We have the beautiful Gwen back today, your very own ‘Maid In Wales’, with her second instalment on her Maid of Honour journey.
Alys the bride (and also Gwens twin sister) have been busy shopping for The Dress….
On the morning of my wedding, as a thank you for all the help and support she had given me as my Maid of Honour, I gave my sister Alys a present and card. In the card I wrote that I was ‘officially handing the Bride-to-be baton on to her’.
She has since taken that baton and run with it.
I have been seriously impressed with her efforts so far and she has been very proactive with setting a date, securing a venue, booking vendors and sending out save the dates (I would have expected nothing less!). In fact, she’s been so on the ball with everything that my involvement has been very limited up until now, when the wedding dress shopping (the fun bit) began.
Over the last couple of weekends I have made several journeys from Devon to Wales (including some seriously early starts for which I should definitely earn some bridesmaids points) to help Alys find ‘The Dress’.
We gathered the troops – the Wedding Team made up of our parents, Alys’ mother-in-law-to-be and me – and hit the shops.
Following a wedding fair research trip a couple of weeks earlier we had booked in several appointments and scouted out some of the best wedding dress shops South Wales had to offer! We started off close to home in Usk with a visit to the very lovely Bridal Lane, followed by up a couple of trips up the valleys, and finally hitting a few shops in the Cardiff area, including Laura May and High Society.
I was really excited about this bit – getting to look at all the pretty dresses and sip the complementary prosecco whilst Alys catwalk modelled all sorts of different gowns – although I think I underestimated how tricky it would be sitting on the other side of the table when wedding dress shopping. It became almost like a game of poker, trying to give an opinion on a dress without giving too much a way in case I didn’t like one that Alys thought was absolutely wonderful, or vice versa. (Thankfully there were only a couple of occasions where Alys and The Wedding Team disagreed on things and most of the time we were all on the same page.)
Having started out with an open mind, each shop helped Alys to firm up her ideas on what she did and didn’t want out of a wedding dress – what shapes flattered her figure most and what designers suited her best. And yet ‘The Dress’ remained elusive.
We found many dresses that had elements of what she was looking for. The dress with the beautiful train. The dress with the lovely neckline. The dress with the most gorgeous lace. But like Goldilocks and the three bears, Alys just couldn’t find a dress that was just perfect. The dress that gives you butterflies.
Then, one day, after many hours of internet research, Alys stumbled upon a shop in Bath called Perfect Princess which had just the kind of dresses she was looking for. So Alys and the Wedding Team headed to Bath during the Easter holidays to hunt down the perfect dress. Sadly I was unable to make the trip as I was stuck in work that day, however the team kept me in the loop with constant text and Whatsapp updates.
And there it was – the dress that gives you goosebumps. As sad as I am to have missed being there for that moment in person, I am reliably informed that this was the dress Alys fell in love with almost instantly, and I couldn’t be happier. She is going to look incredible. Phil really is a lucky guy.
In other news, I also got to take part in the envious task of a taster event with Alys’ chosen wedding caterer – Prickly Pear.
This was a very hard task, which involved a family trip (both sets of parents and the groom-to-be) on a rainy Sunday afternoon to a local village hall to sample the delights of Prickly Pear’s North African inspired dishes and to test out their hosting skills.
Although this isn’t the exact menu Alys and Phil will be having served for their first meal as man and wife, I can confirm that the food was delicious and the catering staff were excellent. I am very much looking forward to eating their food again next April.
We are very happy to have our gorgeous Sporty Bride back for her second instalment, and this time, she is having wedding dress issues!
Find out why, over to you Natalie….
The athletic figure vs the wedding dress!
So…with 397 days to go it’s getting closer to the 12 months-to-go mark. Having booked my wedding two years before the date to give myself time to pay for it there have been times it has certainly seemed impossibly far away. I can’t wait to get to that ‘Year to go!’ milestone. It’ll certainly help H2B get more excited as it’s just to far in the future for his attention span! I’ve also booked a lot of my vendors and small details well in advance. Too organised one might say!
