Here, there and everywhere – Searching for my dress in England and Ireland.
In this post I will review all 7 bridal shops I visited on the hunt for my perfect dress. I went to 4 in Ireland and 3 in the UK, balancing the variety with a choice of high-end and budget-friendly boutiques. I will begin with the Irish shops, following on with the English ones.
1. Modern Fashions – Dundalk, Co. Louth
This was my very first wedding dress appointment. I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t really prepare for this one (see my lastest post “It’s more than just saying ‘yes’ to that dress” for my top ten tips!) so in a way it was a bit of a “dress rehearsal” for future appointments! This bridal shop is an establishment in itself that sits in the centre of my home town. For years, local brides have flocked to, and successfully found their gown, at this boutique. I went in late winter/early spring and unfortunately the range of dresses in their stock at the time did not meet my requirements. I felt that their dresses had quite a lot of embellishment and detail that didn’t really suit me or the summer wedding I am planning to have. I did find a beautiful Maggie Sottero dress that looked amazing on but I knew it wasn’t the one. The boutique is on the first floor of the shop that is divided into two smaller rooms by a screen. I was glad I only had my mother and two nieces who were able to fit, just about. Also, there was another appointment at the same time as mine. This can be common for two or more appointments to occur at the same time, especially for popular boutiques, however I felt it was a little cramped being over to one half of the room. I was a little distracted by the other party (and perhaps they were by mine) and I would have liked to have had the opportunity to personally explore the racks of dresses on the other side of the room where the other bride was but, understandably for privacy, we were not allowed. However the staff were very helpful and friendly. They knew their stock well and were fantastic at making suggestions and guiding me through the appointment.
2. My Fair Lady – Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan
This was appointment number five but my second Irish appointment. It was an interesting drive out into the country but thanks to google maps we arrived at the beautiful home (absolutely stunning interior!) of Cera McGahon, owner of My Fair Lady. I booked this appointment (which was also a single booking – no other appointments at the same time) after one of my very good friends and fellow Irish bride, Sinead, discovered her perfect dress at this boutique. We were greeted by the lovely Zita Kelly (www.zeerailed.com) who couldn’t do enough to help. She asked all the right questions to get an understanding of what I wanted and where and when the wedding would take place. From this she was able to help me select a few dresses from the rail that were in my budget (including sample sale dresses) and was also able to suggest a couple of dresses she had in another room. My Fair Lady has an amazing selection of dresses within a reasonable price range to suit big and small budgets. Even though the dresses where beautiful and in price range, I didn’t get any butterflies. Zita was very understanding and made us feel very comfortable regardless of not being successful with finding the one. I did, however, fall in love with one or two beautiful headbands from their shop but it would be silly to have bought one before getting the dress!!
3. Ophelia Bridal – Drogheda, Co. Louth
My sixth appointment overall but my third one in my home country. It’s true what they say, “third’s the charm”, as it was here in this gem of a place that I fell in love with my perfect wedding dress. There is a bit of a funny story behind my decision to go to Ophelia Bridal. I first heard of the boutique while watching an Irish episode of “Don’t tell the bride” about 3 years ago. I remember the bride arriving to a beautiful showroom of delicate, flowing and sophisticated gowns and I ogled as she pulled out the most beautiful dresses from a carefully selected rail of samples in hope that her fiance would choose likewise (as he was in charge of picking it)! I knew after watching this episode that if I ever got married I would have to book an appointment with Ophelia Bridal. Crisis averted the morning of the appointment (I had an allergic reaction to a face wash which took antihistamines, ice-packs, aloe vera and lots of hugs to help reduce the inflammation!), I headed up to Drogheda with my mum, totally bare-faced and not feeling too excited to go dress shopping. However, once we got there I spotted a dress in the window and instantly had a good feeling about it – it was as if the dress found me! Aoife, the owner of Ophelia Bridal, was amazing! She was so enthusiastic and friendly and she was very professional by documenting all my details on a form about the wedding, previous wedding dress appointments, likes and dislikes, price point etc. My appointment was a private one to one with Aoife and I felt very relaxed and supported in this environment. The shop floor was well lit by natural light through massive floor to ceiling windows and there was good sized selection of dresses – not too limited nor overwhelming to search through. From our consultation Aoife was very quick to pull out 2-3 dresses that fit my style, shape and wedding and I also requested to try on the dress in the window. As soon as I had that dress on I just knew it was “the one”. I had one more appointment that day so didn’t want to commit, but in my heart and stomach I could feel the butterflies! In hindsight I could have stopped looking right there and then but I was so excited to go on my last appointment to The White Room. I did end up returning to Ophelia Bridal later that evening (Aoife opened up after hours to let me try it on again) and I ended up getting the dress!! There were tears of joy and excitement. I didn’t want to get out of the dress, I loved how I looked and how it felt on. I also felt confident that if my father was here with us today he would have certainly approved, and that meant the world to me too.
