This Is What Wedding Dress Shopping Dreams Are Made Of

BHLDN's New IRL Salons are A+

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Inside the BHLDN Palo Alto Store

Many of us on the APW staff like to talk about how when back when we got married, you had to walk uphill both ways in the snow just to buy a (terrible, overpriced, strapless) wedding dress. And while it’s easy to joke, we all know that the traditional wedding dress salon experience was, is, and generally remains fifteen kinds of terrible. I’d list all the ways, but why bother, because we’ve all watched Say Yes to the Dress, and wept over the average $5,000 budget, the required year-in-advance purchase, the absolute mystery around what anything costs before you walk in, and the lack of sample sizes for women over a size six.

But 2017 is here, and the wedding salon experience is finally, finally changing, thanks to the amazingly smart and talented team at BHLDN.

Mara jumpsuit on a mannequin at the BHLDN Palo Alto salon

IRL WEDDING STORES THAT #SLAY

Over the last few years, you’ve probably heard us wax poetic about BHLDN, the Anthropologie-owned wedding brand that is basically what my 2009 wedding dreams were made of. BHLDN has created an online shopping experience that encapsulates all that is good in weddings: fashion-forward looks, not secret(!) prices, dresses you can order and return on a normal timeline. But until recently, if you or your mama wanted to have a dress shopping experience that was more than just pulling a dress out of a box and trying it on in front of the floor length mirror in your closet, you were out of luck.

looking through dresses at the BHLDN Palo Alto salonthree BHLDN wedding dresses hanging up in a dressing room

So we couldn’t be more delighted to find out that BHLDN has decided to get into the IRL wedding dress salon game, with fourteen locations in major metropolitan areas around the United States. And because there is nothing we wouldn’t do for you guys (particularly if it involves spending a day playing in mountains of tulle), we packed our bags and went down to the new Anthropologie & Co. in Palo Alto to give their brick-and-mortar BHLDN a test run.

Result: I think one of our models might marry her brand-new significant other just for the dress. (We support this as a solid life choice, riiigghhhhttttt?)

BHLDN stylist putting a veil on a black bride at the Palo Alto salonblack plus size bride wearing BHLDN Carson gown in the Palo Alto Anthropologie store

WHAT MY WEDDING DREAMS ARE MADE OF

Shopping at BHLDN is everything my wedding dreams are made of, in a way that I’ve never gotten to experience up till now. Not because my wedding dreams are so impossibly lofty, but because the wedding dress industry is generally so terrible. And finally (FINALLY) somebody got it right. (I’m sure the fact that they are staffed by women who have all recently planned weddings or have friends that are getting married has a 1:1 correlation to why they’re killing the game.)

Bride wearing BHLDN Elize dressPretty Plum Sugar Robes at BHLDNBride wearing BHLDN Hayden Gown in Palo Alto Salon

WHAT IT’S LIKE TO SHOP AT A BHLDN STORE

When we walked into BHLDN we were met by sales associates that were not working on commission. (Times this happens in normal wedding salons: approximately zero.) They were delightful and wanted us do have a good experience but had zero attachment to the outcome (or the price tag).

Bride wearing BHLDN Natalia gown in Palo Alto Salonplus size black bride wearing BHLDN eira gown in Palo Alto salonbride wearing bhldn wedding accessories

Once I got over how beautiful the BHLDN salon is—it’s more or less the best of Pinterest IRL—I was delighted by how much variety there was. In all of my years in the wedding industry, I’ve never been at a shop where I could easily try on short wedding dresses, wedding separates, wedding gowns, wedding jumpsuits (swoon), and non-white wedding dresses. Plus the range of prices was huge, and what you got for your money at every price point seemed like a wedding miracle. (I fell in love with this dress below, which costs $2,400, but easily looks like a $10,000 dress).

