Your wedding day is supposed to be the happiest day of your life. It's also supposed to be beautiful, exciting, romantic and unforgettable. But in all honesty, does this ever really happen exactly the way it's supposed to be? The stress of planning the picture perfect wedding you vision in your mind, can often make the wedding planning process a very dark and agonizing event - and remember this is supposed to be best day of your life! That's a lot of pressure especially when most of us have family, friends, websites and TV shows telling us what we should wear, what we should be doing, what's right, what's wrong, what's tradition, how much we should be spending, and giving us unrealistic expectations. The one thing I think we can all agree on though is, the dress is important. Doesn't matter what kind of dress you want, what you want is to feel beautiful and to feel like the best version of you.
Enter, Erin Szymanski, owner of Glitter & Grit; the adorable new wedding gown boutique in upper Lawrenceville. She represents the untraditional bride - the woman who isn't afraid to break a couple rules and wants to her wedding to be an original expression of herself and her beloved. Erin's gorgeous boutique is a welcoming and quiet place that reminds me a lot of a vintage tailor's shop. There is one dressing room and one pedestal - meant for one bride at a time. That's because Erin works with her brides on a private basis, creating a more relaxed and special occasion. The whole Glitter & Grit experience is meant to be special and put you at ease in what could easily be the most stressful part of wedding planning. On top of that, she also holds a monthly "dress up" event, where you can go in - you don't have to be engaged - and try on the dresses! Her open-minded and realistic outlook on wedding planning is refreshing and just what the wedding market in Pittsburgh needed.
ES: Well it kinda started coming to light when my friends were starting to get married and shopping for wedding dresses. Then it was solidified when I was engaged because I had gone shopping with my friends and I knew I did not want to go shopping at the stores that were in Pittsburgh. I didn't wanna wear your typical wedding dress, and I didn't want to go to a store where people would be telling me that I "had to wear a veil," or "had a have a white dress," so I bought my dress online, I had a wonderful experience, but I realized that not everyone is willing to take that kind of risk and just decided that there needed to be more options in Pittsburgh for wedding dresses.
TPL: What did your wedding dress look like?
ES: My dress was made by Wai Ching, who makes the really colorful dresses [sold in her store], the front of it was all white and it had her signature embroidery on it and the back had green ties and a yellow train; it was like very spring, coming out colors. I love when forsythia starts blooming in the Spring, they're like these great yellow flowers and all the green is fresh and new. those were kinda the colors that inspired it.
TPL: What do you think differentiates your boutique from all other wedding dress shops in Pittsburgh?
ES: Well there's a couple different things, when you have an appointment at Glitter&Grit, the store is closed to the public, so you have a private appointment, the store is just for you and your guests, and so I feel like that really helps kinda ease people into it; a lot of girls come in sorta feeling anxious about the entire process if they haven't started yet, or they've had bad experiences at other stores, like the big boxed stores, where they were kinda just shoved around or squished into a bunch of other people they didn't know. So, the private appointments, and then just what I have to offer; the very unique designs, a good number of my designers make their stuff completely by hand, they're made in the US, great fabrics, really the quality of work is there, and lots of natural fibers. I have a few designers that are earth friendly, so they use all sustainable sourced materials; organic cottons, cruelty-free silks, and it's really nice when you're making that kind of investment to feel good about it.
TPL: What are some of the trends you see the brides gravitating towards lately?
ES: Definitely lace is very popular, and straps! I would say any kind of a strap or sleeve, something so that it's not just the same sweetheart, strapless dress that we've all seen at weddings in our lifetime. But lace is not going to go anywhere anytime soon, people are definitely looking for it.
TPL: Who are some of your favorite wedding gown designers?
ES: Oh gosh! I love them all, it's really hard to have a favorite. Rebecca Shonveld, I have been following her on social media for a long time, I really love what she does. and her dresses are all handmade in her studio in Brooklyn, I mean they're just stunning and very unique. As far as who I have, Lindee Daniel, one of my earth-friendly designers, over there on that rack [points to a rack of gorgeous cream colored dresses] her use of texture is just - I love texture so I'm kind of obsessed with everything that she does. And again, completely handmade, by her, in California and I mean when you see the detail in some of those dresses it's hard to believe it was all pieced together by hand. I'm just glad I got married before I opened the store, because there is no way - I mean would wear....pants! [Laughs] Or, I dunno, I couldn't possibly choose a dress now.
TPL: That would be really cool to wear a pant suit! It's pretty up and coming, I've seen a couple weddings online where someone is wearing a beautifully tailored white or ivory suit.
ES: Yeah! That's actually in my plan, that's the next direction I wanna go, is get into suiting, and I actually talked to a designer that I had in for a trunk show, she had just kinda mentioned that they had talked about doing that, and I was like "As soon as you do let me know because I would love, LOVE to have that option here."
