So, I recently got married. As a sustainability advocate, the wedding planning process was quite complicated for me – it’s an awful lot of money to spend on a single day – and the products you need to throw one aren’t exactly reusable. A veil only has so many uses and people are probably going to immediately toss any favors you lovingly select for them. As a feminist, I also had plenty of mixed feelings about being a bride. The media is saturated with images of women that lose their minds in the process of planning a wedding, becoming bridezillas or spending a fortune on products the wedding industrial complex would have you believe are necessary for your happiness.
I didn’t want to be like that. But I also wanted to plan a perfect day for our family and friends to come together and celebrate. I wanted dancing and a great meal and, when I really thought about it, I wanted all the traditional stuff too: the chuppah, the father-daughter dance, and yes, a pretty dress.
So it was a good thing I stumbled on to Encore Bridal in my search.
Encore Bridal is an online marketplace for consignment wedding dresses offered at huge discounts, with a storefront boutique in San Francisco.
What makes Encore Bridal so special, though, is its proprietor’s incredible commitment to her brides.
Owner Julie Jones sold me a dress last May (I’m a planner…) and over the course of four (sigh) fittings, I got to learn a lot about her business and what makes her tick.
Julie loves weddings – she told me that when she was getting ready for her own nuptials, she would sneak off to try on her dress and veil and just look in the mirror and think about her big day. She decided to start her shop so that she could help brides find great dresses on a budget. Here’s her story:
I’ve known I wanted to work in the wedding industry as far back as I can remember. When I was a child, my Barbies would have elaborate weddings that I’d plan for days. When I was 13 I sketched my wedding dress – a long sleeved, high neck gown with rosette appliqués (it was the 80s!). After searching for my dream wedding dress, I realized there was a need in the market – couture dresses without the couture prices. This was the most important garment I would ever wear and I wanted it to be special – made from the highest quality fabrics and with detailed craftsmanship. The problem was, my budget didn’t allow for the high-end price tag. In the end, I compromised (out went the flower budget), but happily our brides don’t have to.
For anyone who has watched Say Yes to the Dress, it will come as no surprise that many wedding dresses retail for prices above $5,000 and it’s not unusual to see dresses sold for twice that. Julie’s dresses are used or samples, which means she can sell them 50-80 percent off the retail price. Women with champagne tastes and beer budgets – or women who’d rather reuse than buy new – can get a gorgeous dress at a reasonable price.
I was not the kind of bride who had been dreaming about her wedding for years and years, so I needed a lot of help with accessories, shoes and even underwear choices. Julie met me where I was and counseled me through all the choices one has to make – veil or no veil, shoes, jewelry, whether or not my dress needed sleeves, and, if you can believe it – how wide the sleeves should be and how they should attach to my body. Once we’d decided, she went out of her way to find a lace that matched my dress for the veil and arranged through one of her partners to get it handmade for me. She seemed delighted the entire time.
The sustainability story here is obvious – reuse of valuable materials is something we encourage in every industry. But many sustainability advocates often speak about the power of human connection and its importance to the sustainability movement. We might use different terms, like conscious capitalism or employee engagement to describe it, but the idea is the same. Human connection – treating each other well – is an important part of running a company sustainably. With a little more love, stuff runs more smoothly and we need also need a few less things.
Julie brings a burning desire to help her clients have the best wedding day possible to every interaction, and her Yelp reviews indicate that her other clients feel it, too. Encore Bridal’s attention to connection shows – ironically – that it’s not just about the dress.
Jen Boynton is the Editor in Chief of TriplePundit. She’s off on her honeymoon in the Galapagos until April 23rd.