Vendor Love: Meet Two Bridal Vendors Making It Big in the Milwaukee Burbs

Some girls may get to say “yes” to the dress, but at the new bridal boutique of Delafield, it’s all about ringing the steeple bell. Set in an 150+ year renovated church, Aeva Wedding & Party carries gowns and dresses by designers exclusive to the area, with styles for bohemian, non-traditional, and elegant brides of all ages.

aeva bridal shop bell steeple church delafield wisconsin bride wedding

“We try to carry as many locally made, handmade, or made in America products that we can and at reasonable price-points,” says Ariel E.V. Arnson, owner and bridal stylist--and whose initials make up the store’s name. “My approach to styling is to individualize a look that captures a woman's personality and highlights her inner beauty, so each customer leaves with a look that is unique to her. A special thing we do, being in the old church, is after a bride buys her gown we have her ring the old bell in the steeple. It definitely adds to the experience and is a fun little way of celebrating getting her gown!”

aeva ariel kara reese photography bridal dress shop delafiel wisconsin

Since 2012, Ariel (pictured above left) has been working to launch her vision of the bridal shop that she officially opened in May 2014. Friend and photographer Kara Krause (pictured above right) of Kara Reese Photography, beautifully highlighted Ariel’s shop, making the perfect pairing for some Vendor Love.

“I have watched Kara’s business develop and grow since she first started taking senior portraits for kids at our high school,” says Ariel. “Kara has been doing senior and newborn portraits since 2009 and recently moved into a great new studio space in Oconomowoc. [She has since] added wedding and engagements to her repertoire. I absolutely love the photos she took of Aeva; she really captured the mood of my store. I look forward to working more with Kara and will definitely be recommending her to our brides.”

aeva bridal shop bell steeple church delafield wisconsin bride wedding

WB: When and how did you get started in the bridal business?

Ariel: I majored in Textile & Apparel Design at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For my senior thesis collection, I designed, created the fabric, patterned, and constructed looks for a wedding party. I loved the idea of designing for weddings because there’s so much significance to the wearer. After that, I was hooked on wedding culture.

Immediately upon graduating from college, I moved to Houston and later Chicago to style brides at BHLDN, Anthropologie's first two bridal store locations. I gained a lot of experience by styling brides and bridal parties from all across the country and in all different styles--from a black tie New Year's Eve wedding in New York City, to an intimate, barefoot outdoor wedding in Olympia National Forest, from Mexico City to the backwoods of Ontario. I really enjoyed using my knowledge of patternmaking and design to find the right silhouette, style, and accessories for each bride. I instantly loved working with brides because it is such a happy business. No one is ever upset that they are coming to try on wedding gowns!

aeva bridal shop bell steeple church delafield wisconsin bride wedding

WB: Why did you decide to open Aeva (and how long has it been operating)?

Ariel: I loved working at BHLDN, but I missed Wisconsin, the atmosphere of my small hometown area, and my forest. I wanted to create a boutique with an out-of-the-box atmosphere like BHLDN, but in an environment where I actually knew the florist I was recommending to brides and could make recommendations based on each individual. Then, on a serendipitous visit home while living in Chicago, the lady at the nail salon told me that the lady at the inn told her that the lady who owned the bridal shop down the road was retiring and looking for someone to take over. I couldn’t believe this opportunity and knew it wasn’t likely to happen again. I was ready for a change and in July of 2012, I took ownership of the bridal shop and began transforming it into my own.

I knew the atmosphere I wanted to create for the shop because it was inherent to my being--a natural elegance. But I took a lot of time developing the details: designing my logo, researching the designers I wanted to carry, etc. In addition to building my business, I spent a lot of time helping my family through some major health issues. I had long been in love with the old steeple building in downtown Delafield; a renovated church with worn blonde wood flooring seemed like the ideal location for my bridal shop. It seemed like the fates were with me, as everyone recovered from their health issues, ‘the steeple’ became available, and I moved in the spring of 2014. Aeva opened on May Day 2014, and that’s when I really consider my shop to have started.

aeva bridal shop bell steeple church delafield wisconsin bride wedding

WB: What is your favorite part about working with brides/weddings?

Ariel: I love so many aspects of working with brides and weddings. I love just how happy everyone is, and I feel honored to be a part of their wedding experience and the planning of such an important time of their lives. I love hearing little snippets of people’s love stories. I love seeing each bride’s reaction to her ‘bridal moment.’ Some cry, some squeal, some just stare at the mirror not saying anything, but my favorite might be those rare occasions when brides start dancing around in their gowns! I basically get to play dress up with real life dolls for my job--it couldn’t be better.

aeva bridal shop bell steeple church delafield wisconsin bride wedding

WB: What tips do you have for brides based on what you see in your business?

Ariel: Be true to yourself and your partner. Your wedding is foremost a celebration of the love and union of you and your partner. In this millennia, wedding culture has broken away from tethered traditions, making it easier for couples to truly express themselves.

Lean on your wedding consultants and don’t be intimidated by the wedding process. If you have a vision but aren’t sure how to properly execute it, or how to explain it to your mom and your bridesmaids, ask your bridal stylist. We do bridal party styling at Aeva too, and it can help a lot to use a stylist when trying to coordinate nine girls in mix and match styles all together. Ask us questions about styling and ideas--it’s our job! I always tell brides, the hardest part is through--you’ve found your partner, now comes the fun part: deciding what to wear!

aeva bridal shop bell steeple church delafield wisconsin bride wedding

WB: Any favorite stories/memories of past weddings?

Ariel: We have so many interesting bridal and customer moments at the shop it’s hard to share just one, but one bride from this summer really stands out.

In July, we teamed up with the Brides Across America charity to host a wedding gown giveaway for military brides. Each eligible bride, who was either in the military herself or engaged to someone in the military, received a wedding gown of their choosing for free from select gowns at Aeva. Our last bride on the second day of the event remains one of my most memorable bridal experiences.

I found out that the bride, who was around my age, 25, had been engaged for over three years. She explained that her fiancé was in the Army and was currently on his third deployment to Afghanistan, and that his tours and their finances had been the reason for the delay. She practically squealed when she said she just found out when he’s coming home (hopefully for good), and they are planning the wedding for a few months after that. They recently lost a huge wedding package giveaway contest, coming in third place, and was feeling disheartened that they’d be able to have the wedding she’d envisioned.

We tried on a number of the gowns that were available for the charity event. Although she probably would have settled for one of the gowns, I knew they weren’t right, and I knew I had just what she was looking for--one of our gowns that we hadn’t included in the charity event.

I ran and grabbed it from the back, and told her that I had one more gown that I wanted her to try on. Without showing her or letting her look in the mirror while putting it on, I slipped her into the gown, attaching a black sash she previously alluded to wanting, and the gown fit like a glove.

When she stepped out of the fitting room, in front of her boisterous friends and saw herself in the mirror there was a brief moment of silence for the first time since they’d all walked in--and she had her bridal moment. Then, she danced and squealed around exclaiming how perfect the dress was, that it was just what she had always dreamed about.

When it was time to change out of the gown, she showed me pictures of the couple together and their quirky sense of humor and connection radiated through the photos. She expressed the deepest, most sincere amount of gratitude to me and there was nothing I could do to keep myself from crying. We tearfully hugged as I expressed my gratitude and support to her and her fiancé for all of the work and sacrifice they have done for me, for us, for America. I’m choking up just thinking back to it now.

aeva bridal shop bell steeple church delafield wisconsin bride wedding

Aeva Wedding & Party
606 Genesee Street
Delafield, WI  53018