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First impressions are of the utmost importance, as anyone who’s ever walked into a store knows. What a bride sees as soon as she walks into your boutique affects how she feels going into her appointment – and this feeling will stick with her the entire time, possibly carrying over into the review she writes or verbally shares.
   It’s easy to create a vibe – be it elegant, comfortable, sophisticated or a feeling of being taken care of – with correctly-chosen furniture, colors, flowers and gowns on display, all of which lets your bride know what to expect from her appointment. It helps put her in the frame of mind of finding and buying that dress from you. Here we celebrate some beautiful entryways from boutiques around the country, which wow with their beauty, style and effortless welcome.

Elle James Bridal
Ridgeland, Miss.
   Brides entering Elle James are hit immediately with an Instagram-worthy spot: A chic white leather couch sits under a lighted Elle James sign on bubble-like wallpaper. “Every area of our shop was made to look like an Instagrammable moment, especially the Elle James sign,” says owner Kristin Panetta. In front of brides and to the right of the sofa is a feature rack of gowns highlighting trunk show dresses or a designer of the week. To the right is the welcome reception desk. “Wedding dress shopping should feel special; it’s a moment you dream about forever,” Panetta says. “When creating our space, we wanted people to feel like they were walking out of Mississippi into a bridal dreamland – luxurious, chic, and laidback. We strive to feel approachable while also remaining chic and upscale.“

Something White Bridal
Cleveland, Ohio
   Something White Bridal is in an historic 1892 building that features warm wooden floors and an original staircase, visible from the entrance. As soon as brides enter they see a bright and uncluttered shop featuring three mannequins to show off some gowns, especially new ones or dresses that are on-trend, a leather bench and wedding books. To the right there’s a rack of dresses, with the gowns nicely spaced, says owner Rebecca Somnitz. “By having an uncluttered shop, a bride can easily see our gowns right off the bat and can get an immediate feeling if we are going to have what she wants,” Somnitz says. “We are often complimented for having a nice curated collection of gowns that isn’t overwhelming and that isn’t crammed into the racks.” And, she adds, “the less cluttered the shop the less cluttered the mind and the easier it is to concentrate on what the bride came to my shop to do – find a gown.” Behind the dresses is fake boxwood, which brings a seemingly natural element to the store, along with an incredible pop of color. Somnitz wants brides to feel immediately welcomed, excited, calm and connected to her and her staff to build trust and so they can mentally take on the gown decision.

The Boutique by B. Belle Events
Charleston, W.Va.
   Thirty-foot high ceilings create a feel of airiness as soon as brides enter The Boutique, which is housed in an historic building more than 100 years old. The boutique opens out in front of customers, showing merchandise and other brides having appointments, while a reception desk sits to the left. This enormous piece of furniture is made of modern farmhouse wood that complements the French countryside chairs and love seats nearby, says owner Belle Manjong. There are trees potted in huge vessels to give some natural, fresh green color, which also serve to make the ceiling height just a bit less imposing, she points out. To the right is the designated space where brides have pictures taken to celebrate finding their gown. “It’s located there to serve as a goal the bride wants to achieve – becoming a #BBelleBride,” Manjong says. “It’s not just a snap and go. It’s a continuation and the grand finale of a mini photoshoot brides have had throughout the appointment. At this point, they are models and know how to strike a pose, ready to capture that final #BBelleBride highlight.”

Garnish Boutique
Baltimore, Md.
   Garnish Boutique’s layout is designed to make brides feel like they’re walking into a bridal closet. The first thing they see are wedding dresses on either side with a centered table full of bridal accessories. “This first impression is one we feel gets our clients excited about their shopping experience,” says owner Mia Antalics. “Being able to see our gorgeous gowns and their beautiful designs and texture firsthand rather them having them hidden or pulled from a back room allows them to also be a part of the experience. They can see, touch and feel before even trying on.”

A Little Something White
Darien, Conn.
   Brides are welcomed to A Little Something White via all five of their senses as soon as they walk through the front door, says Liz Kohler, marketing manager. “You only have one chance for a great first impression, so we make sure all five senses are kept in mind,” Kohler says. “Dresses are organized by color so it’s appealing to the eye; the music we play is both energizing yet calming enough that it is not too distracting; we have a calming signature scent; and guests have the choice of either champagne or chilled water,” she says. “We also display merchandise that’s easily accessible for customers to pick up and touch. We feel all of these aspects help to make a customer feel comfortable and welcome.” As brides enter, they have a full view of the store’s merchandise, with mannequins displaying everything from bridal gowns to evening wear. There’s also a plush seating area to ensure comfort if they arrive early.