Bride wearing BHLDN Lily gown on blue anthropologie velvet couchBride wearing BHLDN blake gown in Palo Alto salon

And to top it all off, while BHLDN had a stunning range of wedding accessories, from traditional to more hip, and the stylist also had access to the whole Anthropologie store. So when I wanted something a little edgier to pair with my wedding separates, they ran down stairs and got me some chunky jewelry.

Bride wearing BHLDN mara jumpsuit

And when I was looking for something bright to pair with a swank ’70s jumpsuit, I was able to grab these Loeffler Randall shoes from the Anthropologie shoe section. (Which… may have come home with me as a late Christmas present…)

pink loeffler randall tassel shoesbride wearing BHLDN starling gown on a blue velvet anthropologie sofa

Almost every woman on our team, from models to production interns, found a dream dress (or, um, five) in that store. I could have spent half the day trying on every possible combination of wedding separates (something I hope will take over the industry soon), but until the day I have time for that, I might get this to wear around the office. I KID! But I seriously am pondering saving up for this sweater:

bride wearing BHLDN separates

So if you’re about to start wedding dress shopping and are dreading the choice between the traditional salon experience and ordering a dozen dresses online then hoping you remember return them within the appropriate window of time, then the new salon experience from BHLDN might be the dress shopping experience of your dreams.

three brides walking down the stairs wearing BHLDN dresses at the Anthropologie palo alto store

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This post was sponsored by BHLDN. If you’re looking for gorgeous, affordable wedding dresses and a store experience that makes you feel empowered, then head here and make an appointment for yourself at one of the new BHLDN salons. BHLDN’s salon experience is available at fourteen different locations including New York, Atlanta, Houston, Philadelphia, Seattle, and the Bay Area.

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  • idkmybffjill

    I LOVED my BHLDN dress. I also bought the wrap meg is wearing in the secnd to last picture and was SO PSYCHED to wear it, but it ended up being unseasonably warm. Ahh well. Love you forever, BHLDN.

    • JC

      A wedding sweater has never occurred to me. A wedding sweater will be happening.

      • Lisa

        Maddie has some great roundups for wedding jackets and cover-ups in the archives. I ended up buying #12 here for my own wedding, and it looked fabulous!

        • Eenie

          Maddie’s roundups are the best.

          • Jess

            I actually bought a sparkly dress off a Maddie round-up, it remains my favorite thing in my closet even though I rarely have a good reason to wear a gold sequins midi-dress with long sleeves. Plz send more round-ups!

          • CMT

            Get together with the commenter who bought the tiara and have some amazing Netflix parties!

          • Jess

            YES. I have said that I should put on some glamorous lipstick, put on the dress, pour myself some wine and read a book.

      • idkmybffjill

        I’m still pretty sad it was too hot. lol

      • clarkesara

        I just bought myself a wedding leather jacket! Early spring weddings rule!

  • JC

    I can’t tell you how excited this makes me for when I’ll need a dress…in like 3 years. To have an option with multiple locations, with reasonable prices, and the BEAUTIFUL pieces that I see every time BHLDN is featured, dream come true.

    • clarkesara

      One thing I’ll say re BHLDN is DO NOT GET MARRIED TO A SPECIFIC DRESS THEY SELL if you’re not actually shopping soon. Their whole business is modeled more on high street retail than traditional bridal salon, which is great across the board but means they turn over their stock very quickly. There are dresses in the sale section of their website right now which did not exist when I was drying on dresses back in May 2016.

  • JLily

    I got my dress at BHLDN last year. They have a shop at the Seattle Anthro location. I made my appointment online, picked a few dresses from the website to have ready for the appointment, and they assigned an associate who was AMAZING. My cousin, aunt, aunt and mom got to sit on a very anthro-ish couch and sip bubbly while I tried on like 10 dresses. There were a couple other parties there and I use the term party on purpose. Everyone oohed and awed about each other in their dresses, and the whole experience was just so festive and relaxing and all the brides-to-be looked beautiful! I ended up going with a dress that I found online for like $1000 off, and my associate found me the right size. She also gave me an extra 10% off because there was a TINY, unnoticeable, snag in the lace, and shipped it to us for free. Then she set me up with the most wonderful local lady who did my (very minor) alterations. My dress was unique, glamorous, and fit like a glove. Cannot recommend BHLDN enough.

