For some brides finding their wedding dress can be one of the most stressful parts of wedding planning. Some brides have dreamt of their wedding dress all their lives while others dread looking at themselves in the mirror. As I’ve helped brides with their wedding planning one of the things I’ve noticed makes a HUGE difference is not only finding the right dress but purchasing it from a supplier who makes the experience stress-free and enjoyable.
Last year, I participated in a Wedding Fair at Russet’s House in Chiddingfold where I met the fabulous Hannah from BRIDE by Aster. Over the afternoon I watched in awe as Hannah helped bride after bride turn from a bag of nerves to a goddess! To me, Hannah is one of the best in the dress business because her approach to helping brides find ‘the dress’ is refreshing and 100% positive! Goodness – can I get married again just so I can wear one of her gorgeous dresses?!
BRIDE by Aster is a bridal boutique based in Surrey, focused solely on the customer experience and providing dresses that are different than others on offer in the Surrey market. The boutique offers 1-1 exclusive appointments giving brides the whole boutique to themselves to relax, enjoy and try on as many or as few dresses as they want.
Recently, I interviewed Hannah about her business and her unique approach!
What inspired you to start your business?
I’ve been in the wedding and events industry for 10 years. When I was approaching my 30th birthday, I decided I wanted to go out on my own and stop working for other companies. I spent the first 6.5 years of my wedding life in Surrey as a wedding and events manager, so I really got to know the industry and the market as well as what was on offer for Surrey brides. I felt that whilst there were some great boutiques out there, I’d never seen anything super unusual or varied in terms of bridalwear and I knew that I could offer something new and different to the market.
What do you love about what you do? Anything you’d rather not do?!!
I absolutely love my shop. Being surrounded by beautiful dresses that I choose, and seeing people’s faces when they arrive. We have such amazing and positive brides who love what we do and love the quirky additions to our shop. It’s fun and friendly and I love seeing people enjoy themselves when they are here. My absolute FAVOURITE part though, is when a bride finds her dress and when she has left the shop with her family or friends, they all hug and cheer just as they’re walking away. It’s a moment I always see from the other side of the windows and it’s just a moment in time that is so special and I feel so privileged that I get to see it!
There’s nothing ‘easy’ about running this business. It’s hugely expensive and very time consuming. Early mornings on Sunday’s throughout the year getting ready for wedding fairs, working every Saturday and of course being able to buy the dresses – it’s not easy, but I am loving the challenges!
How do you support couples with their big day? Do you provide any other services beyond wedding dresses?
I always try to recommend amazing people. Having worked in the industry for a long time, I have had the good fortune of meeting incredible suppliers whom I whole-heartedly pass on to my brides. I always ask of they need recommendations or support. Aside from being in the industry, having planned an international wedding myself, I know the struggles that come with planning! Sometimes, I am just an impartial ear to let my brides talk to, ask questions and even vent when needed. It’s not a service I charge for, but I’m happy to be able to help in some small way if ever anyone needs!
What sets you apart from your competition?
There are some beautiful boutiques in Surrey and if my brides cannot find their dress with me, I do recommend other boutiques if I think they are a better ‘fit’. Having said this, I do think we have a really recognisable brand and unique experience for our brides. I try not to make things to stuffy or overly formal. I want people to feel relaxed and almost like they are at home. Our welcome includes changing into fluffy slippers, relaxing on our nice big sofa and getting offered hot and cold drinks as well as a selection of cakes. Relaxing music sets the tone and fun and colourful touches around the shop make it soft, pretty and above all, ‘fun’. I think sometimes, businesses get caught up in trying to have the quintessential bridal shop look. I want to be different and just follow my instincts. Fun over formal is definitely the best formula; for me anyway!
I love your approach to body positivity – tell me more!
Far too often, brides of all shapes and sizes, struggle to find dresses that they can try on in boutiques. The notion that ‘skinny brides look better’ is totally absurd and comes from the way we are socialised and the social media/snapchat filter society we live in. With this in mind, it’s not uncommon for boutiques to stock sizes up to a UK12 (admittedly this is more so in London than Surrey). Imagine being told by a bridal shop that you are ‘too big’ to fit into any of their dresses, no matter what size you are!? The mere notion of it is mortifying enough without having to go through it; especially in front of sales assistants and potentially other customers.
I have always been a bit of a yoyo dieter. I have been up and down from a UK12 to a UK20 and everything in between for the last 15 years – for me, it’s simply not an option to restrict my sample gowns to smaller sizes when I believe wedding dresses are made for curves! To show a dress off to it’s full potential, you need a little junk in the trunk to fill it out!
It’s heartbreaking to say, however I would say about 1% of brides who come to see me are satisfied with how they look and wouldn’t change anything. Days are often filled with beautiful women of all shapes, sizes, colours, tearing themselves apart in the mirrors, when all I see is a beautiful woman. It really is true that confidence and personality radiates from within, and that is what I try to promote.
What is the process for buying a wedding dress? What happens when people visit you? How long should people need for an appointment? How far in advance of the wedding should they order their dress with you?
I always say that 10-12 months prior to your wedding is the best time to place an order. It allows enough time to find your dress, allow for any delays and time for customisations should you choose to make any. In theory, your dress could take anywhere between 3-6 months to be made and arrive with us. You then need a further 8 weeks or so for alterations. These timings simply allow you to relax and enjoy the process of shopping without getting involved in rush fees or getting panicked if your dress is delayed. As with anything in life, the more time you allow yourself to complete a task, the less stressful it will be!
How do people book an appointment with you?
The best way is via the booking form on the contact page of the website. It allows me to know when and where you’re getting married so I can suggest the best time for an appointment as well as giving me a little bit of background on what you may be looking for!
What are your hopes and dreams for the business?
My hopes and dreams include being able to scale to a larger location. Ideally a big beautiful barn where I can offer more dresses, bridesmaids and mother of the bride too! Expanding my business would of course be the ultimate.
Facebook/Instagram/Twitter – @bridebyaster
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