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Carissa Loethen, Bridal Blog

"Brides-to-be: On your marks, get set…"

Oh boy, my first wedding dress sample sale was an experience. Monique Lhuillier held a huge discount sale in Verona, California last weekend. Dresses were 75 to 90 percent off! So I couldn't miss it, natch. Even better? My future mother-in-law was visiting at the time and I coaxed her to come with me. (This was a decision she surely regretted later.)

When I randomly stumbled across an announcement on Instagram, I honestly thought I found a secret sale gem. I did a quick Google search, and didn't see any other postings about it, so I assumed this sample sale wouldn't be crazy—definitely not like the one Monica, Phoebe and Rachel encountered on Friends.

But I was so wrong. It was exactly like the sitcom scene (minus the whistles).

We showed up to a line of, oh, around 300 women. Apparently, word of a bridal sample sale gets around fast. A security guard welcomed us and gave us a wristband with a number on it. After they ran out of wristbands numbered in the thousands, a second sequence of numbers labeled A-### began. We were A-255. We almost left immediately, but then noticed the guards letting 40 people in at a time.

"Maybe the line moves fast," we thought. Well, that was the last group of 40 we saw go in at once that entire day. 

Carissa Loethen, Bridal Blog

Girls were ordering Dominos. Some brought their lawn chairs and packed lunches. This wasn't their first rodeo.

The mood changed overtime. In the first hour of waiting, when a bride-to-be would walk out with a purchase, the whole crowd would cheer and the happy lady would show off her beautiful wedding gown while chirping about the low price she paid. (I'm talking $1,000 for a $10,000 gown.) The deep discounts were what kept us motivated to stick around—some gals were leaving with a dress, veil and jewelry for $500. But after about an hour or so, the congratulatory cheers stopped. Anyone who came out with a dress was another reminder that the inventory is dwindling.

Bridal sample sale! #bridetobeproblems?? poor @tkay129 didn't know what she agreed to!

A video posted by Carissa Loethen (@carissaloethen) on

Three and a half hours later, the unbelievable happened. We went in! My expectations for the dress selection were pretty low, but upon entering I was surprised to see quite a few gowns still on the racks. (Sadly, we later learned that these were just the leftovers.)

There were no dressing rooms. Most stripped to try on a dress right where they found it. Women stalked other women's hangers like cats ready to pounce on a ball of fluff. Strangers gave you their unsolicited opinions. You heard "beautiful" and "nuh-uh" with each dress you put a hand on.

Imagine: You're rushing through the crowds. You're sweating. Everyone's cranky. You're bound to get into an argument with someone at some point. (Yes, it happened to us a couple times. Some lady literally shoved my future mother-in-law. Not cool.) Total, beautiful, ivory lace-driven chaos.

I didn't find my dream dress amid the madness, but many girls are going to be walking down the aisle in a gorgeous, expensive Monique Lhuillier gown that only cost them a fraction of the price. (They definitely worked for it and deserve it!) I would consider going to another sample sale. However, if there is a next time, I will totally be Monica Gellar and bring a team.

Seriously, each bride needs at least three other girls to take on one of these crazy sample sales: One person to scope out the best options, one to simply guard the dresses you have in your possession (because they will be stolen from you if left unattended) and one person to help the bride get into the dresses and snap pics.

Oh, and whistles aren't a bad idea either.