It should come as no surprise that, here at Brides, we're low-key obsessed with all things Bachelor Nation. Our editors—like the rest of the world—tune into The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and Bachelor in Paradise every season, and, if we're being honest, the majority of us can't get enough.
In all fairness: The franchise is centered on the potential for romance and involves over-the-top dates and epic travel destinations (i.e. honeymoon #inspo) so it's practically research for us, right?! That said, there's one thing that keeps us coming back, season after season, and that's the chance of witnessing a real couple fall in love on screen. Each time, without fail, we become hopelessly invested—hey, being a romantic comes with the job!—in every budding relationship, but we must make a confession: We might enjoy watching our favorite Bachelor couples write their own love stories, post-production, in the real world even more.
So, when Raven Gates and Adam Gottschalk—fan favorites who met on Bachelor in Paradise in 2017, after appearing on The Bachelor (Raven) and The Bachelorette (Adam)—got engaged in May 2019, we couldn't help but call the couple and ask if we could help with any wedding planning task, large or small. They didn't need much help—turns out, they're pros on their own!—but Raven was kind enough to invite us along for the journey, so we flew down to Dallas for a day of dress shopping.
Like any great episode of The Bachelor, the afternoon involved a roller coaster of emotions (tears, laughs, you name it), surprise decisions, and lots and lots of sparkle. Keep reading for a behind-the-scenes look at our date—photographer Charla Storey was there to document every moment—and spoiler alert: For us, watching Raven say "yes" to the dress IRL was better than any episode of The Bachelor will ever be!
Raven now calls Dallas home, so we met her at the showroom of Dallas-based bridal brand, Watters. Going in, she says she had no idea what to expect of dress shopping. "I wondered if I'd have that moment everyone talks about when you know the dress is 'the one,'" she admits. Her solution? Try on everything! "I wanted to be open-minded, so I decided that I was going to try on all different styles, fits, and hues," she says. "So, walking into Watters, I thought, 'Bring on the dresses!!!'"
That said, Raven knew she didn't want to make such a large decision alone so she asked her mom, Tracy, and bridesmaid Alexis Waters to tag along—and weigh in with their opinions. "Having my mom there was a must. There’s no way I could try on dresses without her," she says. "I loved having this memory with her and just being in her presence during this special time. Plus, sometimes you just need your momma's approval!"
While Watters gowns—for both brides and bridesmaids—are stocked at salons nationwide, the team in Dallas opened their flagship location for Raven and created a "mini salon" in what's typically an office meeting space. The perk of this set-up? The brand's creative director was in the room next door and Sydney Watters Dunbar, design director, was on hand to zip Raven into every dress. And, and as if that wasn't enough: Macarons and a personalized lookbook were available for "research."
With the help of Alexis, Sydney, and her mom, Raven chose from a curated selection of gowns by Watters, and their subsidiary labels, Wtoo and Willowby.
For good luck, she brought her wedding shoes, which were gifted to her by her stylist on The Bachelor. "They remind me of the crazy journey that led me to meet Adam on Bachelor in Paradise," she explains. "You have to take risks in life and, if I had never taken the risk of being on The Bachelor, I may have never met Adam. My shoes are a special ode to how we got here!"
Raven's search began on a high note with the "Birdie" from Watters (Style #67101B), which features lace appliqués, a cathedral-length train, and a deep-V in the front and back. Upon seeing the dress on, she quickly added all qualities to her potential "must-have" list. "When you step into that first wedding dress, it kind of hits you, like, 'Oh my gosh, I’m a bride,'" she says. "I don’t know if I had really felt like a bride until that moment!"
On one hand, Raven says she loved the gown's train, deep V, and overall silhouette—but, ultimately, she felt it was missing one component. "If I was getting married in the daytime, this dress would definitely have been a contender," she says. "But, since we're getting married at night, I wanted something with a bit more sparkle."
When you step into that first wedding dress, it kind of hits you, like, 'Oh my gosh, I’m a bride.' I don’t know if I had really felt like a bride until that moment!
