I visited 11 bridal salons in the Central Jersey and NYC area before I finally found the ONE. I wanted to share my experiences at each salon to give some fellow Knotties some info about the places I visited. I graded them based on my personal experiences at each of these places, so please keep in mind the grades represent my personal experience at the shop. I realize others may have been to some of the same shops and had wonderful experiences that I may not have, so please feel free to comment below if you had a different experience. I don’t want to discourage people from checking out certain shops, but I do want to give a heads up of what you may be in for. So without further ado, here are my reviews in the order of when I visited them.
Some things to keep in mind while shopping:
1) While knowing the names of dresses you like by certain designers is good, it’s also helpful to bring photos of those dresses. When I’d go to stores I’d show them the list of names I’d written down, but they wouldn’t have any of them and then ask me to describe them so they could look for similar dresses. I could never remember.
2) Don’t be put off it you have an older bridal consultant. I soon learned the older women are 100% HONEST with you. Younger girls usually just want to make the sale and will pump you up to sell you a dress you are iffy about. The older women are honest if they don’t like something on you and don’t feel it’s a right fit for you.
3) A good salon will sit down with you beforehand to get an idea of the season and your ceremony & reception venue to better help determine a dress that is suited for the style of your day. Keep your venue in mind while looking for dresses as well to make sure it “fits”.
Barefoot Bride (Rumson, now Red Bank)- B
Designers: Casablanca, Paloma Blanca
This was the very first shop I visited, and before I went I really had no idea what I was looking for. So most of this visit was spent trying on different styles to decide what I liked. The shop was in the process of moving from their small Rumson shop to a new location in Red Bank, so the store was a bit of a mess. I honestly wish they had told me they would be moving, so I could have made an appointment at their new location at another time. However, there was nothing that wowed me enough to want to go back and visit their new shop. However, I do plan on going to look for bridesmaid dresses because they do have a good selection.
Mustillo’s (Red Bank)- B+
Designers: Jim Hjelm, Lazaro
This was an experience more like what I expected a bridal shop to be like. I was brought upstairs to have the whole floor to myself and they had beautiful dresses. Again, I was still in the process of trying to decide what I liked, but we did find one Jim Hjelm that was a potential contender. The reason I did not give them an A was because they didn’t have a huge selection, I felt they are extremely pricey, and I did not like that the sales girl was shady about giving me info about the dress I liked so I could look it up online. However, I took pictures and was able to locate the dress on my own.
Hearts for You (Manalapan)- A
Designers: Maggie Sottero, Casablanca, Jasmine
This salon came highly recommended to me from several people, and I could see why. They had a huge selection, and the girl who helped me (can’t remember her name) was very patient and helpful. I must have been at the shop for almost 2 hours trying on various styles. She knew her inventory very well, and once she got a better idea of what styles I was leaning towards, she was able to recommend some similar dresses to try. I also liked that she helped me put together various looks with veils- this was she first place I went to that did that. I highly recommend checking them out.
Cinderella Bridal (Matawan)- B
Designers: Maggie Sottero, Casablanca
I had Heddi as my consultant, who was an older woman and is completely honest with you. My mom and I both appreciated her. They don’t have a huge selection, and I was told they pretty much only carry what is popular these days. I was basically told to go to Kleinfelds if I wanted more selection. The do however have a huge selection of bridesmaid dresses, so I will definitely be coming back to look for my girls.
True Love Bridal (Matawan)- C-
Designers: Maggie Sottero, Casablanca
This store is too tiny and they pack the dresses in so much that it is actually impossible to look through and pick out dresses. Both my mom and I were sweating in the tiny dressing room that we were packed in with the consultant. By this point I was also sick of just seeing Maggie Sottero and Casablanca dresses. Show me something else!
