Last weekend, husband and I packed our bags and jetted off Chicago for St. Patrick’s Day. But I had something to do first. Upon landing, and planting husband firmly in front of a TV for the Buckeye game, I headed off to meet one of my best friends for a bridal appointment at BHLDN Chicago. This had always been our plan, and, thanks to my intuition, a surprise appointment, and a healthy amount of peer pressure, we were making it happen.
I walked into a beautiful space across the street from the Waldorf Astoria. I checked in and started wandering around, taking it in; I was in a bridal wonderland.
Upstairs, every nook was filled with the stuff of wedding dreams: engraved forks, books on every subject, hangers from every decade. The decor was different in each room — here was a ceiling floral arrangement, there sculptural birds soaring from one corner of the room to another. Milk jars, and place cards; cake stands and bunting. It was Pinterest on fairy dust and crack.
Each case held a different collection of jewelry, belts, hair clips, tiaras — every beautiful artifact a bride could ever want. Throughout the store were racks of dresses for every event: mother-of-the-bride, bridesmaids, bathing gowns, rehearsal dresses, shower dresses.
Finally, I stumbled into the gown gallery. Every dress that I saw online lived here, on these mannequins. I love bridal gowns more than your average bear, sure, but this room was breathtaking. See?
The dresses were so different in person. Some of them hardly caught my eye online, but in person I could hardly bring myself to leave their side. Helpfully, each gown has a tag with its name and price.
This is where the bride found me. After the requisite hugging and yelping over rings (I refuse to be embarrassed — we were in a BRIDAL store), we were led by our stylist into our own suite.
The stylist gave us flutes of champagne and I happily settled into the vintage couch that I swear came straight from a neighboring Anthropologie. She was an all-business bride — in a dress for a mere moment before declaring that, though it was beautiful, it wasn’t hers. She was halfway into the next one before the words left her mouth.
Until, of course, she found what may be the dress. There was a good deal of accessorizing, toasting, and even a little bit of crying. (Yes, women really cry about this.) She even did a practice aisle-walk in the hall outside. Really, the hallway was made for this.
All in all, it was a lovely experience. BHLDN is a different kind of bridal salon. Their business model is vastly different than most: Once you’ve ordered, your dress ships in five business days, and you have up to thirty days to make a return. They buy a limited number of gowns, and once they’re gone, they’re gone. This could be perfect for my friend, who has an opportunity to show the dress, in person, to her mom in Michigan, with room for a return.
The stores aren’t everywhere, but if you can get near one, I can’t recommend stopping in enough. The gowns are exquisite, and so different. Frankly, it was a miracle that I didn’t sneak one into an empty dressing room for a go, but, you know, it’s all about the bride.
BHLDN Chicago is located at 8 E. Walton Street in Chicago, IL. Appointments necessary to try on gowns. Sun, 12-6pm; Mon-Thurs, 10am-7pm; Fri-Sat, 10am-8pm.