Helping you prepare to buy 'The Dress', snippets of the very best advice straight from the o

I am so overwhelmed to find that for many of my Brides I am top of the list and the very first boutique you want to visit, this is such wonderful news and I get to introduce you to the very best relaxed bridal gowns and the most unique designer's stocked here at H&W.

I know that when you book an appointment you may have already purchased a few token bridal magazines, visited your favourite blogs and probably have a few hundred dresses on your Pinterest board however shopping/buying your bridal gown is an experience like no-other. I would love to say it's a simple as popping into Zara, Topshop or Mango and then going back to the first one and getting the dress in Zara, but it's not. But that doesn't mean this has to be a difficult journey, full of nerves, fretful decisions or regret.

The best way to make the bridal buying experience as enjoyable as it should be is to be informed. Researching and preparing yourself will help and guide you through the decisions and up-to the big day.

I don't want to teach anyone to suck eggs, but here's the very best advice, in as brief as I can possibly keep it from my mouth and some of the owners of the very best Bridal Boutiques in the UK.

Instagram: Use it, use hashtags to search for specific bridal terms that may represent your thoughts and ideas on your wedding dress/bridal gown for exmple, I use the terms #relaxedbridalgown to describe my style of gown in store or #uniquebridalgown

Work out the search terms that describe your vibe and use them. You can save the pictures without screenshotting them and clogging up your already full photo albums. Ask questions. seen a gown on another bride, ask them! Every bride loves talking about their wedding dress. Once you have found the gown...unfollow! Business accounts are not private so certainly won't be offended if you unfollow and follow again!

Pinterest: Wow - how amazing can Pinterest be to help you plan and style your wedding, but it can also be a minefield?! Broken links, fake accounts, links to copied/replica gowns. I think Pinterest can be wonderful in helping you see different styles, however it can be misleading and often confusing. If a gown has a good link or a name, google it and look for prices, did you know Google also has an image search function which can show you the origin of animage.

Budget: How much you want to spend on your bridal gown? Every person has a different amount they or a loved one will want to spend on their gown. There is no wrong or right amount it's personal. But you can do to make sure that firstly you do not try on a gown that way out of budget is ask! On H&W's website I list the price bracket of each designer and every single gown in store is labelled with it's price. Be fully informed. Do not try on gowns that several thousands of pounds out of budget...for some people there is wiggle room in a budget but that's never thousands.

Sample Sales: I have done two, as a Bride. I went to two sample sales, I queued at 5/6am in the morning and it was freezing, the store opened at 12...I have been there, done it and got the t-shirt, not the dress. Sample sales are really designed for the following:

1. You are in a rush to get married with less than 6 months to get married

2. You want to keep your budget under £800.00 and can pay in full at purchase

3. You are after a particular gown or designer

4. Happy to see a limited selection of gowns

Sample sales are not for:

1. Brides with a year or more till they wed

2. Brides who want to see a boutiques whole selection of gown

3. Brides with a budget of £1000+

However on the odd occasion none of the rules apply. Halo & Wren always have gowns that available to buy and take away immediately. I like to keep the gowns on constant rotation and the rails ever changing so immaculate sample gowns are always readily available.

Who you bring to the appointment: I get emailed quite often about this topic...on my website and on the FAQ page & booking info, I ask that no more than three guests accompany the Bride. The majority of the time this is respected but sometimes it is not.

Firstly; independent boutiques like mine are not warehouse size, I cater for one bride at a time to give you the most personal bridal buying experience. This means that big groups will simply not fit, it's also not the environment I want my brides to experience, I want you to be calm, relaxed, uninterrupted and know that you are the centre of my attention. Naturally when a big group is present there any people to cater for, This is your time, not everyone else's, this is not their time, it's yours. Bridal buying is not taking your friends and family out for a good time it's finding your gown whilst having a lovely time.

This my Mum, she came to one, she was useless & loved bloody everything, then I knew I didn't need Mum at every boutique, I also knew I only needed myself so apart from Sister-in-Law coming to one or two others, I did the rest by myself.