    • Jane

      Would you mind sharing the info for the woman who did your alterations? I’m still figuring out who to have do those.

      • JLily

        Sure! Are you in/near Seattle? Her name is Cheing Saelee and she is perfect.

        • Jane

          Thanks! I’m in Seattle and bought my dress online so I’m gathering recommendations for alterations!

        • Jane

          Also – if you don’t mind sharing – how much were the alterations? Like you, I just need minimal ones (specifically, a bustle added and some straps shortened). I’m trying not to spend what feels like an outrageous amount of money on the alterations. But I find it’s been really hard to get a realistic idea of what is reasonable.

  • Shawna

    Had I been looking for a white (or pastel) dress, I would have loved to shop at BHLDN. My red dress rocked, but I will be forever looking for an excuse to get myself something from BHLDN because their stuff is SO gorgeous.

    • Kalë

      Desperately seeking a pastel (non white) dress! I’ve already obsessively looked, and actually gotten to try on, everything I loved from their recent collections… plz, BHLDN gods/goddesses, keep doing more non-white in future collections so I can find my Perfect Dress before June of next year!

      • sofar

        They released the Cate gown (light pink) literally a MONTH after I’d already bought my dress (also from BHLDN). I seriously considered wearing two wedding dresses.

      • clarkesara

        Ha, the same thing happened for me as happened for sofar! I ended up with a white dress with blush underlay (not what I thought I’d want, but it looks fantastic and I feel like a princess, but, like, the kind of princess who takes walks and eats food and stuff), and just looked at the BHLDN website for the first time in ages and THEY GOT A DRESS WITH BLUE ACCENTS which was exactly what I wanted back when I was shopping last spring. Luckily it’s in a silhouette that isn’t my thing, or I’d be trying to wheel and deal for a second dress I totally don’t need.

  • Shout out to BHLDN stores for my awesome experience in one: It took me weeks to actually get an appointment so that was tough but I knew it would be worth the wait. I went to their smallish showroom in midtown NYC. The place was really comfy and the employees were super friendly, even though we showed up pretty early with a bunch of suitcases and a (i’m sure quite rare) male—my fashion major brother. I thought I knew exactly which dress I wanted but the sales person encouraged me to look through all the dresses and pull out any that I was interested in. I ended up with one that hadn’t even been on my list but when I put it on, she and i agreed that it was perfect, and my mom and brother who were with me also agreed. As if that weren’t enough of a fabulous experience, the dress arrived at my house literally 4 days after that appointment (and they didn’t charge for shipping). The sales associate followed up via email a few days later to make sure it arrived safely and looked good.

    So, be patient when trying to get an appointment. It’ll be worth it and you’ll most likely find a lovely reasonably-priced dress.

  • beeethanyj

    Last year I went to a traditional bridal store and it was awful. They had almost nothing in my price range and it was just an uncomfortable experience overall. I went to David’s Bridal last week which was a bit crazy on the weekend and they didn’t have all the dresses I wanted to try on. I can’t WAIT to go to BHLDN in a few weeks because they actually have several dresses exactly like what I have in mind in my price range. Hurrah for the non-secret prices!

  • macrain

    When I was planning my wedding three years ago they announced a BHLDN pop up at an Anthro store in NYC and it was amazing. I had ordered a few dresses online, but nothing beats being able to see a bunch of them in person and try on the size that you actually need. My dress cost $800 and I also got a belt and earrings from BHLDN to wear with it afterwards.
    I don’t know if they still do this, but I chatted with a stylist over email. They helped me choose accessories and gave me some guidance with bridesmaids (we ended up doing two coordinating dresses that they could choose from). Obviously the stuff they suggest is BHLDN, but they didn’t pressure me at all, they just made suggestions and were super nice and cool.

