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Women Bisnow
July 31, 2008


This issue of Washington Women is presented by
Reznick Group:
"Building Business Value"


By Karin Tanabe for Bisnow on Business

When Carin Rosenberg Levine and Julia Lichtman Kepniss told friends they were thinking of opening a bridal boutique, they faced a chorus of naysayers. “Everyone we talked to besides family said don’t do it. The bridal end of it sounds fluffy. If we’d said we’re starting a software company, they would have said wow,” says Carin. Though neither had worked in retail before—Julia is a Georgetown law grad and Carin earned an MBA from Yale—when planning their own big days they found there were no wedding boutiques in DC. The idea for Hitched was born.


After two years of planning while Carin and Julia kept their day jobs,  Hitched met with instant sales before even opening its doors in Georgetown. “Don’t underestimate brides—they’re very curious,” says Julia. “There was a website that put our info up and we ended up selling bridesmaid dresses before we opened. We had to call our moms to sit at the front desk because we hadn’t hired anyone.” With an article in the Post’s Sunday Source and a mention on Daily Candy, brides found them fast. Julia thinks that the boutique’s DC location was vital to its success: “There was a need in the city and in 2005 DC started to change—Capitol File and Daily Candy launched—DC was having a young resurgence.”


What’s hot in DC wedding trends? Julia and Carin note more women are wearing beaded ribbon belts by Oscar de la Renta and Lela Rose to alter their dresses between the ceremony to the reception. And modern brides are wearing lighter organza and tulle so they can dance the night away. Hitched is heading upstairs this month, expanding their Wisconsin Avenue store and adding a line for mothers of the bride. As for those naysayers? Seems they’re all saying “I do.”


Aimee Dominick, who heads up DC-based A. Dominick Events and recently planned the wedding of Meredith Barnett (daughter of Washington über-lawyer Bob Barnett and White House correspondent Rita Braver), tells us that tying the knot in a historic Washington venue is becoming more of a challenge (hey, even Jenna didn’t do it), as all Smithsonian museums, the Corcoran, and the Red Cross have stopped hosting weddings.


A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology and the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, Dominick decided that neither Top Chef nor Project Runway were right for her and began a career in event planning. “I love contemporary settings but not many exist in Washington.” Halcyon House in Georgetown, with a traditional exterior and modern concrete interior, is a personal favorite of Dominick’s. The House of Sweden’s outdoor space has become popular and many have been asking about the Newseum. For the more traditional she recommends the Mellon Auditorium for its historic feel, Evermay in Georgetown, and the Hay Adams, a perennial favorite though it accommodates only 150.


“A relationship with your wedding planner starts as business but ends as a personal one,” says Dominick, seeing a happy client off, above. She notes that it’s important to work out payment details with your planner up front to avoid surprises. “Is it a percentage of the overall fee? Are they getting a commission from vendors? The general idea is that a planner is 10 percent of your overall budget, but I do a flat consulting fee based on the project.” One of the benefits of a planner, says Dominick, is that they tell you what you can realistically expect. Can you really afford a band, can you really afford the Mandarin Oriental? “I tell my full-service clients that I’ll do anything they want as long as it’s legal. I’ve learned from groomsmen’s requests that it’s important to say that.”

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