Charlotte Balbier

that’s showbiz! introducing jane, our real life bride & celebrity columnist

April 29th, 2015 | Rachel Parry

Jane Witherspoon

Today we introduce you to bride-to-be and friend to the stars, the lovely Miss Jane Witherspoon, who will be taking on the role of real bride & celebrity columnist here on Brides Up North over the next six months.

In the approach to her big day, Jane will be sharing her wedding planning journey exclusively with our readers on these pretty pages as she toys over everything from the theme, food and flowers to the all-important hair, makeup, dress and hen do.

To give you a little background on Jane she has an incredibly cool job that most ladies would quite happily lose a limb to do. As a showbiz TV reporter and presenter for the likes of Good Morning Britain this lucky lady gets all the goss directly from the stars and has interviewed top A-listers including the likes of Madonna and Tom Cruise during her various broadcast roles for the BBC, ITV and Sky.

As a celebrity hack Jane is also no stranger to the red carpet having reported on everything from the Baftas and Brits to the Oscars, giving her plenty of glam inspiration for her moment in the spotlight when she ties the knot with her beau Alex in early October.

Though her glitzy job has required her to move to London’s big smoke, Jane will be returning to her north east roots for her wedding day, which is set to take place at the stunning Brinkburn Priory in Northumberland.

So without further ado, let’s hand over to Jane to give you all the details of where her rapid romance with Alex first began…

Jane and Alex

jane says: This time last year Alex and I hadn’t even met. Now it’s just six months until our big day.  Welcome to what has become my crazy, whirlwind life.

I was never the kind of girl who grew up wanting the big white wedding or dreaming of settling down. I was the single girl about town, dedicated to my career as a showbiz TV journalist and hanging out with my mates. But back in August that all changed.

I was out for after work drinks with a publicist friend who I’d known for over a decade. He casually mentioned he had a mate who was popping by for a drink and in walked Alex. They’d been best mates since university. “Who’s that and why have you never introduced us?” I asked, trying not to sound desperate. “Who? Him? That’s just Alex! Didn’t think you’d be interested” was the reply.  So when everyone had peeled off I found myself alone, chatting to Alex in the aptly named Northumberland Arms – (this will become clearer in my next blog post). “I wouldn’t be stepping on anyone’s toes if I asked you on a date?” he said.  We arranged a date that Friday and spent it sat in a beer garden under an umbrella in the rain. Our second date was an Arsenal football match – being a Newcastle fan he’s lucky he got a third (joking Alex)! And the rest is history.

Photo from first night I met Alex

They say ‘when you know, you know’ – we knew instantly. Both of us. Fast forward ten weeks and we were engaged. We decided to do it while chatting late one night in his attic. No big grand proposal – just us, his guitar and a nice bottle of red wine.

The hardest thing was keeping it secret for a couple of weeks as at that time he’d still not met my family. We planned a trip to Newcastle to tell them. Alex had wanted to do the whole ‘asking my parents’ permission’ thing which went slightly pear shaped after a boozy train ride from London’s Kings Cross. I blurted it out to my mam when we met her in a Quayside pub. She thought I was joking.

Then there was telling my dad. When Alex finally got him alone to ask him he didn’t realise we were already engaged and returned home chatting twenty to the dozen and two octaves higher than normal trying not to give anything away. Everyone was over the moon though, if not a little shocked at the speed things were going.

Trip to Newcastle to break the news

While all this had all been going on Alex had arranged for a stone from his mum’s original engagement ring to be reset.

I was working late one night at ITV’s Good Morning Britain and got a photo by text of our Christmas tree which had a little box hanging from it. “Santa’s been early and look what he’s left”. When I got home he nervously presented me with the most gorgeous ring! Like a lot of brides-to-be the ring was far too big for my finger (not sure how or why he thought my fingers were that fat?!) but a lovely local jewellers in north London resized it in just two days. Thanks again Giorgio!

The ring

As Christmas approached it suddenly dawned on me that I had a future husband. Even writing this now makes me feel a bit grown up! We decided we wanted to crack on with the wedding and do it in 2015. So we rang in new year and set about making plans. But as wedding planning novices there was one major question on both our lips – ‘Where on earth do we start…

Follow Jane @Janeyspoon

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best dressed. supplier showcase: elegance of scholes

April 28th, 2015 | Julia Braime

Elegance Of Scholes (1)

Well, Brides Up North, last weekend’s events at Dine’s Allerton Castle and The Alnwick Garden were just magical! What an EPIC end to another amazing season of Brides Up North Luxury Wedding Exhibitions… stellar turnouts and I swear our exhibitors just get more talented and creative! Thanks to everyone – brides, grooms, our suppliers and our stunning venues – for their support and brilliance. We love you.

