Dreamcatcher: Erin the Bridal Shop Owner

Dreamcatcher Series
Installment 4: Erin Szymanski, owner of Glitter and Grit

Meet Erin: As you know, Dreamcatcher is one of my favorite series on CMJ, and I'm excited to announce that this is our very first Pittsburgh-based Dreamcatcher. Erin and I have only met once, but as soon as I stepped into her bridal shop, I knew I wanted to feature her on the blog. Her shop, Glitter and Grit, which opened in Lawrenceville in 2013, is a bride-to-be’s dream! It reminds me of Lovely, which is where I bought my dress, but much more intimate and special. When I met Erin, she was kind enough to take some time and talk with me about what it’s like to open a boutique in Pittsburgh and we continued the conversation over email. As always, her story is quite inspiring and just the motivation we all need on a Monday!

Name: Erin Szymanski
Current Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Occupation: Owner of Glitter and Grit

So tell us about Glitter and Grit. How did it all start? From when I first started working, I always felt like I wanted to have a business of my own. Over the years, I had so many ideas, but nothing stuck. As my friends started getting married, I would go shopping with them and look around the stores thinking that if it was me, none of what I was seeing, both in the selection and the shopping experience, would fit my personal style. I started to realize that there were a good number of designers out there that were making more unique wedding dresses, but there was nowhere in the area to try them on. I knew that I couldn’t be the only person who didn’t see herself as a “traditional” bride, and that Pittsburgh needed more options!

Did you have a business plan? Sure thing. I had actually written a few in the past for school projects and other business ideas, so it was a natural place for me to start, and to help keep my thoughts organized.

Were you in the bridal or fashion industry before launching Glitter and Grit? I had previously worked retail for about six years, and then worked in accounting for eight - but I kept going back to retail part-time because I missed it! I considered working in the bridal industry in some capacity before opening Glitter & Grit, but ultimately decided that since I wanted to approach the entire shopping experience differently, that it wasn’t necessary.

What's the most challenging part of being a business owner? What is the most rewarding? I have a hard time staying organized and finding focus! At any point in time, I’m thinking about multiple things, working on multiple projects… always with my mind on the next thing. I try really hard to stay on track with a task but can get distracted.

The most rewarding thing is, rather obviously, getting to be a part of such an exciting adventure with all of our clients! There is a specific moment when you can feel the shift of emotions; whether from frustration, fear, or uncertainty – there is a moment when a bride starts to fully enjoy the experience, when it all gets a little more real and they can picture themselves getting married to their favorite person, wearing something that makes them feel amazing.

Describe a typical day for you. Do you have any daily rituals? There’s not much of a typical day in my world, as Glitter & Grit operates by private appointment – and because of my lack of organization!  Literally every day looks different, some dominated by office work, others by appointments, others by working on photo shoots or networking with other wedding vendors.

What do you think it is about your shop that draws brides in the door? What do they say about the experience? Literally word-of-mouth and our front windows are the two main things that attract brides to Glitter & Grit, which is awesome! We focus on providing a relaxing but fun shopping experience, while we help you figure out what the right dress for you is, whether it’s in our store or not. I feel that there’s a bit of a myth that all girls have been dreaming about their wedding day, and their wedding dress, since they were young, and that they know exactly what they want to wear. While there are some lucky ladies out there like that, many of us actually have no idea, and need to do some exploring to find out – and that’s where we come in. I wanted the store to feel like you’re visiting your big sister’s house, playing dress-up in her fancy closet; comfortable enough to hang out, but still a little special. So when brides and their guests say that they don’t want to leave, that’s the biggest compliment! I think that both that vibe and our relaxed approach to exploring versus selling is what our clients tell their friends about the most.

You talk a lot about originality and not changing who you are just because you’re a bride. Can you expand on this? What do you think are the outside forces that cause some brides to conform? Simply, in the realm of wedding attire, choose something that makes you feel like you; a beautiful, special version of your everyday. Don’t feel pressured to wear a certain style or color or fabric just because someone feels that anything else isn’t “bridal.” You’re getting married. That makes you, on that day, a bride. You will be a bride whether you’re wearing a white dress, a rainbow dress, a rad suit, a garbage bag, or a Canadian tuxedo.

There are so many outside forces! Magazines, television, Pinterest, family and friends… I feel like any life event can easily be overshadowed by everyone else’s opinions of how you should act, what you should wear, who should be involved, how much money you should spend, etc…. the focus shifts from that actual, very important, thing that is happening to less significant details.

I just think it’s crucial to decide what’s important to you, and stick to it. Of course, there will be compromises, and I also think it’s worth choosing your battles. I’m not saying that everyone has to buck every tradition, but if it doesn’t make sense for who you are as a couple, don’t feel like you have to adjust how you do things only to appease other people.

What would you like to accomplish in your career over the next five years? Are there plans to expand the business? I’m not really one to set long-term goals, because my thoughts on the future change every day! I’m sure that, like before, I’ll have a million ideas before the right one - the one that comes from a place of curiosity and integrity – sticks.

Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? DO IT!! Seriously. I tend to encourage people who weren’t even asking for it to start a business. If you feel compelled to do your own thing your own way, you won’t regret taking the chance.  Also, set clear beliefs or standards from the beginning and always check in with them (a.k.a. your gut or your heart) when making decisions.

Photos courtesy of heredwelling - check them out too!

Love Wins

Hooray for love and hooray for this wedding-themed Birchbox in partnership with Style Me Pretty - the ultimate wedding blog. This collab is seriously a match made in Heaven. When you mix the most amazing curators of wedding inspiration with the best in beauty, only good things can come. 

Gifting a Birchbox subscription is a great way to help not only brides, but bridesmaids and serial wedding guests like myself (35 weddings and counting) discover new products and stay looking fly all season long! The sample-size products are also perfect for traveling since weddings mean worldwide tours these days. 

To subscribe today and up your beauty game, visit Birchbox.com/StyleMePretty

This box includes: Kerastase Elixer Ultime, LA FRESH Waterproof Makeup Remover, Vasanti Cosmetics BrightenUp! Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator, Laura Geller Beauty Baked Color True Blush, Marcelle BB Cream Golden Glow, Deepa Gurnani Embellished Hair Tie

Joy and James' Breathtaking Brooklyn Bash

I think I've mentioned this before, but in nine and a half years (my entire post-college life) I've attended 35 weddings. 35 Weddings! Kind of ridiculous, I know. But at the same time, I'm just so thankful and honored to have been chosen to witness such a beautiful tradition time and time again. I've pretty much seen it all - barns, farms, rooftops, beaches, cocktail style, buffet style, family style. But if I had to list my top five prettiest weddings I've been to, our good friends James and Joy would make the cut. 

Now I usually kick these posts off by talking a little bit about the bride, but this story starts with the groom. James and I go way back - pretty much since the day I was invited to my first post-college wedding. We worked together at a job that I never should have accepted except I wouldn't be here today writing this post if it wasn't for that dreadfully painful place. 

James and I weren't that close. We would bitch about work during work and then start it all over again the next day. I knew he had a roommate named Jay and lived in Astoria. I knew he was from a town called Hicksville, which I thought was a joke and that was it. A few months in to the job, I decided it wasn't for me and never looked back. 

James remained on my buddy list because AIM was a thing back then. He also somehow got on my g-chat list and I figured he would just remain in my life in this weird, cyberspace way. But fast-forward four years, and he's dining al fresco with his former roommate Jay and I walk by. We say hello and for the first time, I meet my future husband. The boy I probably heard stories about in 2005, the boy I probably had the chance to meet but passed and the boy who would later sweep me off my feet. So, here we are four years later, James is back in my life, I'm falling in love with his best friend and he's falling in love with a girl named Joy. The world could not be a better place for the four us. 

Now meet Joy! Her name kind of sums it up. She's cheerful, creative and smart. She has a cool Tumblr with her twin sister and an etsy shop where she sells her whimsical illustrations. Her style is Anthropologie meets...Anthropologie and that's never a bad thing. She's hip and cool and always gives off good vibes. And quite honestly, the world needs more people like her or maybe more people named Joy. So without further ado, take a glimpse into their enchanted and romantic evening in Brooklyn - it was the perfect blend of Joy's feminine vintage charm and James' love of yesteryear. 


In one word, how would you describe your wedding day?  Does "Too marvelous for words" count? My grandfather would've said that.

What was your inspiration? Right out of high school, I had worked as a server in a catering hall. So, I saw a lot of weddings. One after another, they all seemed exactly the same. But when my sister Noelle was getting married 4 years ago, I watched her imagine her whole day differently with DIY details, where all of her creative friends and family got together to make her day really special. I had never seen a wedding like it before. So, Noelle is inspirational. She shared with me all of her favorite wedding blogs, venues, dress designers and took me to fantastic events like The Cream where I found vendors like our DJ. I wouldn't have had a clue where to begin planning my wedding without her. 

What was your favorite wedding blog or website that you trolled on a daily basis? I don't know what any bride ever did before Pinterest. And even though the self-proclaimed evil club of mean hipster brides, is well, mean, there's great advice on East Side Bride. 

What is the one piece of advice that you wish someone would have told you before your wedding? This sounds a little negative but hear me out. Something, if not many somethings, will go wrong on your wedding day. In order of severity, the morning of my wedding consisted of a mouse, a broken finger, lost luggage, a nearly towed car, and rain. I was stressed. Before I let that get to me, though, I tried to relax, sip my champagne and remember that I was marrying my James and nothing was really getting in the way of that. So that's what matters. And it's a good story. Would it really be any fun if everything went smoothly? Just keep telling yourself: "One day, this will be funny."

What was your first dance song? James and I danced to Okkervil River's "Seas Too Far To Reach". James has always introduced me to new bands and Okkervil River was one of them. Before we were dating, he told me to listen to this song. And then I couldn't stop listening to it. The lyrics are sad but also real and stunning. We identified with it and became our song. To me, it brings me to that place in my memory when our relationship was just beginning. 