At least I’ve had the rugby, a holiday and a trip to California to keep me occupied…
Buying the dress was one of the activities I was most excited about. Being sporty and a bit tomboy-ish means that I don’t always feel all that feminine. I was looking forward to sharing the experience with my mam and closest family in the ultimate girly experience (up to this point in my life at least)- buying my wedding dress!
In my head I imagined walking into a dress shop, being treated like a princess and leaving with the perfect dress. As usual though… it wasn’t all plain sailing!
The first dress shop we popped into was more of a exploratory mission- it was off the cuff on a Sunday afternoon in Cardiff…no appointment. It was lovely to try on some beautiful dresses and I found that what I thought I wanted was really nothing like I expected!
Being tall and slim; I had an image in my mind of a slim fit dress. Most of friends and family would say that’s what they saw me in. However, when trying on these dresses I found they didn’t suit my ‘pear’ shape created by my small waist and broad hips (If I hear the term ‘child-baring hips’ one more time….). I was convinced by my mother to try on a ‘princess style dress’ and funnily enough the way the dress style sat on my hips really emphasized my waist and made me feel less self-conscious about my wide hips. It was a revelation! Still nothing I tried on there really made me feel like it was the dress. The dress assistant was really friendly and even though we had made it clear we didn’t want to buy anything that day she was really helpful and patient.
A few weeks later, I saw an advert on facebook for a dress shop near to where I live in Swansea. I booked an evening appointment and went with my Mam and Auntie. Cue the beginning of a painful experience. The shop assistant asked me to go around and pick out the dresses I liked. I didn’t really know what I was looking for and found this really difficult. I asked for some help and was told that she wouldn’t know what I liked so ‘how could she possibly pick anything for me?’. Luckily my mam is quite good at diffusing awkward silences and jumped in to help me choose some pretty dresses. Everything I tried on was a disaster. Whilst everything looked beautiful on the hanger it really didn’t suit me at all. The shop assistant tutted (yes she did!) at everything I wore and even commented on my ‘boxy’ figure and how not many dresses would suit me. In fact, the only dress she went into raptures over was one of her own design- funnily enough- until I asked if I could have a different lace…she wasn’t impressed.
I left feeling pretty unconfident about ever finding a dress that gave me that feeling and made me feel less ‘boxy’. I had no idea what would suit me. It put me off looking and I took a break for a couple of months.
Cue Sharon and Tracey at Wedding Belles in Pyle, Bridgend. My auntie recommended I go because that was where she had got her wedding dress.
My mam, auntie and mother in law to be came along for moral support. The ladies there instantly put me at ease by suggesting dress styles they thought would suit my figure and pulling out some dresses for me to look at. Nothing was too much trouble. The best piece of advice they gave me was to throw away all my pre-conceptions and just try things on. So I did! Though I had begun nervously, by fifteen minutes in I was starting to feel excited and special- like a bride! My mam carefully combed the rails and picked out her favourites and I was happy to let her do so. Mother’s know best they say…
And she certainly did. It was about the 18th dress I had tried on that day but as soon as I put it on I loved everything about it. The neckline, the skirt, the back. It made me feel beautiful and all the things I thought I wouldn’t feel. It was the one! I’ve recently been back to see it when my order came in and I’m so pleased with it still.
The biggest things I have learned so far;
Picking out my groom’s suit was easy because he was so sure of what he wanted (For once).
I have absolutely no clue what 90% of fashion terms mean. I always thought ‘boning’ meant something completely different…
Having an athletic figure does not mean you won’t look absolutely beautiful in the right dress. Sporty girls can be girly too!
Customer service isn’t always the priority in some wedding shops but is key to the experience.
In summary, to those of you about to buy your big day dresses. I do recommend going to multiple shops but thoroughly researching what others have said to avoid bad experiences. Don’t go too late just in case you don’t find your dream dress right away. Most of all, leave all your preconceptions at the door and be open minded!
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Today on the blog we have our fabulous Lush ListersCocoMio Bridal Boutique, Cardiff who firstly let us know what they do that is a bit different and also their top ten tips for you lovely brides-to-be when choosing THE DRESS. Grab a cup of tea, sit down and enjoy!
