I've said it once, twice, hell; many times: the most rewarding part of of what I'm doing is when we're a perfect fit. We, being YOU and ME. You; my brides, your friends, your families (hi, dads!), your fiancees...

The thing that I felt strongest about, the thing that was the final, biggest push to make me open Glitter & Grit was the feeling of, "I CAN'T be the only one." I can't possibly be the only woman who didn't want to be fussed over, told what to do, pressured into wearing and doing things that weren't representative of me when it came to wedding planning, and yes; wedding dress shopping. So when you, my brides, are in the same place? I know that I'm doing the right thing; no. question.

I hope you know how completely full of gratitude I am for those of you who validate the existence of Glitter & Grit! Today, I'd like to thank my bride Stephanie and share with you this incredibly sweet testimonial from her, try. Yes, I want to brag - who wouldn't?! - but really, I can only say "you are not alone" so many times; I'd much rather the rest of you hear it from someone else who's going through the whole thing right now, just like you are. 
From Stephanie (thanks, lady!!):
Speaking as someone who always thought they were born without the "bride gene", when I finally got engaged and the countdown to all things wedding began, I dreaded the thought of shopping for my dress. Don't get me wrong; I love fashion, but wedding fashion is a whole different world, one that I didn't want to be a part of. So I began my search online, trying to find the least painful place to begin the process. And that's how I happened to find Glitter and Grit. Although I have lived in Washington DC for the last 8 years, I will always be a Pittsburgher at heart, and decided to start my search in my hometown. It's a decision I didn't regret; Glitter and Grit made the 4 hour drive home to Pittsburgh totally worth it. Owner Erin Szymanski is down to earth, helpful without being pushy, won't use cringe-worthy phrases like "your special day", or be disappointed if you don't cry and jump up and down when you find your gown.
After visiting four other bridal salons, I can truly say that Glitter and Grit is the answer for us brides who still want a quality selection of gowns but don't want to deal with the "traditional" wedding gown shopping experience. You won't find annoying brides with huge entourages or catty salesclerks trying to force you to make a decision you aren't comfortable with. Also - unlike a certain chain who puts you on a mailing list without your permission - you won't be inundated with wedding junk mail/email from other vendors. Erin is tactful with her non-intrusive display of local vendor information as well as her collection of unique accessories: they are there for the browsing, but nothing is forced upon you. Erin also takes wonderful care of her sample gowns; unlike other salons I visited (where samples were either missing hooks/zippers, covered in makeup/self-tanner, or had hemlines that looked like they had been used to mop the floors) everything I tried on was in pristine condition so I could truly get an idea of what the "real" dress would look like. From my first appointment to actually purchasing and picking up my gown, Erin provided an experience that was relaxed yet professional. She promptly responds to email/phone calls and her policies are fair with no fine print or unreasonable fees. I highly recommend Glitter and Grit to Pittsburgh area brides - as well as to anyone who wants a wedding gown shopping experience without the drama that our reality TV based society has made us believe it should have.
Interested in sharing your own Glitter & Grit experience? You know where to find me!
This bride, this wedding... will always hold a special place in my heart. Keirstin and her mom came to Glitter & Grit just four days after I unofficially opened for business. They were both frustrated from prior shopping experiences and close to giving up on finding the wedding dress that was right for Keirstin. Truth be told, my heart sank a little as I realized how... almost beat down they seemed, and what a hard time they had been having; I wasn't sure that I could bring them back from there...

Keirstin might have been my first purchasing customer, but what was more fulfilling than that for me was turning her experience around. Hearing her vision for her wedding day, I knew Keirstin was in the right place; I couldn't have been more excited when she told me they were getting married at Stage AE, and she would love to find a dress with which she could wear her leather jacket. If you know me at all, you know I'm a complete sucker for a bride in leather! When they left the store, the smiles, gratitude, and happiness filled me up with joy. That was the moment I knew, without a doubt, that I was in the right place, doing the right thing.
Keirstin wore the Elizabeth by Nicole Miller (you MIGHT recognize the back!), with a custom sash by Camilla Christine, both from Glitter & Grit. Keep reading to hear more from the bride!

all photos are courtesy of Josh Mariana Photography
q. When you tried on your dress, how did you know it was the one?

