Perhaps it’s not a pleasant thing to admit, but the fact is that most brides have at least one wobble in the wedding planning stages, and most bridal parties have at least one member who, at some stage, feels like a lot’s being asked of them. Of course, the custom of giving gifts to your girls on your wedding day is lovely and goes a long way towards making them feel appreciated, but in terms of starting the entire organising process beautifully, we think that an intimate gathering with just a few of your favourite females – your mum and sister, perhaps, plus your bridesmaids-to-be – over the charming ritual of afternoon tea is the way forward.
Enter The Berkeley Hotel
and its new partnership with bridal designer Phillipa Lepley. The Berkeley, set in the soothingly luxe shopping haven of Knightsbridge, celebrates the 10th anniversary of its Pret-a-Portea this year, a designer twist on afternoon tea, which gives fashionistas the chance to get their hands on the hottest items from the current season’s catwalk – in biscuit form, at least. Phillipa Lepley is one of London’s leading bridal couturiers, known for her beautifully romantic, feminine style and exquisite attention to detail, with hand embroidered pearls and diamante crystals often featuring on her gowns. Together, these two brands, both synonymous with elegance and luxury, have created an experience that brides-to-be and their guests will delight in.
Over a fashionable spread, including savoury skewers and taster spoons, as well as biscuits especially created to resemble Phillipa Lepley’s designs, brides-to-be will, as of this June, have the opportunity to meet with Phillipa and enjoy a personal consultation, which will help them to start navigating that most exciting of wedding purchases. And to continue in the fairytale vein of the day, you’ll then be driven by private chauffeur to Phillipa’s Chelsea atelier, where you’ll be able to twirl in front of the mirror as you try on her beautiful creations – one of which may just prove to be the dress of your dreams …
Doesn’t that sound dreamy? Because as exciting as it is to go for those first bridal boutique visits, there are many brides who find the whole process as daunting as it is exciting – and understandably so, since not only is choosing your wedding gown such a massive decision, but one to which your companions will no doubt bring so many opinions and preconceptions of their own. Starting the journey towards the dress of your dreams with cake, tea and bubbles, plus the insights of someone who’s both an outsider and an expert, will go a long way towards relaxing everyone and helping to manage expectations. And if it happens that you do choose a Phillipa Lepley gown, you’ll be treated to personal fittings with Phillipa herself at her Chelsea studio, with the final fitting taking place in a suite at The Berkeley, so that all of those last finesses are undertaken in ultimate comfort and privacy.
Although you don’t need to be staying at The Berkeley to enjoy this unique bridal tea experience, if you are a guest of the hotel you can request the afternoon tea to be served to you in your room; we love the idea of a gaggle of girls – like a teenage slumber party, except 100 times more sophisticated! – luxuriating in the elegance of a Berkeley suite as they flick through wedding mags, sip champagne and nibble on bridal-gown biscuits, chatting among themselves and with Phillipa as they start to formulate ideas about the bride-to-be’s dress. While you’re there, don’t miss the opportunity to request a private tour of The Berkeley ballroom: its private entrance opposite the breathtakingly beautiful historic and richly-detailed church of St Paul’s, plus soaring windows, dazzling crystal chandeliers and mirrored ceilings make it an extraordinarily glamorous and light-filled setting for your wedding.
Words by Sarah Rodrigues