Affordable & Cool Wedding Dresses from Unique & Independent Bridal Designers: Halo & Wren
Chances are if you’re getting married you have a Pinterest account full to bursting with incredibly amazing and unique wedding gowns from all over the world. Clicking on the links, often lead to disappointment, and your bridal dreams go down the pan when you realize that your longed-for wedding dress is not stocked in the UK.
Today’s feature by Gemma of Halo & Wren describes this all too often bridal scenario! This is her story of how she created a beautiful bridal boutique, on British soil, after her own arduous experience. Halo & Wren is a fashion-forward bridal boutique with carefully chosen unique, independent bridal designers that will appeal to all you modern, cool-girl brides.
Halo & Wren was created after my own personal struggle to find my wedding dress, I considered myself a young, modern bride who wanted a non-traditional, laid back wedding that was basically a relaxed celebration of our love joined by our nearest and dearest.
And like most modern brides, I had access to the incredible, sometimes overwhelming realms of Pinterest & Instagram… herein laid my first problem; the images online which included gowns from all over the world were in fact wholly inaccessible and in reality, I felt disappointed to discover that bridal boutiques seemed to have a very traditional selection of gowns almost repetitive and stocked to bursting, but all the gowns lacked uniqueness and individuality.
I actually found my dream gown on Pinterest, casually hanging over a chair, I knew from the image it was ‘the one’. I scoured the internet to find out the designer, the name of the dress and the stockist – I discovered it was a Vera Wang wedding dress named Gemma, (my name too… it’s a sign – my mum said) and yet I was disheartened as it was ONLY stocked at Browns in London.
I can’t go and try it on, I would tell myself. My mum eagerly wanting me to realise my dreams encouraged us on a little London trip (It’ll be fun, a day out…). So we booked our £50.00 appointment – my mum, sister-in-law and two-year-old niece made the trip to London and had the’Vera Wang’ experience.
I put Gemma on first, it was beautiful, it was my dress. But when a sales assistant doesn’t discuss a price but writes the cost down at the end instead, you know it’s never an affordable sign. The gown started at, yes started at £6500.00. My budget was not £6500.00, more like £1600-£1800 and this was a hideous amount for me to spend anyway.
All I could think about was; we’re starting married life together, we have just bought our first house, we would love a fantastic honeymoon, I don’t want to start married life in debt because of a dress. BUT also, all I could think about was how amazing the gown was, I felt like Me, but the best version of me. I felt timeless but modern, relaxed but glamorous, demure yet sensual, romantic but structured. It ticked all boxes, dotted all my i’s. I loved the dress.
So herein began my almost two-year journey to afford/find the gown which included, but is not limited to; visiting almost every bridal boutique locally within a 20 mile of my hometown, a trip to Bournemouth dragging my sister-in-law with me to try on a £4500.00, second hand, Vera Wang ‘Gemma’. Ordering a fake version of the gown on Etsy from China… I’ll say no more about that experience.
Also two separate sample sales at Brown Brides (which were 5.30am queues and minus 1 degrees temperatures in early February – they open at 12, so sitting on the floor, making bridal buddies, all of us regaling each other with our wedding dress stories. Eventually after some advice from bride no. 5 in the second sample sale queue, I started to look abroad.
I actually ended up getting my gown; off the rack, size 14 (I was an 8). It was a sample from Matina’s Bridal in Ohio. I saved £4500.00 – prewarning it’s not that simple, I had to pay shipping, customs and a hefty alterations bill to deconstruct and rebuild the gown. It went totally over budget and it was nowhere near the second hand ‘Gemma’, let alone the new ‘Gemma’.
SO how does this lead to Halo & Wren? Firstly, I realised that brides were unable to try on the gowns that they see online, secondly, if they did, they were unaffordable to most budgets. I was that bride. I wanted non-traditional but still timeless, everything local felt overly traditional or I felt like I had seen it before, almost mass produced.
Modern Brides want unique gowns that offer individuality. The experiences I received ranged from locally being disappointed in samey same bridal boutiques to feeling marginalised because of my ‘limited’ budget in London bridal boutiques. Where were the cool, relaxed stores that were pretty, welcoming, relaxed, and individual?
My bridal journey was my learning curve, and I am one of my brides!
