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Unplugged wedding dress shopping? Some things to think about…

I recently decided to ask bridal parties not to take  photo’s during bridal appointments, and to try ‘unplugged’ wedding dress shopping.  It was a tough decision. When I first came to Camellia I felt strongly that today’s brides are from an image led generation, and that they expect and need to be able to record their lives with images.  That’s what the Millenials do, right?   But my experiences in the last year and talking to other industry colleagues has changed my mind.   This blog explains why…

My worst bridal appointment ever was when I had four bridesmaids ‘helping’ the bride,  on their feet snapping on their phones like the papparzzi that have just spotted Prince Harry and Megan Markle…

The bride was at their mercy, and so was I.  I was continually asked to move out of the way, tutted at when I didn’t and spent my time standing watching a bride being photographed in dresses that didn’t fit and that she didn’t even like!  My communication with the bride was impossible, she was being snapped from the moment she stepped out of the dressing room, whether she liked the dress or not.   There was no way I could find her the right dress, as the purpose of the appointment from all involved was to get a bank of photographs, and choose later.

Brides never find their dress at an appointment like this.  They go home with about 10 different photo’s of about 10 dresses, that’s around 100 photo’s that are badly taken, poorly posed and of dresses that don’t yet fit.  if they do this in three shops, they’ll have in excess of 300 snaps.   That isn’t how you choose a wedding dress.  In fact, brides who come with the intention of going to lots of shops and getting lots of pictures rarely buy a dress, and end up being the same brides that end up going to about ten shops, getting very confused and often sadly stop enjoying the dress shopping experience!   They deny themselves the ‘moment’ because they stop trusting the instinct that says ‘yes, this is it’, there and then.

Be in the present and trust how you feel!

The dress that is THE dress, is the dress that makes the bride feel amazing.  It is the one that makes her feel  beautiful, it is the one that makes her feel like herself, but the very best and most beautiful version of herself.  A poorly taken photograph of a dress which is not yet the right length, the right size, or even the right colour is never going to be able to recreate that feeling when the bride looks at it at home on her phone.  She may well show it to friends – who will only see a poorly fitting dress – and they will ‘helpfully’ critique it – the bride will then be confused, start to tell herself the dress doesn’t look nice, forget that it was THIS dress that made her feel like a queen.  She will forget that this dress will look different when it is made for her, in her colour choice and size, when the little tweaks have been made by the seamstress, and the feeling of love for it will be there in full force!    Not every moment can be captured by a camera, and emotions can only be captured by the most talented of photographers.  Badly taken pictures will put a bride off a wedding dress that may have been ‘the one’.

Photography affects the brides experience

unplugged-weddding-dress-shoppingDuring an appointment, I usually have an hour and a half (longer on weekdays). In this time I am trying to ‘read’ the bride, sense how she feels, look at her body language and try and improve my choice of the next wedding dress I put her in.  Because that is my job and that is why she has come to see me.  I want to help find her dream dress.  I want to make her feel beautiful.   Watching and listening to the bride gives so much away, her face, whether she touches the gown, is uncomfortable in it, what she is liking, what she isn’t liking, what she says to her mum or aunt or friends … these are essential bits of info for me to take in to help the bride find THE right dress.

When the bridal party are on a mission to record the moment with photographs – just at the moment I am able to engage with the bride, address her concerns, find her the right accessory or even get the gown off her as she doesn’t feel good… this is when the party start to say “Let’s get a photo, turn and face me”,  “Turn around”, “Put a veil on”, “Take the veil off”,  “Turn that way”,  “Face me”, “Go over there”, and so it goes on!!   I am forced to move out of the way and it becomes harder for me to interact with the bride and move her on to the next step toward finding her dress.  The purpose of the appointment – to choose a wedding dress becomes redundant – the purpose becomes about getting photographs of wedding dresses!  Imagine yourself doing your job – and just as you get to a pivotal part in helping your customer, you have to stop whilst the customer poses for five photographs.  Not easy, hey?

Five minutes of photograph taking with every dress can also take up a third of the appointment… meaning the bride to be gets to try less dresses, and I am less likely to be able to find her the perfect one.