Bella Bridal Boutique
Lake Elmo, Minn.
   When Bella Bridal moved to a new location three years ago, owner Kirsten Walfoort wanted to have a more edgy and high-end look. Brides entering are greeted by a reception desk with warm stained walnut wood with a quartz center wrap, with a partial stone wall behind the stylists. An exposed black ceiling gives an edgy warehouse feel and the desk flanks the windows where bridal gowns are on full display, so customers can see them from every angle. To the right are open glass doors, leading down to the personal bridal suites. Brides can glimpse lace curtains, a sophisticated seating area with leather upholstered chairs, along with merchandise. “We’ve always thought that wedding dress shopping should be as exciting as it is beautiful and so many stores can fall flat in that area,” Walfoort says. “We wanted our store to be beautiful but also very comfortable when you walk in.” “We would never want our space to feel stuffy or unwelcoming,” she says. “I think our entrance and first impression is one of excitement and a little teasing as most of the gowns are behind the glass doors. We want our brides to feel catered to and special when they are brought through the doors.”

Coreena’s Bridal
College Station, Texas
   A shimmer wall made out of sequins is the first thing brides see as they enter Coreena’s Bridal. This wall sits directly behind a modern reception desk made of white glass tile. In between the two is a mannequin, wearing a gown that changes monthly. “The shimmer wall is something most people have never seen and this is always a great conversation-starter,” says owner Coreena Ferrata. “We wanted something that separates us by incorporating something no one has ever seen before. A large part of our business plan involved an over-the-top elegant and glam store.” Ferrata created the shimmer wall by using square panels with individual sequins already attached. She keeps a fan beneath the front desk to keep the sequins moving, “which creates sort of a waterfall effect,” she says. “We want our store to feel modern, clean and elegant,” Ferrata says. “Our price range isn’t for the modest budget so we want to set the expectation right away that our brides will receive a high-end experience.”

The Sentimentalist
Atlanta, Ga.
   The Sentimentalist is a bright, open store with an open floorplan that brides see as soon as they enter, to see merchandise and appointments in-progress. The accessory collection separates the two spaces, “allowing for some appointment privacy but also giving walk-in shoppers a slice of the whole experience,” says Gabi Lee, co-owner and creative director. “Showing brides into our open floor plan right away is definitely a way to be super-inviting, like the difference between a person greeting you with a hug vs. their arms folded,” Lee says. Floor-to-ceiling windows line the front wall, allowing light to spill in, and brides walk directly into the foyer space where bright and colorful curved walls are lined with a few on-trend dress forms and custom-designed furniture. A red lacquered front desk invites guests inside, flanked by antique sconces and a subtle mural made of the store’s tagline, “Remember Me.” The lobby is rounded out with a few comfy seating lounges, a small retail space and a corner rack for The Sentimentalist’s vintage collection. “It’s roomy but still merchandised and a fun area for the group guests to shop without disturbing the dress appointments in process,” she says. The vibe, says Lee, “is professional but not fussy, fun but not chaotic, unique but still approachable.” She also hopes that brides realize, as soon as they walk in, that they can expect an appointment at this store to be different than anything else they might have experienced. “We do bridal a little differently around here and so do our designers, and we want it to look like that from the moment you walk inside,” she says.

Twirl Boutique
Lexington, K.Y.
   Upon entering Twirl, brides are met simultaneously by a welcoming reception desk, several styled mannequins, a comfortable seating area, and a peek inside a fitting room and bridal suite. “We intentionally make sure that a bride and her entourage can get a good feel for who we are and how we care for them as soon as they enter,” says Liz Cox, head of sales and brand development. Twirl welcomes everyone. “We make sure every bride feels welcomed as well as represented,” Cox says. “Every photo that’s visible in our welcome area, as well as throughout our boutique, is intentionally chosen and displayed so every bride can see one they can identify with. Our heart is for every bride to feel seen, heard, and celebrated fully while they’re with us.” It’s not just the visual with Twirl but all the senses are engaged, with a signature scent burning, relaxing music coming through speakers, and comfortable seating.

