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The Wedding Party: The Bay Area’s Best Wedding Dress Store


Progressive, indie, awesome (unicorn) wedding dress store.

  The Wedding Party: The Bay Areas Best Wedding Dress Store | A Practical Wedding

Back when I was engaged, I would hear rumors of progressive, indie, awesome wedding dress stores. They were like unicorns: everyone had heard about a store like that, but no one had actually seen one. These stores sold you bridesmaids’ dresses in white; they had great selections of dresses at more affordable price points; they were curated for those of us whose tastes diverged from “poufy, strapless, ball-gown, all-the-embellishments.” They were staffed by people that understood what you were looking for, didn’t shame you about your price or your body, didn’t up-sell you, and were really helpful and nice. I never found one of those unicorn stores, and I ended up with a dress I loved mostly by accident. So I cannot even tell you how excited I am to tell you about The Wedding Party on the Berkeley-Oakland border. If you’re anywhere in Northern California, you should pack up the car and come buy your wedding dress here. You can send whiskey to my PO Box as a thank you gift.

The Wedding Party: The Bay Areas Best Wedding Dress Store | A Practical Wedding

The other week, Maddie and I went down to the store with photographer Christina Richards. We were there to help answer all of your questions about wedding dress shopping (results of our research to come next week), but while we were there, we also tried on a lot of dresses and found out exactly how the store works. The results made me want to go back in time and do my wedding dress shopping there, but more importantly, it totally reclaimed Maddie’s wedding dress shopping experience.

The Wedding Party: The Bay Areas Best Wedding Dress Store | A Practical Wedding

Here is what The Wedding Party does. They focus on simpler, less embellished gowns (though they have some crazy beaded and feathered amazingness). Plus, they have a very clear price point. Dresses in their wedding dress boutique run from $750–$2,000. Dresses in their bridesmaid’s boutique (which they love to order for you in white) routinely are in the $250–$350 range. Even more empowering, their philosophy about your budget is they will stick to it. Period. And the craziest thing about all this is that I kept trying on dresses that I would have sworn on a stack of bibles cost $5,000, and the price would come back at $1,100. That’s some kind of unicorn magic.

The Wedding Party: The Bay Areas Best Wedding Dress Store | A Practical Wedding

But beyond that, shopping at The Wedding Party was a body- and style-positive experience. This is how Maddie summed it up:

Shopping at The Wedding Party was one of the single most empowering experiences I’ve had all year. I had prepared myself for a terrible shopping experience, the kind where none of the dresses fit and nothing looks good on you, and you spend the better part of an afternoon trying not to cry or feel horrible about yourself. Instead, the women at The Wedding Party made me feel empowered and accepted, and they did everything in their power to help me understand that what we were doing is a process. First, they let me touch and feel EVERYTHING in the store, which made me feel like I was in control. Then they worked tirelessly with me to find dresses that would look good on my body, and when I suggested dresses that DEFINITELY weren’t going to fit, they didn’t try to deter me from trying them on anyway. It was a fun, collaborative effort, and I felt confident putting my trust in them. In the end I found not one but THREE dresses I felt amazing in. What I appreciate most about Jennifer and Clara is that they are really attuned to what you want, personally. When they were trying to squeeze me into a sample gown that was just a tad too small, they continuously checked in to make sure I was comfortable and, you know, breathing. When I told them to go all in and zip that sucker at any cost, they listened. If I told them I was feeling uncomfortable and wanted to stop, they would have listened. They treated me like a person, cared about my opinions, and made me want to turn back time so that I could do this for real at my own wedding.

Side note here: we went in to this experience with me being super excited to try on froofy wedding dresses. It didn’t occur to me to feel otherwise, because I’m more-or-less a sample size, and I love playing dress up. Maddie was dubious, convinced that nothing would fit her, and even if it did fit her, it was going to look terrible. I found a couple of dresses that I looked hot in. If I could turn back time, I might have even bought one of those dresses. Maddie, on the other hand, found three dresses that she looked SMOKIN’ in. Like, I almost took out the company card and bought them for her, because if a dress looks that hot, you should own it. To me, that says everything about how awesome this store is.

The Wedding Party: The Bay Areas Best Wedding Dress Store | A Practical Wedding

This store is as awesome as it is because of its two owners, Jennifer and Clara. They’ve been doing this for twelve years and are knowledgeable, cheerful, and kind. But perhaps most importantly, they are all about customer service. They will explain anything and everything to you, completely honestly. They’ll work with you to troubleshoot your problems. And? Clara has been reading APW since almost the beginning, which is a pretty sure sign that she’s your people.

