Mar 1, 2008

Filene's Basement's Running of the Brides

If you’ve never heard it, you might be surprised to know that The Running of the Brides is its official name. Think The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain. It’s crazy, it’s fun, and it’s memorable.

Since 1947 the store Filene’s Basement has held an annual bridal gown sale. You can read about its history here. Imagine getting the dress of your dreams for $249- they make it possible!

Every dress is one of three prices: $249, $499, or $699. These dresses might have originally cost thousands more than what they are being sold for. Because of the prices, these sales are immensely popular, and world-famous. One woman flew to Boston from Argentina this year, and that’s just one example of many.

The doors open at 8, but the crowds start gathering much earlier. Brides and their families and friends show up in the wee hours of the morning to get a good place in line. Once the doors open, everyone RUNS to the racks and grabs as many gowns as they can. If a dress is the wrong size or style, it becomes a bartering tool;
trade until you find the gowns you actually want to try on. Pick a spot as the gathering point for your troops, and that’s where you try on the dresses. Wear whatever you are comfortable stripping down to; don’t plan on using a changing room. Some women wear bathing suits, some wear tight fitting gym clothes, others just strip to their underthings. The first hour is crazy, but after that it settles down a bit. There are still plenty of dresses, still people waiting anxiously for a certain dress to be discarded, still some hoarding, but the frenziness is lessened.

A good game plan

Go with a team. Mickey’s advice to me was “Go with any female you feel comfortable with.” It was great advice. In general, the more people you have, the better. It’s a great bonding experience. You can share it with your mom, your sisters, your bridesmaids, friends- it’s especially great if you have another friend who is a bride-to-be to go with.

Dress so that you can find each other in a crowd. Have everyone where the same colored t-shirt, hat, bandana, etc. Some groups wear headbands with antennae or bunny ears. Some wear funny hats, or simply matching plain hats. Some people go all out with team t-shirts, with “Bride” “Made of Honor” “Mother of the Bride” etc. written on the backs.

Take turns. You’re going to want to try on as many dresses as you can. Tell your team members what you’re looking for beforehand, and have them scout for dresses for you. You also will probably want to look for dresses yourself, so having others to stay in one spot is a good idea. Always have someone who can stay with the dresses you haven’t tried on yet, or that are maybes, and guard them. Mirrors are prime real estate. Standing near one is good, but so is sharing.

Bring water. With all the running around, and possibly the lack of sleep, you don’t want to get dehydrated.

Bring a camera. One, it’ll be a very memorable experience and there will be fun pictures. Two, you can have your team members take pictures of you from all sides so you can evaluate a dress you like..

Bring phones. The sale takes place in such a large area that you’ll want to be able to call each other if you get lost, or if you find the perfect dress. It really helps to be able to stay in touch.

Put your belongings into a fanny pack or backpack worn by someone other than the bride. As the bride you want to be as unencumbered as possible. Have somebody else hold your belongings, including your clothes. This is one of the events where a fanny pack is acceptable fashion-wise. Purses will definitely get in the way.

Have fun. This is a once in a lifetime experience. You’ll be able to say you did it- you might even leave with an “I survived Filene’s Basement Running of the Brides” t-shirt. You’ll bond with other brides-to-be. You’ll be part of the group excitement and cheers every time someone finds a dress. And, you might just find your dream gown at a miniscule price.

Keep in mind- You can buy up to 2 dresses, but there are no returns. If you love the idea of this but don’t want to deal with the craziness, go later in the day. There are so many high quality dresses that there will still be plenty whenever you show up. If you go at 9 or 10 the crowd will still have high energy, but will be much saner. You can have a great time whether waiting in line at 2 AM is your style, or you’re more the type to stroll in at 10.

Upcoming Running of the Brides events are:

March 21 in Atlanta

March 28 in Paramus, N.J.

April 4 in Tyson’s Corner, VA.


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