Real Bride :: Shawna in Anais Anette's Amelie

Okay, I admit I've had my fair share of pure excitement and eagerness to look through our #RealElleBride images, but I don't think I've ever been more ecstatic to see one with the first look! Shawna from Shawna Leeann blew me away with this beautiful moment. 

I'm going to let her speak for herself with this excerpt from her blog: 

located just south of the little italy neighborhood in downtown san diego, elle is a hidden slice of whimsy in an otherwise concrete jungle. though we were a tad bit early to our appointment, chloe, our consultant, came to the door right away and ushered us in to wait in the salon as she finished up some paperwork. maybe it was the fact that chloe was wearing an outfit i myself would wear (a denim dress with leather sandals), but i instantly felt a connection to her as we sat down to discuss the details of my dream dress.

chloe asked questions similar to those matija had (wedding date and venue, styles and types of fabrics i liked), and i rambled off my answers almost robotically. that is until one of her inquiries brought me to tears…

what do you want people to say when they leave your wedding?” 

trying to regain composure, i managed to squeak out my response. “i want them to say that our day was a celebration of our love.” she nodded her head as if to say, “i got you, girl” and in that moment, i knew chloe and i were on the same page. if there was anyone who would help me achieve the balance between boho and romance, chloe was the one.

though elle’s inventory was noticeably less than that of the bustle’s, the overall aesthetic of the gowns elle offered was much more in keeping with my aesthetic. to be honest, that fact alone made trying on dresses at this boutique a lot more fun. as did the fact that the dressing room itself looked more like the inside of anthropologie than a place to change clothes. i will say, after trying on so many dresses at my first appointment, it was much easier to hone in on what i did and did not like in each dress i modeled at elle. though the first two dresses had elements i admired, my entourage agreed, neither felt quite like “me.”

side note: i unfortunately don’t have many photos to share from this appointment. “to share” being the key word. we have plenty of photos of me in the dress i finally said yes to, but clearly those will have to wait for a future post eight months+ from now. my apologies.

perhaps the third time really is a charm because dress number three -the dress chloe had initially pulled for me in hearing the adjectives used to describe my ideal gown -felt different from the moment i slipped it on. i won’t go into too much detail to reserve the element of surprise but i will tell you that like originally thought -it is indeed not strapless and uses the elements of both lace and tulle (actually organza) to create the perfect balance between bohemian and romance. in short, it simply feels like me. so much so that as soon as i came out into the salon to show my mom and future mother-in-law, i immediately burst into tears (it was an emotional day, obvi). my visceral reaction ultimately became the indicator to everyone in the room that the search could end. i had found my dress!

to ensure i couldn’t replicate that feeling with another gown, i tried on two additional dresses just to be sure. but the writing was already on the wall. dress number three was the one i wanted to wear to become S’s wife! now to celebrate!

instead of a champagne toast, the gals at elle help commemorate the big decision in a different way. as i stood in my gown, chloe handed me a canister and advised me to twist the bottom and aim at the ceiling as she asked me a very important question. before she posed the question i had only heard uttered on a TLC reality show, she grabbed my mom’s iphone and began recording. “shawna, are you saying yes to the dress?” that was my cue! as i yelped out a “I AM!” i twisted the canister and following a loud pop, i was showered with a flurry of white and gold confetti. i am actually super bummed i can’t post that video now just because it captures the PURE JOY i was feeling in that moment, but again, i’ll have to wait until after the wedding and my dress has been revealed.

final verdict: clearly i’m a tad bit biased seeing as i ultimately found my dress there, but i cannot speak more highly of elle bridal boutique. for me personally who loves all things girly and feminine and would love nothing more than to live inside an anthropologie store, it was everything i had hoped to experience in a bridal appointment. but as i mentioned before, their selection is a tad bit limited and slightly skewed on the romantic vibe, so if you’re looking for a place with lots of options and want something a little more “traditional” in terms of dress style (satin, ruching, ball gown, etc), i’d also recommend making a couple appointments at a few larger boutiques.

at the end of the day, the best advice i can give anyone about to try on dresses for the first time is to just soak in every minute of your experience. because for me, it was truly the moment that i started to feel like this wedding i had imagined my whole life was finally coming to fruition. despite the fact that S and i have checked off so many items on our wedding to-do list (date, venue, photographers, DJ, caterer & videographer), it wasn’t until i finally saw myself in a wedding gown and cried those happy tears and pictured how S might react when he sees me in the most perfectly “shawna” dress i could have ever dreamed of finding that i felt connected to this whole wedding planning process. and now that i really feel like a “bride,” i can’t wait to relish in the next eight months until i get to wear my dream dress all over again.

Photography by Studio Castillero