When it comes to getting married, your wedding dress is the most important dress that you will buy in your life and when it is the correct one then you will want to cherish it and have any excuse to put it back on again afterwards. Your bridal gown should be an extended view of you as a person and every girl wants to surprise their teary loved ones while looking absolutely gorgeous when walking up the aisle.
In our bridal boutique we work closely with brides to help them choose a beautiful wedding dress and to provide that personal service so they get to go away smiling after enjoying their shopping experience.
We offer a large selection of dresses in different fabrics from fishtail to slinky, trumpet to drop-waist, a-line to princess gowns and each dress has a different neckline, beading, detailed design and will also have a modern or vintage feel to each dress.
So there are a lot of bridal dress shops and what makes us different to other stores?
Appointments to Suit You!
CocoMio Bridal supplies flexible hours which is the core of our success. We work late five evenings a week, open every afternoon and mid week morning appointments are available on request. We are also open Saturdays 9am-6pm but at times we work late until 8pm due to the demand and accommodating each customer is key to success. We are open Sunday 10am-2pm and only close this day when we attend wedding shows to meet & greet with new and existing customers.
Weekends are always our busiest time so we highly recommend booking in advance as we don’t allow bridal parties who have not made a booking to browse while an appointment is taking place. We pride ourselves on giving a personal experience and the same applies to every bride so we won’t permit another bridal party into the store when you are enjoying your time in the private appointment.
For us, the starting point is our customers and the reason we have gained a great reputation is because our excellent service and hours are wanted by the customer.
Privacy & Facilities
The bridal store is broken down into four main areas and two private staff areas.
The main showroom hosts some of the best designer bridal dresses and this is a shared space when you walk into the store. Designers include:
Rosa Clara- Aire Barcelona,
Rosa Clara- Adriana Alier,
Pronovias- San Patrick
Phoenix Gowns- Danielle Couture
The private bridal suite is the main, private room which accommodates first time appointments. This room has a beautiful settee, floor to ceiling mirrors, pedestal and the changing room is kitted out with shoes, hoop and veils to make the experience effortless.
The second bridal suite is an open plan room which accommodates retry appointments, collections and bridesmaid appointments. The beauty of this room is that the bride and/or bridesmaids can use the whole showroom to walk up and down the store in the dresses. This reinforces different light on the dress, seeing the train glide across the floor and also the comfort factor.
Photo by: Prendergast & Wilson
In February 2016, we will be renovating this room to make it similar to the main suite. This room is completely private to the main room as damask, heavy, curtains blocks off the entry point. Yes you can hear the excitement from the other room which brings a rush of joy to others in the store but visually privacy is the main key here as not every bride wants to show off her gown before the big day.
Toilets are the next aspect which many people complain are not offered in other stores. We provide a tea service for bridal fittings and we believe toilets are a necessity as part of the service.
I run the business sole heartedly and my knowledge for the industry, styles, fabrics and what works is down to four years experience in a previous bridal store in Ireland where we won awards for customer service. I am hands on to ensure every customer is happy during their appointment time and I know my collection inside out. Frequently, I get asked if I try on the dresses when nobody is in the store and the answer is no I don’t because I would be creating a biased opinion based on my taste and my shape. I get my friends to visit the shop when new styles arrive into store and they act as guinea pigs. In return, this allows me to take a bird’s eye, unbiased view to see what works and how can a dress transform with the use of accessories including hoop, belts, jackets, veils etc. Many girls love the sample dresses as they are intended and others may want to make a dress unique to them.
I am quite open and honest to my customers on when I go choose my new collection and when those dresses will be in store so brides can have so many options at their fingertips.
The most important thing for us is to help bride’s find their dream wedding dress and in the process offer an excellent service so if they find a dress elsewhere then they will have no problem highly recommending us to their friends and family. To date, we have only received positive feedback and our social media rating is at five stars. Of course if any bride has any feedback to help us improve then we will also take this on board also. Being involved hands on can sometimes allow customers to see something we may miss so please if you have something to add then you can contact us directly.
