An unconventional bride & her 3 dresses – Top wedding gown buying tips in collaboration with MaudiKa

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been obsessed with wedding dress shops. To my 5 year old brain, it was THE place you became a Princess. But for this head strong budding shopaholic to be told that those doors were shut until a ring was put on my finger….was a concept I was SOOO not down with. But alas I waited patiently and when the time finally came, I loved the experience so much I found ‘the one’ not once, but three times! With a few bumps and exciting hurdles along the way, I soon realised that my experience was shaping up to involve more ‘unconventional bride’ moments than childhood princess fantasies. So it was important that I shared the wedding gown buying tips I picked up along the way with my fellow Unconventional Brides to be!

While I was busy burning through my pay cheque on the hunt for the ultimate Stevie Nicks tribute (aka dress number 4), I stumbled across local designer MaudiKa. This was the defining moment that the ‘Lily came into my life. After a few messages, I shortly booked a train ticket to meet Maud, one half of the design duo in her Oxford home showroom. Tea was drunk, lace was discussed qne measurements were taken. A short 6 weeks later my handmade Lily gown was all mine!

On a hunt for your dream dress? Check our our W+P Exclusive first look at Maudika’s 2017 British Legacy collectionshot in the iconic college surroundings of Oxford as you prepare to “say yes!” with our top wedding buying tips for an unconventional bride.
Introducing the ‘Diana’, our top W+P pick from the 2017 British Legacy Collection by MaudiKa. This original 2 piece is made of beautiful french lace with a flowing multi layer Chiffon & Crepe skirt to create natural flow & movement. The skirt is worn high wasted with the crop top’s length tailored to suit the brides height & requirements © Clare West Photography

Wedding Gown Buying Tip #1: Don’t commit to a dress until you commit to a venue

Our wedding was brought forward by 6 months resulting in not only a change of venue, but countries and climates. So in the scorching Aussie summer, my mermaid sleeved long lace gown designed for a English garden took a dip in salt water while its train dragged through the white sands on a Sydney beach. Across the pond, my bohemian bell sleeved crochet laced beauty stood gently against a Sheffield backdrop of red bricked steel mills. The moral of the story is that your venue will define your wedding style and theme because they are all intertwined. So pick a venue before your wedding dress!

The ‘Diana’ crop top is secured with a detailed lace button to allow maximum bridal comfort & a featured back © Clare West Photography

Wedding Gown Buying Tip #2: Bring a small squad & set the rules of engagement before you walk in the shops doors!

Most bridal boutiques allow a max of 4 people to accompany you to your appointment, sometimes less on weekends. At times, this can be a blessing in disguise and a great excuse (let’s be honest!) if you are feeling over whelmed with the chatter from your crew. Because the more people you bring, the more opinions they will have to give. So set some ‘rules of engagement’ before you walk through the wedding shops doors. If your squad know what subjects are an open discussion or when your ‘safe word’ needs to be heard for non negotiable decisions, it will keep everyone on the same page. This is a wonderful opportunity to create beautiful memories with your team and with the right prep work it will be a  loving experience to cherish forever.

The Lora was made for an unconventional bride. The bodice features hand stitched lace on sheer tulle covering you in all the right places but leaving enough flesh to contrast against the stunning lace details! A multi layered skirt of ivory satin & dotted organza creates contrast lengths & movement. © Clare West Photography

Top Wedding Gown Buying Tip #3: Prepare for a change in dress direction so research all silhouettes before you try!

When you start shopping, one thing that you need to prepare yourself for is the risk that the dream dress or silhouette you’ve been eyeing up on Pinterest might not look the same when you try it on. Keep an open mind and try on all styles so you can find a silhouette that loves you and your curves. At the end of the day, ‘the one’ needs to be a dress that you love, that makes you radiate, feel like a bride and most importantly, ooze confidence inside and out. So only buy a dress if it ticks all of these boxes because feeling your best on your special day is paramount!

The Lora’s hand stitched lace encapsulates the beauty of an English garden, accompanied by a white rose & natural foliage posy made by Bicycle Blooms Photo credit © Clare West Photography

Wedding Gown Buying Tip #4: If a small detail is bugging you now, it will be a bigger detail on your big day. If all else fails go custom!

I found that when I tried on dresses, I would love 95% of the design, but one detail was bugging me. It’s easy to be tempted to ignore the small things and just run with it. If your faced with this situation, I recommend walking away and taking a cooling off period to think about it. If these details are still playing on your mind a week later, it will probably be an even bigger detail on your wedding day. So work with your consultant to understand if your dream gown can be customised or if there are any other alternative designs that feature your favourite elements. If all else fails, go custom like I did! Check out the end of the article to see my 3 dresses! 

The Aurora is a long flowing gown made of delicate Chantilly Lace bodice, complimented with a lace bowed collar & cap sleeves. Shades of baby pink cut through the delicate layers of tulle to create a elegant & classic long free flowing skirt. Photo credit © Clare West Photography

Wedding Gown Buying Tip #5: PAUSE to see the dress, I mean REALLY see the dress!

