Standing on the sidewalk in Corona del Mar, 25-year-old Ashley Sourapas consulted her map.
“We skipped one, but I don’t know where it is,” she said, looking up again to scan the storefronts across the street.
Sourapas was searching for the missing stop on the Corona del Mar Bridal Walk, a Sunday afternoon affair that sent brides-to-be on a tour of the varied wedding offerings local businesses had to offer.
Looking at everything from wedding venues to bridal dress boutiques, about 26 brides wandered the short stretch of Pacific Coast Highway during the six-hour event, which ended with a complimentary cocktail reception at Five Crowns.
They wore white ribbons bearing the phrase “Happily Ever After.” In addition to their maps, they carried event tote bags filled with trip planning and skin care promotions, plus, of course, stress balls.
Sourapas, who lives in Irvine, explored the businesses with her younger sister, Amanda, and her mom, Sherry.
The trio stopped for a juice sample outside of Nekter Juice Bar — “Say I do to the Nekter Cleanse,” one sign read — before heading into Francis-Orr, a custom stationary store.
Owner Harriet Malmon greeted them, asking who the bride was.
“I’m the bride,” Ashley said, in an oft-repeated line that day, “and so is my mom.”
“Oh! Both of you!” Malmon responded, clasping her hands together with delight. “How fabulous!”
Sherry’s wedding, her second, had largely been planned — it would be a “shabby-chic” affair held at her home this June, she said — but Ashley, whose fiancee proposed to her at sunset on Valentine’s Day, had work to do to bring her destination wedding to fruition.
The three women accepted glasses of champagne and began to browse the shelves.
“Everything is custom,” Malmon said, repeating herself for emphasis. “I mean everything is custom.”
And everything had style, as she later explained rhetorically to the women, who examined a decorated accordion folder. “Why would we do something just utilitarian?” she said.
Across the street, at BeachCandy Swimwear, the three found champagne punch, chocolate-covered strawberries and custom-fit bridal swimsuits. Customers could even have their married names stitched onto the back side.
Down a few blocks, Bella Bridesmaid sold made-to-order bridesmaids’ dresses, which it was suggested should be picked four to five months in advance. Nearby, the Bridesmaid Lounge displayed alternatives.
“Can you feel the anxiety?” Amanda said, walking into an already-bustling wedding dress store, the White Dress, where they decided to return on a later day.
Made possible by the Corona del Mar business owners, the event had its trial run in September 2012, said organizer Josette Patterson.
Store owners held the event again in March 2013, preferring the springtime date to the fall. This year there were 27 destinations along the nearly one-mile stretch.
Patterson, an owner with her husband of a jewelry store, got the idea for the marketing effort from a client in Hudson, Ohio.
The advertising is minimal. The cost for participants, zero.
The Corona del Mar Chamber of Commerce does not sponsor the event, said President Linda Leonhard, explaining that it is too specific for the organization’s purpose.
For Patterson, it’s a grassroots, group effort. “It’s all of us. It’s all the businesses together,” she said. “It’s basically an old-fashioned way of trying to market your town.”
The list of places to visit went on: a cheese shop, a winery, salons, beauty bars, a photographer’s studio and a local church all awaited with open doors. Even electric bike store Pedego advertised its wares as entertainment for wedding guests.
Andrea’s Couture promised unique gowns that run the gamut from “traditional princess style” to “built-up modest” to “mother of the bride.”