Impressed with the dress but not the service: Do your research

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 31, 2014

Two and seven. Those are the number of days left until I stand before God, family and friends to declare my love and support to my fiance, Vanzie Walker III. It seems like just yesterday he placed a ring on my left hand and asked that life-changing question.
Since February I’ve taken readers on the wedding planning process with us through this series of monthly columns. Columnist Mark Wineka coined the title Altar Ego since I can claim two personas, bride-to-be and crime reporter.
I moved to Salisbury in late 2005 and not long after I met Vanzie at a church event at Dan Nicholas Park. I was just a South Carolina girl focused on my career and living in a new city. He was just a Salisbury boy not looking for a relationship, but yet God saw fit to place us together.
Vanzie and I became engaged in November during a birthday dinner for me at my favorite restaurant, Chili’s.
Now we have less than a month ­— three weeks and six days (649 hours; 38,940 minutes and 2,336,400 seconds) to be exact. Whew, time flies when you’re planning a wedding.
In the first column I wrote in February the last line said “next stop — the dress.” I still get asked if I’ve found my dress. The answer is yes. I tried on half a dozen dresses from here to Charlotte and set eyes on many more in between.
While in college, planning my wedding to no one in particular, I always thought I wanted a ball gown with a Princess Diana 25-foot train. Thank goodness tastes change over the years.
I settled on one that was modest, vintage, off-white with lace. It had what I wanted and was similar to my dream dress I’d seen on my favorite website, Pinterest.
I pride myself on filling my wedding columns with tips, tricks and advice, but I didn’t take my own advice. I didn’t fully do my research when it came to finding my own wedding dress.
Now if you remember, my first column I said I’m a planner and even planned my wedding before I met the man.
I’m woman enough to admit I should’ve done my homework. Now before I continue, let me say I love my wedding dress. Let me also preface this with I’m not “bashing” any retailer, but hopefully someone will learn from my experience.
I’d first gone to a retailer I’d met at a Concord bridal show. I was excited because the woman said the magic words, “discounts” and “percent off.” I mean, Mama didn’t raise no fool. But the affordable dresses weren’t me.
The saleswoman placed me in a dress that was heavenly until I saw the $1,091 price tag. The four digits on the price tag brought an abrupt end to that day’s shopping adventure. But,the saleswoman’s disregard for my wishes was more upsetting than the cost.
A little side note to brides-to-be: if a saleswoman doesn’t listen to you, don’t be bullied into buying. Ultimately, you want to feel good about your decision.
Which brings me to the next retail establishment, where the wedding dress misadventures continued.
I’ll only say that my dress came from a popular wedding dress retailer, which I found in the north Charlotte area. The experience wasn’t ideal and I’m being generous with my descriptions.
After my initial fitting I requested the scraps from my dress be saved for me and placed with my dress upon my next visit. On the next visit I was told I had no scraps.
I was calm when the clerk told me there was no mention of scraps and I was calm when she brought me back what looked like a crumpled piece of tissue as “the only scraps she could find.”
I told the seamstress before I left my gown on that first visit, plus I called to have a note placed on the dress two days later.
“I’m pinning a note to the dress right now,” another seamstress told me by phone.
A seamstress told me she found some scraps that “looked close enough” to my dress she said. She also said she didn’t know what happened to my scraps because she was just “filling in.”
I do believe that was the moment I turned into bridezilla. I called my fiance because I knew he’d calm me down, because at that point I was more devastated than angry.
I walked out of the store and sat in my car thinking about my options. My sister advised me to go back inside and ask for the store manager’s name and number to file a complaint with the company’s corporate office.
I returned to the store and the initial seamstress told me they didn’t save scraps, so she would not have promised that; however, another woman listening to my now-heated exchange produced a large plastic garment bag filled with dress scraps. She then matched the scraps to my dress.
Now rather than lie to me, the employees could’ve just admitted they screwed up. At least that was the truth.
Did I mention that at the final fitting a week ago, they gave me someone else’s dress? I knew I’d lost a few pounds, but I didn’t think my workouts were that good. I tried the dress on and it just didn’t feel right. She asked me if my name was something or other and I said no.
“Oops this is someone else’s dress,” she said.
I’m grateful the scraps were found and happy to report my friend Tasha will still make me a headpiece from the leftover silk and lace. I’m happy that my dress made it back home with me and is now hanging in my closet. But, I am saddened that a popular bridal retailer would be so careless with my experience.
Afterward I found a few negative reviews online of this same store with other brides.
It goes to show just because it’s popular doesn’t mean you’ll “love” it.
I should’ve done my research and I invite every bride or groom or planner or bridesmaid to look into who you do business with.
We are now in the final stages of wedding planning and, no, we’re not nervous. We’ve gotten that question more than any other. How can I be nervous about marrying this man?
I always give tips I’ve discovered from my own self-exploration, but here are some tips from others.

• A wedding lasts a day, but a marriage is for a lifetime.
“Marriage is not just the wedding day,” Vanzie’s godmother, minister Sharon Turner, told us.
She’s counseled many couples who didn’t really enter the marriage fully aware of differences, similarities and beliefs. The wedding day may be great, she said, but you have to look beyond that one day (I’m paraphrasing that part).
Her words have stayed with me. When Vanzie and I disagree about this or that wedding thing, we both stop, take a moment and say, “I love you.” It’s easy to get carried away, but that “I love you” reminds us why we are getting married.
• You may hurt some feelings.
I spoke to a photographer from a Charlotte news station who told me when he and his wife got married, they only invited 50 people.
“That’s it?” I asked.
“That’s it,” he said.
“How did that work out for you?” I asked him.
“We still have friends and relatives who don’t talk to us,” he said.
He told me his budget was small and they wanted a small wedding. He said you may have some hurt feelings, but it’s your day.
If we could, we would invite everyone we’ve ever met (OK, not everyone), but when we looked at our guest list we thought about the people who’ve supported our relationship, and those family and friends we wanted to share our happiness with on that day.
If you’re reading this and you weren’t invited, we both sincerely hope you understand or at least don’t stay mad at us for long.
• Counseling should be required.
We’ve had a few counseling sessions as required by our pastor and I think they should be required of all couples who intend to get married.
There are all sorts of topics that a pastor or someone trained to provide guidance can discuss.
Our pastor suggested we read “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. I would encourage others to read this book as well. The book details the different ways people express, experience and receive love.
• R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
Communication has to be the most often heard advice, but right up there with communication is respect.
It’s a word that I think would quell a lot of arguments, solve a lot of problems and should be one of the foundations of marriage.
If you have respect for each other, then you wouldn’t say half the words you later regret you said during a heated argument. If you have respect for each other, maybe there would be fewer issues about money and issues about the in-laws.
The next column you read from me, I will technically write before my wedding, but by the time you read it, I’ll be Mrs. Walker.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.