One fabulous supplier who we all got to know a little better this season was the lovely Cat of Brides Up North Sponsor boutique, elegance of scholes.  Today, she opens the doors of her beautiful bridal shop for us to take a closer peek.

Oh and FYI: we’re already planning an autumn season of events to knock your socks off..! Stay tuned.

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When did Elegance Of Scholes open and what is your background?

cat says: Elegance opened around six years ago, but I bought it last August after deciding to embark on a bit of a lifestyle change! Prior to owning Elegance I was a full-time Corporate Event Manager, and I also had my own Wedding Venue Décor business. Both of these have set me up well with a lot of the skills needed to run my own business, and having worked in the wedding industry for a number of years I understand how brides feel and what they go through… and it’s lovely to be able to help them out with such a huge, special and important part of the journey!

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Which wedding gown designers do you stock?

We stock Justin Alexander, Ellis Bridal and Mark Lesley. All three labels complement each other really well and we have a great selection of silhouettes and fabrics to suit all tastes.

What bridal accessories labels do you stock?

We stock tiaras and veils by Richard Designs, veils by Nieve Couture and Joyce Jackson, and tiaras/ jewellery by Blossom. We update our selection of bridal accessories on a regular basis so it’s worth keeping an eye out until we have your perfect piece! We also have a small selection of shoes by Rainbow, and are looking to expand this collection in the near future.

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What makes you different?

We are a luxury boutique with an extremely high level of service. People are always taken by surprise by the size of the boutique once they enter (we get a lot of ‘wow!’ comments!), and we have two spacious private fitting rooms at the rear of the boutique so guests can relax and enjoy their experience in comfort and privacy. We also have an in-house seamstress so all alterations are carried out on the premises, meaning the dress stays with us until your big day.

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Where are you located?

We are located in a small village called Scholes, which is close to Cleckheaton. Exit the M62 at J26 (Chain Barr roundabout), and we’re a couple of miles from there.

Can you give Brides Up North an idea on price?

Our gowns range from about £900-£1800, although we do also have a sale room for brides on a slightly lower budget.

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Do Brides Up North need an appointment?

We do tend to run on an appointment basis, purely so that we can guarantee the bride our undivided attention. Our first bridal appointments tend to be around an hour long, and we would always start with an initial chat about a bride’s ideas/wedding/preferred dress styles. From there we let the bride (and any accompanying people!) browse the dresses and pull out those they want to try on. The appointment then evolves as we eliminate certain dresses from the running/ narrow the selection down to THE dress. Quite often we add in our own opinion of dresses that girls might like to try… with surprising results! It’s amazing how many girls come in with an idea of their perfect dress, and leave with something completely different!

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What is your current favourite gown that you stock and why?

I have two current favourites (although it was pretty hard limiting myself to just two!)– Justin Alexander 8762 for the perfect princess ball-gown, and Ellis 11368, which is an absolutely stunning dress with lace sleeves and an amazing keyhole back… on the right figure it’s a definite show-stopper!

Is there a particular style of dress that is popular with your brides at the moment? What trends do you see being popular this year?

Lace continues to be popular, with the fitted mermaid-style being a particular favourite. We’re also seeing a move towards much more brides wanting sleeves or straps over strapless gowns, and the ‘feature back’ is also becoming more and more popular. As we were told when buying our new collections – “the back is the new front”… and it appears to be true!

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How does Elegance Of Scholes provide a superior experience to other wedding dress boutiques?

We pride ourselves on our relaxed and friendly service, and certainly are not pushy sales-people. Our priority first and foremost is making girls feel comfortable and happy in their search for their dress. There’s nothing nicer than the look on a girl’s face when they look in the mirror and see themselves as a ‘Bride’ for the first time, and it’s a privilege to us that we get to be the ones to put that look on their faces! We feel that we are definitely doing something right, as the majority of our appointments come from recommendations from past brides who have had the ‘Elegance Experience’ – and the comments, reviews and photos we receive after the big day are testament to this, and lovely for us to receive!

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Do you stock bridesmaid dresses?

Yes – we stock Kelsey Rose and Mark Lesley bridesmaid dresses, as well as flower girl’s dresses. Soft tulle seems to be the fabric of choice in bridesmaids this season (a lot of the new Kelsey Rose collection comes in this fabric), although chiffon is still (and I believe will remain) a very popular option. We continue to see dusky pink and pastels as key colour choices, but we have ensured we have a wide range of colours in stock to suit as many people as possible. Our bridesmaid dresses range in price from approx. £180-£280, and our flower girl dresses (from ages 6 months to 9/10 years) are approx. £69.

