What is your most memorable wedding?
I've seen lots of amazing gestures by family and friends at weddings but maybe the smallest, discrete ones are the most poignant. When my grandmother died she left behind a favourite cardigan with some very sparkly buttons that she adored (I get my magpie, sparkle gene from her!) Some years later, my younger cousin got married and we created her a beautifully simple 1950's tea-length gown. She brought the cardigan to her fitting and it brought back a huge amount of emotion as a plan formed to use the buttons down the back of the wedding gown. The wedding ceremony was in January in the late afternoon and the magical dark of the barn chapel, with the candle light caught the sparkle of the buttons like little dots of fire on the back of her simple taffeta dress. It was as if my grandmother had been given energy and life in that most intimate setting. It made the hairs go up on my arms - and gave birth to a new idea of how we can make bespoke buttons and cufflinks using precious fabric for other couples. One groom recently used his father's favourite shirt (his Dad had sadly passed away shortly before the wedding) to create his wedding cufflinks. He will be able to keep them forever and pass them down as an heirloom. Small, but so meaningful.
Describe your style in 5 adjectives.
Variety! No two days are ever the same. The freedom to create beautiful things and immerse into people's dreams at a time that is one of the few when we really come together to celebrate something positive in our culture. Also being able to make that event have a big impact on lots of other young people and women through the social enterprise activities we hold at the heart of our work. The studio is like a sanctuary for putting aside the stress of life and being able to enjoy the sparkle, the friendship and being surrounded by such inspiring and skilful people from all walks of life.
What about your business are you most proud of?
It's hard to isolate one most memorable wedding - every one is unique, glorious and satisfying. One is memorable for the huge emotional challenges overcome by our bride with terminal cancer, another for running 170 miles to collect a suit for a late coming groomsman and racing it back the same distance to get it to him before the 1pm ceremony! Another makes us howl with laughter as we had to cut the bride's very supportive 'big pants' off her knees when they got wedged as she approached the church...yes we always carry scissors! And another for the sheer magic of a whole choir of school children singing the bride up the aisle as a surprise. But maybe one recent event we relished was 'The Cowshed Wedding'... having the chance to immerse into the family of Frou & Salou in every aspect from providing the most perfect lace gown, to the last detail of the men's silk suits - and then creating a spectacular wedding venue out of the family's cow shed! The ladies who regularly inhabit it were somewhat unphased by the transformation of their hay byre into an amazing scenery and, since the groom is Kurdish, incorporating a spicy Eastern theme alongside Devon Dairy was an exciting project! But what a joyful occasion. And what a family. It's the achievement when you go beyond the business, and dare to immerse in other people's lives so you want every detail to be so perfect for them that your creativity has no limits. Every single wedding is memorable - some of them stay in your heart.
What is your No. 1 wedding planning tip for couples?
Our consultations always start with a warm welcome, chance to sit together and hear about their vision for the day, and to introduce them to who we are and how we work. Whilst they then enjoy exploring the studio and our beautiful collections, we get busy preparing refreshments (prosecco, juice, water, speciality teas, beers, cake... what can we say, we like eating and drinking!) We then begin the process of taking them through all their favourite designs, trying different styles - and taking care to cover all the key body shapes so they receive a full consultancy. We note their preferences in colours, textures, fabrics and styles and - if we don't have exactly their hearts desire on the rails at that time - we get busy working out how to achieve it for them.
We strongly believe in clients having time to digest all that they learn - if you have a proper consultation, you are absorbing alot of information and new ideas so you need chance to reflect on this. We don't chase around with a sales clipboard making ridiculous threats of 'you won't be able to order if you don't do it by 5pm today' etc. We're confident that if the bride likes our service and if the dress is right for her, she will come back in her own time. Brides will often visit a few more times to be sure of their choices and to build on their ideas for things like customising the gown or making adjustments to the shape so it's perfect for them. When they are 110% happy, we begin the ordering process... measuring, writing up the order and processing their initial payment (we do it in two stages which helps with budgeting).
Brides and grooms don't usually go away until the phone call to tell them the dress/suit is ready, however! Our team is a wedding home from home - and they regularly pop in and out to check out their ideas on all wedding related matters, to gain recommendations for suppliers, to meet their florist to match up colours, to have their hair trial in our studio or just to come for a chat and lovingly gaze at the sample of their dress to give themselves a top-up! Then, finally, the dress arrives, and we're ready for the fittings to begin. Perfecting the shape and size of your gown is the most important part of transforming a beautiful gown into an exceptional, personal creation. Then Justine, our Head Seamstress works her magic and the day arrives for the final fitting when we check it for perfection and you proudly carry your dress home ready for the big day. Of course, that's the start of the journey for the couple - and for us too. After the wedding we stay in touch with so many of the couples, following their lives through all the joys and low times, and becoming great friends with many of them for years to come.
What is your favourite personal touch you have seen at a wedding?
A tiny forget-me-not or blue button sewn into a hem, a little blue ribbon to loop up the train, a little blue button badge for a charity in a bouquet, or even a slick of blue mascara for the creative bride!
Describe your typical process with a couple.
My mum's! 1966, beautiful column shaped with bands of embroidery and roses at intervals across the width of the dress, square cut neckline and beautiful fitted sleeves.
What do you love most about your job?
Adjust your planner/calendar to buy yourself one extra day before your wedding that is free from all tasks, duties and running around. For example, if your wedding is on Saturday - pretend it is on Friday - whatever is not done by midnight on Thursday is unnecessary or can be delegated to others. Then use that extra day to just go off together - to lunch, for a walk, to visit a relative who can't attend the wedding, to go to the place of your first date. This will help you to become calm and relaxed so that you can go on to take in every second of your wedding day - otherwise your day will be over before your brain catches up to enjoy and absorb it! Reminding yourself of being a couple and why you are marrying is the best gift you will give yourself and it's an essential part of the planning spreadsheet!
What is your favourite style of wedding dress?
I'm most proud of our brides and grooms. Their happiness and the unquantifiable beauty on their special day is matched by their support for our work. It enables us to aim and higher and higher and my lovely Angel Team use every skill and facet of their personality to make it happen. #oneteam
What is the best way to incorporate "Something Blue" into the wedding outfit?
What is your favourite wedding dress of all time?
The one that looks like it is a natural part of the woman who is wearing it - perfectly suiting her looks and personality.