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Every bride should experience what it’s like to by waited on hand and foot, trying on hundreds of dresses while enjoying a glass of champagne. We speak to five brides who reveal what it’s really like to buy a wedding dress from an independent bridal boutique…

BRIDAL BOUTIQUE: LEONIE CLAIRE

Jenny, 33, got married at her parents’ home in Kent in May 2018. She bought her wedding dress – the Gigi Galaxy by Rue de Seine (RRP £2,250) – from Leonie Claire in Brighton.

Bride Jenny's wedding dress

“I started looking online and pinning dresses on Pinterest as soon as I got engaged in September 2017 and visited my first boutique two months later.

“I knew I didn’t want to spend more than £3,000 on my dress and, initially, I wanted something a bit unusual like a short or coloured dress. However, after visiting eight stores I soon realised that the best style on me was a fitted dress that flared.

“I ended up buying my dress from Leonie Claire in Brighton. I had seen some Rue de Seine dresses online that I liked and Leonie Claire is the only UK stockist. I booked and paid a small fee for an appointment on a Friday with my mum and made sure I had written down all the dresses I had seen online that I wanted to try on.

“Over a glass of champagne (which we readily accepted!), I was able to try on as many dresses as I wanted and Leonie gave honest opinions and suggestions. I tried on about five dresses that I would have been happy to wear (all by Rue de Seine) and in the end chose the Gigi Galaxy.

“It wasn’t too fitted or restrictive – my main concern was comfort – I really wanted to enjoy the day, feel relaxed and be able to let loose on the dance floor.

“I loved the whole wedding dress shopping experience, but I would advise you check that the shops you visit have a wide selection of the style that you’re after. The best advice I can give to other brides is to be willing to take honest advice from friends and family. One of my bridesmaids told me I looked like the ugly step sister in one dress. It sounds harsh, but she wanted me to be Cinderella. Needless to say, I didn’t buy that one!

“With Leonie Claire, I really felt that she was on the same page as me and understood what I was after. And the after-sale service was just as good. The seamstress was lovely and the other girls who worked in the shop were really attentive and friendly, too. When I picked up my dress, they gave me a card, too, which I thought was lovely.”

BRIDAL BOUTIQUE: LOVE BRIDAL

Suzanne, 35, got married in Santorini in August 2017 and bought her Willowby wedding dress (£910) from Love Bridal in London.

Suzanne in her Willowby wedding dress

“I had a budget of £1,000 for my dress when I started looking in May 2016. I booked two appointments for a Saturday, the first being at Love Bridal, which was recommended by a friend who lives locally.

“As it was a weekend I had to pay a £20 deposit which was redeemable against a dress if I purchased one from the store. When I arrived, I had a brief conversation with one of the staff members about what style of gown I wanted, which I didn’t really know at this point. I just knew I wanted something light and floaty as the wedding was in Greece.  

“I was given plenty of time to choose what dresses I wanted to try on and was helped into all of them and advised (along with my mum and friend) on what shape and style suited my figure best. Once the style was chosen, the sales person then found some more dresses for me to try on and that’s when I tried on the Rorian. I hadn't initially tried it on because it was porcelain pink and I had only looked at ivory hues. Fortunately, it was part of a Trunk show of Willowby dresses with a 10% discount if I bought it on the day.

“I didn’t purchase it straight away. I went to another appointment at Wed2Be in Bromley, but I didn’t enjoy the experience as much. It didn’t feel like an intimate boutique and I didn’t get any help trying on the dresses. No-one pinned them up to help me see what they could look like, and the appointment felt rushed and the dresses cheap.

“After some lunch, and thinking about the dress all day, I decided to call up Love Bridal to see whether I could call in again to try it on once more. They helpfully fitted me in at the end of the day and, as soon as I put it on, I knew it was ‘the one’.  

“Love Bridal was great – I wasn't offered champagne, which I was hoping for ­– but they were helpful and attentive and not pushy or intrusive (I don’t think they have an alcohol licence as the local council is quite strict).

“I think the combination of the quality of the dresses, the design of the boutique floor and the professionalism of the staff made me feel very special and excited. All the fittings and alterations were organised by their recommended seamstress at the boutique, too.

“When I collected my dress, they had boxed it up for me to take on the aeroplane for £35 and labelled it up with the words ‘Here comes the Bride, Mrs Topping, 25th August 2017’ and decorated it beautifully with ribbons. I felt proud to be carrying it at the airport! I would definitely advise any bride-to-be to go to an independent boutique to experience that feeling of being the special bride.”

BRIDAL BOUTIQUE: LOVE ME DO BRIDES

Fay, 36, bought her wedding dress from Love Me Do Brides in Surrey. She wore her St Patrick (RRP £1,360) to her May 2018 wedding, which took place in Cornwall.

Fay in her St Patrick wedding dress

“I began my search in August 2017, but I didn’t find the one until October that same year. I had an idea of the sort of dress that I wanted – something floaty and ethereal to fit our festival-themed wedding – but the more dresses I tried on, the more I realised that that style didn’t suit me. I needed something structured and more figure-hugging to show off my hourglass figure.

“After visiting 14 boutiques in central London, and trying on over 100 dresses, I decided to do a full Saturday of wedding dress shopping with my mum. We based our search around Surrey, as the location is halfway between where we both live.

“I did an online search for boutiques in Kingston, Walton-on-Thames and Wimbledon. Then, with my shortlist, I looked at each of the store’s websites to check they had the style of dresses I was looking for. Love Me Do in Walton-On-Thames had a few dresses that I liked the look of and so I emailed the owner in advance to check she stocked the ones I wanted to try on. She didn’t actually have the dress I liked, but she suggested a very similar one, which was the dress I ended up purchasing.