The Wedding Party: The Bay Areas Best Wedding Dress Store | A Practical Wedding

Oh yeah, and we looked fabulous. Seriously, seriously fabulous. And at the end of the day, we walked away with all of the information on the dresses we tried on. Yeah, they know that means you could use it to try to undercut them by shopping online. But they figure that’s a risk worth taking in exchange for honest business dealings.

The Wedding Party: The Bay Areas Best Wedding Dress Store | A Practical Wedding

I am not overselling it when I say that I would have flown in from Southern California to shop at The Wedding Party. It was seriously that good. And I’m so glad that lots of you will have the chance to have the kick-ass wedding dress shopping experience that both Maddie and I missed out on. And better yet? You’ll have the rockin’ dress to prove it.

Photos by APW Sponsor Christina Richards (these are teasers, more of our dress shopping excursion next week)

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  • elle

    I am dying to know how Clara and Jennifer got started. I would love for this to be me in 12 years (or you know, 5 or 10 or 20 or however long it takes)…any chance they’ve got a post or two in them?

    • meg

      We could ask! They’ve been doing this 12 years, and I know at least Jennifer has been working in retail (she calls herself a “shop girl” adorably) since she was 17 or something.

      • ELLE

        Yes! Please do ask :) That would be amazing!

  • Sara C.

    Oh goodness, you are so right on. I love love love this store. Found my dress there, and have sent five friends in the past year, all of whom found theirs as well. The people are so nice, and the dresses are just gorgeous. I should be getting a commission!

  • C

    Maddie in that dress? SO gorgeous.

    • Maddie

      <3

  • alpelican

    I really really really wish that you guys were posting the results of the wedding dress shopping questions this week, because I’m flying across the country to go dress shopping this weekend! And by dress shopping, I mean I have an appointment at Wai-Ching in Seattle. (!!!!!!!)

    That said, this store looks amazing and I hope their business model is replicated elsewhere!

  • Natalie

    Do you have to make an appointment or can you just pop in if you’re in the area, you know, visiting your big brother and going to a Giants game? ;)

    • meg

      You need to make an appointment, as with pretty much all wedding dress stores (though I’m sure they’re super accommodating). They’re not actually a street level shop, you have to go to the second floor and get buzzed in and such.

      Part of what they do when you make an appointment is figure out what you’re into, and what your price range is (so they can Keep Within It), so they’re informed when you show up.

  • http://apracticalwedding.com/2010/10/wedding-graduates-sharon-jason/ Sharon

    The Wedding Party, yes!!! I went there last fall with a close girlfriend who was getting married and left wishing I could have a do-over of my own wedding dress shopping there. I’m not sure why, but when I got married in 2010, I had this assumption that my choices were either: 1) giant big-box store with terrible lighting and pushy salespeople but affordable prices or 2) champagne at a boutique with dresses that would cost an arm and a leg. I went with the first option because the second intimidated the hell out of me, not to mention I didn’t think I could afford it. The Wedding Party is that perfect middle ground — you get boutique level customer service with people who make you feel super comfortable with your budget, the prices are amazingly affordable (starting around the midlevel of big-box stores), and you get to support a local business! I feel so strongly about this place that I’ve been recommending it to everyone I know who’s getting married, even though I myself (alas!) didn’t get my dress there!

    • meg

      AND: they’re prices go down to REALLY affordable in their bridesmaid section, which has STUNNING shit. OMG. Less poofy, but I’m not always into poofy.

  • Marisa-Andrea

    But I wanna see more pics of you two in the dresses!!!!

    • meg

      Next week!

  • EF

    This is wonderful, and I can’t wait for the dress shopping post! I really, really wish I could find a shop like this anywhere in the UK. London *must* have one, if anyone has any suggestions please recommend!

  • Itsy Bitsy

    Drat, right after I move out of CA. This place looks AMAZING.

  • Colleen

    Any chance anyone knows of stores like this not in CA? I am having trouble with the places I have been going in St. Louis and this place sounds perfect!

    Practical Wedding could do research on great places like this all over for an article??!!

    • meg

      Maybe! I wish there were more places like this though. I feel like it’s not as easy as just finding them in each city. But we could try.

      • http://www.becomingbrown.wordpress.com Jennifer

        I got my dress at an amazing shop like this in Fort Collins, Colorado. Dora Grace: http://doragrace.com

        • MC

          THANK YOU!! I live in New Mexico currently but am from Colorado and my BFF/bridesmaid lives in Fort Collins. I’m definitely putting this store on my list.