Halo & Wren is beautiful, built to please but also to relax. Brides, Mums and Grans don’t want to leave, it welcomes all. It’s a friendly, non-pressurised environment where a pink sofa, copper rails, white Nordic chic styling, fluffy chairs and lush carpets that encourage brides-to-be to relax.
The lighting is cool Edison style giant bulbs, soft pink neon girls signs hint at a feeling of female empowerment. I want my brides to try and see how beautiful they are regardless of size and so-called body imperfections.
The shop has cheeky hints to finding the dream gown with the cool white neon sign ‘The One’ above the mirror and rustic crates found in the basement of the shophouse accessories like our ‘MARRIED AF’ t-shirts.
The Halo & Wren experience is solely built upon what I would want or expect from a bridal appointment, so obviously complimentary bubbles, tea, herbal tea, coffee and controversially hot chocolate are offered to the bride and tribe.
A short, fun questionnaire allows me to find out my bride’s requirements and wishes and also gives me a chance to get to know my bride. The rails, designers and gowns are discussed with the bride before they make their selection as Halo & Wren proudly stocks six independent designers; the independent designers are at the heart and soul of the business, having these designers allows me to offer my brides such incredible individuality, uniqueness and flexibility with their gown.
I am proud to be the exclusive stockist of Marta Marti here in the U.K. Marta is a Barcelona based young and incredibly talented designer recently featured in Spanish Vogue. Currently, my best selling designer is Marquise Bridal; Melbourne based Megan is my dream designer, offering chic, fashion-forward gowns with a cult following.
Prim & Clover based in East London offer my brides the alternative bridal look with separates and the opportunity to build their dream gown with different tops and skirt options. E&W is Cardiff based designer Sophie and she offers a modern bohemian vibe to H&W with her modern, relaxed and pretty gowns – think flowers in the hair, cool bridal leather jackets and celestial feels.
Felicity Cooper can be described as modern-luxe boho, these fluid gowns have to be tried on to be appreciated, they offer brides uniqueness with slip gowns and different lace overlays, long sleeves and beautiful open scalloped backs to die for.
My last independent is new to H&W. Haarlam Bridal, another British brand. I was lucky enough to collaborate with Astra the designer and she specifically designed some custom pieces for H&W brides which include the most beautiful beaded tops and cover-ups.
Lastly my ‘big’ brands of which I only have two; Riki Dalal the incredible Israeli designer brings the most intricately detailed and feminine gowns with her ‘Noya‘ collection, the Noya collection is an affordable designer and you know you’re wearing a Riki Dalal, they have so many intricate layers of incredible work and brides will often describe them as unforgettable, or state they have never seen anything like it before.
And finally Watters; the American designer of which I carry two collections the contemporary yet timeless Wtoo range – of which almost every bride that visits H&W picks at least one gown from Wtoo to try on. They can be described as ‘something for everyone’. So light and comfortable to wear with practicality and beauty top of their list.
And available from February, the Willowby range. H&W’s first selection of Willowby gowns have been chosen from their celestially themed La Luna Collection, and they’re so ethereally bohemian, relaxed yet undeniably figure enhancing with hints of celestial and modern boho vibes at the core of the designs.
The H&W team consists of myself, and I am backed up by my incredibly supportive Mum, Helen, who is often found in the boutique cooing over brides, making tea, getting told off by me for putting gowns in the wrong place, but ultimately making sure brides, their family and friends are cared for, relaxed and helping their bride find ‘the One’.
My husband who is only behind the scenes but is responsible for making H&W look the way it does – the soft, flattering lighting, the copper rails, the glitter walls, the pink exterior. Finally, some wedding pro’s. Jaqueline Walsh my seamstress; Jackie meets all brides at Halo & Wren and makes their already amazing gowns perfect! Sophie Lake Photography & George Jefferson can be found in the boutique offering brides assistance when both my mum and I are away together.
Super relaxing appointments at Halo & Wren are all booked online via a booking page on the website.
Meeting brides-to-be, hearing all their wedding plans, finding them their dream wedding gown and then seeing them marry the loves of their lives is my passion. I make the journey (which I understand as I went through it) enjoyable, positive, welcoming and relaxing. I was one of my brides.