Last week we shared our 7 Ways to Save on your Wedding Attire and our tip on Charity Shop Bridal Rooms in particular sent a lot of chins wagging. Charity stores have been in the background of bridal for a couple of years now but they are quickly becoming a spot many brides-to-be are hitting up on their quest to find the best dress for the best price. Ireland’s leading children’s charity, Barnardos, now has two bridal boutiques, one in Dun Laoghaire and the other in Carlow and one of the most surprising things we found out about the store is that it ONLY stocks brand new wedding dresses and accessories. So we had a chat with Barnardos Bridal Rooms Manager, Bernadette Harrington and bridal consultant Catherine Murtagh, who works in the Dun Laoghaire boutique, to find out more about Barnardos Bridal Rooms.
WOL: We were surprised to discover that all the dresses are all brand new at Barnardos Bridal! Where do you get them from?
Bernadette Harrington: The dresses are donated by wholesalers, designers and retailers and they’re collected from the donor and brought to our sorting area in our warehouse. Most of the gowns are perfect when they come in but may need to be dry cleaned or new zips etc which we then organise and then we send them on to our Bridal Rooms in Dun Laoghaire and Carlow!
WOL: Where lucky brides whip them up at a fraction of their cost?! What designers do you stock?
B.H: We can’t actually reveal our donor names but we do work with all the best known designers and retailers in Ireland…
WOL: Do you ever have new season dresses in stock?
B.H: Most gowns are quite classic and fairly timeless but occasionally we will receive this season’s latest look. But mostly the product we receive is from the previous season.
WOL: You have a bridal room in Dun Laoghaire and one in Carlow. How do you decide on the dresses for each of your shops? Do certain types of dress go to certain shops?
B.H: No, the shops have the same customers so we try to divide the stock equally.
WOL: So we’re guessing it’s brides who want to save a bit on the cost of their wedding who take a trip to Barnardos. But why else do you think brides visit Barnardos Bridal Rooms?
B.H: Mostly it’s that they want to save money… They may want to splurge on another aspect of the wedding like the honeymoon! We don’t have a ‘typical’ customer, so to speak, but it’s true to say all our brides are budget savvy! Also, brides like to know that they are helping a charity and supporting the work that Barnardos does with children and families. Also, there are no waiting times which can be very attractive to those planning a short engagement. Other bridal boutiques usually require 12 weeks waiting time to order a gown.
WOL: What’s the best way to find out what you have in stock?
B.H: Obviously by dropping into the shop you get to see first hand what we’ve just put out – before they’re whipped up! – but we also share photos of new stock on Facebook so it’s worth checking us out and keeping an eye out.
Barnardos Bridal Rooms
WOL: Do you have a favourite moment from your time working in Barnardos Bridal?
Catherine Murtagh: I don’t think you can pick a specific moment. You build a rapport with the bride and her mom and get to share in her experience, share in her excitement and happiness when she finds the right dress. It’s enjoyable to work with so many different characters and to see the end result when they send us in pictures of the big day. Each of us in Barnardos Bridal Rooms has our own special moments.
WOL: Have any brides really stood out for you while you’ve been working in the bridal rooms?
C.M: A girl came to us who was having an eco friendly wedding; she wanted a vintage dress to suit the style. We discussed what she envisioned for her big day and went through our pieces, I saw one I thought she might like and paired it with a vintage head dress and she looked amazing. I also had a bride pick out a dress in about three minutes; it was just the perfect one for her! So it can be pretty special in moments like that.
WOL: Do brides ever send you photos, or come back in to the shop to tell you about their day?
B.H: Yes they do! We love it when people send us their photos! We regularly have brides post photos of themselves wearing their Barnardos dress on their wedding day on our Facebook page which is so good to see.
WOL: What advice would you give a bride just starting out wedding dress shopping?
B.H: My piece of advice is don’t buy a gown that is too small in the hope of slimming down! Also do not buy a gown that is too big and try to alter, it won’t work. You may get away with one size up or down but no more. And don’t be too fixated on the “dream dress” that you have in mind, often when you try the ‘dream dress’ on it just might not be you… Go with one person only on your first outing or on your own. You need time to find the right “look” for you and if you bring lots of people they will ALL have different opinions which will only confuse you.
C.M: Another tip would be to know how much you are willing to spend on the dress and stick to it. Before you book appointments check the price range of the dresses in the bridal boutique. That way you avoid the disappointment of trying on a dress you love only to realise its way out of your budget. Trying on dresses is hard work, don’t book more than three appointments in one day and allow plenty of time in between for a rest. Wedding dresses can be very heavy and you will be tired!
WOL: And what next for Barnardos Bridal, will you be opening any more stores around the country?
B.H: We’re planning a re-vamp for our Bridal Room in Dun Laoghaire which is going to be fab!! We’re very excited about that. We are also looking at possibilities for opening a third Bridal Room and considering different locations at the moment.
Make an Appointment
Barnardos Bridal Rooms – Dun Laoghaire, Dublin | T: 01 280 1246 | barnardos.ie/bridal
The shop is located on Main Street in Dun Laoghaire. Two public transport options include the 46A bus route from the city centre or the Dart to Dun Laoghaire station.
Barnardos Bridal Rooms – Carlow | T: 059 9132918 | barnardos.ie/bridal
The shop is at 48 Dublin Street, Carlow. It’s now only an hour’s drive from Dublin.
By Karen Birney