I would like to thank AnnaLisa Cammalleri for taking the time to write this blog. It means a lot when a bride loved her experience at Valencienne so much that she takes the time to tell the world all about it. I meet so many brides and I love them all and there are times when you meet a bride and she just exudes personality. The French have a unique phrase for it – ‘joie de vivre’ – and well AnnaLisa is one of these people. We looked forward to every fitting, she was such a breath of fresh air.
Designing her wedding gown was so enjoyable for me – it was one of my highlights last year. Annalisa lit up our boutique every time she entered it. When she finally picked up her gown, we hugged and I have to admit I had tears in my eyes as we both realized that we had come to the end of our business relationship. I thought of Annalisa many times while she was away on her honeymoon. She sent a lovely email saying that she was suffering from ‘Valencienne withdrawal’ and proposed that we get together when she returned. I look forward to seeing AnnaLisa and welcome her in my showroom once again. –Kim Ironmonger
It is now 2 months after our wedding and the dust has settled. A year’s worth of planning (probably more like 2) came and went in ONE day! It is bitter-sweet. Without a doubt we could not be happier to finally be married and begin our new life’s together- but on the other hand we just can’t believe that all the time and energy put into planning such a special day is now a just a memory. Family and friends cautioned us to enjoy every moment – or to take a few moments in the day to step back and just breath it all in. We did or at least we tried- but at this point it all seems like a blur. All we’ve got now are our photos and video to take us back to what is possibly the most important day in our lives. We sat there alone on our honeymoon and just giggled- "It’s over" is what we kept saying to each other- emotions of joy, amazement, shock, and if we can admit, a bit of ‘wedding withdrawal’.
As an extremely decisive bride- with a groom who left all planning and creative direction to me- the overall wedding planning was effortless. The Church, hall, floral, decor, entertainment, and any other small detail you can imagine- was pretty much booked within the first few months of our engagement. I truly wanted the whole process of our wedding to be a joyous one and to run smoothly. In saying this- mom and I thought the wedding dress search would follow suit. Unfortunately- being the extremely decisive bride I had a particular style in mind, and this made our search anything but simple.
We began our search 11 months prior to the wedding date- September 2nd, 2011. We scheduled 3-4 bridal boutiques every Friday for the next 2 months and in some cases on a Saturday as well. I really did not want to be one ‘those brides’ you know the ones you see on TV, the ‘bridezillas’, nonetheless, name a store in the GTA and I’ve been there. This was so uncharacteristic of me and is probably the point where the ‘bridezilla’ in me was unleashed I was so conclusive with everything else- why couldn’t I find the dress of my dreams? If it wasn’t in the previous store, than surely it would be in the next- so we just kept searching. This explains how I ended up trying on over 100 dresses. (Probably closer to 150) Certainly this is insane to most- but it actually ended up becoming fun. Mom and I would make a day out of it- book our first appointment bright and early- maybe see one more store- break for lunch- regroup- see another store or two- and start up all over again the next week. (My maid of honour would join occasionally when she was in town)
I remember each and every appointment as if it was yesterday- the good, the bad, the expensive, the not so expensive, the uptown, downtown, the East and West. I will say for the most part many of the stores were extremely helpful and tried all they could to contribute to the search of my dress. Unfortunately for them it wasn’t something anyone had in a store or off the rack. My dress was something in my mind that seemed to be an assortment of styles that I had seen either in magazines or on television.
We did come close a couple of times. Steering in a completely different direction mom and I fell in love with an Oscar de la Renta ball gown and a second time with a Lazaro ball gown. Both beautiful- both not for me! On a third occasion in a store that shall remain nameless (rhymes with Vera Wang) we found a beautiful lace dress- right up my alley, but required a tonne of alterations to make it become what I was actually looking for. At this point it became a totally new dress. The selection is this store was decent but we found the sales lady to be cold and rude. At one point she yelled at my MOH for having her cell phone out stating “No photos allowed” (First- she was checking an email and second- this was a rule I didn’t understand in any of the boutiques – these dresses were all available to view online so why couldn’t we take a photo to see how it physically looked on my body?) Despite all of this we really did like the dress and we were at our wit’s end with the dress search. We left for lunch and were planning to go back later in the day. As we sat for lunch I noticed my cell phone was missing. Logically it would be in that last place that we were, so returned to the bridal store to claim my phone. As I was going through the phone to ensure it was actually mine- there was a video not taken by me, but in fact by the sales lady. It appeared as though she was snooping through my phone to make sure my mom had not been taking photos. The lady had no clue how to work my phone and accidentally videoed herself snooping. Needless to say we did not return as we were not impressed.
