The Enthusiasts Guide from “Yes” to “I Do”

Host Leah Longbrake is pulling back the veil to bring you honest advice and creative ideas from those in the wedding industry. From the Engagement to the Honeymoon, get all the details you need from wedding and event experts on how to make it your best day ever!

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The Mobile Bridal Styling Studio and Supporting Indie Designers

The Mobile Bridal Styling Studio and Supporting Indie Designers

Annie McGinty, founder of Ivory and Ash Bridal Styling Studio, discusses why her mobile bridal styling studio is perfect for dress shopping during pandemic, or if you’d rather just have an intimate session at home. We also discuss her support for indie designers, and why she finds it so important to collaborate with local vendors.

Follow Ivory and Ash on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest!

Get to know Annie:

Hi, I’m Annie, the founder of Ivory & Ash Bridal Styling Studio. Together with my husband, Jason, we launched Ohio’s first and only traveling bridal styling studio with hopes of creating an intimate, stress free and exciting way for brides and their closest friends and family to enjoy the special occasion.

Shopping for a bridal gown is one of the most significant experiences in a woman’s life. Ivory & Ash brings the bridal gown shopping experience to the comforts of home.

We believe that there’s a perfect dress for every bride-to-be, and we exist to make sure that you find yours. We carry a carefully curated collection of Indie Designer wedding dresses & accessories that are as unique as you and your love story.

Let's find the perfect dress for your special day – in your most special place with your most important crew!


This has been a production of Evergreen Podcasts. A special thank you to Executive Producers David Moss, Gerardo Orlando, Production Director Brigid Coyne and Audio Engineer Eric Koltnow



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Leah Longbrake:

So Annie, welcome to the show. And again, congratulations to you on all this success. Tell us what made you decide to start Ivory and Ash Bridal.

Annie McGinty:

Oh, my gosh. So there's a long version and a short version, so I'll kind of do a little mini background. I was engaged a long time ago, not to my husband now, and I never married the guy. But I was engaged, shopping, and I had a really horrible experience at a boutique with the dress I really, really wanted. And I left feeling really bad about myself, and I just didn't like the experience. And I ended up getting that dress, but I drove to Cincinnati to get it, so I didn't have to go back.

Leah Longbrake:

Wow.

Annie McGinty:

Yeah. So I remember thinking, "I never want anybody to feel like I did that day," and that's supposed to be the most special time in your life as a girl, finding that wedding dress. So that really stuck with me for many years. Flash forward now, 20 years later, and I always ... I did other things with my career. We moved, and then I got married and had babies and all that fun stuff. And the business, I wanted to always do it. So when I got pregnant with my third one, I had stopped traveling for my other job, and had the baby. And I just knew I wanted to do something else. I loved being a mom and being a stay at home mom for that short amount of time, but I really wanted to do something else.

Annie McGinty:

And my husband and I are both entrepreneurial minded people, so we both started talking about this. And the boutique in Tucson was for sale at the time when we moved here. And we almost bought it, and we didn't. And that's what really started the idea of maybe not do it a brick and mortar, do it mobile. And so long story short, it was 20 years in the making, and now it's here, and it's a totally different concept than what I imagined when I wanted to open up a boutique to help brides. I thought it would be in a cute little storefront in Tremont, or somewhere really edgy. And it's shifted totally, and it's been amazing.

Leah Longbrake:

Talk about being edgy and ahead of curve, because you launched in October of '19, and you focus on in home mobile styling sessions, which we'll get more into in a second. COVID happened months after you launched.

Annie McGinty:

Yeah.

Leah Longbrake:

So really, your service couldn't have been a better time with precautions.

Annie McGinty:

Yeah. And on accident, really. I mean, and to be honest, I launched in October, which was literally weeks after Fashion Week, so I really didn't ... I had just locked in all my designers. The only reason I really launched and had my first popup trunk show was the rep for Lea-Ann Belter lives in Westlake. And she had all the brand new dresses off the runway from October. Fashion Week happens the first week-ish in October, and we launched at the end of October, so I had access to dresses that nobody had seen yet. And so we were like, "Let's do this popup and hit while the iron's hot, strike while the iron's hot, and launch this thing." So I didn't even have all my inventory from the other designers until about February.

Annie McGinty:

So then I get everything, and literally weeks later, we are shut down, which was okay. It gave me some time to really do the business, get the nitty gritty stuff down because I launched in a hot second, without putting much thought into it. I mean, I put a lot of thought into it, but it felt like I just fast forwarded it a little bit quicker that I would've. So that shutdown gave me a lot of time to make sure the business model worked, and tweaking. And then we tiptoed back into in home sessions, even with the pandemic, extremely carefully. We had to limit how many people we had in the styling sessions, the bride's entourage. But other than that, it really hasn't hindered us at all. It's been beautiful.