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Who would be an Elegance bride?

Elegance brides tend to be people that want to enjoy their experience in a relaxed and friendly setting, and who appreciate the quality behind a true designer gown such as the ones we stock. The purchase of a bridal gown doesn’t stop with just that one transaction, and with alterations and so on, we can see a bride many times in the run-up to her wedding. For this reason, we pride ourselves on the relationships we build with our brides and its always a proud moment when we see them for their final fitting right before their wedding, knowing that we’ve done everything in our power to make their dress perfect for them.

Whilst not wanting to limit ourselves to a particular ‘type’ of bride, our dresses do fall into a certain price bracket so when someone comes in with a £300-£500 budget, the only way we would be able to help out is by directing them to the dresses in our sale room (which are also stunning, but are often discontinued dresses, or ex-samples that we need to sell in order to make way for new collections).

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Are you married? 

I’m not yet married… but engaged and getting married on June 4th 2016! Everyone is always surprised to hear that I’m the owner of a Bridal Boutique and have never tried on a wedding dress in my life. Before being engaged I didn’t want to jinx it until it was my turn, and now that I am engaged I keep putting it off! Having fitted dresses to so many different people however, I have an idea of the style that will suit my figure so will be limiting myself slightly in that regard (although I can’t say what that style is, in case my fiancé reads this interview!) – and I change my mind every couple of days on my favourite dresses as I see girls trying on the different samples, so who knows which will be my final choice?!

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How can Brides Up North get in touch with you?

Our website is www.eleganceofscholes.co.uk, you can like us on Facebook, email Cat and the team at info@eleganceofscholes.co.uk or call us on 01274 876659.

Is there anything else that Brides Up North should know?

As well as stocking our beautiful designer gowns, our in-house seamstress (another Cat!) designs and makes bespoke bridal gowns… so if you’re struggling to find that perfect dress but have an idea of what you’re looking for, Cat will be able to make it for you. We also offer a dry-clean and box service, so you can keep your gown for years to come and re-live those memories as often as you like!

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Look Book: The Bow Factor

July 10th, 2014 | Rachel Parry

Rosa by Stephanie Allin

Rosa by Stephanie Allin 

From small to big and neat to blousy, bows are everywhere. 

A pretty addition to many wedding dresses, ribbons, sashes and bows can be used for delicate detailing or to make one heck of a statement.

Traditionally bows appeared in the back of the dress and were used to cinch in the waist, but today designers are making bolder statements with bows, placing them on the front of the dress, the side, or even on the shoulder.

Honour by Stephanie Allin

Honour by Stephanie Allin

Graceful bows feature quite heavily in Stephanie Allin’s Day and Night collection. Rosa, Heaven and Bardot are equally dreamy designs with slim-line bow and ribbon detailing. Allin’s steely toned Masquerade dress also features a delicate bow, but in the back. Meanwhile her Honour dress (which I have swooned over too many times) gives brides the option to tie its stunning sage green sash, complete with fabulous floral corsages, in the front, back or side, depending on their styling preference.

Stephanie Allin

Images: Stephanie Allin

Those looking for simple bow designs will find options in the collections of Ronald Joyce, Ellis and Sassi Holford, including large princess style gowns as well as structured slim-line creations. Ellis’ tea-length fifties 11404 style dress is a cute example as is Sassi Holford’s Martha dress. Those looking for more detailed designs might prefer Ronald Joyce’s Bernice dress. Its slim-line silhouette features a beautiful cowl neck and embroidery detailing, all finished off with a large jewel-centred bow on the side.

Martha by Sassi Holford

Martha by Sassi Holford

17416 by Ronald Joyce

Bernice by Ronald Joyce

11404 by Ellis Bridals

11404 by Ellis Bridals

67073 by Ronald Joyce

Style 67073 by Ronald Joyce

Josephine & Josephine Skirt by Sassi Holford

Josephine by Sassi Holford

Megan by Sassi Holford

Megan by Sassi Holford

Fans of structured, rather than blousy, bows should look to Holford’s Josephine gown, which features a wide satin bow belt in the front, and her fabulously feminine Megan dress with slim duchess satin bow belt, which nips in neatly at the waist.

South Pacific Print by Ian Stuart

South Pacific Print by Ian Stuart Bride 

Blue Bird by Ian Stuart

Blue Bird by Ian Stuart Bride

Finally, for those really wanting to make a statement on the aisle, there‘s only one man for the job – step forward Ian Stuart. His sensational Supernova collection has several dresses featuring bold bows. Blue Bird (from the Killer Queen collection) is a particularly striking design with incredible oversized bowtails that waterfall down the back of the dress into a flowing chapel train. But top of the stand-out stakes has to be South Pacific that features a billowing oversized bow which cascades from the left hip and opens to reveal flowing silk gazar. A must for fashion-forward brides, this dress is also available in striking floral print for that extra wow-factor!