What is the best part of marriage? Doing nothing together is the best part of marriage. This first year went by fast. We were so busy. We had adventures, visited new places and adopted furry friends in our tiny family. I know our time together will always be like this. So, I try to be present and snuggle up to the boring, quiet moments and cherish it all with him. And I love saying, "My husband." That's a very fun part.

Any wise words on life as a wife? I wish I could say that I live by these words all the time: "Communicate with your partner, no matter what." It's funny how quickly nothing can turn into something just by not talking about it. I try to follow this way of thinking and I think I'm pretty good at it. Those words go great with these words, "Just let it go." My best friend, Heather, gave me a funny book called "Don'ts for Wives" by Blanche Ebbutt from 1913. I was delighted to see my wise words were more or less in there, in Chapter II, How To Avoid Discord. Although, back then, Mrs. Ebbutt put it much more eloquently.  

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Photography: Feather & Twine Photography | Gown: Sarah Seven Via Lovely Bride | Tailoring and Alterations: Rebecca Schoneveld | Bride's Shoes: Loeffler Randall | Invitations: Jason Chiusano | Programs, Thank You Notes, Signs: Heather Francovitch | Engagement Ring: Eliana Designs (Custom Designed By The Groom) | Bride's Wedding Band: Dawes Designs At The Clay Pot | Groom's Band: In God We Trust | Maid Of Honor Dress: Joanna August | Bridesmaids' Dresses: Jenny Yoo | Flower Girl Dresses: The Little Pea Boutique | Make-up: Mandy Bisesti | Hair: Seventy Jane Arniotis | DJ: The Human Jukebox | Catering: Naturally Delicious | Favors: Gentle Brew Cake, Desserts And Cookie Favors: Milk Bar | Doughnut Desserts: Doughnut Plant | Florals: Bedford & Co. | Furniture Rentals: It's An Occasion | Transportation: The NY Trolley Company | Event Design: Glitter + Rye | Venue: The Green Building

Dina And Yuval's California Dreamy Wedding

Meet Dina. Dina and I met while working on an event together. Our relationship started by blowing up each other's inbox twice a year with silly questions about things like step-and-repeats and boiler plates. However, this all changed once we discovered that we were both engaged. We quickly bonded over the unknowns about this new chapter in our life - the separation anxiety that comes with a new last name, the pooling of finances and the thought of calling your boyfriend your family. Needless to say, we got through it, though this bonding over our similarities and parallel lives continues as we both begin to navigate through our early 30s and realize adult craft parties now sound lovely.

So again, meet Dina and meet her husband too. I'm pretty sure they met at a dinner party and I want to say it was a Jewish holiday - seems so NYC. I've only witnessed them in person once, but I've never met such strong and successful individuals who encourage, support and love each other through it all. They have cute hashtags to chronicle their journey as husband and wife and always seem to be laughing.

Without further ado, please enjoy a glimpse of their picturesque wedding nestled among the hills of Northern California.


In one word, how would you describe your wedding day? Serene

What was your inspiration? We wanted the wedding to feel like an extension of ourselves. When we finally picked the venue, everything came into focus for us: California beauty with a rustic twist. And then throughout the way we infused little parts of ourselves. The oranges at each of the placements were inspired by the orange groves that surrounded the village my mom grew up in. The favors were Israeli snacks that Yuval used to eat growing up.

What was your favorite wedding blog or website that you trolled on a daily basis? Nothing too mind blowing: Style Me Pretty and Green Wedding Shoes. Pinterest also helped me to organize and create structure.

What is the one piece of advice that you wish someone would have told you before your wedding? Find out what means the most to you about your wedding. I knew the feeling I wanted to evoke: beauty, peace and contentment. That helped me to reorganize my thoughts around my priorities. And then of course near the end I started obsessing over the little details that couldn't have mattered less! :)

What was your first dance song? Bones by Michael Kiwanuka

What is the best part of marriage? Yes, the cliche: I married my best friend. Yuval makes me giggle like a teenage girl. Marriage allowed for any of our subconscious reservations about each other to fall away and quieted the outside noise. Now, we are just us. We are silly and dance together to music while brushing our teeth. We tell each other jokes that aren't funny. We get to live our own romantic comedy together every day. Somehow the middle for us is better than the beginning. We live in the middle. We love in the middle. Safely separated from the vulnerability of the beginning and even still far away from the too comfortable companionship of the future. Everyday we learn about each other more and love each other more and I wake up thankful that I have this little precious piece of cargo sleeping next to me. My partner and my champion.

Any wise words on life as a wife? Lose your ego. Just leave it wherever you found it and don't look back. It will do nothing for you than cloud your judgement and take you in the wrong direction. Be bold and be confident and be whoever you are, but look for long term gain, not short term. Oh, and also: a good home cooked meal goes a long way.

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Wedding Dress: Ramona Kevesa | Crowns: Mordekai by Ken Borochov | Photography: Delbarr Moradi Photography | Ceremony and Reception Venue: Holman Ranch | Floral Design: Mid-Valley Florist | Catering: Paradise Catering