Leah Longbrake:

So we'll go back more into that in a second. I want to talk about these designers because most women know the Vera Wang and Carolina Herreras out there. Right? But you have these really cool indie designers, designers I've never heard of, and I wish I would've known about them when I was getting married. Tell us why that's such an important focus for you with the business.

Annie McGinty:

Yeah. So I kind of stumbled upon it when doing research on who to bring in and what was going to go on with the business. And I knew that a lot of the wonderful boutiques around Cleveland had the designers that you always hear of in all the catalogs. And when you Google wedding dresses, all those designers pop up. Right? And I didn't want to, not could I compete with that because I'm traveling going into different zip codes, so there's exclusivity rights that were going to hinder that.

Leah Longbrake:

Oh, interesting.

Annie McGinty:

Yeah. So I found Lea-Ann Belter was my first designer. And when we talk about indie designers, a lot of people think that they're up and comers, like brand new to the industry, only five years, or 10 years. Lea-Ann Belter's been in business 30 years. Karen Willis Holmes, another one of my designers, she's been in business 20. So they're just smaller, and they're singly owned, or women owned, or family owned businesses. So that's really when I started to say, "You know what, I don't want to carry what everybody else has." I want to be different. These designers have a beautiful story behind their businesses. Their designers are right up to par with all the big names, actually, a little bit better because they're all handmade in their own ateliers with their own employees. They control every step from design to when it ships out.

Annie McGinty:

And then the relationship was really important because this is such an emotional purchase. I have that relationship with my brides and I wanted that relationship to come and trickle down from my designers too. So I FaceTime the designers sometimes when I'm at styling sessions.

Leah Longbrake:

Oh, that's so cool.

Annie McGinty:

Yeah. So if we need to tweak something, or if a bride wants to plunge a back, or plunge a neckline, or change a neckline, or change up some embellishing somewhere, we can call the designer most of the time. Usually, I give them a heads up if I think that's going to happen. But they'll answer and we'll just go through everything. And it's sealed the deal for many of my appointments, so it's like a friendship. It's a family. And I couldn't be more thrilled that we decided to run the business that way. And I get to bring these new designers, and some of them established, into Ohio, where they've maybe not had a footprint before, and people here might not have known who they are.

Leah Longbrake:

And they're getting a unique, semi-exclusive experience and one of a kind dress.

Annie McGinty:

Yes, yeah. And it's luxury too. I wanted to stay away from that word for a while because I didn't want it to sound pretentious. And I'm the least pretentious person, and I didn't want these girls, this concept of having a bridal boutique come into your home is so new, I didn't want them to be intimidated thinking, "Oh, this hoity toity, really expensive, exclusive gowns are going to come in, and these girls. I'm not going to be able to afford it. It's going to be awkward."

Annie McGinty:

I wanted the opposite. I wanted everyone to feel comfortable with me, number one, and then to feel comfortable with the price range of the dresses and the designers. And it's really worked well. All of the designers are so lovely. There's just this warmness to what we're doing. But the quality of the dresses is luxurious. It is beyond. I'm so impressed by every order because we're so new that some of the dresses are just now coming in, and I haven't ever seen them in production before, or customized yet. And they're amazing. I am just thrilled with the way things have gone so far. So luxury and exclusivity and warmness and friendliness are all kind of wrapped up in a little package for us.

Leah Longbrake:

So with doing it as an in home visit, are you still looking at the same timeline as a bride when it comes to ordering your dress? Should you start doing these mobile sessions six to nine months out? Or is there a little bit of a difference because of this?

Annie McGinty:

Yeah. Pre COVID, I would've said, "Yeah. We're on the same timeline." All the designers were really busy. Everything was kind of like the normal world. A lot of times though, you can get a dress in four weeks from these designers. You would've had to pay a fee for it, but they could rush it a little bit easier I think than mass produced dresses that were coming from China or something, where you kind of lose a little bit of control when you're manufacturing. But now, that's not the case at all because they were able to manufacture all the dresses that the weddings got postponed, and so now it's freed up a little bit of their ateliers and their bandwidth basically. So we can get dresses out of most ... I have five designers I carry in studio on a regular basis and then rotate some. All the designers I have in studio now can pump out a dress relatively quick, like within a few weeks. So Lea-Ann Belter's just up in Toronto. I got a dress delivered here the other day in four weeks.

Leah Longbrake:

Oh, wow.