Ian Stuart Bride

Images: Ian Stuart Bride

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Brides Up North UK Wedding Blog – Images © 2014 as credited

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Contact Brides Up North to submit your business as a Featured Supplier 

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Wedding Dress Wonderland! Supplier Showcase: Award Winning Confetti & Lace

June 11th, 2012 | Julia Braime

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This morning I am thrilled to welcome Abbi Lewis from Award Winning Confetti & Lace and Brides of Harrogate to the silver swirly pages of the wedding blog.  I first met Abbi when we shared a table at the Bridal Buyer Awards back in 2011 and was struck by how lovely she was then – it turns out that I am a great judge of character!

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Abbi has been generous enough to sponsor our current headline competition here at Brides Up North: the chance to win not only your wedding dress but your bridesmaid dresses and menswear too, to the value of £2,000!  We do like to spoil you. 

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There is not long left to enter so make sure to click here for the chance to win this fabulous prize.  All you have to do is leave a comment on the original competition post (or register at one of the Brides Up North Spring wedding showcases) and you are in in to win it.  What are you waiting for?  The competition closes at midnight on 26th June 2012. 

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Meanwhile, lets meet Abbi. 

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Award Winning Confetti & Lace

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When did Award Winning Confetti & Lace open and what is your background?

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I opened Confetti and Lace nearly seven years ago on October 15th 2005 after working as a bridal shop manager.  I grasped the opportunity to run my own bridal business doing the job I love with both hands! I started up with two part-time ladies (previous work colleagues) and a seamstress and now we have twenty two staff across four branches so I feel very lucky!

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I expanded our bridal shop after a couple of years and then found that our brides were having difficulties sourcing menswear so opened up Yorkshire Menswear in Rodley, Leeds in April 2009 and our second bridal branch, Brides of Harrogate exactly four years to the day I opened Confetti.   Six months later we launched our second menswear branch in Harrogate and have never looked back!

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What lines of wedding gowns do you stock?

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We have so many designers and have built up great trust and great relationship over the years that we only stock dresses we know are best in class, value for money, constructed well and where the quality and fit is superb: designers such as Alfred Angelo, Mori Lee, Justin Alexander and Benjamin Roberts.  We are also the premier stockists for Pronovias in the North of England and have one of the largest collections outside of Harrods and their London Flagship Store! I very much enjoy going to Barcelona each year to see their latest collections and bring them back to the UK.

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Impression Bridal are a great label from the US and English designer White Rose is one of my favourites with great boning, design and fabulous fabrics such as sumptuous silks and taffeta’s. Essence is a fabulous Australian designer and offers such a flattering fit.  The list goes on and on and we carry over 200 designs in sizes 6-32 in each bridal store.

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What lines of accessories do you stock?

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We are a major stockist for Rainbow Club where we can dye handbags and shoes to match any outfit. We have hundreds of tiaras, veils and bridal accessories including ring cushions, garters, hairpins etc. and if we don’t do it (very rarely) we know someone who does!

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Award Winning Confetti & Lace

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Where are you located?

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Award Winning Confetti & Lace is situated between Leeds and Bradford near M&S/ASDA at Owlcotes, Pudsey.  We also have one of the largest bridal showrooms in the North of England, Brides of Harrogate, close to Betty’s Tea Rooms with over 6,000 square feet of bridal, bridesmaids, mother of the bride/groom, menswear and accessories.

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Can you give Brides Up North an idea on price?

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Bridal gowns range from just £450 upwards and we have payment plans to help brides budget for their whole wedding outfits if need be.  Many are taking advantage of this easy monthly instalment plan with no hidden charges or extra costs.   Some top designers such as Pronovias carry a £1400+ price tag but most of our stock is around £800 – £900 on average. We always carry several sale items which are ready to wear and can be up to 75% off so we truly believe we cater for all tastes and budgets.

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Do Brides Up North need an appointment?

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We would recommend that brides make an appointment as we want to allocate a dedicated, experienced member of staff to help and a changing room to get changed in.  We have between seven and eight changing rooms in each bridal store so we can usually help even if you’re calling in on the off-chance although appointments take priority of course. 

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What can Brides Up North expect when they come in for an appointment?

