Are wedding bells ringing for you or a loved one soon? Consider making Williamston your wedding planning destination. From dresses and tuxes to tickets to a memorable honeymoon, downtown Williamston may be the only stop you’ll need to take to make that special day come true. Of course, wedding planning all starts with the dress. Two long-time Williamston friends and business partners teamed up recently to open the Wedding Gallery: A Bridal and Formal Boutique in the heart of the town. The shop located in the historic State Bank building at the corner of Grand River and Putnam offers a wide selection of dresses and tuxes befitting any bridal party on the main level, and prom, homecoming, and other formal wear on the lower level. The Wedding Gallery of Williamston carries a large inventory of dresses for brides, bridesmaids and mothers of the bride. It also sells shoes, veils and other accessories that complement the dress ware. Tina Benington, who owned a consignment shop in the area, gets much of her supply from a cousin who owns a bridal shop in Chicago. The advantage to customers is that the dresses are the latest fashions but the cost is much lower “even than what they can find online,” she said. The general range for a dress is from $250 to $1,000. About a quarter of the dresses — ones that have been “lovingly worn” or bought but never worn — are sold on consignment. The shop turns over its inventory about every 90 days and plans on hosting regular sales on items before they leave the shop. Benington and Dawn-Marie Joseph also have resources to find bridal ware for customers who don’t see the dress that they have their heart set on. “We can call up and order just about any dress or accessory that a bride wants for her wedding,” said Joseph. The women also work with an expert tailor to help with fittings and alterations, “and we’ve never had a bad review or complaint,” said Joseph. “She’s amazing, she can do anything,” Benington agreed. Their service doesn’t stop with the dress. Gallery Travel is also located in the building ready to book dream honeymoons. As Benington explains, it’s less expensive and less time consuming to use a travel agency to book airfare, hotels and other services because they work on a large scale and can get deep discounts and deals. They can also book tours and other special events more easily than someone doing it on their own. Not only will co-owners Benington and Joseph help you find the right dress, and travel to the best location, but they can refer you to other services in Williamston to create your special event. Within a short distance, Williamston offers jewelers, photographers, florists, bakers, caterers, hair stylists, musicians and creators of wedding invitations. There are also choice venues to host showers, wedding ceremonies and/or receptions. Eventually, the two women dream of expanding their business to full-service wedding and formal event planning using the businesses and resources in Williamston. “We want to be able to make the planning easy and fun,” said Joseph. Each woman has lived in Williamston for more than a decade. Benington, who has lived in the town for about 20 years, was a coach at the high school and now drives a school bus for the district. Joseph has been a resident for almost 15 years and her family owns and operates Williamston’s Vives Flower Garden & Café and Gracie’s Place. “It’s all about providing a service to our customer,” said Benington. “We want to help them find or even surpass what they’re looking for.” “We have faith in the downtown area,” Joseph concurred. “There are a lot of things here in this community.” It is a diverse community, she said, made up of people with all kinds of backgrounds and interests. But there is a strong group of “talented and creative people here,” said Joseph. Walk ins are welcome, but guests can get a head start on their planning by calling ahead at (517) 655-2929 for an appointment. The Wedding Gallery of Williamston 101 E. Grand River, Williamston (517) 655-2929 CURRENT HOURS OF OPERATION: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays
Ann Cool, MPS, is a freelance writer who lives in Mason with her husband Bob.