Annie McGinty:

And it would've taken a couple months to make before. So there's a little bit of flexibility where they're able to move things around if they need to, to get dresses to girls if they need it.

Leah Longbrake:

Annie, tell us about the different levels of experience, because you have a full range of options, even in offering virtual.

Annie McGinty:

Yeah. So we do virtual sessions. We do in home sessions, and then we do popup trunk shows. I like to call them designer events now because we can focus and highlight the actual designer.

Leah Longbrake:

They're not actually coming in trunks anymore.

Annie McGinty:

No, they're not. [inaudible 00:12:24]. Yeah. Although, Karen Willis Holmes, when you do trunk shows, they actually do come in big black trunks.

Leah Longbrake:

Oh, my gosh. Like the old school?

Annie McGinty:

Like the old school trunks, it's very cool. It keeps them very safe too.

Leah Longbrake:

Yeah, true.

Annie McGinty:

So we have three ways that you can see us. And then when you're doing an in home session, we have three different options for you. So the Bespoke package is, you get to select from any of up to 10 dresses, and then I bring a few extra after we have a conversation and get to know each other. I learn your vibe of your wedding and where it's at, and locations and photographers even. And then I bring some extras, as I learn about your personality and the look of your wedding. So the bride has full control. She gets to select all 10 of her dresses. I bring a few extra that are completely opposite of what I think she wants, just to push her a little out of her comfort zone, so she can try something different.

Leah Longbrake:

That's a great idea.

Annie McGinty:

Yeah. I mean, it's really I would say over 50% of the brides don't end up getting that dress that they actually thought they were coming in for.

Leah Longbrake:

I'm one of them. You think you have something in your head that you truly want, and then you try something completely different and it's like, "Wow, I didn't know that would look good on me."

Annie McGinty:

Yep, yep. Totally.

Leah Longbrake:

That's why you have to trust the consultant, trust Annie.

Annie McGinty:

Yes, definitely different heights and weights and proportions play into how each dress is going to look, so I like to bring some options with me. And again, we bring accessories. We have a whole lineup of veils. Each designer typically has their own line of veils as well, so we can bring those. And I have a line of hair pieces, accessories, earrings, jewelry, the works. So we bring all of that. We load up our van with mirrors, rolling racks. We bring bubbles and bites with that package. I love to collaborate with local vendors, so I'll get cookies made from a girl that I think that bride might love to have designed at her wedding, possibly. Depending on the time, we'll bring charcuterie boards. We get those from local makers in the industry.

Annie McGinty:

So we like to collaborate, so we leave behind something that they could use on their actual day, or maybe if they're having a bachelorette get together, or a shower, things like that. And then the Luxe package is just a scaled down version of the Bespoke package with dress options. And then the Ivory package is if a girl really knows that she's like, "I just really want to try on four or five dresses, let's just no fuss, no muss. Let's try these on and get it going," she probably knows already. She's tried on that dress maybe other locations. And then she just kind of knows that's kind of the look she wants, then we'll just bring a couple dresses. And the timeline of that session's a little bit less. It's about an hour versus two and a half hours for the other two. So there's different packages that we offer. And then all the fees, the booking fee goes back towards the credit of the dress when they buy the dress from us.

Leah Longbrake:

Oh, that's so great.

Annie McGinty:

Yeah, and there's no timeline. I really do not want to push a bride ever into a dress or a decision that she's going to regret three weeks later. So if they want two months to decide, then they take two months to decide. And depending on the package level, like the Bespoke package, we go back with a narrowed down version of her package. So say it's between three of the dresses, I'll bring those three dresses back for her, for her to try back on. And that's all included.

Leah Longbrake:

So going back to when we first started talking and you mentioned how you had a really bad experience when you were first looking for your wedding dress. Did you feel that kind of neglect from the bridal consultant?

Annie McGinty:

Yeah. It was the whole day was bad. It was the consultant basically kind of telling me, insinuating that I couldn't afford the dress because I was young, I was 24 years old. I think she made some assumptions, which were totally wrong.

Leah Longbrake:

Right.

Annie McGinty:

And then just pushing me into trying on styles I really didn't want to try on, but I did because I was there with my mom and my friends. And I was like, "Let's make a day of it." But I was one of those brides that knew I wanted that dress. And I did, I ended up getting that dress. And I drove five hours to get it, and then five hours back down six months later when it came back in. And it kind of was sad because I would've loved to keep it local. I've always been a local girl trying to support local businesses, and it just didn't happen. And I really never want a bride that's a client of ours to ever feel that way, so that's why we give them plenty of time to make their decision.

