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The Wedding Party: Wedding Dress Shopping in Berkeley


2015 is all about the sleeve

by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

The Wedding Party: Wedding Dress Shopping in Berkeley | A Practical Wedding

Let me guess. You’re looking for a wedding dress that looks like a wedding dress, but is outside of the “strapless puffy white ball-gown” box. In your dream world, you’d like something with some sort of sleeve, or maybe a plunging V-neck, or maybe some sexy beading. You’re thinking that if it were blush or barely grey, that might be cool too. You want it to actually fit your personal style—but super hot, obviously. You want to feel like you in a majorly gorgeous wedding dress, not Bridal Barbie.

Oh. And you have under $2,000 to spend. In fact, maybe you have $1,000 or $300.

You combed the APW (Indie) Wedding Dress Pinterest board, came up with a zillion good ideas that you excitedly told your partner/best friend/anyone that would listen. And then you started pricing wedding dresses, and you realized that all those stunners in Martha Stewart Weddings that are quirky but beautiful are around $10K. And that even the mass-market artfully stylish wedding dresses are WAY out of your price range.

The Wedding Party: Wedding Dress Shopping in Berkeley | A Practical Wedding

Not A Dress Over $2,000

Enter The Wedding Party in Berkeley, California. If you happen to live in the Bay Area (or, frankly, in Southern California or a neighboring state) The Wedding Party is your answer. This is their business model:

The Wedding Party specializes in simpler wedding gowns that lean toward less traditional and less formal. The wedding gowns range in price from $800–$2,000. We also have a great collection of simple bridal, featuring short dresses and dresses without trains, in the $300–$700 price range.

The Wedding Party is the business I wish I could go back in time and shop at for my wedding. They’re not just a store with a smart business model (because with not a single gown over $2,000, you can try anything on knowing you’re not going to absolutely financially destroy yourself), it also is run by two of the nicest, smartest, most supportive women I’ve met in the wedding industry. And they also happen to have killer taste.

The Wedding Party: Wedding Dress Shopping in Berkeley | A Practical Wedding

Smokin’ Hot

Here at APW, we love The Wedding Party so much, that we use them as the source for dresses for most of our shoots. (You can see a bunch of killer Wedding Party dresses picked by yours truly on our large scale backdrop tutorials.) And now that I’m in the store somewhat regularly to try on dresses for work, I can say that I have never once walked out without finding a dress that I would have worn for our wedding. Here are two of my most recent picks:

The Wedding Party: Wedding Dress Shopping in Berkeley | A Practical Wedding

The Wedding Party: Wedding Dress Shopping in Berkeley | A Practical Wedding

(David looked actually crestfallen when I showed him the second photo. And he loved my wedding dress.)

New For Fall: Sleeves. Color.

But the best news yet is that wedding dress trends have finally caught up with what we’ve all been dying for. And The Wedding Party knows what you like, and has ordered the best of the best. (Last time we were in, they showed us what’s coming for fall. We’re aiming to photograph it for you in September, because it is. so. good.) They described their new dresses coming by the end of August this way:

The Wedding Party: Wedding Dress Shopping in Berkeley | A Practical Wedding

This season we’re seeing an incredible range of necklines: bateaus, V’s, scoops, cowls, etc. We’ll see an influx of sleeves—from caps to bracelet to full length, 2015 is all about the sleeve. Strapless no longer dominates the market place—a huge relief for so many! Color will also be strong next year, with colored linings and colored dresses bringing a whole new look. Embellishment is also coming on strong—vintage beading and striking accents make the dresses bold and stylish. The best part is that we don’t even have to wait until 2015—the new dresses arrive late summer, early fall!

The Wedding Party: Wedding Dress Shopping in Berkeley | A Practical Wedding

Body Positive

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room—body shaming and wedding dress shopping. For so many people, wedding dress shopping is a horrific experience of not fitting into sample gowns, and then being asked if you’re going to lose weight for the wedding (like you’re the problem, not the damn dress). But not at The Wedding Party. In fact, they are so supportive and informative that after interviewing them, I wrote Ten Tips For Plus Sized Wedding Dress Shopping (if you’re currently wedding dress shopping, this is a must-read, plus sized or not). Here is how Maddie summed up the experience of actually trying on dresses at The Wedding Party, as a not-exactly-sample sized lady:

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.

The Wedding Party: Wedding Dress Shopping in Berkeley | A Practical Wedding

The Wedding Party Loves APWers

And best of all, not only do Jennifer and Clara, the owners of The Wedding Party, really get you. (Clara has been reading APW since almost the beginning, which is a pretty sure sign that she’s your people.) But working with you over the course of the year has allowed them to make their store even more awesome. Since you guys want things like… sleeves! And dresses that are stylish! That has allowed them to buy even more creatively, making their collection even hotter. They described working with APWers this way:

APW Readers strike me as independent women, with a sense of style that reflects their personality. They are able to articulate what they want, while maintaining an open mind and a willingness to try things on. Ultimately, they like to collaborate with us on the project—it feels more like a team venture and less like we’re the consultants and they’re the brides. Our APW brides have presented us with an opportunity to diversify our collection in ways that are outside the box of traditional bridal. There are many ways to be a bride, and many ways to wear a wedding dress. More than anything else, the dress should reflect the bride’s personality. APW brides come to us with this in mind, opening the door for a truly unique dress. From colored dresses to custom necklines, we’ve seen some beautiful creations with our APW brides. It has been a blast!