At this point we were essentially done searching for a dress. We were drained mentally and physically. All we had been seeing for 2 months was WHITE! Wedding gowns in every shape, fabric, style, pattern and collection- I had seen it all and was ready to throw in the towel. We were on our way home from the whole cell phone fiasco- it was pouring rain- and we had no intentions to go into another store. Mom pulled up in front of a store I had driven past for years. I knew it was there but it never crossed my mind to go in- Valencienne. She said, “This is the last one.” We went in and all I have to say looking back is “Jeez, we could’ve saved ourselves a tonne of time and lunch money had we come here first!” Kim welcomed us with open arms, calmed us down and assured us there was light at the end of this tunnel.
I’ll admit- as a creative person and a bit of a perfectionist, it was difficult for me to hand everything over to Kim and the team. The day we gave our deposit and began our relationship with Kim, I had a slight panic attach. I thought, most people go into a bridal boutique and try on the dress they are going to get married in and can go to bed that night knowing they left a deposit on a dress they love. We went home leaving a deposit on hope and trust. And eventually it was just something I had to let go of- I had to trust Kim knowing she has been doing this for years, and hope she was going to make the gown of my dreams. Together with the ideas I had bottled up in my head and her expertise- we created something that was amazing and one of a kind. She was open to hearing all of my thoughts, but honest enough to tell me when I was going overboard (I tend to do that). We literally started from scratch- she sketched out my vision, we had a muslin fitting (which freaked my mom out a bit) and we reviewed a variety of laces and fabrics. (I am now a self-proclaimed expert in lace).
Kim and her team must have thought we were crazy- phone calls in between appointments, countless emails, new ideas once we finalized something, I even resorted to sneaking an appointment without mom knowing only to ensure the “sexiness” of the dress which mom wanted to keep to a minimum. Just ridiculous, but Kim was there for it all!
At this point the dress took on a life of its own and it now became all about the dress. It even shaped the theme of our wedding as I was working with no official theme. The concept gradually became all about WHITE AND LACE. When explaining to my fiancé (now husband) what we were up to every time we met Kim I was always overjoyed and could not contain myself. I kept coming back to a quote from the Sex and the City movie, where Carrie explains to her fiancé the all the hype about the wedding,
“It’s the dress…How can I explain this? Look…you play poker, right? Well, the dress upped the ante.” –Carrie Bradshaw
We had an ongoing joke the summer of our wedding where he would ask me what I was most excited for and I would say “I can’t wait to see you at the end of the isle..but I really cannot wait to wear my dress.” I knew he was going to love it and he did!
Our three adorable flower girls also wore Valencienne, I asked Kim to create the “poofiest” tutus she can think of- and I think they came out wonderfully! The girls went through a similar process as mine, only not so detailed. They went for the one measurement fitting and a second to actually try the completed dresses on. Our girls wore those dresses like little angels.
Some may say it is just a dress and is not that important. The truth is it is just a dress- but every bride deserves to look and feel her best on that special day. It is just like any other fashion or clothing item where it becomes an expression of yourself and your style. It is ONE day so why not?! The work that Kim and the team executed on this dress was incredible and it actually became a piece of art. The beading was all hand done and it took them weeks to complete. The lace was intricately placed to give shape and emphasis to my body and all the accessories made by hand were perfection. I was dressed head to toe in Valencienne and couldn’t be happier!
Thank you Kim and Valencienne- I know this is just the beginning of our friendship!