Leah Longbrake:

No, that's so amazing. And I love that you like to keep it local. I'm a fellow try to keep it local as well type of person. And tell us why it was so important for you to collab with local artisans and companies like you do.

Annie McGinty:

Well, truly, I've always done that. In my past career, I was in outside sales. And so for appointments, we'd always team up with other vendors that had similar products. And I sold in the interior design world, so we were always doing joint presentations or parties, and it's just more fun when you have a group of people. And the wedding industry is all about having fun.

Leah Longbrake:

Right.

Annie McGinty:

And I actually just had a lot of friends that were in the space that were either cookie or cake designers, venues, photographers. So I just reached out to them, and it just kind of happened. I had my first popup at Stella and Shay in Westlake. And she, the owner, Becca, is a mentor to me, business wise, and she's a very good friend. And she had just opened the Westlake store, and that's where the popup happened. It was kind of meant to be a company opening party, like a launch party. But it ended up being this is a thing, and we can rotate all these awesome vendors. I can't have them all in one space at once, as much as I would love to. But I could have different themed popups, and then have a photographer that might shoot light and airy for whatever that popup theme would be.

Annie McGinty:

But then if we're doing a dark, moody, really modern designer event, I could get a darker photographer that shoots, edits a little bit different, different foods. So that's kind of where that popups happened. And I just started reaching out to everybody on Instagram. And I didn't even know them, and not one person said no. They were all like, "Oh, my gosh. I love your concept. I want to do this. Let's get together." And it's like a grassroots, it was the most fulfilling part of my business model ever. I was like, "I'm going to make it because these people believe in what I'm doing." And this industry is so full of love and talented people that I knew if we all collaborated together, we were all going to help each other's business. And that's how it's been, and I love it.

Annie McGinty:

One thing with COVID is we stopped doing the popups, for obviously multiple reasons, so I've missed that. But we've always tried to keep them in the in home sessions with promoting them. I give brides a love, a vendor love list that has some of our favorites. And I kind of tailor it. It changes a lot per bride, just depends on what her personality is. So I leave that behind, so they have people to kind of look toward when they're scheduling people for their big day. So yeah, that's kind of how that transpired, and it's the best part of the business, really. Besides making brides completely happy with their dress, I love the collaboration side.

Leah Longbrake:

The love list is such a fantastic idea. I absolutely, positively love that.

Annie McGinty:

Thank you. I love it too, and so do the brides. They're like, "Oh, my gosh. This is so nice. We weren't expecting this."

Leah Longbrake:

I want to be a part of your popup events as well.

Annie McGinty:

Yeah.

Leah Longbrake:

Because it sounds so fun, and I love the wedding community.

Annie McGinty:

I did a few in the summer, but I took private sessions when I would pop up, instead of open to the public, like anybody could walk in. So this one's a little pared down. It's a bride plus one girl for the popups, so we'll let people ebb and flow like a normal retail store, but we're going to try and keep the ... The space isn't that big. It's at the CoLab in Lakewood, and we're going to keep the amount of people that are in there, quite small. I'm collaborating with a wedding event planner and a furniture rental company. So it'll be set up all beautiful like it's a really cool little popup event, but yeah, we're tiptoeing back into them so girls can see these awesome dresses that these designers launched in April and October of this year, but really haven't had a chance to get them out to the masses yet.

Leah Longbrake:

How often are you hoping, especially once we kind of get through quarantine a lot more, now that the vaccine's out and everything, how often do you hope to have designer events, the popup events?

Annie McGinty:

I really want to do one, my goal has always been once a month. More to come because we have a lot of designers. We're going to do some trunk shows. Typically, we stop doing the designer events in the summertime because that's really wedding season. Right?

Leah Longbrake:

Right.

Annie McGinty:

They're not shopping technically. The bridal industry is very cyclical. But with everything shifting and people pushing off buying their dresses and then the commitment of it all, I don't think we're going to see an ebb and flow like the normal traditional sales cycle of bridal. So I think brides are going to be wanting to shop in summer because they might get the green light, or feel like they can have the green light through summer, fall, beginning part of next year. So I'm going to keep doing them as long as designers want to send their new inventory over. We have something called our Something Borrowed collections, and these are designers that we don't necessarily keep in our studio all the time, but we love them and we want to support them. So that's a part of our website where you can go and click on those. And if I have enough time when you're scheduling your session, I'll order in and ship in the specific designer and their dresses.

