Headshot Photo Credit: SoWal
In my opinion, shopping for your wedding dress is one of the most meaningful experiences one can have. As every girl dreams about their wedding dress, the emotions run deep as the selection process begins. It’s a delicate process that requires guidance, expertise and just a little push out of one’s comfort zone. Luckily for blushing brides-to-be there’s Margaret Ellen Bridal where owner, Maggie Matthews, curated a sentimental space to share in and envelope the experience of finding THE dress for each bride with the utmost care and consideration. This appointment only, truly tailored occurrence is highly sought after among brides. Margaret Ellen Bridal encapsulates what finding your dress should feel like- a divine encounter. Walking into Margaret Ellen Bridal feels like a dream brought to life as flowing white fabrics in an array of textures and combinations line the racks each with an elegance all its own. I was so excited to have the opportunity to sit down with Maggie (and be in awe over the dresses she carries) a few weeks ago and I am so glad I did. Here’s what she had to say about bringing her childhood dream to fruition in our quaint beach town:
CG: What inspired you to start Margaret Ellen Bridal (MEB)?
MM: I could go on forever on this particular question. 😊 When I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming a fashion designer that specifically designed wedding gowns. This all stemmed from watching The Parent Trap. I completely fell in love with the bridal studio of Elizabeth James that was located in London. So, I would draw sketches of gowns (not very good ones) in class while in elementary school. My mom bought me a sewing machine for Christmas that year. Well, let’s just say she has gotten more use out of the machine than me. As I grew older, becoming a designer didn’t seem very realistic and I literally had no clue what I wanted to be. Ultimately, I chose to pursue a degree in elementary education. I taught for six years in the Mississippi Delta ultimately feeling unfulfilled. Around that same time, my parents built a home on 30A and we literally came ALL the time in and spent the summers here as well. I knew that they would eventually retire and make 30A their full time home. With this in mind, I knew I wanted to make it home as well.
So, let’s go back to December 2016. My best friend, Molly, got engaged and wasted no time on finding her gown. We went to a bridal shop and I fell completely head over heels. It was like Elizabeth Taylor and The Parent Trap came full circle back to me. I left her appointment that evening dying to call my mom and tell her what I was imagining. One year later, Margaret Ellen Bridal, my dream came to be my reality. I feel so blessed.
CG: What does a day in the life of running MEB look like?
MM: The days are all different. I wear many hats since I am the only one in the boutique at this time. Some days are spent helping brides during their two-hour private appointments. These are my favorite days! When I am not in appointments, I am receiving inventory, tagging and steaming gowns, reaching out on social media, working on publicity with various magazines, meeting with other wedding vendors, answering emails, preparing for New York Bridal Fashion Week and attending community events.
CG: What sets the MEB experience apart from other bridal shopping experiences?
MM: Margaret Ellen Bridal strives to make finding the dress the best experience possible. It is the most precious and special shopping trip a girl will take with her beloved family and friends. MEB is appointment only which allows me to get to know the bride prior to the appointment though email and phone conversations. This is important because I want the bride to feel totally relaxed in the store setting and comfortable with me. It also helps me to know what they have always dreamed of wearing on their wedding day, what they like, what they dislike, etc. Based on what I know from the consultation, I will pull around three dresses to stock the dressing room before she arrives. I also serve my brides and their entourage champagne and sweet treats which make it even more memorable.
CG: What are your top three tips for a bride-to-be in search of her wedding dress?
MM: The three tips I suggest for a bride-to-be in search of her wedding dress include:
- Tip 1: Bring the people that matter most to you and who you want there when you say “YES!” Typically, a large group can be overwhelming for the bride. I believe that 1-4 guests is the perfect group. You want to bring the people whose opinions you trust and matter the most.
- Tip 2: Get out of your comfort zone. Gown shopping is unlike any other. Take advantage of the time you get to try on wedding dresses by trying on different styles. Gowns look better on bodies than on the hangers. Try on something you wouldn’t normally think you would like.
- Tip 3: Don’t waste any time. It typically takes 4-5 months for gowns to come in once ordered. We say that picking your gown is best 8 months-12 months in advance to your big day!
CG: Can you share a few upcoming bridal trends that we’ll see in 2018? Do you have a favorite?
MM: I am anxious to see the upcoming trends at New York Bridal Fashion Week in April 2018. I do know that 3D florals are going to be pretty big as well as detachable sleeves. My favorite trend has to be two-piece dresses. I love that you can have two different looks on your wedding day without having to buy two different dresses. I have two gowns that are about to make their home in my store that have ball gown overskirts that can be taken off to then have a nice slim fitting dress.
CG: What drew you most to the 30A area to open your bridal boutique?
MM: I have traveled to 30A since I was young and it became a second home once my parents built their house in Seacrest Beach. I knew it would be the perfect place to raise my son, Deaton, and that was very important to me. I am also aware of the large number of weddings that occur on 30A. I did my research and found early on that I would be the only bridal boutique in Walton County. There could not be a better place for my store. I am reminded of the beauty everyday looking out my office window at the palm trees and fountains in 30Avenue.
CG: What’s the best part of providing bridal styling to ladies of the Emerald Coast and beyond?
MM: The best part of providing bridal styling to area brides is seeing the happiness through both smiles and tears. This dress is a dress that has been dreamt of since the bride was a tiny girl. Girls play dress up and pretend to get married when they are very young. It is the most important dress- to help someone find that and make them that happy is worth everything to me. I also love helping girls customize a dress. Let’s say they love a certain part of the gown but like something else from another gown by the same designer. It is fun to help them piece the two together to make their dream gown come to life.
CG: Where do you draw daily inspiration from?
MM: I honestly get inspiration from a few places. I am first and foremost inspired by God and thankful that he even allowed this dream to become a reality. I am also inspired every day when I get to work in my studio. I think being unhappy in another career really helps me appreciate what I get to do for a living now. I truly feel so blessed. Finally, I am inspired by brides. I absolutely love to see the happiness they possess in this stage of their life. It’s such an exciting time and seeing their joy and assisting them inspires me greatly!
CG: Words of advice for go-getting women seeking to start a business of their own like you?
MM: Talk to people. Do not be afraid to reach out to a business owner and ask questions. I’ve been blessed with a mentor turned friend out of Ridgeland, Mississippi who owns a very successful bridal store. She truly has shown me how to bless and treat others. Also, get involved in the community, be active in your local Chamber of Commerce and seek relationships with other business owners that complement your business.
Although I didn’t personally have the pleasure of finding my wedding dress at Margaret Ellen Bridal, one of my best friends with a November 2018 wedding did! From how she conveys her experience, it was nothing short of perfect. From the heartfelt personalization of the appointment, to actually trying on the gowns, to the joy in the moment of saying YES- her experience is one she’ll look fondly on forever.
If you’re a bride seeking an elevated bridal shopping experience, look no further. To make your appointment at Margaret Ellen Bridal you can email Maggie at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 850.641.0266. To keep up with new arrivals, truck show news and more be sure to follow along on Facebook and Instagram too! It is clear that Maggie’s greatest joy is to help area brides on the journey to their second YES (after the proposal that is) on the road to, “I do!”