Bring people who's opinion you respect and or need; I have met some super cool Mum's, Grans and Friends who have been wonderful in allowing the right amount of support and encouragement to their much loved Bride, simply SUPER. But I have also met a huge number of opinionated MOB's, MOG's, Sisters, Friends & CHILDREN!!!! At the end of the day unless you can objectively understand that every single person would pick a different dress you must just allow the Bride to 'be' in the gown, watch, listen and observe her and then allow her to make her uninterrupted own thoughts on the gown, you should not be there! Also on this note; and speaking just for myself, Bride Tribe who speak over the sale assistant/owner, pull at and disrespect gowns, manhandling and generally not understanding that every gown in that boutique has been lovingly picked and paid for, are not the helpful bunch you need. You don't owe everyone an experience, you owe yourself a wonderful experience.

Children; I have two...currently they are three and four years old. They love the boutique, but they also know how special it is. They don't touch the gowns, they don't put their feet on the sofa or stand up on it. But they do distract me, I don't bring them when I have Brides but I often pop in with them to get a few bits done when I am closed and do you know what? I don't get anything done because they distract me. Leave the children at home, organise babycare, I love children (obviously) and I would love to say that I welcome them but no, please do not bring or allow your tribe to bring children, I have never had an appointment where children were present that wasn't disrupted and the Bride (or the persons meant to be watching the children) was fully focused, you will not be focused, at all. This is your time (again) and as above with 'who do you bring?', you know what, you can bring back guests for the 'experience' at fittings or veil trials but honestly please do not allow children to be present at such an important and focused time, this is meant to be relaxing...

I also scrapped fudge off my gorgeous pink sofa the other day...and doughnut last week...

I love them (these is my two) but don't bring them. You and everyone around you will NOT be concentrating.

Trunk Shows; What the F?! So trunk shows, designer days and pop up's well trunk shows are an American term to describe an event where a designer sends in a whole collection to a boutique. For a couple of reasons this is pretty awesome, firstly us Bridal boutique owners dont buy and stock whole could we? So this is a great oppourtunity to see gowns not normally stocked,a boutique owner will also get the chance to see a new designer and gauge the reactions of Brides. The new terms and possibly the future of high street bridal is Pop-Up, this means a designer/boutique may travel around allowing all brides the possibilty to view their collections. Is it right for you? If you are after a specific designer then yes, if you don't mind buying in advance possibly at a longer amount of time than the usual 12 months.

Marquise Mojave - not a gown I stock from Marquise but it arrived for two weeks in March amongst others. Then it left for Australia, this what a trunk show is all about.

When to shop? When to buy? I would love there to be a simple answer but every bride has a different idea of when to buy or order. So here goes; Ideally shop at 12 months, ideally order at 10 months, gown will take approximately 6 months from order to arrival leaving approx 3 months for alterations. Anything under this will add unnecessary stress with every month it is left later and later. I have brides who purchased their gowns in March for June the same year, they were 'relaxed', 'laid back' brides who were not fussed and thought they had plenty of forward to four weeks before the wedding and the gown is due imminently and the wedding jobs stacked up and the bride is not so 'laid back' stressing about the gown arriving in time and emailing the bridal boutique stressed. Yes you can get a gown in three months but you will a) have to pay extra (rush fee paid to the designer) b) have to buy sample c) add unnecessary STRESS d) Have less time to pay for the gown.

Now on the subject of buying way in advance, some Brides just know, they have their heart set on a gown and they will not change their mind even if it is to years away from their wedding, if you are that person then great, go shopping now and buy (I was one of those), if you know you will be lured by Pinterest/Instagram and change your mind 6 months after deposit then don't go shopping, wait. You know what there isn't a right time and there isn't always something better out there, Bridal is an evolution and so are you, you must make a bridal buying decision based on the here and now but most importantly YOU. Yes Bridal is always changing but the silhouettes and the main shapes are always the same. Details change and yes trends come and go but the key to staying eternal in your choice is staying true to you whether you buy one year in advance or 9 months, there won't be much difference in choice but there will be a difference in availability. I can only speak for H&W but I change my stock fairly frequently as I see the business as ever evolving but actually only in a sense that I grow stronger and stronger in my dress representation for 'MY' bride. This doesn't mean there are always better gowns but it does mean that I carefully choose & also have to let gowns go to keep ever evolving. And so do my designer mainly being independent they also keep a small and selected collection with discontinuation meaning that if a bride see's a gown and LOVES it, buy it, it may not be there in three months time when you have been to five other boutiques.

