Having just shared details of my own dress shopping experience in this wedding diary instalment (I’m a 2019-bride-to-be don’t you know?!) this afternoon’s post further backs-up my findings as we hear from industry expert and Brides Up North Sponsor, Hayley Hoyle, on why ladies should visit independent bridal boutiques when searching for their dream gown.
As the owner of not one, but two top Yorkshire boutiques – The Harrogate Wedding Lounge and The Bridal Collection Harrogate – Hayley is well placed to speak on this topic and advise brides-to-be on how to get the most out of this precious part of the planning.
A far cry from a high-street changing room, Hayley explains the welcoming ambience, top styling and seamstress service and aftercare that awaits brides and these small, professional businesses. She also makes clear that ladies of all budgets can shop at independent boutiques and the service is warm, friendly and fun – not at all like the Pretty Woman style connotations that some conjure up in their heads.
My experience of such businesses was exactly as Hayley describes – real women dressing real women to help find that one special gown that ticks all the boxes while providing professional support along the way that you just won’t find elsewhere. So, ladies, here’s why you’ll want to support your independent sisters…
hayley says: For some, buying their wedding gown is a prospect filled with excitement, giddiness and hopes of the perfect shopping trip filled with friends, fizz and finding the one. For others the thought is nothing short of terrifying. Fears of being squeezed in to samples too small or bulldog clipped into samples three-sizes too big while your nearest and dearest pick fault at every part of the dress, or even worse, your body in the dress. Whatever your inclination toward it, after more than ten years in the industry I can confirm that for the most part finding, buying and fitting your wedding gown is an intimate, emotionally charged, sometimes nerve wracking but ultimately beautiful experience, or at least that’s what my hope is for all of my brides.
It should be undertaken with your most trusted advisors; the person or people who know you most and who’s number one priority is your happiness. This also applies to the place you choose to shop for your gown. As an independent boutique, myself and my team make it our business to get to know you. Your hopes and dreams for the dress and the day. We understand your fears, your hang-ups and all your insecurities. We are women too remember. We don’t care that your pants don’t match your bra today or that you have just had lunch and feel like have a food baby going on, all we care about is you relaxing and having fun finding a gown that truly represents you, and that you feel and look incredible in.
Independent boutiques go much further than selling wedding dresses, I certainly don’t see that as my job at all and I am pretty sure other independents would say the same. We are councillors, confidants, mediators, the shoulder to cry on, the person who holds the tissues – and the prosecco! But above all we are stylists. Our space and that of many other boutiques I know are beautifully created and full of inspiration. Everything matters; the calming atmosphere, beautiful scents, gorgeous flowers, endless accessories, soft music and of course the beautiful gowns and the team of experienced stylists that know our products inside out and are passionate about your experience with us.
My team accompany me to all of our designers’ collection launches, they know about construction, fabric options, possible changes that can be made and make personal recommendations for you based on your body type and desires. Unlike many other less personal options available to brides when choosing their dress, our team are trained to work with you individually, hand pick gowns we know will knock your socks off and give you the very best advice on fit. We don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach, we can recommend options such as bespoke sizing – like a size 14 top and 18 bottom. Made to measure for a large bust or a short torso. The result? A unique experience totally tailored to you, your ideas and your body.
Buying on the high street or at very large bridal chains will likely mean you won’t be given the option to have your gown altered to fit you perfectly. This can feel like an easy way to save money, but I would urge anyone to reconsider this decision. It is such an important day and one which you will likely pour over the images of for decades to come. I guarantee you a poorly fitting dress will only make you sad and regretful years down the line. Independent boutiques are far more likely to offer alterations in-house. I would recommend actively seeking out the boutiques in your area that do.
The in-house sewing team a boutique has is their secret weapon. My incredible team have worked all over the world, from the West End to Hollywood movies and have trained with the very best couture bridal designers. They perform some complex and highly technical alterations following fittings and discussions with the brides and we also can make a beautiful gown fit perfectly. Ultimately by investing in our team in-house we are able to offer both a product and level of service they simply cannot get elsewhere. I am very proud of my team, they constantly go above and beyond to get a gown just perfect for our brides. That is what drives them and what we are so are passionate about.
One of the most frustrating and common misconceptions about bridal boutiques is that they are snobby, only cater for size 10’s and are ridiculously overpriced, completely ruling out the typical British bride – this is so far from the truth. Please believe me. Many independent boutiques are run by hard working, passionate, down to earth women just the same as you. Working mums, with the same hang ups as you, size 10 or size 22. We are not scary or snobby. We won’t laugh at you because you forgot to shave your legs. We are just the same, but we are in the very privileged position of helping you find your dream gown – it just so happens we love it too!
If you feel like you may not have the budget for shopping in an independent boutique think again. No matter how lean you feel your budget is, most boutiques have options for everyone. Our three-times yearly sample sales with ex-samples from as little as £299 are so popular they book up weeks in advance. Keep your eye out on your favourite boutiques’ websites, call them and ask if they have samples for sale all the time or at specific times of year. Trunk shows throughout the year can often offer discounts for purchasing at specific times. It is still possible to support independent boutiques, stick to your budget and get a high-end service throughout.
Finally, there is the aftercare. Buying from an independent bridal boutique is a journey that absolutely does not stop the moment you buy your gown. Being a bride of ours and many other boutiques is just the beginning. We hold styling evenings, product launches, Christmas cocktail parties, social media get togethers and we have evenings with hair and makeup specialists, pop-up shops and so much more. That’s even before we start the fittings process. Then post-wedding we love to show our brides off on our blogs and social media channels as well as forward to our designers for them to see. We can arrange travel boxes for overseas weddings and even post-wedding cleaning and packing.
Supporting and shopping in independent bridal boutiques will not only ensure the survival of this niche market and unique experience, but it will also ensure you receive a personalised service from a highly knowledgeable team resulting in a beautiful customer experience… give it a try!