Richmond Wedding Vendor Spotlight: Tiffanys Bridal & The Groom’s Corner

We are very excited to introduce you all to one of the kindest women in the wedding business: Sharon Townsend, the owner and manager of Tiffanys Bridal & The Groom’s Corner.  I’ve known Sharon for a while now and worked with her on numerous projects, but I loved learning more about her and her start at Tiffanys through this interview!

Tell us a little bit about your company!

Tiffanys Bridal is Richmond’s oldest bridal store – we’re celebrating 45 years of Tiffanys Brides this year! However, I have worked tirelessly to transform this “something old” into “something new” for Richmond brides. When I became the new owner and manager in 2009, we moved to a new boutique in Ridge Shopping Center on Parham Road. The new location features spacious dressing rooms, easily accessible displays and an expanded selection – I hand-inspect samples of the gowns I purchase at national bridal markets and fashion shows to ensure the quality of our selection.

In addition to bridal gowns, Tiffanys Bridal & The Groom’s Corner carries formal wear for the entire bridal party featuring gowns for bridesmaids, mothers, flower girls, and our full service tuxedo rental department for the guys. We also love to accessorize our brides with our jewelry, veils and headpieces. Tiffanys also offers services such as alterations, pressings and gown preservation. Brides who purchase their wedding gown at Tiffanys receive special discounts and free services and gifts from Tiffanys and our preferred wedding vendors, such as free teeth whitening.

Our goal at Tiffanys is to make the once-in-a-lifetime experience of shopping for a bridal gown special and memorable. I purchased my gown from Tiffanys four decades ago, and I want all brides to recall that moment with the same fondness that I do. Our professional bridal consultants know brides are searching for the most important garment they will ever wear; they listen carefully and focus on the brides”™ individual style. We want every Richmond bride to be a part of the tradition and become a Tiffanys Bride.

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How did you get started in this business?

It started out when I became, like many Richmond women, a repeat customer: I bought my gown at Tiffanys, so naturally I took my daughter there when she was getting married. I had acted as a freelance wedding planner for more than 20 years, and when we were shopping at Tiffanys I mentioned a few things that must have indicated I was knowledgeable about weddings. Before our appointment ended, our consultant insisted that I apply for a job at Tiffanys. I applied, unsure whether or not I would take the position if it was offered. It turned out that our consultant knew better than me how much I would love the job! I started as a consultant and was promoted to manager several months before deciding I could make Tiffanys my own; I knew the store had great potential, but it needed a fresh perspective on the bridal business to realize that potential.

Tiffanys has become so much more to me since then — I think of the consultants as family, and we are all committed to providing the best service possible for our brides.

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What differentiates you from other businesses in your field?

Tiffanys is a Richmond tradition: We”™ve offered one of the largest and finest selections of designer wedding gowns to brides for generations. Therefore, it is not uncommon for a Richmond bride’s mother or other family member to have purchased her gown from Tiffanys as well, making the moment even more special.  It’s a unique bond that can’t be achieved anywhere else in Richmond.

Why do you like working with weddings?

We all know how special it is to be involved in a wedding, whether you are the flower girl, maid of honor or simply a guest. Think about incorporating that same excitement into your job every day. I am part of memories they will cherish forever: the simple act of placing a veil on a bride’s head can bring tears to her eyes, and in that moment I know that all of my hard work was worth it. Brides write us thank-you notes describing the joy they experienced on their wedding day and the way their perfect gown enhanced the happiest day of their lives. We love seeing photos of the happy couples and knowing that we contributed. Some brides remember us so fondly that we”™ve even received baby announcements years later, or they will bring their children in to meet us!

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What is the most difficult situation you have faced with a bride and how did you resolve it?

When a bride finds the gown of her dreams, it is usually a time to celebrate – unless a family member or friend strongly disagrees with her choice and isn’t shy about making their opinion known. These situations arise sometimes and require delicate intervention by our consultants. One bride in particular had her heart set on one gown, and her mother was determined to buy a completely different style. I took off my consultant hat and became a counselor, sitting down with mother and daughter to listen to both of their concerns and help mom understand her daughter’s vision for the wedding. Once she understood the importance of this vision to her daughter, we worked out a compromise: the bride got her gown, but wore a veil to add an element of tradition for her mom.

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From a vendor’s perspective, what is the best piece of advice you can offer to engaged couples?

Choose your wedding date carefully to be sure you allow yourself enough time to plan. Some can handle the pressure of a quick engagement, but if you know you want to focus on the details, then you need to start at least a year in advance. You will have to coordinate with numerous vendors”™ schedules. For example, it can take up to six months for a special-order gown to arrive, and when it does you”™ll need time to get it altered before you schedule portraits with your photographer. If you want that portrait displayed at your wedding, you”™ll probably want to order a gown nine months prior to your wedding to be sure you have time for alterations and to take and review photos before you select a portrait.

If this already sounds overwhelming, then I would strongly advise that you consider a wedding planner. Planning a wedding can seem like adding a part-time job to your schedule, so delegating that to a trained professional who knows all the best local vendors is worth the added expense. Their fee is often a percentage of your wedding budget, and planner can actually save you money because they have connections and can score discounts on your behalf.

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Where do you find inspiration or motivation?

The brides themselves motivate me. I want to be sure Tiffanys has everything they want or need because I want them to have a memorable and enjoyable experience. Inspiration comes from the brides sometimes as well: I listen to their stories and their dreams, and I start thinking about ways to make those dreams a reality. Plus we are constantly attending seminars, meeting with or hosting designers, browsing national markets, reading trade magazines, checking social media and internet resources and watching fashion shows – the outlets for inspiration are endless, and I love to see what the designers and real brides will do next to influence bridal fashion.

What do you like to do when you are away from work?

I like to spend time with my family, especially my three precious grandchildren. I like to have them over to my house for dinner on my days off and love having my house filled with the happy sounds of two giggly five-year-old girls and one busy one-year-old boy. Before dinner we often spend time on the river cruising on our pontoon boat and spotting bald eagles.

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What would we be surprised to learn about you?

I was Miss Richmond Firefighter. My father was a Richmond firefighter, so he was thrilled that I received the honor. I participated in parades and represented Richmond at events, plus I started my career in fashion by modeling at Miller & Rhodes and Thalhimers.

Thank you, Sharon, for answering our questions!  If you’re interested in becoming a Tiffanys bride or groom, please visit www.tiffanysbridal.com.

All photos by Tori Watson Photography

Photo shoot styling by Posh PR

Photo shoot location: Maymont

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