When trying on dresses on the clock, it’s easy to get caught up in the rush. You want to make the most of your appointment time and try on as many dresses right? No, wrong! Running through the trying on process like speedy Gonzalez stops you from really getting to know the dress you’re wearing. If you’re already thinking about the next dress on the rack before you’ve even left the change room, STOP, breath and pause to look at every detail. Because if you’re constantly thinking about ‘what’s next?’ then you won’t stop to ask ‘could this be the one?’

Wedding Gown Buying Tip #6: Don’t get caught up in appointment charges – plan ahead & make a day out of it!

We all know that weekends are generally the best time for everyone to attend your dress appointments and bridal boutiques capatalise on it! With London boutiques charging up to £35 for a 1 hour Saturday appointment – i’ll take 2 glasses of fizz for that price thank you very much! The average bride chooses a gown in their first 4 appointments, meaning you’ve clocked over £100 in fees before you’ve even bought the dress! The good news is that most stores take this off the final price if you buy your dress on that day. Bridal boutiques don’t usually charge for mid week slots, so if your squad can afford to, take a team leave day off work and make the most of it! Bundle your appointments into the morning and treat your squad to a nice fizz fueled lunch afterwards!

The Elyna is a cute tea-length guipure laced gown with long sleeves for a classic, romantic bride. Hugging in all the right places, it’s a great fit for every body shape for brides that don’t want a full length gown. Bouquet made by Bicycle Blooms Photo credit © Clare West Photography

Wedding Gown Buying Tip #7: Want to look like Frieda on your wedding day? Bring your own flower crown accessories to your appointment!

If you’re having a flower crown you’ve probably started to search online and have an idea of the style or shape that you want. The bridal stores are very limited when it comes to Boho accessories, I found that most flower crowns were really thin so not suitable for ones that want to pay homage to Frieda on their wedding day! So if you are having a large crown, double up and turn your appoint day also into a flower crown trial day with your chosen florist! Alternatively, the folks at Crown & Glory or Asos have some fantastic pieces that you can re wear to your next Summer festival!

As if escaped from the Edwardian dream, the Elise is a one of a kind gown, made of unusual & special fabrics. Perfect for a bride who wants romance while standing out from a crowd! Made of two layers of crepe, the shorter finished with delicate French lace trimming, matching with the bodice. Romantic sleeves made of soft dotted tulle, create a mid summer nights dream look finished with an elegant chapel train. Flower crown by Bicycle Blooms Photo credit © Clare West Photography

Wedding Gown Buying Tip #9: Negotiate & bulk buy!

To most people April is a time for holidays and extra days off from work. To brides, it’s wedding gown sample sale time! NOW is your time to track down your favourite design or accessories from past collections. With savings up to 50% off RRP it’s definitely worth a cheeky look! I lived by my wedding planning motto of ‘if you don’t ask you don’t receive’.  I managed to save up to £300 each dress purchase on alterations by going custom! Weddings are expensive so don’t be afraid to negotiate on alterations and accessories because a lot of retailers do bundle offers. Wanting to buy your bridesmaid gowns at the same store?  You’ve just dealt yourself the royal flush….use it to your advantage and get a big discount by buying in bulk!

Want to find a dress that encapsulates all that we love with this season’s high street trends, with a touch of sparkle that’s still bridal? Then the Nadia was made for you! The top is made of delicate pearls & silver sequins, with a matching pure silk skirt, complimented with a small train & detachable belt = HEAVEN! Flowers by Bicycle Blooms Photo credit © Clare West Photography

Wedding Gown Buying Tip #10: Before you say yes to the dress, try it on again just by yourself

It’s easy to get swept up in the moment with your loved ones, the consultant and the beautiful pieces of expensive fabric you’re wearing. Even on your 3rd appointment those opinions can still create an influence on your overall decision! So I recommend returning to the store to try on the dress again in your lunch break alone.  Take 5 minutes to stand in front of the mirror by yourself so you can make your final decision in a quiet, calm and non influential environment. You’re the bride, it’s your dress and your aisle so it’s your decision!

Flowers by Bicycle Blooms Photo credit © Clare West Photography


Designer: Maudika

Flowers by Bicycle Blooms

Model: Megan Goncalves

Photography: Clare West Photography  

The Unconventional Brides 3 dresses – meet the designers

My gorgeous hubbie Paul & me at our Sheffield blessing ceremony in my custom bell sleeved Lily crochet lace gown with scalloped edge train handmade by Maudika Photo credit ©Rachel Takes Pictures
Custom lace cap sleeved loose mermaid gown with a detailed lace back, full length buttons & embellished Swarovski belt made by local Brighton designer White Leaf Bridal. Worn on the sandy shores of Nielsen Park, Sydney on our wedding day Photo credit: © Towards The Moon
The Josee by Australian designer Grace Loves Lace was made for ultimate twirling & dancing the night away. Worn as my reception dress at both weddings, I was living in a bridal comfort dream, radiating in the multi layered french lace skirt with accompanying off the shoulder lace arm bands & scalloped edged bodice. Photo credit: © Towards The Moon


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