Before coming to Glitter & Grit, I had gone to at least 4 or 5 more traditional, larger bridal shops.  They were pretty awful experiences!  Other than, "Not strapless!"  I was having a hard time articulating what I wanted in a dress.  When I tried on what would eventually become my dress, I knew it was the one because it was comfortable!  I loved the way the satin felt, and it accentuated all of my favorite parts about my body.  The back is so cool!  I could immediately picture myself both walking down the aisle and partying my ass off in this dress.  Plus, my mom started crying when I came out of the dressing room!
q. What was your groom's reaction to seeing you in it?

Rob's face said it all.  His smile was ear to ear, and his eyes were all sparkly.  Turns out they were tears!  Right after the ceremony, we had a brief minute to ourselves in the back room.  He made me step back so he could really soak it all in.  I loved that he wanted to do that!
q. Please share your favorite thing about Rob.

My favorite thing about Rob is his inquisitive nature.  He pays incredible attention to detail in everything he does.  Rob is always pushing himself to learn new things, and is able to talk to pretty much anybody about pretty much anything.  He's also hilarious, and quite romantic.  I love that combination of characteristics. It's what makes him a great fit for me.
q. Did you incorporate any traditions into your wedding?

Our wedding party was not-so-traditional.  Only our siblings stood by our sides during the reception - my brother on my side, and Rob's sister Christine on his. However, we still did incorporate quite a few traditions into the wedding. We both come from Irish heritage, so we asked out siblings to read an Irish blessing during the ceremony.  Also, for our return down the aisle we had our guests ring bells for good luck according to Irish tradition.  During the reception, we used my mother's heirloom champagne toasting glasses, which my great grandmother brought to America with her from Ireland.  
q. Please describe the most memorable moment of the day.

The whole day was so magical!  To choose one, I'd say stepping out of the backstage area to see the ceremony aisle and backdrop come together the way they did.  It was spectacular! Add on top of that the emotional tidal wave that hit me seeing all of our friends and family together in support of our love, as well as my favorite person in the world waiting for me... memorable moment, indeed!
q. Do you have any special advice for future brides?

Be genuine to your own style as a couple.  Choosing the venue was the biggest decision for us.  Stage AE really set the scene for the whole vibe of our wedding!
I'm very honored to present to you the socially conscious pop-up bridal shop, Wed Altered, at Glitter & Grit April 4th & 5th, and at the I Made It! Hitchburgh event on Sunday, April 6th! Offering ethical and eco-friendly wedding dresses, veils, accessories and more, Wed Altered is the perfect place to start planning for your socially conscious, green, offbeat, alternative, or all around one-of-a-kind wedding.
Let me tell you a little more about the collections that will be available that weekend:

