A few weeks ago I went in to visit Donna & Kay at Brides by Donna Rae in Invercargill. Whether you're a bride-to-be, a mother of the bride or just someone like me calling in to see these friendly ladies - Brides by Donna Rae is not just a bridal store, it's an experience! I sat down and had a chat to Donna about her story and what advice she has for brides-to-be when it comes to her speciality... wedding dresses! It truly surprised me just what goes into the process of choosing a wedding dress and I loved hearing Donna's enthusiasm and love for what she does. Thanks for being a part of this blog series Donna!
WHAT INSPIRED YOUR TO OPEN BRIDES BY DONNA RAE?
It’s funny when I had the idea of this business all my friends thought it was perfect for me. I love dressing up and all the glam, so naturally I love the wedding industry. I knew there was a real gap in the market for this kind of bridal store and I was motivated to bring this to life in Invercargill. We are the exclusive NZ stockist for 6 different designers which means we often have brides coming from out of town, the North Island and even Australia to shop with us here in our boutique Invercargill store which is pretty cool. We have about 200 dresses in store and are committed to providing an incredible service as we help brides find the dress of their dreams.
TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE WHEN BRIDES COME INTO THE STORE TO TRY ON GOWNS DONNA.
Brides book an appointment with us to come in with their closest and dearest to try on dresses. Appointments usually go for 1.5 hours. Sometimes brides will come in with an idea of the gown they want, but more often than not they fall in love with something completely unexpected. Once the perfect dress is chosen we provide all our brides with information and advice about “what happens next”, ordering times and alterations.
HOW FAR IN ADVANCE OF THE WEDDING DATE SHOULD BRIDES BE ORDERING THEIR DRESS?
Unlike everyday clothes we buy off the rack, dresses are custom-order made so there isn’t a whole rack full of each size sitting there in the factory. Each dress is made upon ordering and because of the high demand ordering times can take 4-5 months due to the queueing of orders. This means ideally you want to be coming in to try on dresses at least 8 months before your wedding date to avoid pressure and stress. Once you find your dream dress an order is made to the designer and in 4-5 months time your dress arrives in store for you come back in for a quick try on to make sure everything is as it should be. From there you are taking the dress to be perfectly fitted by one of our trusted alterations professionals.
So you can see that if brides are looking for their dress less than 6 months out from their wedding date it can mean being limited to buying an off-the-rack dress because there isn’t time to order one to be custom made. Naturally rack dresses limit you because we only hold one size and one colour of each sample gown in store.
HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHAT DESIGNS TO STOCK & WHICH DESIGNERS?
Unlike a lot of Australian and American bridal stores we can’t be quite as “on trend” with what we stock. There are a lot of designs out there that just wouldn’t sell in our market and fashions can take a while to reach our wedding industry in New Zealand. In saying that we have brought back a few designs from our recent trip to Melbourne that are more cutting edge, “out there” and we’ve had a huge interest in them on our social media.
It’s quite hard to secure high quality designers. There are a few criteria that need to be met before we can be considered a stockist. World renowned high end designers want to align themselves with a boutique that has a flawless reputation, professional image and that stocks similar designs to their own. Bringing award winning designers to Invercargill, has definitely put our small town at the forefront in the bridal world, not to mention our 100’s of extremely happy brides!
WHAT IS THE BEST PART ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?
Without a doubt, the best part of our job is finding the perfect dress for our brides. This moment is just as exciting for us as it is the bride! There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t get goose-bumps when we’ve found the perfect dress. And I must admit our annual buying trips to the Melbourne Bridal Show are a great part of our job. We literally look at 100’s of dresses trying to find gowns for our brides-to-be.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP WEDDING DRESS TIPS?
When coming to try on dresses, think intentionally about who you will bring with you. If you have a bigger bridal party consider just bringing Mum and your maid of honour. It can be hard to make decisions when there are a lot of people in the room with you.
On the day of your wedding it’s a great idea to go to the toilet before you put your dress on. And later in the day when going to the toilet in your wedding gown, instead of turning around to sit down in a tiny cubicle, walk straight in and straddle the toilet. This way you don’t have to lift up your train, only the front of your dress!
Allow yourself 30 minutes on your wedding day to get dressed. A corset back and buttons are time consuming. This also allows time for a few drops of Rescue Remedy and a cheeky wee wine!
When it comes to cleaning your gown, we don’t recommend dry cleaning due to a myriad of reasons. It’s obviously a person choice, but you will be asked to sign a contract voiding the dry cleaners of any responsibility. Would you believe our store gowns go in the washing machine?! And they come out pristine! There’s an art to washing the gowns in the machine, so we don’t suggest you try this at home. Like you, I gasped at the idea of my gowns going in the machine, but I trusted Kay’s expertise. At the end of the day, you will put the gown through more stress on your wedding day, than the washing machine!