Photograph by Devyn Glista
Know Before You Go
1. Before your visit, go to readingbridaldistrict.com for a calendar of events and learn about sales. You’ll also find a handy printable map.
2. Speaking of events, each September the district holds Fall in Love, an outdoor bridal market that shuts down Benson Street from Reading Road to Church Street.
3. If at all possible, visit on a weekday. Stores are less trafficked and chances are you’ll have the place to yourself.
4. Note that many shops—save for Bridal and Formal—are closed Tuesdays.
5. Appointments are recommended, especially for vendors, as many weren’t open on the weekday afternoon we visited.
6. Expect a lot of walking. You know to bring a pair of heels for dress try-ons, but wear flats for your visit.
1. Bridal and Formal
This place is like the Kleinfeld’s of Cincinnati—and that’s no accident. The Hochberg family—which has owned Bridal and Formal since 1967, expanding it three times—are friends with the Kleinfelds. This place has it all: In addition to wedding gowns, they carry bridesmaid, mother-of-the-bride, and flower girl dresses, as well as accessories. (Even options for prom!) Bridal and Formal is also the only shop in town that carries high-end designers like Badgley Mischka, Monique Lhuillier, and Vera Wang.
2. Something New, Borrowed, and Blue
Here, brides-to-be can shop 20 racks of dresses from the likes of Pronovias, Hayley Paige, Madi Lane, and more, and all at 50–80 percent off retail. (Plus, spend $500 and get a free veil.) Despite its name, every item in this boutique is new—gowns come from designer overstock or stores that go out of business.
Blush is the sister store to Something New, but it operates differently in that dresses are, yes, full price, but also exclusive to the shop (meaning you won’t find this inventory at any other place in the district). What’s more, by 2018, Blush plans to offer its own private collection, which will showcase everything from ball gowns to fit-and-flare dress options.
This brick-and-mortar shop with locations in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Indianapolis stocks samples and consignment at a discount, but what’s most intriguing is LUXE in a Box: For $75, you browse inventory available at all three stores online; choose your top three; and have them shipped to you to try on at home. No attendants, no pressure. Just return what you don’t want within 48 hours.
5. Sheer Necessities
This lingerie store is three floors (three floors!) filled with undergarments both sexy and understated from beloved brands like Dominique, Wacoal, and Goddess that go up to size 6X and O cup (yes, we said O cup).
This shop just moved to a new, larger location across the street from its original spot, and it’s easy to see why: It’s airy and sunlit, and it offers the largest (and most private) dressing areas we found for a bride and her family and friends to gather. It’s also the rare shop that offers on-site alterations (only on Thursdays) for the gowns it carries by Allure, Mikaella, and more, including Olia Zavozina (the Nashville-based bridal designer behind country crooner Sam Hunt’s recent nuptials).
7. Love Curvy Bridal
In Lace’s old spot you’ll find this new plus-size boutique for brides size 24 and up. Given that Love Curvy is owned by husband-and-wife team Matt and Kelly—who also own Lace, which has earned a “Best of Weddings” pick from The Knot for five years running—we think this shop will do all right.
8. Creative Invites and Events
This homey yet chic spot can assist brides with all aspects of their weddings, from stationery design to vendor selection, all recommended by past brides—not back-patting kick-backs. On the last Wednesday of every month, the studio gets transformed into a salon, providing free hair and makeup trials for up to five guests, plus catered food and drinks. Brides end up loving the operation so much, they sometimes come back to have Creative Invites and Events handle the birth announcement.
9. Old Guesthouse Boutique
Looking for a vintage typewriter to use as your guestbook? An Art Deco dresser to double as a dessert bar? From the romantic to the rustic and the simple to the shabby chic, this prop rental shop is a must-visit for brides looking to add a unique element to their big day.
10. Patricia’s Weddings and Custom Cakes
Patricia’s is legendary—how else would she be in business for 30 years? What started as a hobby is now a full-blown specialty dessert catering business that offers everything from five-tier fondant wedding cakes to simple fruit tarts—plus some pretty inventive groom’s cakes—all at a shockingly reasonable price. Located on Jefferson Street, it’s a bit off the RBD’s well-beaten path, but well worth the visit.
11. Geno’s Tux Plus
No bridal district is complete without a destination for the dudes, and Geno’s Tux Plus is, quite literally, it. Yes, it’s the lone shop in the district dedicated to the groom, but at Geno’s, there’s no need to comparison shop—its large selection of tuxedos, vests, and ties by the likes of Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, and Caravelli are there for you to see and feel, not just choose from a dog-eared catalog (though that’s an option, too).
12. Benson’s Tavern
Standard pub fare gets an upgrade with a complimentary mimosa for the bride-to-be, and with all that dress shopping, vendor selection, and looming choices to make, what girl couldn’t use a free drink?
meet the nkotb in the rbd
A slew of shops opened in 2017, bringing even more variety to an already diverse district. BoChic Bridal Boutique carries gowns by the likes of Mon Cheri and Jolie, plus accessories by David Tutera, all for the bride going for a bohemian-chic vibe. O.G. Gallery and Studio offers handcrafted items by artisans from across the country—perfect for guests in search of a unique gift, or brides-to-be in need of a break from the mania of multiple try-ons. Speaking of breaks, Redwine & Co. provides a rustic respite serving up wine, craft beer, and cocktails, plus bridal drink specials, all in well-deserved order once your day is done.
These RBD vendors will have you double-tapping ideas for your dream I dos.
Follow this boutique shop for inventory sneak peeks, pictures of clients in their chosen couture, and dashes of #girlpower. (To wit: “Cinderella never asked for a prince. She asked for a night off and a dress.”)
Yes, you’ll see gowns galore, but this account also pays attention to the details, with chic snaps of creative cakes, on-trend jewelry, and regrams from DIY bridal superstars like @greenweddingshoes.
Get inspired to break out of the proverbial box with this photo duo’s creative takes on engagement and wedding photos. Cool locales include a grocery store and even underwater at the Newport Aquarium!
This account has it all—glam gowns, darling decor, and chic shoes, all with the occasional glitter doughnut sprinkled in. (If you won’t eat it, you can at least admire it!)