Dame Couture offers
a collection of vintage-inspired dresses, cut and sewn in Chicago, often using re-purposed vintage fabrics and trims and natural fibers. Looking for a 50's silhouette and lace? You'll love these designs!
Peace Love Bling sources their designs from women business owners, artists, and disadvantaged women who have fled Tibet and Western China to find education and safety for their children.Ooffering handcrafted, genuine jewelry that is fairly traded at affordable prices, Peace Love Bling is a great place to find accessories for yourself and your bridesmaids.
The Rania Hatoum Collection represents sophistication and modernity in each gown with an understanding that every woman wants to look and feel beautiful on her wedding day. Rania reveals her culture, background and everyday influences as she strives to make fashion that is timeless and elegant. Only the finest fabrics, lace and embellishments go into each gown Rania designs, truly creating one-of-a-kind pieces.
Behind every Celia Grace wedding dress is a story as beautiful as the dress itself: handmade eco silks, a Fair Trade women’s sewing group, and a water filter donated to a family in need.  Celia Grace wedding gowns are simply gorgeous, flattering, and comfortable and fun to wear thanks to light-as-air silk heirloom silks and vintage-inspired lace.  Each dress is made for the bride with great care and exquisite craftsmanship. Celia Grace provides its seamstresses with safe, fair, and empowering work that gives the women dignity, respect, skills, and self confidence so that they can better themselves, their families, and their communities.
Solitary Pearl dresses are pretty, flattering, and practical enough that you can enjoy your day. Almost every dress is 100% silk, the kind of silk you can just look at and feel it’s richness and beauty. Most of the silk used by Solitary Pearl to make wedding dresses is hand-woven using natural processes at a Fair Trade certified company in Cambodia. They support the women in their community and do absolutely beautiful work. The silks that aren’t handwoven come from facilities their suppliers checks to make sure the artists are treated fairly. With the exception of a very small amount of laces, they work with all natural fabrics. All Solitary Pearl fabric waste is given to local artists at no cost. It helps them grow, and it helps the designer's goal to be environmentally conscious.
A favorite amongst fashion-forward brides, Veronica Shaeffer has a reputation for classic, feminine gowns with thoughtful, unexpected details. Veronica's bridal gowns and accessories  speak to a bygone era of true femininity and luxury.  Only the finest fabrics are used and each piece is the utmost in quality and detailing, made in the US. I can't wait to see her 1960's-inspired 2014 collection while it's here!
veronica sheaffer
photo from Trendy Bride Magazine; Michelle Butler photographer
Janay A Handmade and Lindee Daniel are already a part of the earth-friendly offerings at Glitter & Grit; Janay A creates handmade wedding gowns for eco-chic, unique brides.  Designer Janay Andrews is passionate about sustainability, and merges this with a love for clean, focused designs to create her signature gowns and custom dresses for brides across the continent.
Lindee Daniel's eco-luxury collection evokes elegance with an edge, weaving together exquisite sustainable fabrics and endless details, while giving back, helping at-risk youth.  Her gowns are created by hand in Los Angeles, using exquisite and exclusive wild and peace (cruelty-free) silks, organic cottons, and other natural fabrics. Colors are either from the natural color of the fiber, or by a natural dyeing process.
lindee daniel - photo by cara rufenacht
photo by Cara Rufenacht Photography
If ethical and earth-friendly are on your wedding must-have list, I hope you'll take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to experience all of these amazing collections - and don't forget to schedule an appointment!
i was working on my computer at home one day last week, with the t.v. on in the background, not paying much attention to whatever mindless crap that was showing. then this commercial came on. and i found myself having a very physical and emotional reaction to it. seriously. take a moment and go watch it - i'll be right here when you're finished.
Dress - Grace by Lindee Daniel from Glitter & Grit, photo by Palermo Photo
photo by Palermo Photo
now. i sell wedding dresses, as you might know. so, i should be all about perpetuating the "it's all about the dress" message, right? i also probably shouldn't tell you to go watch my competitor's commercial, either... but i need to rant:
I AM SO ANGRY about this advertisement.

if your fiancee feels that he* is "the invisible man"
a "mere cog in the wheel of this carefully choreographed extravaganza"

then you're doing it wrong.

your wedding is about who each of you are, as individuals, and as a couple. not "all about the bride." or your dress. it's about your love, trust, and commitment to one another. it's about openly sharing that with the people in your lives. i hope that he IS the reason that someone "gets all emotional," at the very least YOU, his bride. if not his mom, your mom, his sister, his best friend, your friends that have been waiting years for this day and are oh-so-excited for you both, etc. etc. etc.

why do we keep acting like grooms are insignificant? they want this, too. and chances are, they actually asked for it. you decided, together, to get married, and then you decided, together, whether or not you wanted to share that life event with other people. there's even a chance that he wants the wedding more than you, or maybe just has more time, better organizational skills, or is a little more picky than you, and has actually participated in, or taken charge of planning your wedding day. you might choose to wear a pretty dress - or sexy suit - and he probably wants to look a little fancy, too. you might include other things to make the day feel special, like floral arrangements or great live music or a menu featuring all of your favorite foods. even better, you might ask your guests to be active participants in your ceremony or share stories and truths while making a toast at your reception; all of these things celebrating the love you share. THAT'S what it's all about.

is it all about the bride? and your dress?

hell. no.

*i prefer to write less specifically, but yes, sorry; this is a strictly hetero post, since the commercial involved a man and a woman. either way, neither partner should feel invisible or insignificant on your wedding day!!
i'm often asked how i came up with the name for my store. the short answer is: a long brainstorming session with my sister.  this session occurred on her facebook wall, so there's actually a record of this insane event (well, most of it).

want a very real peek into the minds of two loopy gals, drunk on possibility? keep reading.

