I have a bone to pick with ‘Don’t tell the Bride’.. Ever since I can remember, I have loved this programme! When I lived at home, mum and I used to watch it together and giggle at all the completely off the wall wedding ideas. All the girls at uni watched it together and nowadays I watch it on Wednesdays when Callum is out of the house and I have control of the remote.. sometimes our housemate Rob even joins in! Our other favourites include ‘Say yes to the dress’ and ‘Married at first sight.’
Anyways, back to DTTB.. when has a wedding dress ever cost £500??? This programme gave me completely unrealistic expectations from way back when, before I even met Callum! In my line of work, you quickly learn that the price you are told initially, is by no means the final price. You are always supposed to negotiate, expected to negotiate! I feel like this has been engrained in my mind and I have a tendency never to buy things full price, or begrudge doing so. I am the definition of bargain hunter much to Callum’s father’s delight! Big Ash and I are definitely on the same wavelength when it comes to money. So when the time finally came to start looking at my actual wedding dress, as opposed to all the women doing so on TV, I had quite strong opinions. No glitz. No meringues. No more than £1000.
I honestly believed that £1000 was completely achievable for a dress, veil, accessories and fittings. Truthfully it probably is, but only if you buy your dress from the high street or get it in a sample sale. I however, had other ideas. Living in Tunbridge Wells, I have an array of beautiful bridal boutiques on my doorstep. In fact, Isabella Grace which is an incredible store with an array of dresses ranging from classic to princess to slinky and everything in between, have just won UK’s Best Bridal Boutique! Frou Frou Bridal is also close by, which is a smaller independent with a gorgeously curated collection for a more relaxed boho style bride (in my opinion!) I visited both of these places and my budget immediately stretched to £1500 plus alterations. This is not because they are particularly expensive and both do sample sales, it’s purely because that is what a beautiful dress costs.
The very first dress shop I visited was Frou Frou bridal and I went on that particular day because they were holding a sample sale and I was after a bargain! I tried on a huge satin ballgown which I was convinced I would adore. Unfortunately I looked like a little girl dressing up in mummy’s clothes. I also tried on a gorgeous lace dress which made me look so elegant and glamourous! I loved a couple of structured, more unusual, almost couture gowns however these came with a lofty price tag. My experience was wonderful and staff were extremely accommodating and personable. The one thing I realised after this visit.. I do not recommend visiting a sample sale if it is the first time you are looking! You need to take your time, try on various styles and fabrics in order to understand what compliments your body shape and your personal tastes. That way you can start ruling things out, BUT don’t do so until you have tried them on!!!
I visited Isabella Grace (a few stores into my search but let’s not get into that…) as a competition winner for a magazine. I was lucky enough to be treated to a spa day with foot and full body massage, hair trial, make up trial and bridal gown fitting with a photographer capturing the entire day! I felt incredible and got to try on so many exquisite gowns whilst posing for some slightly cringe photos. Myself being the cringey bit not the actual photos!
I genuinely thought I had found the one with a slinky satin bias cut gown, that came with a boat neck lace overlay. I loved that it could be transformed and I could wear it for the Saturday as well as Sunday! In the end I felt the style was slightly too old for me. Then there was the tulle, off the shoulder ballgown which was very Cinderella! I also tried on another ballgown which had a beaded bodice and tulle skirt with long train. I nearly put a deposit down on that one but there was just something niggling at the back of my mind! THEN I was convinced I wanted a V neckline and thought this satin gown with jewelled belt, buttons all down the back and long train was right on the money. Again, a touch too old for me
At the opposite end of the scale.. I visited Davids Bridal, who I had very high hopes for and their prices were VERY enticing. My personal experience in this shop did not compare to either of the other two previously mentioned, but I suppose it isn’t supposed to. They have diffusion collection from big name designers like Vera Wang- whose dress I completely fell in love with in ‘Bride Wars’.. you know the Kate Hudson one with with fitted bodice, huge skirt and ribbon around the waist!?? Everyone remember that infamous line!? ‘You don’t alter Vera.. you alter yourself to fit Vera’. Anyway let’s just say I didn’t find the dress and felt rather flustered and in need of a large glass of wine when I exited the store.
Although it’s no use for me, I stumbled across something today which may be of interest to all you budding brides! A website called Brides Do Good sell pre loved wedding dresses in order to raise money for charity! Now I love a good charity shop and initially I thought I would never buy a second hand dress but after giving it some more thought, this is probably the one outfit that you are going to take the most care when wearing. I mean they’re going to be pristine! It will also probably be the single most expensive item of clothing you will ever buy. And you will wear it once.. Why not buy a pre loved one and do something for a great cause whilst looking fabulous doing it! They sell gowns from all the top wedding designers such as Vera Wang, Monique Lhuillier, Suzanne Neville, Pronovias, Ellie Saab and Alexander McQueen. Some of these are designers I could never dream of owning (due to financial limitations only.) One of them I am fortunate enough to be wearing on my wedding day! Sizes range from 6-16 and gowns start from only £500! They will also give two thirds of the proceeds to charities who work to prevent children being forced into marriage. If I didn’t already have my dress (dresses actually!) then I would have definitely given them a look.
I think what I realised throughout my dress finding journey was that you cannot put a price on how a dress makes you feel. I completely understand that we all have a budget to adhere to but at the same time, I was really struggling to find something at a bargain basement price. This may have had something to do with the fact that I had a tendency to go for luxurious and expensive fabrics (thanks to being well acquainted with fabrics and intricate dress cuts from back during my university degree..) In the end my budget increased because I found the dress and we rejigged money to make it happen. The dress meant so much to me that I was willing to compromise on other things. I also had a little help from someone very special so the biggest of thank you’s go to them!
In next week’s blog I will introduce you to Harriet at House of Snow which is where I finally found the one!
Team Bride and Team Groom have been finalised.. with Bride’s choice gravy winning by a landslide! We tried both options during our food and wine tasting last week and regardless of choice, you are both in store for an absolute treat!