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You can expect a warm and friendly welcome, expert, knowledgeable and down-to-earth staff who are there to help you. We like to put you (and your guests) at ease and we serve bubbly/ bucks fizz/ tea and coffee as it can take anywhere between one to two hours to try on different styles. In our Leeds store we open seven days, two evenings a week for our customers’ convenience and in our Harrogate store we have huge private changing rooms for both the bride and their parties. 

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Award Winning Confetti & Lace

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What is your current favourite gown that you stock and why?

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I have so many favourites!  In our Harrogate store I love a gown called Benicarlo by Pronovias and it has a lovely sweetheart neckline which is tastefully covered in feathers! It has a full romantic skirt which is high-waisted so very flattering. In our Stanningley Store my favourite is a dress named after me, Abbi by Phil Collins Bridal and is a beautiful princess line gown in matt duchess satin with a georgette (chiffon) overlay across the bust and scattered crystals all over the gown, concentrating on the neckline. It has a flattering ‘ruched’ waist effect, a detailed train and a lace up corseted bodice. It comes in white or ivory, is flattering in any size and is £900.  With all that detail and work, I think it’s excellent value for money.

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Is there a particular style of dress that is popular with your brides at the moment?

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Lace is a particular favourite at the minute and vintage themes have been very popular. We are getting asked for gowns with straps, sleeves or higher necklines and as we are dress-makers can offer this service on most of our dresses.  We also have in store a large range of jackets, boleros, shrugs and stoles to compliment all of our gowns.

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How does Confetti & Lace provide a superior experience to other wedding dress boutiques?

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I think a lot of other bridal retailers do a sterling job, especially faced with internet sellers and as mentioned before I think the service and quality of the dresses plus a full and comprehensive alterations service means we can offer much more than taking a big risk on the most important dress of your life!

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We have seen an huge influx the last few years of cheap copies and substandard gowns, often with little or no boning, cheap glued on crystals and no lining!

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Our customers can expect top class service from wedding professionals who are fully insured (we are members of the British Bridal Retailers Association, BBRA and the Retail Bridal Association RBA) who guarantee that you are covered in case of theft, loss or damage.

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We’ve also won most of the major bridal accolades and awards over the years, most recently we we’re runners up in the Best Bridal Retailer 2012 and also UK Menswear Retailer of The Year, plus finalists in the Wedding Industry Awards and Wedding Idea’s Magazine 2012 – these are voted for by customers, peers and industry professionals so we’re very proud!

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Check our Google reviews and ask around, we have many recommendations and see a lot of our past brides and bridesmaids coming in with friends and family who are now getting married. You can’t ask for better than that.

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Do you stock Bridesmaid Dresses?

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We have a huge range of bridesmaids dresses with dedicated bridesmaids’ departments in both stores. We have Dessy, Mori Lee, Alfred Sung, Lela Rose in our Harrogate store and Alfred Angelo and Impression maids at both with the whole Kelsey Rose range in our Stanningley branch. Over 200 styles that come in sizes 0 to 30 plus and in up to 255 colour combinations!

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What about Menswear?

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Yorkshire Menswear.com provide suit hire by Cameron Ross who themselves are recipients of Best Groomsmen Supplier UK Awards 2010, 2011 and 2012. We can cater from age 2 to size 60" chest and even though it’s hire wear the quality is superb with up to a 37" inside leg (most retailers only go to a 33), extra long sleeved shirts and waistcoats can come as standard too.

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Our suit packages are mainly £99 which includes any jacket, trousers (in lots of styles and colours), new shirt, waistcoat (over 60 to choose from), tie, hanky and cufflinks. One in five suits is FREE and we offer a free UK wide measure and collection service for those in the party outside of Yorkshire in any one of over 180 outlets. Our suits normally come in at least a week before the wedding also which is pretty unheard of in suit hire. We do Highland Wear (one of my favourites!), dinner suits, lounge jackets, Prince Edwards and Tailcoats so if you need a suit for a wedding, black tie, cruise, the races, prom or special event, we’re on hand to help…and fast!

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Are you married? What did you wear on your wedding day?

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I got married last year in February to Martin (who can be found in Yorkshire Menswear!) and I wore a dress by Ellis Bridal with straps, crystal detail on the shoulders, dropped waist, delicate crystal bodice modesty panel and buttoned back.  As it wasn’t my first marriage and I’m now in my 40′s and a size 14 I felt comfortable in it and it was appropriate for me.  I teamed it with a silk bolero jacket because of the time of year and I looked and felt my best – I had lots of lovely comments and that was brilliant. Looking back on my photographs I was really pleased with my choice too – after all you have one chance to capture the day and there is no time for regrets!

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How can Brides Up North get in touch with you/ find out more?