{a few notes first: the beginning of this conversation is lost in space, but the full explanation on my about page can give you good enough background. also, i'm leaving all typos, swearing, and music, film, and book references as they are. oh - and? this is really long. sorry, kids.}
photo by nicole jarock
click through to continue:

a milestone, the holidays, the end of the year... these three things have me thinking an awful lot about the past year; the last six months.

this coming weekend marks the six-month anniversary of glitter & grit, and i just cannot believe it's only been six itty-bitty months. i feel so at home, so right in what i'm doing, that it feels like so much longer - in the very best way. i have no way to appropriately thank everyone that has gotten us ("us," meaning me and the store because yeah, we're a couple) this far, but i will try my best. firstly by simply saying: thank you.

thank you to the customers who have supported my business (and for all of the hugs!!). thank you to the designers for creating amazing dresses that the world so needs. thank you to the friends and family who have supported and lifted me up from the early days of brainstorming.  thank you to the lovely ladies of propelle, for helping me take flight. without all that you have offered, i may not have had the courage to leap, arms spread wide with a huge grin on my face and peace in my heart. you kick ass.
and lastly, thank you to the local wedding vendors that have welcomed me in my stumbling eagerness to be a part of something so much bigger than each of us...

seven months ago, before glitter & grit was in any shape to open its doors, i had the honor of providing dresses for an amazing photo shoot with veronica varos photography, mt. lebanon floral, bliss events, ltd., and a handful of other creatives from around the city. what happened that day was pure magic. ladies: thank you for that entire experience, and for the friendships that followed. and a huge, inappropriately gushing thanks to lindee daniel for hustling to finish part of my opening sample order so that i actually had dresses to use for the shoot!

since that day, i have been honored to connect and work with a star-studded list of local vendors on various photo shoot and events, and i couldn't possible be more humbled and grateful for each and every connection.
behind the scenes of my first styled shoot!
before opening my doors, i set my intention, here, for exactly what it was that i wanted glitter & grit to be, and i feel that i have upheld my promises to be real, to try to love myself as i am, and to empower other women to shine their damned brightest - every day, but especially on their wedding day.

as the months have passed, i have grown to love every inch of this business so much more than i ever imagined, and that's because of all of you... i wanted to make a difference, and even though, on the surface, trying to do so in the wedding industry seems like a shallow way to do it, it had been immensely rewarding to make women happy - and if i've turned anyone's prior - or anticipated - experience around to a positive one, then i AM making a difference, and one that matters.

i hope to continue on with my mission in 2014, and to help spread the *love* of self-love and truly personal weddings around pittsburgh. i hope to remain honest, inviting, and accepting in my life and in my business. i hope to keep dreaming and making those dreams come true, for you and for me... but most of all, i hope for a lot more hugs.

sweeping and dreaming, as captured by veronica varos - who was selflessly helping me prep the store for opening
i have  a confession: i found planning my wedding to be an incredibly isolating experience.

being an introvert, i'm very much not comfortable with being the center of attention - and that includes things WAY before standing in front of our friends and family last june. it's hard for me to talk about myself or even, good god, asking OTHER people to talk about me - even my very, very nearest and dearest.

i didn't want my wedding plans to dominate conversations with my best friends or family, and so i held back and held in a lot of what was on my mind - making me feel pretty alone, even when i knew i was doing it to myself! of course my besties would have gabbed for hours about every last detail if i asked them to! and rob (my now-husband) would have indulged me, but all he was really concerned with was the act of getting married to me, and maybe the food {wink, wink}. knowing that, i didn't want to "burden" him with talks of flowers, hair accessories, and table arrangements.

photo by hot metal studio
in retrospect, of course, all of that up ^ there ^ is pure crazytalk.

but, i've been thinking... i can't be the only person in the midst of wedding planning to have felt that way. as i want my shop to be a safe space for those that aren't necessarily the typical bride, i want to create a safe space online for those of you who might feel a little like i did: wary of over-sharing, obsessing or complaining too much, or "burdening" the people in your life with your wedding planning. let's just acknowledge that  feeling that way is a little ridiculous, but totally. freaking. normal. and then do something about it.

i present you with {drum roll, pleeeeeease} :

the glitter & grit gathering: a safe space for gabbing, gloating, and griping about all things wedding.

