Provo bridal industry makes it easy to say yes to the dress

Allyse’s Bridal has had a location in the Provo Riverwoods for over nine years. They offer bridal clothing, as well as formal clothing for prom and other events. (Photo courtesy of Allyse’s Bridal).

Wedding season is officially underway, and Provo’s unique bridal industry is prepared to meet the demand.

It is common for students at Christian colleges to joke about having a “ring by spring,” but BYU senior Brittany Brown from Boise, Idaho said Provo wedding culture is accommodating of most timelines and experiences. 

“From what I’ve seen, it’s all very authentic. It’s whatever fits that couple. There’s a lot of variety in what the wedding looks like. I feel like there’s not a lot of pressure to have your wedding or your love story fit a certain mold,” she said.

Brown said she and her fiance attended the same ward her freshman year at BYU. They kept in touch during her mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “and it finally worked out five years later.”

Brown acknowledged that her relationship is different from many others in Provo. She described it as a “slow burn,” and she said it would not have worked any other way.

Their June 2023 marriage in Meridian, Idaho is primarily being coordinated by a wedding planner, but Brown said she has done the bulk of her personal preparation in Utah.

She and her fiance shopped for rings in Provo, and she tried on dresses at Something Borrowed Bridal and Gowns By Pamela.

“I’ve been impressed with how many options have been good for me,” she said. “There were several dresses I really liked. There are lots of modest dresses too.” 

Modest dress options set Provo’s bridal industry apart. It is common for brides and families from out of state to fly to Utah in search of the perfect modest dress, said Orem-native McKenna Miller, who works at Affordable Bridal Boutique.

Affordable Bridal was created by a husband and wife team Janelle and Zak Sullivan in 2017 to provide Utah brides with affordable, fashionable dresses. Their wholesale business model allows them to customize dress styles at a lower price, Miller said.

Miller said that most brides who come into the boutique play it safe with their dresses. They are also “really genuine, and sometimes a little bit naive,” she said.

A handful of times, Miller said she has helped customers who came in to buy a dress the week of their wedding. “There’s definitely been a few who have no idea,” she said.

However, Janelle Carlson, owner of Allyse’s Bridal at the Provo Riverwoods, said brides are generally coming in earlier for dresses than they have in years past.

“Usually they come shopping for a wedding dress two to three months in advance, but this year they have come four to six months in advance,” she said.

Carlson attributed this to concerns about supply in a post-pandemic economy. She said she does not mind the extended timeline, which allows more time for alterations. 

Allyse’s Bridal offers in-house alterations, which Carlson said she believes sets them apart from other bridal boutiques. Carlson has done bridal alterations for 21 years and continues to do them as the shop’s owner.

“I’ve sewn all my life, 50 years now. When they needed somebody to do alterations, it was right up my alley,” she said.

Carlson said she has turned dresses around overnight for customers. Many of the dresses in Allyse’s Bridal are ready to wear right off the hanger.

Carlson’s business model is well-suited to the Utah market. “We try to stick to the trends, but a lot of customers like to keep it simple. It’s great because I can change necklines and sleeves to be how they want,” she said.

The boutique experiences higher volumes of sales from January to mid-August, with a lull in September and October, Carlson said.

This aligns with the number of couples issued marriage licenses in Utah County. Burt Harvey, current division manager over tax administration and public services in Utah County, said that May and August were the busiest months for marriage licenses.

Utah County has issued more marriage licenses in 2023 than the previous year because of their new fully digital license option. Many licenses are issued to non-residents of the county. (Emma Everett)

In 2022, his office issued 15,685 marriage licenses. In the year to date, they have issued 3,557.

Utah County is a hotspot for marriage licenses, “and it’s not just because of BYU,” Harvey said. “Utah County is the only county that issues licenses completely digitally.”

Harvey said Tooele County currently pilots a hybrid version of Utah County’s digital model, with future plans for a fully digital license option.

The Utah County office not only offers digital marriage licenses, it also officiates local, national and international marriages by remote appearance. As long as couples meet some basic requirements, they can be married by Utah County’s offices. This open policy in regard to marriage has a long history in the state, he said.

“Utah has never had a citizenship or residency requirement because Mormon couples would come from other places to come and get sealed in temples,” Harvey said.

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