Skip to main content

The magic of a wedding can take hold of children with dreams of beautiful dresses, sharp tuxedoes, and matrimonial bliss. For sisters Terryl Boulanger and Becky Baumgart, the wedding reenactments they staged as children turned into a successful business.

Becky and Terryl opened Girls in White Satin Bridal & Formal Wear in the heart of downtown Jacksonville 15 years ago. Their business dreams are firmly rooted in their family history.

“The business idea started as far back as when I was three years old,” recalled Terryl. “We would decorate our tricycle like a bride’s getaway car, put streamers and cans on the back, and ride up and down the sidewalk. We played dress up as bride and grooms and took photos.”

Terryl and I and our younger sister, Joanne (Taylor, who is also an employee at Girls in White Satin), talked, lived and played bridal from the beginning,” explained Becky. “We continued to ponder what it might be like to open a bridal salon. Finally, one Thanksgiving, we sat around the table and decided we were going to do it. So, here we are today.”

Becky and Terryl opened their full-service bridal salon under a veil of secrecy on November 13, 2008. They had never run a business, so they felt uncomfortable quitting their jobs and sharing the news about their fledgling enterprise.

“We were both working part-time at our old jobs and working part-time here (at Girls in White Satin), because we did not know if the business was going to take off and didn’t want to give up the stability we had. So, we kept doing both for about two years,” Terryl explained.

In the spring of 2008, we originally had signed up to go to the Chicago Bridal Market as guests,” Becky recalled. Because at that point, we did not know if we were going to be able to do the business. By the time the market came, we knew we were going to be able to open. So, we changed from being guests to being actual buyers.”

“Not knowing anything, we walked off the elevator at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago and were terrified! There was a lady in one of the booths who knew we did not know what we were doing. She took us under her wing and recommended we start out with about 60 dresses. So that is what we did. We had 60 wedding gowns, a couple of lines of bridesmaid dresses, and some suits.”

Sales started slowly at their bridal boutique during the opening months in the winter of 2008. Terryl and Becky wondered why no one came in the first few weeks of business, only to learn November and December are the most lackluster months of the wedding shopping season.

“We soon found out brides get engaged at Christmas time,” Becky chimed in. “And then in January, February, March, they start shopping. And that’s our busiest time of the year.”

Today, Girls in White Satin is thriving, with more than 500 wedding dresses available for purchase as well as a full line of gowns for bridesmaids and anyone else in a wedding party. Inside, you will find accessories anyone might need to dress for the big day, and the boutique staffs an in-house seamstress.

“It is great to see that all come together, because you work side by side with the bride on getting her situated with her dress and then you work with the bridesmaids,” said Terryl. Then, to be able to see all of it come together and the final result because they always send pictures or tag us on Facebook or social media.”

 I have always said one of my favorite parts about this business is the week of the bride’s wedding when she picks up her dress for the final time, knowing she is going to get married in just a few days,” Becky stated. That part, to me, is always really exciting and they are nervous and excited. We’re nervous, too, hoping we have done everything right and they are happy with their dress. Their day is so important to them; we must get it right. You want them to be happy and to know we have done everything we can to make their shopping experience a great one.”

Becky and Terryl understand the milestone for a bride who is selecting a wedding dress is crucial and scary at the same time. So, they put a premium on ensuring their team is with each bride every step of the way.

I think brides want to have an experience when they shop for their wedding gown,” explained Terryl.  From the moment they walk in the door, we make them feel welcome and assure them we are going to take good care of them answering their questions or concerns about their wedding dress or something else for the wedding.”

Personal touches are key,” Becky said. We focus on trying to work with a bride from the moment she walks in the door until she leaves. We stay with them the entire time they are here because yes, sometimes they like to browse, but invariably in this type of business, they are going to have questions. That is part of our ambiance, part of our show. It is all in the personal touch.”

Becky and Terryl also understand high fashion can be expensive and brides may have limited budgets. The last thing Becky and Terryl say they want is a heartbroken bride because the dress of her dreams is financially out of the question.

We have always, from day one, tried to make sure our pricing was reasonable and affordable. We do not have any gowns over $3,000. We do not feel it is necessary,” Becky stated.

One of the things that makes this store unique is the influence of their mother, Phyllis, who at the age of 80, still comes to work daily and is one of the top seamstresses at the business. Phyllis would bring wedding dresses home when the girls were children and was sewing around her family all the time.

She honestly is the backbone of this business, because if it had not been for her, I do not know that we would have ever had the dream to even do it. She was sewing at home, and it is what we were around all the time.” Terryl said.

Becky and Terryl keep their dream alive by making sure they stay on top of the fast-moving wedding fashion scene. Jacksonville is certainly not renowned as a high-fashion hotspot, but the sisters say they can still deliver the best dresses, even though their store is not in Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles.

Staying on the cutting edge of things, even though we are in central Illinois, is important. So, we have the dresses available brides are seeing on social media,” Becky said. You have to stay up with the trends. They are not just flipping through a bride magazine anymore. Brides can see so many dresses online.”

The sisters love their store and that, every day, they get to act out their childhood dreams of matrimony. They take their responsibility as retailers very seriously, as well as their bond with the bride and groom.

I think about the day of the wedding, and it is a holy and sacred day for them and that is important, that is huge. We try to do everything we can to make the day easy and stress-free for them,” Becky said.

 “As Becky and I are doing fittings, we are one-on-one with the bride. She is nervous and talking about all the final details of the wedding and I say to them often, ‘The only thing that matters, in the end, is you guys are married, because that is what is important,” Terryl said. “Do not sweat the small stuff. Remember why you are there.”

Central Illinois

Whimsy Tea

IRMAApril 15, 2024

Leave a Reply