We measure our success on feedback, social media reviews and of course the hugs and tears when a bride finds her dress with us. We have just completed year one and it has been a success for us as we got awarded Best New Wedding Business East Wales and Best New Wedding Business in all of Wales 2015. The plan for 2016 is to expand with the second room and have staff working at CocoMio Bridal. Tune into our Facebook page if you would like to see when the recruitment opportunities arise.
My job is to put every single lady immediately at ease but for those of you that really are wondering how to prep ahead then read my tips below
1. Book Early: If you want a particular time slot on a particular day then book weeks in. In certain periods of the year the demand for Saturdays, Sundays and evening slots is higher than the rest of the year because everybody is starting to shop or everybody is ready to buy and wants to retry. Do not just walk in on a whim as you may be told there are no appointments available and may feel deflated being turned away.
2. Inspiration: Many brides search styles and get inspiration from Pinterest and other sources of media before shopping. This may narrow down your search but may not suit your shape. Do not narrow it down to the stage where you will find shopping difficult. Keep an open mind as you may surprise yourself and that one wild card you refused at the start could be your wedding dress waiting to be tried on.
3. Makeup & Tan: Girls of course wear makeup but don’t overdo it. Go natural and don’t wear tan. Most dresses are showcased in champagne, ivory or white and if you put tan on a dress the shop can ask you to pay for it due to the damage. You don’t need tan on you as the dresses will show off your skin colour naturally.
4. Clothes: Wear comfortable clothes that are easy to get in and out of. Wear your hair in a style similar to what you would like on the day so you can see the look better. Example: up-style, half up, half down or fully down. Bring a bag of essentials with you. Bobbles, deodorant, shoes and if you are borrowing an item like a veil or hoop bring this also. Showing up without these items can leave you frustrated during or after the appointment as you may need it with you to help with the look. Bridal shopping can be a quick and tiring process so keep fresh with basic essentials
5. Budget: Set your budget. Again many stores won’t ask if you are on a set budget but they will emphasise the price range of their dresses. If you don’t speak out then the store assistants be inspired to know what you are thinking. It doesn’t help if you choose one of the most expensive dresses in the store which leaves you upset as you can’t afford it. The designers set the prices for the dresses so the store usually cannot move on price but may be able to help with add-ons such as veil or hoop. Again be prepared a lace dress or sparkle dress will be more expensive than a simple one and also a lace veil will always be more expensive. Be realistic as you may want the champagne dream but you may be on a lemonade budget and may need decide the dress is important and something else can be cut back to get the dream.
6. Who? Avoid bringing bridesmaids and added people with you on your first trip. Make the focus about you as the bride rather than showing up and everybody getting excited to try on dresses. You can always discuss bridesmaid’s colours, styles and prices with staff in future appointments but doing two appointments at the same time will ruin your experience and put the attention on them. Concentrate on one aspect which is your wedding dress & experience.
7. How many appointments? Try not to do more than two bridal boutiques in one day. Brides suffer from what I like to call “dress blindness”. This is where they can’t remember their first dress from the last they tried on. Eliminate dresses down to maximum of two favourites per store. Remember these dresses as many stores have a no photograph policy. Revisit the favourites and then make a decision.
8. Opinions: Give your friends and family a strict warning to not give their opinion before you give yours. Honesty is the best policy but sometimes it may not be the best circumstance if you really love the dress. You will have to decide if you want to take their opinion on board or tell them where to go.
9. Movements & action in your dress: Take a walk in the dress. Standing on the pedestal is fabulous but a walk with a hoop underneath will give you a feel for the dress and will allow you to see the dress in different lights and envisage what it will be like to wear throughout your wedding day. Also take the seat test and dancing test so you can go away smiling that every aspect is perfect.
10, Love Your Dress!! Remember, the most important opinion is your own. Everybody will always have a different opinion on favourites, styles and different aspects but that is what makes us all unique. You can take advice but you have to be happy. You have to feel amazing, love your dress and be comfortable.