Sometimes, planning a wedding can feel more like a three-ring circus than the time of your life. Whether you’re having a minimalist wedding or tying the knot during a gorgeous beach ceremony, getting the details pulled together can be stressful. But one to-do, in particular, can put some brides over the edge. We’re talking about wedding dress shopping.
As taxing as the experience can be, one #girlboss knows that finding the perfect wedding dress should be one of the most fun, memorable and amazing experiences of the entire process. That’s why Kerrie Hileman founded the White Magnolia Bridal Collection, a series of boutiques located across the Southeast. Read on for her first-hand advice on how to find the perfect gown, what’s hot in 2017 and how to keep cool when you feel like it’s all falling apart.
B+C: For some, dealing with brides-to-be every day could be a stressful gig. Why start a company dedicated to brides? (And is that stress real?)
KH: The stress is certainly real… at times, but at the end of the day, the good far outweighs the bad. I started a company dedicated just to brides because I love helping brides and I love hearing their vision, so being able to help them make their wedding dreams a reality is an incredible thing. Every day at work and every bride is different, and it makes my job interesting and rewarding at the same time. Seeing the smiles, happiness and gratitude brides express when they find the perfect gown is exhilarating.
B+C: What makes The White Magnolia Bridal Collection experience different from other retailers?
KH: The White Magnolia Bridal Collection is focused on creating a unique and memorable experience for our brides, while providing them with top-of-the-line gown selection. We get to know each and every one of our brides personally and really take the time to address their bridal fashion needs. Each bride is provided with an hour and a half appointment, which allows us to take our time and assist her in ways that many other retailers cannot.
B+C: Why is one-on-one consultation such an integral part of your business?
KH: Shopping for your wedding gown is very different than shopping for any other type of garment. You’re shopping for the most important day of your life. As a bride, you need someone to guide through all the potential options that are out there and to show you all the custom things that can be done to make a specific wedding gown your own. At The White Magnolia, each of our brides works directly with an experienced bridal consultant to ensure that she’s made the perfect gown choice for her big day, and is assisted through every step of the process.
B+C: You’ve expanded your company into four locations across the Southeast. How do you make sure brides at each location have a great experience?
KH: We have very strong consistency among our locations as a result of constant interaction and communication among the locations, as well as a very strong team of leaders within our organization. In 2014, I had the opportunity to bring on a partner, Mallory Thorburn, who I share a very similar professional background with. We see eye to eye on many things, which allows us to be cohesive, but we also use each other as a resource to bounce new ideas and plans off of. Together we’ve been able to continue to grow The White Magnolia. Additionally, we have a very talented regional manager who travels and evaluates each of our stores monthly. She’s our eyes and ears when we aren’t able to be somewhere.
Having an amazing team of leaders allows us to divide and conquer and get into each and every store on a regular basis to work with brides, hear their feedback and continually educate our staff on the core values of our business.
B+C: As the owner of a bridal retailer, exactly how difficult was it to find your own gown before marrying your husband, Daniel?
KH: Well that was the start of it all, really! My husband and I were engaged and I started looking for a gown, with little luck. Nowhere in my hometown of Jacksonville, FL was offering a nice gown selection coupled with a boutique experience. So after months of searching for the right gown and right experience, I knew what I needed to do.
I went to Daniel and said, “I’m opening a bridal boutique.” His response was, “Go do some research and come back and sell me on this idea.” And I did just that. The White Magnolia in Jacksonville opened a few months before my wedding, and one of my favorite designers (Modern Trousseau — shout out!), rushed me a dress just in time for my wedding. Problem solved.
B+C: Can you share a little bit of what your daily routine looks like? Any must-dos?
KH: I’d say the only thing routine about my day is that it’s not routine at all. Some days I truly feel like I’m all over the place — jumping from one thing to another. My days are typically a mix of working from home, working from my office in the Jacksonville store and traveling to one of our four locations. I typically always start with answering emails and then digging into a list of short term and long term “to-dos.” My day then usually consists of at least a few calls from our regional manager, Ashley, and my business partner, Mallory. When I’m traveling, my day usually involves strategizing with store managers, brainstorming with that location’s staff and engaging with that boutique’s brides. I can expect at least two to three unexpected things to come up daily, which as a business owner, is totally expected and normal. It keeps me on my toes!
I like to try to do at least one creative thing a day. Whether that’s designing ad or promo materials, researching and developing an idea for a new TWM store or simply creating a storyboard of new bridal designs and styles, I like to take a few minutes to let my mind wander away from the tedious day-to-day management tasks.
B+C: What’s your best piece of advice for the ladies struggling to make their #girlboss dreams a reality?
KH: If you believe in your idea and are passionate about it, be confident and go for it. If you don’t do it, someone else will. It can definitely be scary to take the plunge of branching out and becoming your own boss, but life is short and you don’t want to look back and have regrets thinking about the “what ifs.” Also, I recommend having a good support system. Having a husband and family that I could turn to when times were stressful has always kept me going. They have always helped me realize that I am doing what I love and am good at what I do, and that has a lot to do with the success that has come with my business over the years.
B+C: What’s your best piece of advice for brides on the hunt for their perfect gown?
KH: Be open minded and don’t overthink it! When you’re looking for a gown, it’s important to find something that fits your everyday style and is going to complement you, not overwhelm you. Bring the people that mean the most to you and who understand your style and vision for your big day. And most importantly, remember to pick a gown that you will want to look back on thirty years from now and know that you still love it.
B+C: Finally, let us in early — what are your 2017 bridal gown predictions?
1. 3D Florals: These could be viewed as more springtime/summery, but in the South, you can do florals any time of year. They’re perfect for an outdoor wedding. I envision a beautiful garden or romantic plantation home paired with the perfect floral gown.
2. Sheer sleeves, necklines and backs: Sexy yet sophisticated, and when paired with a light, flowy fabric, it can create a romantic and whimsical feel.
3. Off the Shoulder Necklines: I love this one! It’s so girly and feminine, and a throwback to some mid-century styles.
Tag us in your beautiful bridal pics @BritandCo!
(Photos via The White Magnolia Bridal Collection)