4. The White Room – Mullingar, Co. Westmeath
This boutique is a long standing establishment that Irish brides have been coming to for decades in search of their dress. Only an hour drive from Dublin, you will find a range of stunning dresses here from a selection of top end designers such as Pronovais, Paloma Blanca and Amanda Wyatt. I had a Saturday appointment and there were 2 other appointments at this time. We were all assigned our personal consultant and private fitting rooms (large enough for an escort of 3 people) which definitely helped to create a feeling of dedicated time and space. However, when it was time to browse and select dresses for fitting it did feel a little busy and a little competitive as 3 brides and their entourage where all looking at the same time. I even had to wait to try on a dress that another bride was trying on at one point but this can be common when going to large boutiques. There is great selection of dresses here to suit every style, taste and budget and well worth a visit if dress shopping in Ireland.
5. Wedding Dress Factory Outlet/Wed2be – Bromley, Kent
This is a must if your looking for a special dress on a tight budget! I was very impressed with the selection of dresses here, all ranging in price from £65-£499. I even came close to buying one at £399. No appointments but if you are planning on going on a weekend I suggest getting there early and start queuing before they open at 10am. I arrived at 9:45 and there were already 5 other brides and their support waiting to go in. You are only allowed to select 4 dresses at a time to make sure that other brides get a chance too, but you are welcome to go to the back of the queue and try on 4 more as often as you like. Ellisha was my dedicated consultant right through the appointment and she helped me select, prepare and try on the dresses. She didn’t rush me and was very supportive of any questions I had. All the staff are polite and welcoming and know their stock very well. It was a great experience and I would highly recommend this place to any bride with a big or small budget!
6. Confetti and Lace – Farnham, Surrey
A local boutique to my UK residence. I walk past this place at least 4 times a week and it was more curiosity than anything else that drew me in. The consultants in here are amazing and could not do enough for me. From when I popped in to book the appointment to trying on my last dress on the day of the appointment, I felt so valued and and special by their level of attention and enthusiasm. This particular shop sells sample dresses (in very good condition!) so I was able to try on high-end designer dresses that had been reduced and therefore fit my budget. I tried on so many beautiful dresses by Sophia Tolli, Ronald Joyce and Justin Alexander but unfortunately none of them were perfect enough for what I wanted for the big day. There is a flagship store with a larger range of dresses in Lakeside Shopping Centre, Essex, but I didn’t have the time to visit. This is a great boutique for brides looking for designer on a budget.
7. The Secret Dress House – Reigate, Surrey
Now this place is something special! My very good friend and work colleague recommended this boutique and I am so glad I took her advice! When you first arrive for your appointment to this beautiful, bright and quaintly decorated boutique there is a little chalk sign on the door to welcome you by name. The consultant escorts you to a comfy sofa and serves your hot beverage of tea or coffee in antique china cups before finding out more about you, your style, your price range and your wedding plans. The dresses here are exquisite, very fashion forward and unique while also catering for traditional, vintage and glamourous tastes. The fitting room is luxurious and comfortable and I had the dedication of two consultants when putting the dresses on. I found 2 amazing dresses here and I was 90% ready to commit to one particular dress but I wanted to wait and see what was in Ireland. For a very special day, to feel like a queen and to search through some of the most beautiful dresses around, you must book an appointment at The Secret Dress House. I guarantee that you will have an amazing experience and will be in for an excellent chance for finding your special dress.
Love, Emma (aka The Wholesomebride)