A little bit more about us!
I get a lot of questions about how best to prepare for a wedding dress appointment right through with storing your dress after.
Questions can vary from ‘Is it normal to pay a booking fee?’ to ‘should I be wearing shape-wear on my first appointment?’. I took a trip out to meet with Jess and the team at Smart Brides in Portlaoise. Jess has worked with Smart Brides for over 8 years and is the boutique manager. She has looked after hundreds of brides over her time so is definitely an authority on how all of this works.
I asked her about basically everything end to end from finding your boutique, preparing for your appointment, trying on, saying yes, alterations and cleaning/storing it after.
Smart Brides is a very versatile bridal boutique, with collections starting from €1000 and going up to €2500. Their keen price range is also supported by a quality collection with some of my favourite designers such as; Modeca, Mark Lesley, Herm, Margarett, True Bride, The White One…to name but a few. They stock gowns from sizes 8 to 32 and on site for try on, sizes 10-28. They cater for all shapes, sizes and budgets and that’s what I love about them, they have options! A hidden gem that you may not know about is that up stairs in the boutique, they have one of Ireland’s largest sample sale collection with designer gowns from €300 upwards.
Before you arrive, whilst you may not have a clue what you are looking for, it’s a good idea to gather a few dresses you spotted and liked the look of. You can start by checking out the Smart Brides website. You can create secret Pinterest boards, have an album on your phone, what ever works. The dresses you pick may not suit you, but don’t worry about that. Just focus in what you like the look of. There are certain features on dresses that you may not see the connections with but a bridal stylist will and they will be able to bring it together in to a look that would be flattering for you.
When you phone or email to make your appointment, always stipulate the budget or range you are looking to stay within and if you are booking to see a particular dress you spotted, always check the price to make sure it is within a comfortable range. In addition, you should ask to make sure that they have your size or as close as to try on. Smart Brides have dresses from size 10 to 28 in store for brides to try on. Many only have 10-16.
To note, most boutiques charge a booking fee for your appointment. Most will allow this to be redeemable should you purchase your gown with them. It is usually about €20-€25 per boutique. It’s important to really narrow down your selection of boutiques to visit with this in mind! The reason boutiques have a charge is mainly due to ensuring people don’t take their booking for-granted. For many shops, they would have had many bookings for prime days and then brides would not turn up and leave that appointment lost when another bride could have had that appointment.
One thing that all boutiques really don’t want you doing is wearing fake tan or too much make up. It can rub off on the dresses plus it is never a true reflection on what way your beauty look might be on the day of your wedding. You are better starting from a more blank canvas and then building on that.
The next thing is figuring out who to invite. Less is definitely more. You really don’t want the fully committee with you as I can assure you, it’s carnage. It’s highly unlikely that everyone is going to agree and that’s just too distracting. In Smart Brides, they have room for 3. Always bring the people that are genuinely positive about your wedding.
In terms of underwear, many stress that they should have their shape wear or the perfect bra at this point. You really don’t. Jess advised to just wear nude seamless pants and if you have a multiway bra then you will be fine. Your shape wear should then be led by the shape of the dress. Most dresses have built in cups so strapless bra’s may not be needed. Just bring a bra with some options. If you want to bring a shoe that you think will be the height of the your expected wedding shoe, you can do that but Smart Brides have a stock of shoes there for you to try on.
Your appointment is here and no doubt you very excited. When you arrive, you will meet your consultant and they are dedicated to your wedding journey. You will take a bit of time at the start to confirm some of the details that they already have in addition to talking through what you like about particular styles you saw. You might also give examples of what you don’t like. Once your consultant has all of those details, they will then get some samples for you to try on plus you can work your way through the boutique to pick some gowns you like. Also, it is so so important to keep an open mind as something you traditionally don’t like might look amazing on you. AND most importantly…never judge a dress on the hanger!
Your consultant will bring you some samples to try on. They will be trying to match up to the things you said you like but also see what different features on a dress look well on you. Remember, there are various necklines, skirts etc and when you mix and match they can form the perfect look for you.
When you are trying on, you have a very private suite. Each suite has surrounding mirrors so you will be able to see all angles of the dress.
There are two things to consider when you like the look of a dress, firstly, is it comfortable and can you imagine the full day in it and secondly, emotionally, do you feel confident. You want to feel your absolute best in the dress.
Should you find ‘The One‘ and decide to purchase your dream gown. Smart Brides work off a 50% deposit. If you find a sample dress on sale then you would pay that full amount and you can take the dress with you that day. For non sample gowns, depending on the designer it can take 6-8 months for the dress to arrive in store. For that reason, Jess recommends 9-12 months for your dress hunt as you may want to leave time for alterations. In Smart Brides, you can also pay in instalments once the initial deposit is paid so you could clear your dress cost before the big day comes around and when you will have a lot of other things to pay off.
One thing that I come across time and time again is brides that get second thoughts on their gown. It is so so common but generally it is nothing to worry about. There are a few things that you can do to put your mind at ease.
On the financial side, once you pay that deposit, it is 100% non-refundable or transferable as that deposit secures the production with the designer. Once they received that contract, they start production. It’s often not viable to exchange even within the same designer either.
If you decide for whatever reason to pull your day forward and need dress in a quicker time frame, some designers allow rush orders at a supplement cost but always check with your consultant as to what is viable.
Majority of you will want to get some form of alterations. It might be as minor as a tuck at the waist to adding something on. Either-way, Smart Brides have a list of seamstresses locally that they recommend. Since covid, there is a complete lack availability of seamstresses so Jess recommends that as soon as you have a rough idea of when your dress is due to arrive. Book your dress with a seamstress for a week later. Even if those times change, you can secure a date. Some seamstresses don’t take appointments and you can just land in.
You’ve worn your gown, your day was perfect and now you see that the day took its toll on the dress! Many put their dress in the wardrobe and thats it. Others will want to get it cleaned and two recommendations that both myself and Jess agree on – Cleaning Angel and Master Clean. Smart Brides have a discount with Cleaning Angel so make sure to grab that!
If you have a little spill or get some dirt on your dress before or during the day, don’t panic. Most gowns can be spot cleaned. I’ve worked on many many shoots and for most gowns, fairy non bio, a baby sponge and face cloth to blot work like a charm. I’ve had dresses traipsing through woodlands on shoots and had to return the dresses to the store in the same shape they appeared and I literally get a basin of warm water with some fairy non-bio. I sponge on the spot of dirt but hold a white face flannel underneath and blot until it goes and then use a hairdryer to dry. This all depends on the type of material so you will need to ask your consultant about your gown. Just ask before you take your dress home what can you do if you get a little dirt on it.
A really nice service that Smart Brides offer is a storage box solution. This allows you pack up your gown to keep it perfect. You can get the boxes from €89 for a medium to standard size dress and €129 for a larger dress. Bring the dress in to the team and they will package it for you in the box. Job done!
I hope you found that helpful! I certainly did. For now, I’m going you leave you with some pictures from my visit! If you wish to book an appointment with Smart Brides, simply visit SmartBrides.ie.