    • sofar

      I did the email thing as well. It was SO helpful.

  • sofar

    Went to the BHLDN salon in Houston in 2015 and got the first dress I tried on! (although I tried on many more).

    What I liked:

    -You have to email them your Top 10 dresses beforehand (at least this is how it worked in 2015). That gives you a chance to browse online (and look at prices!) in the privacy of your own home, and ensures you have 10 dresses (in your closest sample size) waiting for you the second you arrive. That also means your well-meaning but pushy mom can’t just start wandering around and pointing at dresses. Mine tried — and my associate was immediately like, “Sofar and I have been communicating about dresses via email for a few weeks, so let’s start with the dresses she picked.”

    -No pushy “bridal stuff.” My associate asked if I was interested in veils. I said no. She said, “OK cool.”

    -The store was beautiful and lit well. Not the florescent-light, bridal-barn experience.

    -They have dresses of all shapes and varieties. But not an intimidating number of dresses. You’re not left wading through a sea of white at a place with 1,000 dresses. You’re choosing your favorites out of, like, 100 dresses.

    -Your dress is mailed to you in A WEEK. ONE (UNO) week. Yes, I had to get it tailored, but I had plenty of time because mine arrived in 5 business days.

    I’ve shopped for dresses with lots of friends, and it’s always been so stressful. There are NO upfront prices, associates zip you intro dresses outside of your budget and, because there’s no advance planning, you find yourself sifting through white dresses hanging in plastic and randomly picking stuff.

    • idkmybffjill

      “That gives you a chance to browse online (and look at prices!) in the privacy of your own home”
      ” You’re choosing your favorites out of, like, 100 dresses.”

      These were CLUTCH for me. I was really irritated when the dress I wanted to try on at David’s bridal was met with, “we’ll find you similar styles”… like, no – this one is on your website. I want this one please.

      • sofar

        Yep and I LOVE that all the BHLDN dresses had immediately identifiable names. Like, I could say, “I’d like to try the Alhambra on again, please” and not “I want to dry on that one dress that was white and had a train but also that detailing on the bodice, I tried it on like 20 min ago?”

        • idkmybffjill

          YES.
          The only thing for me was that my lady referred to them all as “She”, and also we didn’t particularly connect. She kept saying, “Isn’t she beautiful!” and our whole crew thought she meant, umm, me – but then would realize she was talking about the gown. Lol

          • Jane

            Hahahahaha. I guess they get very attached to their gowns – and they do give most of them human-name sounding names

          • sofar

            Ok yeah, that’s a bit … weird. I know all the dresses have girl names, but wow.

    • Eenie

      Yes! My associate picked out my dress for me based on what I was liking. It wasn’t on my radar because it was twice my budget. Turns out it was actually 60% off! And no alterations needed!

    • clarkesara

      When I went to the Los Angeles store in May 2016, you didn’t *have* to send them your top 10, but they did encourage you to give them some ideas. Also, I loved that my stylist listened to what I wanted and pulled basically what I asked for rather than the whole “I will bring you ugly garbage that you say you don’t want, so as to upsell you or move some crap out of our stockroom” thing that others describe. I don’t think I tried on a single thing I didn’t go there wanting to try, aside from one set of separates that was a combo I hadn’t thought to put together, which was on a mannequin in the store. I get that some people have no idea where to start or what types of clothes suit them, but BHLDN leads with having you look over their line and bringing you the things you mentioned that you liked. Which at least makes you feel like a real human with agency.

  • BSM

    Mmmmmm pretty dresses, I love you!

    So, for the other already-married ladies here, other than the occasional black-tie wedding, how do you create or find events to attend that warrant a super fancy get up? I think there was a thread about this in a previous HH, but I am dying to get dressed up and don’t know where to go!