Just a few of my brides who all found 'the One', who all shopped at different times...and all had the most joyful experience.

How many boutiques to visit? As above there is no set rules and it's personal but here are some thoughts...

Research. This means you will only visit boutiques that offer you your 'vibe', you can find us on Insta/Pinterest and we often come highly recommended on Google, check out our first paragraph on hashtags and searching for your vibe.

Three. You can if you research, almost nail it down to three as there are not many unique boutiques but there a tirade of mainstream.

Bride Tribe: Some love the visits, but even the most engaged Bridesmaids or patient Mum will be done, and very very dress blind after you vsit five loses the joy.

Not every boutique 'cares' when I say cares, I mean really cares, again yes this is all about the dress but this is a personal and joyful journey do it with a boutique that cherishes you.

First shop, first dress; you know so many Bride tribe say in appointments 'You will go for what your least expecting' and they say this insistently to a bride. This is not a fact, I repeat 'not a fact'. There are no stats for brides, it an emotion based purchase and I have Brides that may message me on Insta about a gown, book and appointment, put that gown on first and then buy it, and that is not rare, nor is the Bride who LOVES a gown but needs reflection time, nor is the Bride who who goes for what she wasn't expecting as we all buy so differently.

The internet has allowed Brides a huge insight into bridal gowns & allowed you gather your favourites before tracking them down for some Brides this is great and for others who think they want something then find that style/look doesn't work they almost have to have a divorce with an idea before committing to a gown because it's not what they were expecting. Stay open minded, relax and enjoy the discovery process, let your assistant gently guide you, let them get to know you (BRING PEOPLE WHO WILL HELP NOT HINDER!) There are no rules, the unique modern bridal boutiques have the modern bride covered we cater especially for you, you don't need to visit another boutique to confirm your decision (Because that's what 'everyone' else has done) but hey if you do that's ok.

Commit to the gown: How do you know it's 'the One', I think this can easily be thought of as the hardest decision of planning a wedding and it shouldn't be. Firstly understand that everyone is different, just because your best friend put on her gown, the heavens lit up and everyone cried doesn't mean you will! You don't have to have tears, in the 3 years H&W has been open I have probably had a total of three teary occasions but they are normally accompanied by a story/exceptional journey.

You know what I have deducted from every bride that has purchased their gown from me; there a few statements that come up when the bride 'says yes to the dress' and I regularly hear them.

'It just feels like me'

'I feel so good'

'I don't want to take it off'

'I Love it'

'I think if I wear my hair like this, it will really suit the gown'

'I can just imagine this going so well with your dresses girls'

'Oh Mum, what do you think, I love it'

'I am so comfortable'

'I can move, I can dance, It's so light, feel it, look how soft it is'

Not every bride is expressive, every Bride is different and some may not say the above but they may feel it, I see a lighter step in a bride, a bride will spend more time in the gown, they may rush through the other gowns or suddenly become very decisive about other gowns just because they know and they want to get 'the One' back on.

Remember the whole 'you know when you know' well some don't, for some there are not overwhelming feelings & that's O.k but if it ticks your boxes & you feel/look great don't make the decision complicated because you 'should' be having those feelings. This is moment in time that you capture but the dress is not defining your wedding or your marriage so if you try a gown on and you feel or say any number of the above then it's 'the One', commit to gown and celebrate how beautiful you are going to look and feel on your wedding day.

I feel like a could write a book on buying your wedding gown, maybe I should?! But for now, this is it. I am writing from experience but also as a bride, not just a bridal boutique owner but as real bride facing the same challenges and decisions as you.

The only regrets I ever had as a bride were decisions made for other people. This is your time, your time to be a calm, relaxed and prepared bride, now go forth, research (shout me if you need help) and find 'the One' and bloody well enjoy finding it and the whole process.

Love Jemma

Ex Bride circa 2013

Visitor of almost 30 bridal boutiques

Sample sale queuee

Fake Chinese made dress orderer

Second hand gown tryer

Finally sample gown purchaser

Owner Halo & Wren - here to find you 'the One' relaxed stylee


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Halo & Wren Bridal 97 High Street Hemel Hempstead Herts HP1 3AH 07748595569