          I also have a few friends and a sister-in-law in the Bay area, so I’m thinking a trip to this store might not be sooooo impossible…

    • http://www.elisapetersen.com Elisa

      I feel like I would have heard of it if it existed in St. Louis. Sometimes the St. Louis APW people get together and chat, which I try to always go to, and I tend to talk to my photo clients about all those details and bridal experiences. No one has mentioned any bridal shops that particularly stood out. Let me know if you find an especially good one!

    • Aiyana

      I loved shopping, and found my dress, at The English Department in Portland, OR in 2010. Not any closer to St. Louis, but an option for NW peeps. The dress I ended up with was silk, simple but super flattering, and something like $800. http://www.theenglishdept.com/

    • http://glitterandgritpgh.com Erin

      Totally not trying to piggyback on this post or self-promote, but I recently opened an indie bridal boutique in Pittsburgh, PA – not sure how far you might be willing to travel? If you’re interested, I could give you more info!

  • Linley

    I got my dress at The Wedding Party. I almost bought a dress at another shop the day before, but I’m so glad I decided to sleep on it. The dress I chose was absolutely perfect, and everyone I worked with was so helpful. They gave me recommendations for everything from seamstresses to shoes and underwear. Plus, when I picked up my dress they asked if I would send them a wedding photo so that they could see how the outfit came together and show it to other brides wanting inspiration. The Wedding Party is seriously incredible.

    (I’m normally an APW lurker, but The Wedding Party was so awesome I couldn’t not comment.)

  • Megan

    I’m so excited to see The Wedding Party on here! It’s where I got my dress, and ever since my FABULOUS experience there I’ve been thinking that they’re a match made in heaven with APW. Jennifer and Clara are so kind and wonderful at their jobs. Love these guys!!!

  • Beth

    I did not buy my dress at the Wedding Party, but only because they no longer carried it (they checked for me, though!). But I wish I could have because this was BY FAR the best place I went to try on dresses and I would have loved to support them. The owners, the lovely lighting and wood floors and little pedestal/mirrors (best set-up of any of the stores I went to), plus the not-overwhelming number of gorgeous dresses lined up – it was all fabulous. I had some pretty bad experiences at other places where they straight up scoffed at my budget and had all of two dresses I could try on (even though I had asked ahead of time if they could work with what I wanted to spend), but the Wedding Party had a bunch! And they introduced me to Nicole Miller dresses, which is what I ended up in at my wedding.

    I found wedding dress shopping to be pretty stressful overall, but this post makes want to go back to their shop and try on dresses again (much easier to say now that I don’t actually have to make a decision or spend any money, haha).

  • JG

    Long time lurker, first time poster…I bought my dress at The Wedding Party and am so excited to see it featured here! Both visits were wonderful experiences from beginning to end, and Jennifer graciously let me stay way past closing the second time around while I took pictures and (over)analyzed with my friend, then talked it through with my parents across the country. It felt SO GOOD to support this business. Really happy to see it get this much-deserved attention and APW love.

  • Marlena

    Thank you! Only live a few hours from there and even the phone conversation I had with them today more fun than any other dress place I have been to!

  • http://scrollweddinginvitations.com/Engagement-Party-Invitations.html Myra

    Awesome post.After reading this I’m eagerly waiting for my wedding party, so that I could go to the Bay’s Area for my wedding dress :)

  • Rachel

    Perhaps you could have an open post where people recommend other good stores? I really liked where I got my dress (Rochester, NY)–they were not pushy at all and did stick to my budget. Their dresses go higher than The Wedding Party but it was a delightful and easy shopping experience.

    • Karlee

      I’m from Rochester, NY and curious as to where you got your dress from?!

      • Sarabeth

        At least three of us in Rochester, we should have a meetup or something!

      • Rachel

        I got mine at Jacqueline’s. Linda was fantastic, and helped me try on a million dresses–including the one I got, which I almost didn’t try on. They have a whole rack of dresses out front that are on sale, and even the ones that aren’t? They respected my budget, and the fact that my parents and grandmother came with me to try them on. They let me take pictures and were NOT snobby. I wound up going to a couple of other stores for bridesmaid dresses Jacqueline’s didn’t carry and was SO GLAD every time that I went there. Also, their tailor is amazing, and when I balked at how much they wanted for a veil, they agreed to let the tailor make one for us for literally half the price. And to Sarabeth below, I would, but I actually live abroad–perhaps the best thing about Jacqueline’s was how fantastically accommodating they were to the fact that I live so far away and couldn’t just swing by for a fitting. Cannot recommend them highly enough–Monroe Ave. in Brighton!

