Pam Needham, owner of Alicia's Bridal & The Formal House in Bellingham, has been in the family business for more than 20 years and says she never gets tired of seeing customers so happy.
"My job is to make sure my consultants and I find the right combination so we get that 'WOW' moment for you. The most important thing I do is deal with the behind-the-scenes things like ordering and making sure your dress arrives on time. My goal is to take as much stress out of the wedding planning as I can and take care of that for you.
"When you give me more time I love you, but I work best under pressure so, oddly enough, the wedding business suits me just fine! Our goal is to make the whole process fun for you from beginning to end. We are not here to just sell you something we are here to make memories!"
Pam also hosted the Jan. 6 Bridal Inspirations Wedding Expo at the Best Western Lakeway Inn.
She answered our questions about weddings:
Q: What's the best part of your job as owner of Alicia's Bridal & The Formal House in Bellingham?
A: Getting to know our brides and hearing all about the proposal and the wedding plans. We get so involved in helping them put together the wedding they have always dreamed of.
Q: What's your advice to a newly engaged couple on planning their wedding?
A: Set your wedding date, find your venue location, and start shopping for your dress, all in that order. When you have the date and the place planned it makes finding the dress so much easier because you can picture yourself there. It will help your consultant suggest things as well. Once you know what you're wearing all of the other parts of the wedding can fall into place. Our consultants love putting a look together and can make all kinds of suggestions.
Q: Who should brides bring along when shopping for a wedding dress?
A: If it's your first time trying on wedding dresses I would suggest bringing two of your closest friends along and your mom if possible. Too many opinions can make it very difficult on the bride to decide which dress she wants to choose. Including the people that are closest to you make the dress shopping experience even more special. They will know your style well and be able to recognize when you have found your perfect dress! You can always bring more people at another appointment once you have found your style or to your alterations fittings. Some of our brides even come in by themselves the first time to find their favorites and then bring in the friends and family to help them choose "the one."
Q: How have wedding dress styles changed in the last couple of years and what do you expect for the next couple of years?
A: A couple of years ago brides didn't have the selection they have today. The dresses were mostly strapless in every silhouette. Today, there are many options. We have beautiful gowns with different sleeve choices, off the shoulder and Sabrina necklines, and even jackets that you can pair with a dress. You can transform a dress so much with a jacket that the gown at the ceremony can look like a totally different dress when you arrive at your reception just by removing the jacket.
Lace is the designers' fabric of choice this year. Beautiful Alencon, Venice, and Chantilly lace are just a few of the choices in this timeless fabric. Organza ruffles and chiffon in both the mermaid and ballgown silhouette are popular too. You can even find hints of color like ombre, champagne, blush and other pastels to choose from.
Some of the silhouettes that are popular are the classic ballgown, mermaid, or gowns with a soft, whimsical flow. The Sabrina neckline, that just touches the collarbone paired with a low back is a stunning take on a traditional neckline with a modern touch.
Q: What kinds of styles do you recommend for different body shapes?
A: See http://wedding.theknot.com/bridal-fashion/wedding-dress-shopping/articles/wedding-gown-find-the-right-fit-for-you.aspx?MsdVisit=1 for the Knot's recommendations. Scroll down to bottom left of page.
Q: How far before the wedding should a dress be purchased, and how much time should be planned for fittings?
A: We can make any time frame work even with short notice because we have such a big selection in stock. However, if you are planning on special ordering and don't want to incur a rush fee, then order at least seven-plus months ahead of the wedding. Dresses typically take 16 weeks before they ship and then you want to allow 2-3 months for shipping, fittings, and alterations to be completed. If you have a summer wedding you will want to allow more time, if you can, so your seamstress can fit you into her schedule. Scheduling a fitting for a summer wedding can be tricky as this is the prime time to get married in the Northwest. Allowing yourself more time is always beneficial and less stressful!
Q: Are there rules for what men wear depending on the time and location of the wedding, and if so, what are they?
A: If you are following strict etiquette, then yes, there are rules. Most of the time our brides and grooms are choosing to break the rules of etiquette and make it more of a personal style choice. My best suggestion would be to match the degree of formality to the bridal gown. If she is wearing a formal wedding gown with a train then typically a tuxedo is appropriate. If you want a slightly less formal look then going with a suit is a great option. We have both suits and tuxedos in stock and even a beautiful gray tuxedo that doesn't have a satin stripe down the pant, so it is a nice compromise between the two. If you are doing a destination wedding to a warm climate then a more casual attire like pants and a silk or linen shirt would be appropriate. Basically, it comes down to what do you want your pictures to look like and a trained formalwear consultant can help you make the right choice for your wedding.
Q: What should brides keep in mind when selecting dresses for attendants?
A: For many, this is the most challenging part of the wedding. Bridesmaids have different personalities, figures and opinions so having an idea of some basics before you shop will help make it go smoothly. Start with basics. Do you want short or long or a specific fabric or color? You can take a feature from your wedding gown such as the neckline or fabric and tie that into the bridesmaid's dresses for a cohesive look without being too matchy-matchy. Brides are opting to choose a length, fabric, and color and then let the bridesmaids choose different styles which can look great. Keep the dresses from the same designer if you want the colors to look the same in pictures. Other brides are choosing multiple shades in the same fabric (especially the new pastels), to establish the style for the wedding. Then again, you can always go with the traditional matching bridesmaid's dresses as well! There is no right and wrong -- your personality should shine through!
Q: No need to name names, but can you share a "bridezilla" story?
A: We have had our share over the years but luckily a small percentage of our customers reach bridezilla stage. Some of the memorable ones are:
The bride who threw herself on the floor, kicking and screaming when one of her relatives hinted the gown looked a little tight! Oops!
The bride who cancelled her wedding when the groom walked in and saw her in her wedding dress. Apparently, that was bad luck for her.
The brides who are micro-managing their bridesmaids. Like no tan lines before the wedding, no pregnancies, no haircuts without prior approval, and weighing their bridesmaids to make sure they stay the same. We even had one bride have her bridesmaids dye their hair all the same color for the wedding.
We've seen it all and believe me, it is entertaining!
Q: What's your advice for brides on staying sane on the wedding day?
A: Plan early on in your engagement so you don't have too many things to finalize as you approach your wedding day. Checklists are a great tool and can make your friends' lives easier and yours too if they know what you need help with. If you can, designate your calmest, most efficient bridesmaid or friend to keep things moving along, make sure you have eaten, and handle any last-minute questions. A wedding planner is probably the best money you can spend to make sure your day is exactly what you have dreamed about. Try not to worry about the small things and remember the reason for the day! This will be the biggest party that you throw, enjoy every minute it!
Q: Do you cry at weddings?
A: I have been known to! Especially with the brides I have made a connection with or their family of course. Some of the stories our customers share with us get us crying right in the store, we don't even have to be at the wedding!
Alicia's Bridal & The Formal House is at 1400 N. State St. For more information go to aliciasbridal.com or call 360-733-2563.