Annie McGinty:

So if you love Hyacinth Bridal, and you want three of their gowns, I'll just borrow those in for your session, and then I can ship them back out. So it's a wonderful way to get more designers out into the Ohio market without having ... My studio's tiny. It's not that big. And so it's a really good way for the designers and I to partner and get their dresses out there. So we'll be doing those trunk shows as well. I just finished up one with a designer out of South Carolina. And I have a few more on the books that I'm just waiting to work on some final details. But those are all, we put those all over social media and on our website, so everyone knows they're coming. So we're getting a lot of good feedback about the one in February, so I'm hoping it's a good turnout.

Leah Longbrake:

So I have to ask you the fun question. What is your favorite all time television or movie wedding dress?

Annie McGinty:

This is so easy. It is, and it's probably everybody's, I would imagine, is the Sex and the City Vivienne Westwood, the dress where she's at the steps of the library. You know?

Leah Longbrake:

Yes, with her feather hair.

Annie McGinty:

Yes. And those are coming back, by the way.

Leah Longbrake:

Oh, wow. Really?

Annie McGinty:

Yes, yes. There is a lot of hairpieces actually are coming or here. So not maybe as dramatic as that peacock. But yeah, it's going to be a thing. But that dress, I mean, and that is not a dress ... That's not me. I'm not that big of a girl into those big dresses. But that dress just looked amazing. But all the dresses that they featured in that wedding, the montage when she's doing the photo shoot.

Leah Longbrake:

Yes.

Annie McGinty:

Doesn't it? It gets you all giddy and butterflies.

Leah Longbrake:

It does.

Annie McGinty:

And then even what she wore in the courthouse is exactly my vibe, that vintage, I think it was a Chanel suit maybe. I don't even know.

Leah Longbrake:

Oh, I'm blanking. I can hear her in her closet saying that Vivienne Westwood kicked that little suit's butt. I forgot who it was too.

Annie McGinty:

Oh, my gosh.

Leah Longbrake:

It was perfection with those blue shoes.

Annie McGinty:

Yes.

Leah Longbrake:

Which became so popular after that.

Annie McGinty:

It's so funny because: Don't you think Carrie's personality, she's both those girls?

Leah Longbrake:

For sure.

Annie McGinty:

She's really the girl that can pull off that humongous ball gown and rock it and make it her own, and then she can also wear that tiny tailored suit that was killer and iconic. So yeah, that's it without a doubt.

Leah Longbrake:

I love this choice. I remember the first time I saw the movie, I had got it on DVD and I was watching it in my bedroom folding laundry. And the scene where she gets the surprise box with the Vivienne Westwood dress in it as a gift, and she opens the note from Vivienne, I started bawling.

Annie McGinty:

Yeah.

Leah Longbrake:

Because that's so special.

Annie McGinty:

I know.

Leah Longbrake:

That's so amazing. I know it's a movie, but it was just one of those moments where it's just like, "I can't believe that happened. That's so cool."

Annie McGinty:

I know. All of my designers have done that to every bride that we've shipped dresses to. And I didn't even know that they were going to do that. So they send me, because I get all the dresses, to make sure everything looks good, and we look over everything before we give it to the bride. So the boxes have all come with a little envelope for the bride and a little envelope for me. And it's all hand written. I keep every single one of them. It's like those little things are magical.

Leah Longbrake:

Yeah, and they matter.

Annie McGinty:

Yes, they do.

Leah Longbrake:

So any last piece of advice for couple's planning their wedding?

Annie McGinty:

I would say take it in stride. It is going to be okay, no matter which way it happens. I know the dream of those big weddings is a thing. I had that at one point, but then we ended up getting married in a very scaled down version just because we wanted to. And they're lovely, the small weddings are so intimate and so personal. So if that is okay, it's going to be perfect. No matter what you do, it's all going to work out. So I wouldn't postpone if you don't feel like you need to postpone. If this is the love of your life and you want to get married now, by all means, do it. And if you want to have a big, huge party, then wait a little bit and have a big, huge party. So I think the moral is it's going to be okay, and you're going to end up doing it the way you want do it, and it'll end up being perfect no matter what.

Leah Longbrake:

How can we get more information on you and Ivory and Ash Bridal?

Annie McGinty:

So we're on, obviously, we have a great website, so that's ivoryandash.com. We're on Instagram, Ivory and Ash Bridal is our handle, Facebook as well. And then yeah, you can email us. You can book sessions right on our website. A lot of times, brides just call me or email me, and then we can work through all the details. So yeah, there's all kinds of all the modern ways to get in touch.

Leah Longbrake:

Thanks so much for being with us today and giving all this fantastic advice, Annie.

Annie McGinty:

Yeah, thanks so much. It was so fun meeting you.

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