Even though she knew it wasn't "the one," Raven still took the opportunity to embrace her inner bride, posing for portraits and even testing out a bouquet (of silk flowers). The more time she spent in the dress, the more she came to another conclusion. "Ever since I was little, my mom has said I look good in a V-neckline," she says. "I think, maybe, she's right!"
And, with a solid V-cut added to her criteria, Raven was onto the next one.
While Raven slipped into the next dress, Tracy and Alexis began to open up about the wedding, and their newly appointed roles as mother-of-the-bride and bridesmaid. Just days before, Raven "proposed" to her bridesmaids with customized cards, and Alexis says hers featured an illustration of two girls, both brunette like she and Raven. Naturally, she shared a snap on Instagram, complete with a GIF of Dwight from The Office to sum up her feelings.
The next dress, the "Thais" by Watters (Style #5046B), brought out more feelings from Alexis, who interjected, saying, "You are shining like a diamond! You're a bride, Raven!"
"Having Alexis with me was just so special! She was on my season of The Bachelor and, ever since then, our lives have just intertwined so much that I couldn’t imagine not having her there," Raven says. "She was with me the very first time I met Adam on Bachelor in Paradise, and now we both live in Dallas! Having her there just felt like everything was coming full circle." And, of course, Raven adds with a laugh: "She’s also great comedic relief and keeps everyone laughing!"
At this point, it became clear that everything (literally, everything) was going to look amazing on Raven, and this dress was no exception. "It's very, very glamorous," she says of the style. "I would've never picked this dress off-the-rack—thanks, mom!—but I love it. The train is so beautiful." Also on the love list? The detailed straps, low back, and "feathery" texture. "My flower girls are wearing a feathery material so this would be so pretty with that," she says.
After passing on dress two—"I wish it had a lower V and more flattering torso," she says—Raven debuted her third gown, the "Dixie" by Wtoo (Style #14104), which she admits is a close match to the gown she originally envisioned herself wearing. "Even though I went into dress shopping with an open mind, I did envision myself in a certain dress. I thought I wanted a lace, strapless dress with a sweetheart neckline and a mermaid silhouette," she says. "I honestly thought that dress would be my absolute favorite and nothing would compare to it…until I tried dresses outside of my box! And I’m SO glad I did!" Before moving on, Alexis made a point to share her opinion, saying, "It cinches you like a mermaid! Let's be honest: I'm just looking at your butt!"
Next up: Raven tried on the "Dita" by Watters (Style #68712B). "What I love, love, love about this one is that it’s so light," she says. "It is so airy. It is so easy to move in! This is just awesome." However, her final verdict was similar to her first: "I like the strapless, and I like the little band that cinches the waist...but I need a little more sparkle," she says.
Spoiler alert: Dress five brought the major plot twist of the day! Take these reactions as proof but, honestly, the whole room was speechless.
On a whim, Raven pulled a ball gown with a nude underlay off-the-rack, so she could "experiment with a different silhouette and color." When she entered the room wearing the style—the "Laraline" by Watters (Style #67701B)—the crowd (after, no joke, jaws dropped) started yelling out phrases such as "Oh my gosh!" and "You look like a princess!"
At this point, Alexis got out of her chair to take a closer look at the dress—and a now-beaming Raven!
With it clear that this dress was a serious contender, Raven had to stop and figure out why it was causing such a reaction from her entourage. (And, don't worry: She clearly loved it too.) Alexis guessed the top, to which Raven agreed, saying, "You're right, the top is everything." Also, winning points were the cinched waist, colors—"They are just so pretty and I love the way it falls," Raven says—and light material. Yet, as the group stared, ideas started to come out. "What if you added a sparkly veil?!" struck a special note, and the Watters team swung into action, pulling out a cathedral-length veil dotted with shiny rhinestones by Toni Federici.
Then, we were all left wondering: Are the sparkles enough to seal the deal?