The Wedding Party: Wedding Dress Shopping in Berkeley | A Practical Wedding

And really, what else is there to say. The Wedding Party operates by appointment only, and trust me when I say you want to have an appointment for the fall when those new dresses hit the racks. They’re going to be spectacular. (And you’re going to stay sane and solvent.) In fact, you might enjoy the whole wedding dress shopping process as much you imagined you would back when you were just dreaming on Pinterest. Imagine that.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • SarahG

    I love the Wedding Party! I tried really hard to just buy a dress off the rack (Modcloth and Nordstroms mostly), failed, ended up at the WP and had such a great experience. And am wearing a $350 dress from there for my September wedding. LOVE THEM.

  • NrgGrl

    These are the nicest people I’ve ever met. They’re great for recommending seamstresses, too!

  • meeliebee

    I feel so fortunate to live near the Wedding Party! I bought my dress there based on the recommendation from APW, and I’ve been recommending them to all my engaged friends as well (one has already purchased her dress there). I can’t recommend this place enough – Rosie helped me and couldn’t have been sweeter. I’ve had some struggles with my body leading up to my wedding, and was actually dreading picking up my dress, but once I slipped it on I felt like a million dollars and the genuine excitement from the staff there made me feel like I was with friends. AND they had an awesome recommendation for a place to get my alterations done!

  • Caitlin_DD

    I told myself to stop looking at dresses now that I have mine, but damn. It’s a good thing I’m nowhere near them (“good” thing… sniffle). That second dress Meg’s wearing is amazing.

    • Heh

      My thoughts exactly. I feel David’s pain, only I’m crestfallen that I didn’t buy it for me!
      I dunno about you guys, but I find that since I bought a dress, my online dress browsing has just continued on its merry way. The futile, “crap, did I miss out on something better?” type of browsing. It’s not like any dress I buy could ever physically be the best of everything I’ve ever seen, because that would look absolutely crazy (it would have to have like three different types of sleeves, plus epaulets, be off-white, half full-on sequins, half lace, and maybe a corset back, a straight skirt, a plunging neckline…see? Ridiculous. And impossible.)
      In short, I need to issue a moratorium on dress coveting.

      • Caitlin_DD

        It’s a very insidious downward spiral. I had no idea how many wedding dresses appear on my Pinterest everyday, but I’ve had to devote some serious time to unfollowing every. Single. Wedding Dress. Board. And there are way more than there should be…

        • Heh

          I’m totally there. There needs to be wedding dress shoppers anonymous or something ;) It’s a struggle, but we’re in it together!

    • liv

      i want to add Meg makes the dress look amazing! banging girlfriend!

  • Sharon M.

    Apparently I got married too early (bought my dress March 29, 2013, got married March 29, 2014). I had a hell of a time finding ANYTHING with a sleeve, and then I didn’t like what I _did_ find with a sleeve. I ended up with a 3/4 sleeve chiffon bolero to cover the flab.

  • Traci

    I got my dress at The Wedding Party for my wedding this fall and had the chance to work with both Clara and Jennifer. As a street size 16 I can attest to the fact that they make the shopping experience amazing for plus size brides and they were both incredibly sweet to my guests as well! They helped me figure out how I could customize my dress to really make it mine and then they suggested a budget friendly alterations guru who is making all my personalization come true for a very reasonable price. I love these ladies and their business!

  • aldeka

    Yaaaay Wedding Party! I ordered my dress from them a month ago and they are truly the raddest. Unlike the horrible shame-y cheese-fest I got at the other bridal store I tried, trying on dresses at WP was actually a blast!

    I wish every metropolis had a place like this.

  • Rachel

    I am coming out of the woodwork after years of lurking to say that The Wedding Party is one of the best vendors I’ve ever worked with! I bought my beautiful dress there (it’s actually the strapless lacy dress Meg is wearing in the first photo!), and when my alterations were quoted significantly higher than I had anticipated, the women at The Wedding Party worked with the seamstress to lower her price, and they even paid part of the bill since the pricing wasn’t what I was expecting. Talk about killer customer service! All of the ladies are a dream to work with, and buying my dress has easily been the best part of wedding planning!

  • http://www.iwillidoidid.com Kelsey

    This article makes me so excited to be getting married in 2015, and so glad that I didn’t start looking for dresses sooner…now if only I lived on the West Coast.

    Also, that second dress (in the b/w photo) is awesome. Who is the designer?

  • Sara

    I tried on wedding dresses here and LOVED it. I was looking for a short dress in the <$300 range and they had lots of options (primarily bridesmaid dresses that came in ivory or white). I am also picky in that I didn't want to wear a strapless bra! Still had plenty to try on on and several I really liked! I'm still about a year out from the wedding so I haven't made a final dress decision, but I can definitely recommend the folks at the Wedding Party — nice, easy to work with, totally non-pushy, and willing to listen to what I wanted and help me find it! :)

  • Victwa

    I LOVE THE WEDDING PARTY!!!!! Couldn’t have been happier with my experience there. Please, please, please go buy a dress there, everyone.

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