Honest in Ivory
Spokane, Wa.
  Knowing brides make their initial impression about a bridal shop in the first seven seconds upon entering, Cassie Cleary has designed the entrance of her store to give a clean and clear view of the shopping process. Three mannequins showcase three unique gowns right when customers enter, in sizes 6, 14 and 24 “to show we have something for everyone,” Cleary says. Straight ahead is the reception desk, always clear of any clutter, then brides have an open view of the sales floor and dressing room area. “The entrance overall is a wide-open sweeping view that is not cramped or overwhelming,” she says. “The goal of a curated first impression is for the bride to feel fully informed, definitely taken care of, right from the beginning.”

Bella Bianca Bridal Couture
Chicago, Ill.
   Natalie Bauer, owner of Bella Bianca, and her sister Melissa Russell, carefully designed the entrances to both of their salons being mindful of how they would appeal to their guests. “In both locations the first glimpse of Bella Bianca includes a warm entry with a staffed reception desk, a bevy of styled mannequins that are visible from inside the salon as well as from the windows outside, and most importantly, a prominent and well-styled showroom floor,” Bauer says. Walking into an entrance that feels grand, curated and intentional helps set the tone for what brides can expect. “It immediately tells the story of our salon’s personality and sets the mood for how a bride will perceive the likelihood of finding her gown within our boutique,” she says. Bauer hopes the stores’ entries offer “immediate credibility to our reputation as a luxury salon and evoke an excitement for all that is to come in their interactions with our salon.” “There’s nothing better than hearing a bride or one of our guests express their confidence that they are in the right place just moments after walking in, taking in the setting, and being greeted by our team,” she says.

Bridal Chateau
Williamsville, N.Y.
  An Instagram wall greets brides as they walk through the door at Bridal Chateau. The dramatic black-and-white striped wall is designed to wow women and make them excited to show off their own future gown in that setting, says owner Beth Clark. The area also features a number of mannequins of all different sizes, including at least one that’s plus size, which, Clark says, “reassures them that they’ll have gorgeous dresses to try on in their size.” A plush black couch finishes off the area, where brides can pose holding the store’s “Yes” sign. “Brides can’t wait to try on dresses and they can’t wait to take pictures in front of that wall,” Clark says. “It’s set up to get the bride in the mindset that she will say Yes at our boutique. We want to ensure their experience in our store is fun and positive, so we love infusing those feelings right when they walk in the door.” Off to the side is Bridal Chateau’s Thank You mannequin, where the store pins all thank you cards from recent brides “to display all the wonder mail we receive,” Clark says. “Everything is positioned to help them envision saying Yes in our store.”

Lovella Bridal
Glendale, Calif.
   The goal of Lovella Bridal’s entryway is “to create a brand identity that brides want to be a part of,” says wedding fashion expert Nayri Kalayjian. “When they walk in, the thought of being a Lovella Bride is confirmed and it’s just a matter of the stylist finding the bride’s dress/accessories and creating a forever memory for her to cherish for a lifetime.” The first thing brides see once they walk in is a seating area between the entrance of two gown closets, a reception desk on the left, and a neon “I said yes!” sign for social-media moments on the right.  “Our entrance is designed to make brides feel excited and welcomed to say yes to the dress while having a once-in-a-lifetime luxurious experience when finding the most important article of clothing they will ever wear,” Kalayjian says.

The Wedding Shoppe
Berkley, Mich.
   Brides enter The Wedding Shoppe into a vestibule full of nature. A greenery wall features cascading plants in different hues and a floral arrangement sits on the reception desk providing a pop of color. Although the natural elements are artificial, they create a natural feeling of calmness for brides as soon as they walk in, says owner Michelle McFarland. The greenery wall also provides a great opportunity for brides to take photos on their way in, or on their way out. A mannequin in the vestibule shows off one of the stores’ gowns. “Our overall vibe is trendy mid-century,” McFarland says. “I want brides to walk in and see beautiful things because then they know we’ll have beautiful dresses. It’s fresh and Instagrammable and puts them at ease with the feeling that they’ll be taken care of. We really wanted to set the tone from the minute they walk through the door.” The lobby atmosphere is very important, she adds. “We want our bride to know she’s in the right place, that she will find her wedding dress and have an experience she will remember for a lifetime,” she says. “The lobby sets the expectations for our appointments.”