  • Sophie

    THANK YOU so much for this post. I just got engaged and discovered APW, and have been browsing online for simple, affordable dresses. Even better – I’m an Oakland resident – so I see a trip to the Wedding Party in my near future!

  • L

    Another rare commenter coming out of the woodworks to shout A Wedding Party’s praises! It was the first place I went when I was engaged in 2010 simply because I live around the corner, and I’m so glad it was my first! ;) Other places were not as awesome, but I was so much more confident having gone to AWP first. Clara is so awesome, and I also recommend that every engaged woman I know go there.

    The appointment thing is actually awesome because the place is so small and intimate, you are their only appointment. You can bring friends/family and have a blast trying on dresses. I wish I could have bought my dress there!

  • Ayanna

    The Wedding Party posted this article on FB and I had to join the discussion. I was across the street one day and bumped in to my sister who was on her way to try on her bridesmaid dress for her good friend’s wedding (who had purchased her dress from the Wedding Party). They invited me to come with. It was such an amazing experience, I scheduled an appointment for my own wedding dress search right then. I hate to shop, am also easily overwhelmed by too many options, and had been procrastinating on making an appointment for my own wedding which was in six months. I brought my two aunts, and my three daughters (one in an infant seat who slept the whole time!) and we had a blast. It was the only shop I went to!

    I ended up choosing a dress off the rack (a bride had changed her mind) designed by a Bay Area dress designer. In addition to the $600 price ($200 discount because it had already been altered – YAY!), this dress had POCKETS (my vows went in there!). The dress was originally my second choice, but my first choice was going to be way too hot for my Napa Valley August wedding. I really loved the first choice – it had this really cool flower accessory on it – and Jennifer suggested I order JUST the flower from the 1st choice and pair it with the 2nd choice. This turned my second choice into the absolute first choice!

    I highly recommend this boutique!

  • Lindsay

    I was lucky enough to find The Wedding Party when searching for places to go dress shopping- they are hands down THE BEST. They were the first store I tried dresses on at, and they set the bar really high. I went to another shop later in the same day and the difference was like night and day. I couldn’t wait to get back to The Wedding Party to get my dress. When I returned, I was without my friends and family, but Clara made it really special, even snapping a few pictures so I could share. I actually bought a sample sale dress from them and she recommended a great seamstress for alterations, and even helped me see what the dress would look like once altered. I am waiting for another friend to get engaged so I can bring her to The Wedding Party! It is such a special place!

  • Hillary

    I can’t agree more with this article! I just bought my dress there last week from Rosie and Clara! I cannot express how wonderful the experience was and how encouraging and understanding they are. They do not over sell you and respect your budget.

    I tried on several dresses during my appointment, all were beautiful, even the sample gowns. I tried on a few mermaid and fit and flare gowns but I didn’t like how it was hugging my body. Rosie, listened to what I liked and didn’t like and towards the end of an appointment pulled a dress I looked over. In the fitting room I slipped it on and gasped when I looked in the mirror. It was perfect! It was not what I expecting but it had the most gorgeous embellishments and was perfect. I bought the dress one week later.

    I would highly recommend this dress shop to anyone in the San Francisco Bay area. Plus, the price range really doesn’t go above 2k and even their sample gowns are lovely. They respect your budget, your body and want to help you find the best dress for you and your wedding. :)

  • Laura

    Oh, The Wedding Party – yes!! They are seriously the best. I fell in love with a bridesmaid dress they had displayed in the window downstairs years ago and made an appointment to try it in the sample size. It fit like a glove, was shockingly inexpensive considering how gorgeous and special it is and how freaking expensive everything in this area is. I have worn it for numerous special occasions and gotten a zillion compliments on it. It was a Siri dress. I send everyone I know there for special occasion dresses and bridal situations.

    (Oh, and it probably bears mentioning that at the time, I was very anti-shaving and I had hairy legs and armpits. The lovely, accommodating ladies there did not even blink while they helped me try on and were delightfully sweet and complimentary. Though I have since moved on to new trends in my personal topiary project, the bodily non-traditional among us may be assured of a comfortable, welcoming experience.) :)

  • Ren

    I went to The Wedding Party and had a great experience. In the same day I went to Emerald City Gowns in Berkeley which has all consignment dresses. I bought my dress at Emerald City and she was lovely to work with too. http://emeraldcitygowns.com/

  • Lorraine Jacobs

    It is really very nice when an owner or a worker of a certain store will be so much approachable and will entertain their customers very well because customers would be so happy and will introduce your store to everyone they know. Anyhow, their wedding gowns are very nice and its cost is so much reasonable. -http://moonlightfields.com/

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