy this time and capitalize on the moment. Come have an experience, treat yourself to that, because once it’s over you’re dying for another excuse to wear a fancy dress. You get to do it so rarely, you have to make the most of it. There’s so much stress and drama in life, and so few times you can just enjoy it. So why not?
Blush’s “Christmas in July” sample sale is running now through July 31. Stop in and check out their amazing selection of bridal, prom, and formal gowns. You won’t regret it! Thanks to Courtney Wetzel for her awesome bridal shopping advice.