    • Lisa

      When we lived in Chicago, we regularly attended the opening galas for the symphony and opera, which was a great opportunity to get dressed up in our fanciest formals. I’m sure that other arts organizations (museums, etc.) might have similar gala events, and then the money supports local non-profits!

    • Amy March

      Charity galas are my go to “I need to get fancy” event. Masquerade “balls” for Halloween or NYE. Fancy college reunions (maybe I crashed Princeton Reunions once?). Some cruises have formal nights. You can go to Vienna for ball season which sounds incredible.

      • BSM

        Vienna for ball season is a thing that will be happening in my life.

        • Amy March

          They said it was pretty easy- you can even buy ball tickets on line to most of them!

          • Shawna

            Oh my gosh it’s true! I didn’t have a bucket list before, but this is going on it! How did I not know this was a thing?!

    • Eenie

      I’ve never even been to a black tie wedding! I have thrown dinner parties or fancy cocktail parties and worn super fancy dresses. Not everyone participates, but I don’t care. I’ll wear a sequin covered dress and 4 inch heels while my husband wears jeans and a polo (true story, this was us the evening before our wedding!). I really like rent the runway so you don’t feel like you spent too much on a dress that you’ll wear once or twice.

      • BSM

        I’ve never been to a black tie wedding, either! I just figured that was a likely answer. Luckily, one of my friends who’s been engaged for 2 years is finally getting married next year, and it’ll be black tie!!! I can’t wait :D

    • Opera, ballet, symphony concerts. hopefully I will someday be invited to a black tie wedding though.

  • Alyssa

    I got my dress from the Walnut Creek BHLDN, and they were awesome, even when I liked so many dresses that I had to make a second appointment (and finally bought the one that I had subconsciously been obsessed with the whole time!). The women who work there were great, and because they’ve either recently married or have otherwise been privy to the experience, I found that they had helpful, down-to-earth yet practical advice for picking dresses, choosing sizes, etc. My best friend got her dress from the PA store (the one in this posts’ pics), and it was a FABULOUS experience. I wouldn’t recommend anywhere else!

  • clarkesara

    I got my dress from the Beverly Hills BHLDN! In addition to the fantastic, customer-driven, and relaxed level of service in the stores which has already been addressed, my favorite part of the experience was that it was *exactly* the amount of wedding dress experience that “I don’t know if I really want a wedding dress” me and my ultra-traditional “order a year in advance and schedule 3 fittings” mom could agree on. She got to come with me to an actual place that was beautifully decorated and in a swank part of Los Angeles and where we could drink champagne and look at pretty stuff for hours, I got a store that carries the sort of unfussy and non-traditional* dresses that appeal to me, and we left with a completely reasonably priced dress that made everyone happy.

    Also, I was very pleased that the dress I chose used “streetwear” sizing and fit about how you’d expect modern off-the-rack clothing to fit. I only need alterations for hemming (always a must, I’m a shorty who hates heels) and to insert bra cups into my dress because it is backless. I will never understand the weirdo sizing and dresses that need piles of alterations to actually fit on you. It’s a dress. We figured this shit out for all other clothing in, like, the Civil War. Likewise, my dress was back-ordered and even then took under 90 days to be shipped to my home, basically ready to walk down the aisle in.

    *OMG GUYS SPOILER ALERT I picked exactly the kind of romantic, white, tulle-and-lace bridal gown I never thought I’d want, but damn if the jumpsuits and separates and rose gold sequins didn’t get me in the door.

  • Anna

    I got my dress at the BHLDN salon outside Boston, and the whole thing was awesome. Brought a bridesmaid and another close friend who’s really into weddings, tried on five or six dresses, fell in love with one (http://www.bhldn.com/shop-the-bride-wedding-dresses/meghan-gown/). Called to buy it a couple weeks later, they still waived shipping even though I didn’t directly buy it in-store. The people were lovely, the dress was way less expensive than I expected, it fit me almost perfectly in my street size, and the shipping was fast.

