A little slice of bridal heaven resides in The Collective at Darwin, in the form of Heavenly Brides of Shrewsbury. As the longest standing independent shop in Shrewsbury Shopping Centre, business owner Suzanne Heavens has lots to be proud of. As you cross the threshold into the boutique, you get a feel for the high level of service and personal experience that brides can expect when searching for ‘the dress’. We chatted to Suzanne about all things bridal and what inspired her to enter into the weddings industry…
What inspired you to open Heavenly Brides of Shrewsbury back in 2012?
Ever since I was a little girl I have loved everything to do with weddings. I remember sketching designs of my dream wedding dress from a very young age – I dreamed of owning my own bridal boutique! When I purchased my own wedding gown for our wedding in 2004, I sadly found the experience in some shops was less than desirable and, if anything, that made me even more determined to work in the industry. At the start of 2008 I left my office management role to become a bridal shop manager for another organisation, and I soon realised that I was destined to work with brides! I fell pregnant in 2009 and became quite ill towards the end of my pregnancy, contracting a very rare, life-threatening pregnancy condition called HELLP syndrome. I guess in some ways this made me realise that life is short and we should pursue our dreams. I have always been quite entrepreneurial and self-motivated and as our daughter grew I craved more flexibility for our family and wanted to work closer to home. So I decided it was time to go it alone – to have faith and to take that leap into self-employment. I opened my very own bridal boutique in December 2012 and I’m so very glad I did!
What can prospective brides to be expect as part of their experience with you?
I absolutely adore my job, (although I’m not sure I can even call it that!). I believe that if you truly love what you do then your passion shines through and your customers will naturally have an all-round better experience. I offer a fun, relaxed environment with plenty of guidance and advice where needed, and to ensure a magical and exclusive experience – my boutique opens on an appointment-only basis. I love to get to know my brides and learn the details of their big day – it’s such an exciting time and it’s a privilege to be part of it. A wedding dress is arguably the most important gown one will wear and inevitably it’s a heart-led purchase. My brides know that I am only at the end of the phone if they need me, if I can help with anything, I will – even after the wedding!
Do you have any top tips for Brides looking for their perfect wedding dress?
- Give yourself time where possible – most brides like to have purchased their dress around 9-12 months before the big day. This ensures that if you need to order your gown it has time to arrive into store and it allows for any alterations that may be required. Many feel that the dress is one of the most important elements of your wedding and once you have that sorted you will be able to focus more on other aspects such as makeup and hair styles; as well as bridal accessories. It’s worth noting though that most boutiques, including mine, do have a range of gowns available to take home on the day of purchase so don’t worry if you are planning a wedding within a few weeks or months!
- Set your Budget – whilst this can be a tricky subject to talk about it is sensible to have at least a guide in mind; it would be heart-breaking to fall in love with a dress only to discover it is out of your price range and/or you cannot commit to it at that time. When setting your budget don’t forget to include bridal accessories and alterations costs.
- Shop local – it’s great to support local businesses and most independent boutiques will really know their stock and will go the extra mile to ensure you have the perfect dress. Do your research – check out their reviews, follow them on social media, get a feel for the sorts of gowns they stock, ask what prices their gowns are; if they offer payment plans and what sizes they have in store. Most boutiques like to book brides in for an appointment – this means that they can reserve the fitting room for you and ensure you get enough time with a consultant. Expect an appointment to last 60-90 minutes and I would advise choosing no more than 2-3 stores; visiting them over a couple of days.
- Choose your bridal group wisely – it goes without saying that you’ll want a few of your friends and family with you when you start looking for your bridal gown – it’s such an exciting time in a woman’s life. I do however urge brides to remember that whilst you value their opinion, it is YOUR dress and you will be the one wearing it. If you love a dress don’t let anyone else put you off it.
- Stay open minded – wedding dresses can look very different on a mannequin, coat hanger or model. Try different styles, necklines and fabrics etc and judge each dress on its own merit as they can surprise you when they’re actually on. It may sound soppy, but when you find “the one” you will just know – you will look and feel fabulous and you’ll be able to imagine yourself on your big day wearing that gown. What’s also important to remember is when you have found ‘the one’, stop looking and celebrate the fact!
What is your favourite dress in the boutique at the moment?
My favourite dress changes every week as there are so many pretty ones around! The designers I stock are fabulous and so inspirational, but I think my favourite gown right now is MB2105 by Mary’s Bridal. I just love the pretty 3D floral detail and the interesting illusional back.
How are businesses in the wedding industry working together to bounce back stronger in this post-pandemic time?
Behind the scenes is a campaign (#whataboutweddings), which is encouraging people to #standupforweddings. When Parliament review the UK roadmap, we can only hope that Ministers will give deeper consideration to couples planning their wedding and indeed the thousands of wedding businesses who support the UK economy. Personally, I’m really looking forward to attending wedding fairs again and meeting newly engaged couples excited to plan their wedding. Wedding fairs are also a really good opportunity for me to network with other suppliers and consequently I have gained many friends from working in the wedding industry. Those who I know well are certainly all remaining positive and are “raring to go”! Because of the pandemic, we may also see some wedding suppliers adding additional services, products or related bolt-ons to their business in an attempt to recoup some losses from the last 12 months, but I see this as a good thing – it means they are continuing to grow and evolve their business despite the pandemic.
And finally, what are you enjoying most about your new home at The Collective?
The collective is a fabulous space for local independent businesses and I have already made some really good friends. The fellow business owners are so very passionate about what they do and they are super friendly and helpful. I am also loving the layout of my new boutique – I think I have used the space well, and all my customers have been so complimentary about it!