here you can ask for advice, recommend vendors, and discuss details. you can talk traditions - honoring or bucking - and blow off steam about having to make decisions about so many tiny things that you can barely see straight
. you can admit that working out has now come second to hand-making your decorations, share tips for writing your own vows... the list goes on!  and i'll be there too, contributing in any way i can to help you shine your brightest and making sure that it remains a safe and useful place in your pre-wedding life.

here's what you get when you join the glitter & grit gathering:

  • an online extension of the warm and welcoming atmosphere of the brick-and-mortar store, that is open to all lifestyles and wedding concepts; this is a no-judgement zone!
  • access to a private members-only facebook group where you can ask questions, get support, and reclaim romance with other brides - and grooms! - to- be.
  • personal encouragement to make your wedding your own, and advice and support to help you do so, from yours truly
  • tips, tricks, and resources catered to your specific wedding ideas and needs

So, join me - and let's reclaim romance together!

Have questions
about the Gathering? Ask away in the comments, or shoot me an email at glitterandgritpgh@gmail.com
glitter & grit: reclaiming romance for the boldly engaged

reclaim {transitive verb} to rescue from an undesireable state; also: to restore to a previous natural state
photo by Veronica Varos Photography
"what do you mean, 'reclaiming?"
"are these all vintage dresses?"
"are these, like, upcycled?"

...all valid questions, of which i'm hearing a lot. i guess glitter & grit's tagline is a bit confusing, and possibly misleading. in this wonderful world, we've come to associate the word "reclaim" with the upcycling and recycling of vintage and pre-loved wares. this is a fantastic thing; that the default association leads us to making the world a better, less wasteful place gives me great joy. there's hope for us humans yet!

however, i use the word "reclaiming" in a more literal sense. i want to reclaim romance from the wedding industry, from the people ~ and businesses ~ that tell us what romance looks like (weddings), how romance feels (chick flicks, romance novels), and what actions are necessary to display and experience romance (dating advice from any and almost every source)... we deserve better! we deserve to know that romance is what works for ourselves and our partners, period.

romance, and our society's impresion of it, has certainly reached an undesireable state. if your ideal date night is sitting at home, playing video games and snuggling with kitties, or hardcore mountain biking followed by a craft brewery tour, why are you still being told that dinner and a movie is where it's at? if you feel most attractive in jeans and a leather jacket, why are only cute little dresses and heels the "acceptable" first date ensemble? and, more relevantly here: the whole white dress, daddy giving you away, bouquet-tossing wedding? great, if that's your thing (truly). but if it's not? THAT'S OKAY. then don't do it. we've all grown up with the understanding that there's one way to do the wedding (including, of course, the opposite-sex spouse), and that's simply not the case. the only important thing about your wedding day is the union being made, and being shared with those you choose to share it with. everything else is optional - but, in my humble opinion, should be a true reflection of the people involved; not any sort of watered-down version of themselves, or what the wedding magazines/books/blogs tell them they need to be.

so. i challenge you: reclaim your romance! make it your own, bring it back to a desireable state!

i'm here to help. i'll support whatever represents you the most, and try hard to make sure that you love yourself as much as your spouse on your wedding day. and if you want to find the version of beautiful that makes you feel romantic? i just might have a new, non-vintage, made-just-for-you dress (and/or, hopefully someday, suit, etc. etc.) that fits your truest, brightest shining self.
so... here's the thing: i'm on a mission.

a mission to be as transparent with you, my friends and clients, as possible.
to be open and honest with you about who I am, and how glitter & grit does business.
to remain true to myself while i plunge into the world of fashion and the wedding industry; two places that can certainly make you question your integrity and self-worth.

i'm also - most importantly - on a mission to help YOU stay authentic as you go through the whirlwind of wedding planning, and to make sure you're shining as brightly as only you can on your wedding day.

i don't think that i can succeed in my mission if we, as women, aren't all holding each other accountable, being truthful with each other, and making conscious decisions to change the wedding industry "standards." so, let's make a pact, okay? let's promise to be real, to try as hard as we can to love ourselves - as we are - so that everyone else can have the chance to love the best of us. let's celebrate each other (i'm talking all ladies; not just the two of us!) and empower one another to be amazing, to love openly, to sparkle brightly.

pinky swear?
here's MY glitter & grit: a fancy dress, and filthy feet. there is no better summation of who i am. photo by hot metal studio