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You can ring Leeds 0113 2360652 (7 days a week) or Brides of Harrogate 01423 500010, visit our website at www.confettiandlaceweddings.co.uk or email us at info@confettiandlaceweddings.co.uk

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Anything else that Brides Up North should know?

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ITV are currently making a documentary film about us and our brides and grooms called The Wedding Shop to be aired in the Autumn/Winter at the prime 9pm timeslot (date to be confirmed) so we’re very excited and we hope you enjoy the programme!

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We’re already slightly famous after appearing on BBC’s Don’t Tell The Bride and we had beaten several other shops in the UK for this programme to go ahead – we like to think of it as an upmarket My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and we are happy to be a Yorkshire business representing the UK wedding industry!
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  – Images © 2012 supplied by Award Winning Confetti & Lace 

Award Winning Confetti & Lace is a Brides Up North Featured Supplier

Contact Brides Up North to submit your business as a Featured Supplier

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Brides Up North UK Wedding Blog

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As Audrey Would Say: ‘I Believe Happy Girls Are The Prettiest Girls’: Supplier Showcase: Choola, Sheffield

February 22nd, 2012 | Julia Braime

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I believe in manicures. I believe in overdressing. I believe in primping at leisure and wearing lipstick. I believe in pink. I believe happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day, and… I believe in miracles.  Audrey Hepburn
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Today we meet an Audrey fan who lives by her idol’s motto – the fabulous Francesca from the even more fabulous (if it’s possible!) Choola bridal boutique, Sheffield.  Form an orderly queue girls. 

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With images by Jess Petrie

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Choola by Jess Petrie

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When did Choola open and what is your background?
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Choola proudly opened its doors in July 2008 and is run by myself and my partner Ivan. I’m thrilled to say since opening, we have become one of the leading boutiques in Sheffield and the Northern region with brides travelling from all over the UK and now even abroad to visit us! We have worked very hard to establish ourselves and we are thrilled to have been recognised enough that we were selected to appear on Wedding TV, be the supplier to National and local Radio competitions and regularly featuring in the leading bridal magazines.

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Bridal had always been my passion, having religiously bought the wedding magazines each month for years and losing myself in a world of style, fashion, flowers and cakes! After being a bridesmaid 6 times, I had known for many years that I wanted to open my own boutique but it was only when driving down Ecclesall Road one day and spotting the empty shop that the ‘Eureka’ moment hit me! It was now or never!

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That was back in January 2008 and within weeks I had gone part time in my job, signed the lease and all focus was now on turning the once bathroom and shower showroom into a gleaming bridal boutique!

Ivan and I did all the work ourselves with a huge amount of help from our family and before we knew it the appointments were flooding in and we were in full swing. 

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Having graduated in 2004 with a degree in Law and working within the field of policy and procedure, suddenly running my own business was a huge shock to the system! However, Ivan and I were used to throwing ourselves in at the deep end and having previously worked as a Rent Arrears Officer for the Council, I was certainly not afraid of a challenge.  My fiancé and business partner was no stranger to the complexities of business with a degree in Business Studies and having run a successful property development company. With his business expertise, my legal background and passion for all things wedding, we knew we had the perfect mix for a fabulous new venture. 

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Choola by Jess Petrie

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What lines of wedding gowns do you stock?

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We were really keen to have a mix of designers both well established and up and coming and over the years this has developed significantly. We aren’t afraid to change which designers we stock as quality and service is everything to us and we have successfully managed to carve ourselves a niche for showcasing dresses with "that little bit of something different". The dresses aren’t so far off centre as to limit our clients but yet edgy enough to set the Bride apart from the crowd.

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We have stocked Lyn Ashworth from first opening and these are our classic British made gowns. With an exceptional cut and quality of silk and lace, these our firm favourites with our brides seeking the quintessential English wedding style.

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For girls who love beautiful fabrics with more emphasis on cut than embellishment, we stock the French design house of Lambert Creations. All handmade and made to measure in Brittany, these gowns can seldom be found anywhere else in the UK. 

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For our brides who favour lace and intricate beading we stock the Portuguese designer Maria Karin which again has few UK stockist so brides can be assured of exclusivity.

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The award winning Mark Lesley range provides beautiful dresses with a more traditional element but still with some great contemporary twists.

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We then have then very glamorous designs of Anoushka G, favoured with the celebrities, these dresses are perfect for brides who want to be fashion forward and not feel overly "bridey"! The collection boasts a lot of silk-chiffon which is also perfect for brides having destination weddings.