TPL: I see a couple dresses that could easily be a bridesmaids dress, do you think you would ever start going into other parts of the wedding party like the flower girl ect?
ES: Definitely not as far as flower girl, and I was really adamant at first about not getting into bridesmaids dresses, just because my space is so limited and I really want to stay focused on bridal. But then I met the designers of this great concept line of super modern bridesmaids dresses, that have kinda changed my mind, I'll actually have them here next Thursday during my dress up party. They're 100% silk, made in New York City, they have really sleek, sophisticated, super versatile, customizable dresses that are specifically made to be worn again. They're long styles are made to be shortened afterwards, you can send the dress back to them and they'll re-dye it, so they have a couple different options, but their most popular is their "Black Out Service" where they will dye it black. So you can wear whatever for the wedding and then have a little black dress that you actually will wear again. And I'm just so excited by the concept of what they're doing that I will probably be adding them and that kind of goes into the special occasion as well because they're not blatantly bridesmaids dresses and then they are also available in ivory, white so they could be a really good option for the budget bride. That was not expected and I mean that's kind of how I'm looking at everything, just how everything's happened organically and however the business grows, I'm fine with, but I'm definitely not seeking out getting into the full bridal party.
TPL: What do you think is the hardest part about being a bride today?
ES: Just having.....[pauses]..uh well...Pinterest. [Laughs] Pinterest is wonderful, it can be really helpful, but it's also a little bit unrealistic, it'll make you fall in love with a dress that is $8000 and you'll not be able to get it out your mind and you have a $1000 budget and you really can't replace anything like that. And not even just dresses, I mean every detail of the wedding and we feel like our wedding has to look good enough to be on the internet places, so that you know, to be that impressive and I feel like it's a lot of pressure. I mean the industry places it on brides, brides place it upon themselves, it's exciting to start pinning and it's really helpful if someone comes across some examples that they like, but it can be hard if they're really fixated on something.
TPL: So if I were a "budget bride" and I wanted to have an eclectic wedding - I want to keep things original but I have a tight budget - what are some of your tips, even beyond the dress, that you can recommend?
ES: I think the important thing is to determine what is kind of non-negotiable for what you have in your mind, whether it's amazing food, or you want really amazing photographs or you want this dress that no one will ever forget, you have to pick and choose where you're going to spend your money. I mean there are a lot of things you can do to kind of cut corners, like if something isn't important to you, don't spend your money on it. If you don't care about flowers, then don't have crazy centerpieces. If you don't care about the photographs, then you know, you definitely wanna have pictures but if you're not crazy about the standard, then don't spend crazy money on a photographer. Budget wise, there are a ton of venue options, and I feel like that is somewhere where you can definitely find some wiggle room, Looking outside the box, in general with any vendor or even dresses, if you are really on a budget, then don't look at wedding dresses, look at bridesmaids dresses, again often they're available in ivory or white for a lot less money. You get what you pay for but, sometimes it's worth cutting the corners in those kinds of places, so don't look for a wedding caterer or wedding venue, look for an event venue or that sort of thing.
TPL: What is The Gathering, seen on your website?
ES: Again, when I was planning my wedding, I was not someone who sat and dreamed about my wedding day, I actually wanted to elope and not make a big deal out if it. My husband and I are both pretty introverted, so the idea of standing in front of people was not something that either of us was really excited about, so yeah, I wasn't someone who had it all figured out beforehand. So when I was planning my wedding, I didn't want to talk to my best friends about it constantly, I felt obnoxious because it was the only thing that I could talk about for while because I was in the middle of planning it and not that they gave me any impression that I couldn't talk to them about it, I just felt annoying. And, so it kind of got to a point where I felt a little isolated in this "wedding planning world" that I didn't want to annoy anyone with. So I was thinking about that one day - actually I had the same reaction planning my business; I didn't want to talk about it constantly. So that it what made me start The Gathering, because I was having that feeling again, of feeling isolated and I just thought, if you have bunch of brides that are all going through the same thing, maybe they can help each other out, and just have a sounding board for advice or just complain about your future mother-in-law who is driving you crazy, and it's just a safe place to do all that stuff with people that are in the same point in the process. So you can elect to join the group for a very small fee and it's just on Facebook, if you are a bride of Glitter&Grit, if you purchased your wedding dress here, you are automatically invited to the group. It seems really helpful for people who are out of town, like girls who don't live in Pittsburgh right now but are getting married here, I think they've had a lot of help from the group, figuring out vendors, and just general recommendations for stuff, no ones really complained too much at this point.
NEXT "DRESS UP" PARTY:
August 14th 6pm-9pm
5300 Butler St. Pittsburgh, PA 15201