She opened her gown and floral shop earlier this summer, but Rae Georgia of Nicholson is already booked through the rest of the wedding season.
Her speedy ascent at Vow Floral and Formal follows a shift in the bridal industry, one that has raised a host of boutiques and venues to serve brides seeking utterly unique, personalized experiences.
The trend replaces church sanctuary ceremonies and chain dress retailers with whimsical, outdoor destinations and local, independent shops who build their own brands from scratch. It’s part of what’s tossed a multibillion-dollar industry on its head.
David’s Bridal, an industry mainstay, emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy this year without closing stores, but still struggles with dwindling market share. The national bridal giant Alfred Angelo closed all of its stores amid bankruptcy in 2017.
Social media, especially the platforms Pinterest and Instagram, might have something to do with it.
“In the past, everything was sort of mainstream,” said Michelle Cadden, a baker who owns Electric City Bakehouse in Scranton. Her custom cakes appeal to clients who demand ever-changing trends in cake-making. They’re drawing their ideas from social media.
“Everybody went to David’s Bridal, everyone went to more of a hall-like setting, a typical catering menu with a traditional white cake,” she said. “It certainly doesn’t create the kind of uniqueness that most brides want for their wedding day.”
Those same social media platforms also can create impossible expectations, said Victoria Valvano Gallagher, who owns the Blushing Bridal Boutique, which opened in November in Scranton.
And they give this new army of wedding planners, retailers and artisans the task of balancing the perfect dream wedding with reality.
“The only word I never use is ‘no,’” Valvano Gallagher said. “I try to do everything in my power.”
Georgia, 31, graduated from Penn State University and moved to New York City with her now-husband, children’s book author Andrew Tolan.
She worked for Nickelodeon as a marketing and advertising assistant, then later for Comcast. After nearly a decade, the frenetic corporate life led her and Tolan back home. They bought a home near Lake Sheridan in Nicholson where they moved about a few months ago. Vow opened on Aug. 5.
“I always wanted to open my own business; I had been doing wedding flowers on the side for friends and family for years,” she said. “I always wanted to open a bridal shop, and it just got to the point … it’s now or never.”