We were offered, and gladly accepted, a glass of bucks fizz each, and I didn’t have to pay for my appointment – with was great because I had already spent about £200 on previous appointments at other boutiques!

“There was a good selection of gowns, and I tried on about 10 dresses in total. I went away with the details of the Elizabeth by St Patrick dress that I really liked and the boutique had an offer on that day which was a 10% discount if we paid in full. After visiting another three boutiques, and not having any luck, I decided to purchase it and called up and paid for it over the phone!

“Love Me Do was really down to earth. The owner wasn’t pushy at all. She made helpful suggestions in response to my concerns about the dress’s lack of support and structure and also requested inner boning to be added to the dress and for a mesh section to be closed up to prevent too much cleavage. When my dress arrived all of my requests had seamlessly been done and only cost me an extra £100.

“If I was to share any advice, I would say don’t worry if you don’t find your dream dress in your first or tenth appointment. Trying on lots of dresses can be fun! Each time I went dress shopping, I visited with a different bridesmaid or family member and made it into an opportunity to catch up and have a lovely day or evening out!”

BRIDAL BOUTIQUE: BRIDAL ROGUE GALLERY

Charlie, 32, bought her Pronovias wedding dress (RRP £1,980) from the Bridal Rogue Gallery in London. She got married in May 2018 in Kent.

Charlie in her pronovias wedding dress

“Ever since the year dot, my mum has always said she would buy my wedding dress for me and we had a budget of up to £3,000. I started looking at the beginning of May in 2017 and, by coincidence, actually found the 'one' exactly a year before the big day.

“I visited seven bridal stores in total. I thought I had a clear idea of what I wanted, but trying on dresses I wouldn't have picked for myself was actually very eye-opening. For example, I realised high-neck designs didn't really suit my figure.

“I had got to a stage where I had tried on quite a lot of similar designers, including Stella York, Essence of Australia and Maggie Sottero, but they hadn't been quite right. I then looked at Pronovias online and Bridal Rogue Gallery stocked a good selection of gowns that I liked and had lots of good reviews, so I decided to make an appointment.

“The boutique was great from the beginning. Despite being in a pretty exclusive part of London in Marylebone, the staff were really friendly and I didn't have to pay for an appointment despite it being a Saturday (unlike at the Pronovias flagship store).

“What’s more, they let me take pictures of the dresses I tried on which is practically unheard of these days. We had a chat about the styles I liked, being quite clear about what I was looking for at this point, and we tried on about seven different designs by Pronovias. I went with my mum and my sister, which was great as I think having two sets of opinions is better than just one (but no more than that!).

“It was an incredible and special experience that was great to share with my family. I was made to feel completely at ease and the staff were really friendly, but also honest – there was no hard sell or obvious fake gasps of 'oh you look stunning!' when I didn't.

“It was more high-end than some, but also more friendly – you felt like the only bride that mattered rather than being in a conveyor-belt system where they moved from one bride to the next.  

“What was great about the boutique was, even though I had found my dress, I had one other appointment that day which I wanted to go to, to make sure I'd made the right decision. Having done that, I realised how special the Pronovias dress actually was.

“I went back to Bridal Rogue Gallery and they let me try it on again there and then with no appointment booked. They let me take as long as I liked to make my decision and it was that level of service and pressure-off approach that helped me make up my mind.”

BRIDAL BOUTIQUE: YAP BRIDAL

Laura, 33, wore an Ian Stuart wedding dress, purchased from YAP Bridal in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, for her June 2018 wedding, which took place in Newton by the Sea.

Laura's ian stuart wedding dress

“Looking for my wedding dress was so exciting. I knew from the beginning that I wanted an Ian Stuart gown and, after some research discovered that YAP Bridal in Newcastle stocked his dresses. Luckily, YAP bridal is close to where I live in County Durham, but I would have travelled anywhere as I absolutely love his gowns.

“10 months before my wedding day I set up an appointment for a Friday with Jo, the boutique owner, and went with my mum. I can still remember the beautiful smell of the store and the excitement in my stomach as I walked up the stairs into the boutique.

“I was greeted by Jo, who was like a breath of fresh air and full of positivity. She sat my mum and I down with a glass of champagne and went through everything with me in such a professional manner.

“We discussed my wedding venue, which Jo was already familiar with, styles, textures and colours. I told Jo that I wanted ‘drama’. I didn’t really have a budget because my parents were buying my dress, so I was able to try on anything.

“Jo picked out four dresses, each very different. The first dress was called San Francisco by Ian Stuart and I absolutely loved it and my mum cried when she saw me in it. However, at the back of my mind, I kept thinking that the first dress I tried on at the first boutique couldn’t possibly be the one, but none of the other dresses made me feel how I felt when I tried it on – it was just perfect.

“Jo recommended we take a break, have some lunch and come back in a few hours. There was no pressure to buy at all. We followed her advice, but all I could think about was the dress. I returned back to the boutique and my mum completed an order form on the same day.

“The care and service I received from YAP Bridal Boutique throughout was outstanding. I collected my dress in February and organised my alterations with Diva Designs, whom the boutique recommended. Jo even came to fit me in my dress on my wedding day!

“She was just amazing, and I loved her being there for me on the day. She is a great person to be around and I would now call her my friend. My new husband told me I looked amazing, so I definitely picked the right gown.

“My advice to other brides is do lots of research, especially when picking a boutique, and to be open-minded on styles and fits as I don’t think you really know until you are in ‘the one’. Enjoy the experience, create memories and embrace it all. It’s a rollercoaster of a journey that hopefully you will only do once.”

Feel ready to buy your wedding dress? Make sure you read the 17 things you need to know before you go wedding dress shopping.

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