Urban Set Bride: Mother and Daughter Team Up to Change the Face of Bridal Boutiques

 Christine and Jennifer Celebrate Opening Urban Set Bride

When you introduce yourself as a “wedding planner,” people typically assume that you have 1) dreamt about weddings since you were a zygote or 2) realized you wanted to be a wedding planner after you planned your own nuptials. 

Apart from these reactions being completely misogynistic and stupid (imagine saying “did you fall in love with brain surgery after having your own?”), they’re far from the real reason I am a proud member of the wedding industry. 

My father served in the U.S. Army for 24 years, so my mom and I moved around with him every two years for my whole childhood, mostly in Germany. Repeatedly being forced to make new friends made me outgoing and adaptable. I had an amazing childhood filled with love, travel, and diversity. 

After my dad retired in 2000, I was plucked from a beautiful private school in Munich, Germany and plopped in rural Stafford County, Virginia to finish my last two years of high school. Needless to say, I suffered from a little culture shock, but I survived and found my way down to Richmond to study at Virginia Commonwealth University. 

I changed majors (a few times) and couldn’t really figure out what I wanted to do. I FEEL creative, but I am not a creator. I decided to just major in things that held my interest (English, Women’s Studies, and Political Science) and focus on graduating. 

When you create your own career, it can be both terrifying and fulfilling all at the same time. I decided to ask my mom to be my business partner, and thankfully, she said yes. 

I started renting apartments after college. It kept me busy and paid my bills. My first planning client was a kick-ass boss babe who worked 60 hour weeks and needed help pulling her wedding plans together. And from there, a career was born. Coordinating events allows me to be creative without being a “creator.” I have a strong sense of style and have always loved fashion, but I wanted a career that allowed me to utilize both my sense of style AND my type A organization skills. I created my event planning company, Wood Grain & Lace Events, after I planned my first wedding in 2012. 

With a few weddings under my belt, I started to realize that there was a huge void in the bridal shop market. If you had a small budget or you were a plus-sized bride, your only option was David’s Bridal. If you wanted something unique or you were hoping for a private appointment, you typically had to have a hefty budget to pair with it. And so, Urban Set Bride was born.

 Urban Set Bride Boutique in Cherry Hill Neighborhood of Richmond, Virginia

When you create your own career, it can be both terrifying and fulfilling all at the same time. I decided to ask my mom to be my business partner, and thankfully, she said yes.

I left my job in November 2013, and we opened up the bridal shop in March 2014. Suddenly, I created a career for myself. I had to buy my own health insurance (thanks, Obama), write myself checks when we could afford it, and my “job” now consumed me.

But as terrifying as small business ownership can be, it also fed me in a way that nothing else ever had.

We set up the shop in a residential neighborhood within the city limits. We didn’t want to set up near all of our competitors in the white-washed West End of the surrounding county. We wanted to be walkable, accessible to those who rely on public transportation, and away from the usual traffic of a shopping center. 

We fell in love with a 750 square foot commercial space and spent the next few months renovating the space and making it our own. Our vision was to create a space that felt cozy, safe, and fun for every client and their loved ones. We’ve heard so many horror stories about bridal boutiques treating women like trash if they are anything other than white, skinny, and wealthy, so we sought to change that. 

We were immediately underestimated not only by our competitors, but by the industry giants who’ve worked in bridal for decades and never thought a bridal shop in an “up and coming” neighborhood with affordable prices 

would ever succeed. And that made winning “best bridal shop” over our seven competitors within our first year of business even sweeter. 

I am the Beyoncé of Richmond’s wedding industry. And I’m not afraid to say it. Women, in general, hesitate to own their strengths or brag about their skills. You can be gracious, kind, AND confident in your abilities. 

We designed the bridal shop to only host one appointment at a time. Clients walk in and are immediately surrounded by sumptuous fabrics, iridescent beads, fluffy chiffons, and even a little sparkle. We put up a room divider in front of the door, so our clients feel like they are in a friend’s apartment rather than an intimidating bridal shop. We chat about what fabrics and silhouettes they are attracted to, and then we get to play around in beautiful gowns for 90 minutes. We always encourage our clients to take as many photos as they’d like, and at the end of the appointment, we create a “cheat sheet” with information about all the favorite gowns. 

We insist on not making a gown decision on the first appointment. Too many retailers focus on pressuring consumers into quick choices, and we will never embrace that tactic. 

Overall, my experience as a wedding planner, a feminist, a millennial, and a newlywed gave me the insight I needed to create my own career and fulfill a need in the bridal market. I trusted my instinct, I embraced my mom’s wisdom and knew she was the person I wanted to stand by my side, and we never let anyone tell us our ideas weren’t good enough. 

Whether you own or plan to own your own business, are starting a new job, creating a new product, planning a wedding, raising a child, or making whatever challenging thing you are facing happen — just do it. Make it your entire world. I’ve encountered a lot of people who tiptoe around what they want, what they stand for, and who they are. Stop doing that. I’m successful at what I do because I am annoying about it. Our generation is so quick to play it cool and not put themselves out there for fear of judgment or ridicule. F*ck that!

I am the Beyoncé of Richmond’s wedding industry. And I’m not afraid to say it. Women, in general, hesitate to own their strengths or brag about their skills. You can be gracious, kind, AND confident in your abilities. 

My mother and I were turned down for loans, struggled to be taken seriously when searching for a retail commercial location, and were doubted at every step of our entrepreneurial process. We kept pushing because we believed we were filling a void, and the status quo of the “wedding industry machine” needed to be disrupted. 

 Christine Haines Greenberg, Owner of Urban Set Bride

Our competitors focus on thin women with big budgets. But what about everyone else? Do they not deserve a warm, accepting bridal gown shopping experience? We knew that just because someone hasn’t done it yet doesn’t mean it won’t work.

We worked our asses off to get here, and I want to empower anyone who wants to change something about their industry, get out of a crappy relationship, plan an offbeat, personal, and fun wedding, create a new job for themselves, or WHATEVER IT IS, to just go for it. 

This article originally appeared in Volume Two of Catalyst Wedding Magazine.


Christine Greenberg is a daughter, wife, feminist, mom, & boss babe. She is the owner of two Richmond, Virginia, businesses: Urban Set Bride and Wood Grain & Lace Events. She worships in the House of Beyoncé.