For Raven's mom, the addition of the veil sparked something...and she and Raven, after a few tears were shed, began to picture the dress outside of the showroom and on Raven, on her wedding day. "Sometimes, there are dresses that I feel are beautiful on their own, and then, sometimes, there are dresses that I think she makes them beautiful," Tracy says. (Aw, mom!)
Naturally, since we had a professional photographer on hand, we took matters into our own hands to answer any questions regarding what the dress might look like on the big day.
Raven even took the gown for a spin to get idea of what it would look—and feel!—like on the dancefloor.
The vision of shining lights on a dance floor gave Alexis another idea: What if we added a rhinestone belt?
At this point, Raven knew she was close, but she kept going, trying on her first (and only!) dress with sleeves: the "Rhapsody" by Willowby (Style #52700). At first, she thought it was pretty, and especially loved the layering of tulle of the skirt, but decided she was unsure how she felt about having sleeves—even if they were sheer—at a summer wedding.
There’s one dress in particular that I tried on that I just envisioned gliding across the dance floor with my dad for our father-daughter dance. Having the first man who ever loved me, my dad, see me in that dress, will be a moment that, at one time, I didn’t think I would get to have. I am forever grateful.
Throughout the day, Raven made a point to listen to the group's opinions, keep an open mind, and even style dresses based on the suggestions of Alexis and her mom. That said, she says she wasn't trying to please anyone other than herself—and that includes Adam! "I knew Adam would love anything that I loved, so, to be honest, I didn’t think about his input," she says. "Adam cries even talking about our wedding day, so I know I’m getting a cry out of him regardless of the dress I picked!"
Raven, on the other hand, says she is not a very emotional person—but, while dress shopping, she did get emotional. "Five years ago, my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer and was only given three months to live," she says. "At that time, my heart ached over not having him there to walk me down the aisle or dance to our favorite song together. I swore to him during his diagnosis that if he didn’t make it, I would never have anyone take his place." Now, five years later, he's cancer-free and, when she tried on one special dress, she says she was able able to envision their first dance and walk down the aisle. "I’m not a very emotional person, but I got very emotional," she admits, "There’s one dress in particular that I tried on that I just envisioned gliding across the dance floor with my dad for our father-daughter dance. Having the first man who ever loved me, my dad, see me in that dress, will be a moment that, at one time, I didn’t think I would get to have. I am forever grateful."
With that, Raven wrapped up the experience by living in the moment—and sharing a few words of wisdom for future brides shopping. "Don’t judge a dress just by it hanging on the hanger," she says. "Try on everything! You may fall in love with a dress you didn’t picture yourself in. Sometimes, the magical feeling of 'this is the one' happens in the most unexpected of dresses!"
Before Raven tried on one last dress—and, secretly, fell in love with another one—Alexis played around with the accessories, even taking a veil around for a spin.
Raven let her mom select the final dress of the day's shopping spree. Her pick? The "Gillespie" by Wtoo (Style #14200). As with the rest, Raven loved the gown's statement train and illusion neckline, but, ultimately, says she saw herself wearing it on a beach and not inside a candle-lit space in Dallas. "Trying on dresses at Watters was like being a kid in a candy store—every dress I tried on, I loved," she says of the experience. "It made the decision process so tough. I thought I had a clear vision of the dress I wanted but my mind was blown. There were so many dresses that gave me the feeling of, 'This is THE dress!'”
I wanted my dress to be 100 percent me, and I think I accomplished that.
In the end, one style did stand out among the rest, and Raven—after another portrait session and a few test walks, complete with a veil and bouquet, around the studio—said an enthusiastic "yes" to the dress as her mom, Alexis, and the Watters team cheered her on. "I wanted my dress to be 100 percent me, and I think I accomplished that," she says.
And, since we're sworn to secrecy until Raven walks down the aisle on May 30, 2020, we asked her to leave you all with one final teaser. "You can expect a very romantic, yet show-stopping dress," she says. "And, hey, maybe you’ll even see more than one dress!"