Russel’s Bridal (Linden)- A
Designers: Maggie Sottero, Casablanca, Kitty Chen, Alfred Angelo
I really enjoyed my experience here. Teresa, my consultant, was great and spent about 1.5-2 hours with me. She was very patient and able to help look for other options once she got an idea of my style. And she was also very patient about letting me try the same dresses when we were trying to decide between 3 that we liked. But again, none of them had that IT factor. They have a huge selection of dresses here, and you can’t beat that they include alterations in the prices and have deals for bridesmaids and groomsmen to order their stuff from there as well.
Susan Wagner Designs(Pt. Pleasant)- F
Just don't go here- trust me!
Kleinfeld’s (NYC)- F
I know many girls have gotten their dresses here, including many of my good friends and they looked gorgeous on their wedding days. I will come right out and say that I HATED my Kleinfeld’s experience. Let me first start off by saying that I don’t watch any bridal shows, and had never seen an episode of Say Yes to the Dress before going. However, I did know the reputation of Kleinfeld’s and knew what their starting price point is. I really just wanted to go for fun and see what types of dresses they’d suggest. First off, we happened to go on a sample sale day, which was not my reason for going, it just happened to take place that day. When we got into our consultant’s room and she asked our price point, my mom said she wanted to stay on the lower end of their price range. You could practically see my consultant roll her eyes at this. When I showed her pics of dress styles I liked, she pretty much flat out told me there was not much in my price range. I was then quickly whisked out to the sample sale to pick out some samples to try, against my protests that I didn’t want a sample dress. She only brought me 3 dresses to try from their retail stock, and each had features that I specifically said I didn’t like, like lace or pick-ups. When I told her I was willing to expand my price range to see if that would open up more possibilities, her response was,” I don’t want you falling in love with something you can’t afford.” I was livid at that comment, and pretty much couldn’t wait to get out at that point. It’s not that I can’t afford a $5,000 wedding dress, it’s just not my priority to spend that much on something I’ll wear for a day.
Pronovias (NYC)- D
This was my second least favorite after Kleinfeld’s. I was most disappointed by my experience at Pronovias. I had tried on other Pronovias dresses and knew they fit me and my style well, so I was excited to see the endless possibilities at their flagship store. After all, the flagship should feature everything on their website, right? WRONG! They only carry what is most popular. And my consultant, Jill, had only been there for a week, so she was still unfamiliar with the inventory. When asked if I called ahead to see if they had the dresses I was interested in, I told her I didn’t think I had to since they’re the FLAGSHIP. The only reason I didn’t give them an F as well is because we actually wound up finding a dress that ultimately wound up being my #2 contender.
Sassy Chic Boutique (Red Bank)- A
Designers: Rosa Clara, Pronovias
This awesome store in Red Bank has been selling gorgeous veils and accessories for years. Recently, they started carrying gowns. I went twice- once for their Rosa Clara trunk show and again for a Pronovias trunk show. Donna, the owner, is amazing and has an eye for detail. When I tried on dresses, she worked to incorporate accessories so I could have an entire look. Although I didn’t find anything that amazed me, both my mom and I left feeling bad because we liked Donna so much that we wanted to work with her. I will definitely be going back to get my veil and other accessories from here.
Castle Couture (Malboro)- A+
Designers: Pronovias, Matthew Christopher, Eve of Milady, Augusta Jones
This store wound up being the winner! I originally came to try on 2 Pronovias dresses I’d seen at different stores so I could do a side-by-side comparison. My consultant, Sheila, was amazing and helped me find some additional dresses to try. Everything she picked was amazing and fit my style and me perfectly. They have a huge selection of gorgeous dresses, the staff couldn’t be nicer, and I found their prices to be the best out of everywhere we went, even though alterations aren’t included. The were very accommodating when I called this past weekend asking if I could come back to try on my 2 favorites to show my MOH with 30 minutes notice. My mom, MOH, Sheila, and about every consultant in the store all agreed on my final dress of choice- Pronovias Genova. Yay!!!!!!
I hope this helps those you of searching or starting the search for some ideas of where to go. Happy shopping and good luck!