The bride is vulnerable

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What you expect your photographs to look like…

Brides don’t normally know how to work a camera like Kim Kardashian.  My consultant Rohanna (right), loves trying our dresses and is relaxed doing so.   Most brides are self conscious enough as it is…  they have just had to strip down to their pants with a stranger, and are having to be the centre of attention in dresses that feel unfamiliar and often don’t fit.  My bride is usually nervous, she is trying to take in how she looks, absorb how she feels, decide what she does and doesn’t look like in a dress.  She is not focused on working the camera.  Most of us feel awkward when our photo is being taken, especially if we are feeling vulnerable.  Brides snapped at bridal appointments are usually taken unawares, looking awkward, shoulders hunched and a grimace on their lovely faces…. NO bride looks like that on their wedding day!  When she gets home she is not going to love the photograph – and it may well put her off the dress.

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What your photographs will probably look like!

Photographers know how to make a bride shine, and on the wedding day the professional will see the bride with a face full of joy in a perfectly fitting gown.   This won’t represent the snaps taken on phones by her friends in a shop.  Brides will get photos taken by people sitting down looking up at them on the podium – no one looks good from this angle!!  They will capture brides with the light behind them, so the bride becomes a large lumpy looking grey silhouette.  The snappers don’t worry about the fact the back is not done up fully, or is covered in clamps to keep the dress on the bride.  They will snap the bride before I have finished styling her, when the train is not laid out, the straps sat nicely on the shoulder, corset laces tucked in etc etc,  More than likely my old face will be in the image!  None of this will be how it is on the wedding day!  The brides photographer will know when to snap her when the light is perfect and her face is glowing with happiness.  Her wedding dress will be made for her and only her, altered for her and only her and fit to perfection.  The brides hair and make up will also be perfect.  If the bride looks at badly taken, ill timed snaps from people who have no skill in photography then this will NOT help her decide which dress to buy!

We want you to come back!

Lots of brides and bridesmaids say “Can we take photographs so we can remember the dress?”

My answers to this are:

  1. You WILL remember a dress that you loved. If it is possibly your dress – you won’t forget it. I promise. You will remember how it made you feel.
  2. The designer images of dresses are online, beautiful pictures to remind you of the style.
  3. If you know you loved a dress, but you are still undecided – come back!   We are always happy to have second visits from brides to re-try dresses with no pressure at all that you should place an order!  We would MUCH rather see you come back, so we can talk to you about your gown, answer all your questions and help you visualise the finished article.  Much better than basing a decision on a badly taken photograph!

Facebook forums and the bargain hunter

A huge reason lots of boutiques are moving toward unplugged wedding dress shopping, is the Facebook forum bride.  Now there is NOTHING wrong with wanting to pay a good price – nothing at all.  But increasingly boutiques are being used for girls to get themselves into dresses, find a style they like and then find a copy, or second hand version.   Have a look at “Brides, weddings, dresses and more” on Facebook.  One of many forums full of girls who have been to shops that allow photographs – with the caption “I fell in love with this dress,  Where can I get it cheaper…”  Still worse are the China sites where girls send the photo taken in a boutique and get a cheap (usually very bad) copy made.  These posts fill me with incredulity, and the only way boutiques can stop these brides  taking up our appointment slots is to stop them taking photographs in store.

What about if I place an order?

Once you have ordered a dress, then we can stage a beautiful accessorised photograph in store for you in the sample, if you would like.  I know the best spots for lighting and will happily get some good shots and forward them to you.

FaceTime is our friend!

We understand that sometimes a brides loved one, maid of honour, gran can’t get to our shop. In this instance maybe unplugged wedding dress shopping can be put on hold and we can just pop the plug back in for a while….  We are happy for someone in your party to use our wifi and allow your missing special guest to join us ‘live’ on Facetime.  Just ask and we’ll get you the code!

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We hope that our brides will understand the reasons for our policy.  We are not trying to make life awkward, we just know from experience what we are comfortable with in our boutique, and what we know has happened in the past with our brides.  So enjoy an unplugged experience and listen to your heart.

You didn’t need 12 photo’s and a group of friends to help you accept your fiancé’s proposal  – you went with your heart!  It’s the same with your dress!  Trust your instincts – and say yes.

Zoe xx

07.11.17

Inspiration for this blog came from the brilliant Miss Bush Bridal.  You can read her fantastic blog on the same subject here.