The consumer wedding magazines such as Bridal Buyer listen to their readers, brides-to-be who want advice, inspiration and to share their dreams. So who better for Bridal Buyer to ask for an overview on what today’s just-engaged has in mind?

Rachel southwoodRachel Southwood – Wedding Ideas readers are always on the look-out for a bargain, but we find that when it comes to the wedding dress (the single most important garment they’ll ever own!), they’re prepared to bust the budget to find ‘the one’. While Wedding Ideas focuses on brides-to-be getting their dream day for less, we never recommend that they search for their gown anywhere other than a bona fide bricks and mortar bridal retailer. And thanks to social media like twitter and facebook, brides-to-be can quickly identify where their nearest sample sales, designer days and well-priced stockists are. We believe that the horror stories associated with online purchases and counterfeit dresses are quickly aired, and reputations are easily made or broken in this current era. Further proof of the influence and reference point that social media represents!

So, we can say with some conviction that the dress is that last thing that a bride should – and does – scrimp on. And what we increasingly find is that people have the same budgets that they did prior to the recession; it’s just that rather than do without, they demand more for their money, perhaps negotiating bridesmaid dresses, accessories or shoes
into the overall purchase, or even starting by telling the retailer what their budget is, so that right from the start everyone is singing from the same song sheet.

We rarely hear of a bride who walks away having made a compromise on her dress. We’re much more likely to hear of brides who take on second jobs, or sell the hair off their pet dog’s back before giving up on their dream dress. The Wedding Ideas reader spends on average £1,109 on her gown. This is the exact figure taken from our 2011 online reader survey of 876 brides. It is higher than we expected, but doesn’t surprise us too much when you see that the dresses that the brides we feature in our real-life weddings often wear couture or high-end designers, while their bridesmaids or grooms will be dressed from high street stores, and many of the details are DIY. Retailers appear, in the main, to be getting it right.

If you read about the experiences of our forum’s brides-to-be, you see the odd tale of rage and despair, coupled with stories of terrible customer service, but you should take into consideration that brides are the most demanding of customers, that this the most that a girl will probably ever spend on an outfit and that emotions are running high. Also, the anonymity that the internet provides makes ranting about a retail experience easy. We also often remind ourselves that people who are happy rarely praise, but those who aren’t rant at leisure!

Interestingly enough, we have ‘secret shopped’ a number of retailers ourselves, as well as accompanied friends as ‘just friends’ to bridal shops, and many of the Wedding Ideas team are married themselves. We know how it feels to be a bride, and what level of customer service you can expect. Ninety-nine per cent of the shops in our local area get it spot on.