COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Morning light streams into AnaKacia Shifflet's clean, spare shop off Main Street in Rye.
Your eyes land on the racks of lacy and shiny wedding dresses in shades of white, mauve, taupe and even light cornflower blue. This is a space where dreams come true, where blushing brides come together with Shifflet, a lifelong seamstress, to imagine the fantastical dress they'll wear for that long-anticipated walk down the aisle, mountain path or sandy beach to exchange rings and vows with their beloved.
The past seven months has not been good to those hopeful brides, though, nor the billion-dollar global wedding industry. Many couples were forced to postpone their weddings until later this year or next year. Recently, though, Shifflet has seen her brides moving forward.
"The girls that are going ahead with their wedding, they're being super creative and either eloping in the mountains or having a cool party at their ranch," she says. "The girls who are going ahead are a lot more excited and calm. It's like a release. The girls who are waiting until next year seem really frustrated."
Rye resident Ann Lisac is one of those brides no longer waiting. Canceling her May wedding was heartbreaking, she says, but the couple decided to go for it last month in an outdoor ceremony.
"We felt like there weren't a lot of cases of COVID in the community. I don't know if there was even one," Lisac says. "We were waiting and waiting and worried if we continued to wait there would be a resurgence and it would be longer."
Shifflet encourages couples to tie the knot sooner rather than later, even if it's a small shindig.
"If they want to do a big party next year, do it," she says. "But why not go ahead and get married? There's something special about it being more intimate anyway."
The virus didn't stop Shifflet from designing and creating her signature wedding dresses, something she's done for about 15 years for friends and family and others through word of mouth. In 2015, she made it official and opened her own shop, Averil Marie Collections, and now has a second location at Al's Formal Wear in Denver.
Since then, she's made between 400 and 500 wedding dresses. Each one takes about 80 hours, though she likes to have three to six months to make sure the fabrics come in from all around the world. There's lace from France, Germany and Milan, Italy. Those are the priciest. Less expensive choices come from the U.S. or China. On average, her dresses cost $2,500. Her priciest concoction? $7,000. Her most affordable? $800.