    Still waiting to see what the tailoring experience ends up being like on a dress that covered in beads, since I actually bought the dress more than a year prior to our June 2017 wedding and thus figured I should wait and get it tailored to the size/shape I’ll actually be closer to the wedding (likely slightly heavier than when I bought the dress).

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  • E.

    I had a fantastic experience at the BHLDN in DC and found lots of dresses and combinations of separates that I loved. I was very nervous going in to the experience, but the woman working with me instantly put me at ease and did a great job of finding dresses she thought I would like.

  • Ashlah

    Silly question… Is it “B-H-L-D-N” or “Beholden?”

    • Jessa

      In my head, I pronounce it as 1 word, “beholden”… :)

    • Katharine Parker

      It’s pronounced beholden. Not a silly question, it isn’t obvious :)

    • Oooooooh. I did not get that it was trying to be a word. That makes so much more sense.

      • Kayakgirl73

        I didn’t know either.

  • Jessa

    I have never been to a BHLDN store but I seriously considered flying to Seattle to go just for the experience. Two things I love about the website:
    1. Reviews! Real photos of others in that dress are so helpful, and I love the reviewers that clarify things like, “The tulle was much softer than I thought” or “the colour is more of a blush in daylight instead of ivory”. Love love love.
    2. I love the bridesmaid sections too. Many brides have purchased their wedding dress from the bridesmaid section and I think this is a great option.

    We purchased a card box and a ring box that were both glass and gold edging (think: geometric terrarium). They arrived within 48 hours of placing the order and were impeccably packed so there was no damage, even to those fragile items.

    I wish I could get married again just to wear a bhldn dress. Can we just have an APW black tie ball? :)

    • Rebekah

      I would attend the shit out of an APW ball. Any chance they might do another wedding like they did years back in NYC?

    • Marie Tachouet

      Jessa, not sure where you’re located…but there’s a very small BHDLN upstairs in the Portland Anthro. Check it out if you’re closer to there than Seattle :)

  • Notreallytrevor

    Please BHLDN release some more separates. Long sleeve, sheer and sparkly if possible, thanks! I think I know what I want but I have a feeling it’s in your guy’s head!

  • sparagmos

    I’m just dropping in to say that APW is the only site I’ll read sponsored content on, because I know you choose your sponsors mindfully and make great content regardless of sponsored status. Love the pics of you all trying on dresses. I wish there had been a BHLDN store near me when I was getting married!

  • Natasha Romanova

    What size do their dresses go up to?

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      Most of them go up to a 16.

  • Sarah

    Definitely NOT dream dresses. I’ve clicked on a bunch of dresses and it seems most only go up to size 14 or 16- which is the average size for a woman in the US. So basically, not a dream dress for a lot of brides out there. A bit disappointed APW doesn’t mention this. If someone like me goes to the salon, it would be quite embarrassing to be told they had nothing in a 14W or 16W.

    • clarkesara

      This doesn’t help a whole lot, but it’s useful to know that BHLDN’s dresses are sized according to street sizing. So yes, they only go up to 16, which isn’t enough, but that’s not formal gown 16, it’s in the same ballpark as a 16 from any mall or high street store.

  • Their dresses are gorgeous! But it seems like they are mostly ivory/natural, and unfortunately, my coloring tends to look much better in white. I guess I’d have to stick with their color options (which appeal to me anyways because of increased re-wearability)…?

  • Sandeep Rawat

    Hiring a wedding planner and a party chef is a boon !
    Read Blog:
    https://fingrsnap.wordpress.com/2017/01/20/importance-of-party-chief/
    http://www.fingrsnap.in

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  • disco2000tanya

    I just can’t get on board with supporting a company whose founder/CEO donated to Rick Santorum: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/16/anti-gay-companies_n_4110344.html

    I find the idea of purchasing a wedding dress from someone who supports an anti-same sex marriage candidate particularly upsetting.