This week’s “Friendor Friday” shines a spotlight on Ashley West, manager of The White Magnolia Bridal Collection Tampa! This Tampa bridal store is nestled in the trendy location of Hyde Park Village. Fun fact: Kristin worked there for a year!
How did The White Magnolia start?
The White Magnolia initially started in Jacksonville, FL. Kerrie Hileman, the owner, really wanted to give brides a true “experience”, rather than just feeling like another number at a large salon. She opened The White Magnolia to make sure that each and every bride who walked in had a fun, relaxed, and memorable day wedding dress shopping!
How did TWM Tampa come about?
TWM Tampa was the second White Magnolia location to open. I was a senior in college working at The White Magnolia in Jacksonville, and had been praying for the right professional opportunity to come about. Kerrie and Daniel (her husband) offered me a position as Manager of TWM Tampa when it was still a new idea, and before I even graduated, which was such a blessing. The rest is history!
What designers do you carry and how do you select which ones you will carry in store?
We carry a wide range of designers at each White Magnolia location that best serve the brides in the surrounding area. At TWM Tampa we carry Hayley Paige, Tara Keely, Blush by Hayley Paige, Jim Hjelm, Paloma Blanca, Mikaella bridal, Modern Trousseau, Nouvelle by Amsale, Christos, Watters, Love Marley, and WToo! Because each store caters to different brides, we typically bring one representative from each shop to bridal market to view all of the collections and hand select the gowns that she knows the brides in her area will love. Although choosing the new dresses is a part of the job- it doesn’t feel like work at all! It’s such a fun girls weekend in New York watching fashion shows and thinking creatively… I feel like Carrie Bradshaw! It’s one of the best parts of my job!
What do you tell a bride who has first time shopping jitters?
There is absolutely nothing to be nervous about when it comes to wedding gown shopping! At The White Magnolia we block off our entire shop just for the bride and her group, every single appointment is 100% private! This is so she can browse all the gowns with her friends, take her time, and know that she is only surrounded with people that she loves. All of our consultants absolutely love working with brides looking for all different types of wedding gowns, and we really just want our customers to know that we truly care about them, their wedding day, and their wedding gown vision. Every bride who walks out of our shop tells us that it was relaxing, fun, and exciting!
How do you help a bride who has no idea of what she wants in a wedding gown?
I encourage every bride who shops to try a variety of styles and fabrics- even the brides who say they know exactly what they want! Going outside of the box is crucial when shopping for a wedding dress, and so often we find brides purchase a dress that is nothing like they thought they would even try on! I really try to get an idea of the vision of each brides’ wedding day and everyday style. This can help a lot when I am choosing gowns for her so that they match the feel of her wedding, and that she is comfortable wearing!
What are a couple of your favorite gowns?
I always hate this question because I help handpick every dress in store, so I love them all! If I absolutely had to choose for my own personal taste I would say Christos Ellie, Modern Trousseau Nila, and Hayley Paige Dori. Can you tell I love illusion necklines?
To veil or not to veil?
TO VEIL! I would wear a veil to Christmas dinner if I could- I think a veil is the cherry on top of really looking like a bride. I have a lot of girls come in who say they are not planning on wearing a veil, but I think if you try the right kind, it can really make a difference! I encourage every bride who shops to try on a veil at least once.
How do you handle a “bridezilla”? Or a wild wedding party?
I don’t like the term bridezilla because I think we can all remember a time when we were super stressed out that we were not exactly putting our best foot forward. I think many brides are extremely overwhelmed with a full time job, planning a wedding, lack of sleep, etc. and sometimes it can get taken out of friends, family or vendors. I have a degree in psychology, so I like to think I can put it to use when I am calming down a bride – I’ll admit I have taken our store phone home before and consoled girls at midnight while laying in bed! It’s so important to me that every customer feels cared about, and that she knows she has someone who understands her stresses and worries. As for a wild wedding party- if you can’t beat em’ join em’! I love large groups that come in making jokes and having the time of their lives while shopping.
Do you get ever get emotional when a bride has “her moment”?
When do I not get emotional? I cried when I saw Lilo and Stitch the first time- of course I have cried when a bride finds “the one” J Sometimes throughout the hour and a half appointment I really feel I make a connection with the girl and become fast friends. These are always the ones that really get me misty- I love love, and I love helping dreams come true!
Favorite part about managing a bridal store?
I love so many aspects about my job, but I think my favorite part really is that I get to help girls find the most important gown of their lifetime. I have always enjoyed helping others, and I am so happy I get to be a part of such an important moment for hundreds of girls! I also really enjoy my behind the scenes work as well. I am really organized and a perfectionist, so placing orders, unpacking gowns, and steaming are all things that I actually enjoy as well.
We have had the pleasure of photographing the beautiful White Magnolia boutique, as well as capturing Tampa wedding photography for two of our brides who got their gown from there! Check out these beauties!