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Our two newest designers to Choola are Jonathan James Couture and Private Label by G. We were drawn to Jonathan because he isn’t afraid to break the rules when it comes to his collections! He can just as easily create a simple unembellished gown as he can a heavily beaded princess dress and with the ability to bespoke gowns for our clients, he was a definite must!

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Private Label by G has only just been introduced in the UK with its cult following being in the USA and Canada but always wanting to be ahead of the crowd we quickly sought to introduce the label into Choola! The first dress from their fabulous collection was sold within an hour of arriving at the boutique and already are proving a real talking point! The Private Label collection literally has a dress for every bride, from vintage glamour to full on fairy-tale romance. 

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Choola by Jess Petrie

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What lines of accessories do you stock?
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I love my sparkly things! We stock stunning headpieces and veils from Ivory & Co, Studio Bridal and Emmerling. We have an eclectic mix of vintage inspired pieces, art deco styled hairbands, traditional tiaras and some quirky birdcage veils and fascinators.

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As a huge shoe lover we have over 30 pairs of shoes to choose from by celebrity favourite Benjamin Adams. We love their shoes because they are stylish, fashionable and all beautifully handmade. The best thing is that most of them can be dyed after the wedding and worn again so they don’t end up gathering dust in the attic. I have several pairs in several colours that look great with pair of jeans or the infamous LBD. 

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Choola by Jess Petrie

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Where are you located?

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Our beautiful boutique is based in one of my favourite places in Sheffield, Ecclesall Road. This road has always been a favourite with the independent boutiques and the trendy bars.  It has a great cosmopolitan buzz to it and perfect to be able to spend a whole day on, browsing the shops, having lunch and a glass or two of wine! It also has a fabulous park with beautiful views. In my opinion there is nowhere else we could have had our boutique.

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Choola by Jess Petrie

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Can you give Brides up North an idea on price?

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Our dresses start from around £900 to approximately £2700. A good retailer will always chat with a bride about budget as the last thing we want to do is put you in a dress you fall in love with, only then for you to find out that the price is above what you would like or more importantly able to spend. Don’t be afraid to be honest about what you are able to spend, the more honest you are the more we will be able to help you. For us its not about selling you the most expensive dress in the boutique, its about selling you the perfect dress for both your body shape and personality. The bride after all is our walking advertisement!

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Choola by Jess Petrie

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Do Brides up North need an appointment?
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We will always try and see a bride if somebody pops in and we have the time to do so but we always advise brides to book as there is nothing worse than travelling a long way to see us, only to be turned away as we already have a full diary. Booked appointments are a must on Saturdays and need to booked well in advance. We always suggest a bride to come on a week day if she is able to take time off work as we can generally spend a little longer with her. However, as a busy woman myself, I understand that its not always possible, therefor we offer late appointments on both Mondays and Wednesdays. We only close Sundays so we are very accessible to both busy brides and those who live further afield.

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Choola by Jess Petrie

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What can Bride Up North expect when they come for an appointment?
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When brides come to visit us we want everyone to leave feeling energised and excited! They will have time to browse the gowns, chat through their thoughts and feeling about what they envisage for their day and then be taken to their private fitting area.

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Looking for your dress is one of the most important and exciting parts of the wedding planning, this is where it all starts! We are genuinely passionate about what we do and I think that shows. We take time getting to know our brides, we listen and support. We offer constructive advice and never pressure brides into a decision. We ask brides to pick out their own dresses to try on but then we will make our own suggestions and often a bride is surprised to fall in love with the dress she never dreamed of. 

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We only see two brides at a time but they are both on separate floors so each bride has her own consultant and more importantly her own privacy. Great refreshments are also a must and we always have plenty of drinks and freshly baked cupcakes to nibble on! For us, providing a woman’s dress for her wedding is a real honour and privilege so we always strive to provide the best level of service and advice. We all still regularly attend training events with designers and all staff have completed national qualifications in customer service and business.

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Choola by Jess Petrie

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What is your current favourite gown and why?
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My favourite dress changes regularly depending on my mood or who has just tried it on. I’m a real fan of quirky dresses that have intricate pattern cutting or unique fabrics.  At the moment though, I’m really in love with Elenore by Anoushka G. Its a silk dress with cowl neck and back and an amazing waterfall train! I also love Gwendoline by Lyn Ashworth as its very Audrey Hepburn and as you will be able to tell from the amount of Audrey Hepburn pictures in the boutique she is my style icon! Elegant yet quirky, chic yet individual!

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Choola by Jess Petrie

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Is there a particular style of dress that is popular with your brides at the moment?

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The vintage and lace styles have been popular for several years now but I think we are seeing a move away from the vintage trend with a number of our brides opting for either the more classic style or braving a more contemporary look. Organza has become very popular as you can create a number of looks with this versatile fabric. What I love though is that a style of dress can look so very different on each bride, this is what makes the job so interesting. 

