Progress: ‘Married to a bridal shop’ — Wadena wedding gallery finds success with sole operator

The Now and Forever Wedding Gallery, a Wadena staple, brings in customers from all over.

Amanda Schmidt shows off her favorite dress in the shop, a lacey sleeveless gown with a plunging neckline.
Elizabeth Vierkant / for Wadena Progress

Editor's Note: The following originally appeared in the 2023 Wadena Progress special section, which was included as a free Pioneer Journal insert in March 2023. Read the magazine in its entirety  HERE  online.

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Sometimes, we don’t know why a major life decision just feels right, but when it does, things seem to work out. At least, they worked out well for Now and Forever Wedding Gallery’s sole owner and operator, Amanda Schmidt. Being the only bridal shop within about 45 minutes surrounding the Wadena area, she knew she was in for quite a large responsibility when she purchased the business in January 2017, over six years ago now.

Lacey, shiny and sequined wedding dresses from a variety of designers line the racks of Now and Forever Wedding Gallery.
Elizabeth Vierkant / for Wadena Progress
Amanda Schmidt, the “bridal shop lady,” has been the sole owner and operator of Now and Forever Wedding Gallery since she bought it a bit over six years ago.
Elizabeth Vierkant / for Wadena Progress

“It just kind of happened,” Schmidt remembered, reflecting on this major life change. “I was actually selling insurance prior to that. And the opportunity came about, and I took it … It just happened so fast. (Switching careers was) like night and day. I am married to a bridal shop.”

Though she’s now known fondly throughout the Wadena community as “the bridal shop lady,” her history with the area began long before this business decision. As a kid, she actually grew up in the community, a 2006 graduate from Wadena High School. Though she attended college for business marketing in Moorhead, she decided to return and build a life in Wadena post graduation.

“My family’s here,” she shared. “I had three younger brothers at the time, still at home. So I just want to be a part of their lives. And this is my home. My husband is also from here.”


Following her college graduation, she married her husband in 2012. The wedding party actually purchased all their bridesmaid dresses and tuxedos through Now and Forever several years before buying the business was even on Schmidt’s radar. Everything has come full circle now that she’s the person making sure her clients have an outfit that makes them feel special for a special day — whether that’s for prom, a party or even a wedding.

Amanda Schmidt decorates the front of Now and Forever Wedding Gallery with different photos of her previous clients on their special day, showing off the shop’s personal touch.
Elizabeth Vierkant / for Wadena Progress

The one and only person working at Now and Forever, Schmidt has a lot of responsibilities to make sure the shop keeps its special touch. Though working in a bridal or high-end dress shop may seem like a glamorous job, it also takes a lot of less glamorous work, such as sweeping floors, steaming dresses, planning window displays, book work and more. Not only is she the face of her shop, she’s also the brain and muscles behind its luxurious and welcoming appearance.

When you walk through the doors of Now And Forever Wedding Gallery, beautifully made dresses and tuxedos sit on display throughout the chic-but-rustic designed space. On the walls and shelves are photos and portraits of her previous clients at their weddings, smiling and happy on their special day. Through a large open doorway is the brightly-lit fitting room complete with tall mirrors and a cozy couch. In that room is the Bride To Be Wall, a stylish dark wood feature wall with names of previous wedding clients and their ceremony’s date written in white marker.

Amanda Schmidt sits on her shop’s stylish blue couch in front of her iconic Bride To Be feature wall in the fitting room.
Elizabeth Vierkant / for Wadena Progress

All these personal touches in her decor are representative of how operates her store. She acts as the gallery’s sole employee for one major reason: she wants clients’ experiences to be special.

“Every bride is different,” Schmidt explained. “I feel something for them, and we can get on the same level and do it together … I’m actually going to listen to what you want and need and what you’re thinking or what style your wedding is, so we can go off that.”

When a bride — or anyone in search of a gown — comes into Now and Forever, Schmidt will be there to work with them. First, she will chat with her client about their budget and discuss what they absolutely do not want in a dress. For example, a lot of women don’t want a strapless dress, and Schmidt wants to make sure they’re comfortable.

Then, Schmidt explains the customization possibilities to her client. What a dress looks like during the first try-on can be changed, and a lot of things can be added or taken away to get to the perfect dress. She also discusses color with her client to see if they’re more interested in a white, ivory, blush or even a black dress.

“Not everyone gets a veil, but I feel a veil is like the end piece to the puzzle,” she shared. “That makes you a bride. I couldn’t even tell you how many tears I’ve cried over people I don’t even know because if they are feeling it, I’m feeling it. It’s just kind of heartwarming. There’s not even words for it. I’m thankful and grateful, and then I’m happy that they’re happy.”


Through this emotional connection, Schmidt really gets to know her customers well. While a lot of girls have their mothers or someone special to come in with them to do some dress shopping, not everyone has that. Schmidt expressed that she wants to be the person to make the experience unique for anyone who needs it. She’s become familiar to many families throughout the Wadena community, even getting to watch some of them grow up throughout her six years in the bridal business.

Tuxedos line the shelves behind Now and Forever Wedding Gallery’s front desk, sitting before a rustic wall and an eye-catching and chic neon sign.
Elizabeth Vierkant / for Wadena Progress

“I’ve been here long enough to where a lot of my prom girls from my first year are now becoming brides,” Schmidt reflected. “I love being able to experience all that with them and their family. I love when they come back and share with me how their families have grown and what they’re up to. I like going and seeing their kids out in public, and they’re like, ‘Hey that’s the bridal shop lady!’ Every day is different, and I like being the one to work with my clients.”

Not only does Schmidt stay busy to keep her clients feeling happy and special, her hard work also helps to bring commerce into the community. She mentioned that, as the only bridal shop 45 minutes around the Wadena area, she not only draws in plenty of local clients who are close by but also plenty of people from all over. She’s had clients come in from Bemidji, Moorhead and even Fargo. Some families have multiple sisters who come from all over to get a dress at the shop, all so they can put their names near one another on the Bride To Be Wall.

“That way, we can keep our dollars local,” Schmidt said. “So people don’t have to travel as far. We can do most of the same stuff as those big places can do, probably at a fraction of the cost and with a more personable experience. And we give back a lot to the community … So it’s super important that not only do we support the community but the community supports us in order for us to continue to support them. Just stretch that dollar a little further.”

If you’re interested in stopping by the shop, no need to call ahead. Just stop by Now and Forever Wedding Gallery at 124 Jefferson St. S. in Wadena whenever they’re open. However, if you are a bride searching for a dress during prom season, Schmidt asks that you make a bridal appointment in order to schedule a private and comfortable time to try on dresses outside of the busy prom-shopping days.

Now and Forever can be reached at 218-632-2222 or For more information, visit their website at .

“The personal touch is what I was going for,” Schmidt said. “I wanted for you to have a feeling that I felt that I care. I’m here to help you — whatever you need.”

Elizabeth (she/her), 24, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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