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Choola by Jess Petrie

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How does Choola provide a superior experience to other wedding dress boutiques?

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I think this is a really tough question to answer as the one thing I’m not so good at is saying how good we are! I think we would all like to believe we are the best at what we do and it can become easy to criticise other boutiques in the process. The fact is though, that Sheffield and the surrounding area has some fabulous boutiques and when we started the business we wanted to become a part of that, to really put Sheffield on the map. We are pleased to say we have forged some great friendships with other bridal boutique owners which is not only beneficial for us and them but also for the brides.

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We take great pride in our attention to detail in both our service and how the boutique looks and feels.  We are very humbled to have a shop filled to the brim with thank you cards and photos from past brides and with a huge amount of our business coming from recommendations, I guess that tells us we really are getting it right! Many brides have now become firm friends and come back with friends and family either to help someone else shop for a dress or simply just to pop in and have a chat. 

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We are very honoured and proud to have been nominated for 2 awards within 12 months of opening, getting to the finals of Wedding Boutique of the Year UK and the top 50 Hottest boutiques in the UK! This was especially exciting as we were categorised alongside the very best of the best such as Bruce Oldfield and Suzanne Neville! It was a lovely surprise as a lot of awards you have to put yourself forward for but this was completely out of the blue!

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We have a genuine enthusiasm for our business and I’m a bit of a wedding-a-holic! I go home and watch Wedding TV and read the bridal magazines, I just cant get enough of it! Our brides tell us we have a lovely warm atmosphere here at Choola and I think it’s because our business is family run so our dedication and passion radiates through all of us! We also have fun! My heart swells when I hear the shrieks of laughter and the champagne corks popping, its a feeling like no other. 

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Our ethos here is to treat brides how we would want to be treated, simple I know but its strategy that works! We are honest with our brides and try to give them as much information as possible to enable them to make an informed decision about their gown. Our boutique is chic and stylish with great lighting and lots of space and privacy, There are always fresh flowers and our boutique smells divine thanks to our fab candles.  We have soft cosy cream sofas and carpets and stunning mirrored furniture. The changing areas are luxurious and large enough to really move in the dresses. We offer a full styling service as well as being able to provide contacts for other bridal industry experts. We know our gowns and industry inside and out and most importantly, know how to dress a woman to show off her figure and personality to its full advantage. All in all we believe our dress shopping experience is exactly what it should be, fun, relaxed, special and a memory to be treasured.

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Choola by Jess Petrie

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Do you stock bridesmaid’s dresses?

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We have two great collections by Mark Lesley and our newest designer Kenneth Winston. The dresses are a wonderful mix of traditional, contemporary, quirky and style led. A lot of the dresses are perfect to be worn again after the wedding. We have a great array of colours and many of the dresses my friends and I order to wear at days at the races and awards events as they are that gorgeous. 

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Choola by Jess Petrie

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Who would be a Choola bride?

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Anyone can be a Choola bride! We literally have a dress to suit every figure and personality and love that fact that over the years we have dressed brides from the ages of 20 to 60 and every size and shape that’s in between! We have brides who aren’t particularly "girly" and don’t want to look "bridal" right through to brides who have dreamt of being the princess from a little girl. I love the quirky mix of brides we have and how individual and different they all are.

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Are you married?

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In case anyone didn’t know, Ivan and I got engaged last year and are marrying in early summer! I’m so excited that I tell everyone! I’m extremely fortunate to be able to have a couture gown made for me by one the most talented designers (I’m keeping it secret for now!) The whole process of sitting down and sketching out the dress has been a fabulous experience and watching the dress develop step by step is truly amazing. I’m so excited to see the finished gown and I think there will be lots of tears when I have my final fitting! I can tell you though that I am having the most stunning pair of Aruna Seth shoes and they aren’t ivory. I’m a bit of a Carrie Bradshaw and have more shoes than I care to admit (or want Ivan to know about) and these are just to die for!

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Choola by Jess Petrie

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How can Brides up North get in touch with you and find out more?

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Brides can visit our website www.choola.co.uk, our facebook page, Choola Bridal Boutique and our Twitter page for more information about us. We will soon have a blog where I can talk wedding till my hearts content! Or if you just want a chat the good old fashioned way you can call us on 0114 2671303.

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Anything else Brides up North should know?

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Yes, we will soon be having our very first celebrity bride tie the knot! My lips are sealed but when the time comes keep your eyes peeled and there may even be an appearance in OK magazine… watch this space!

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  – Images © 2012 Jess Petrie

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