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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wedding Dress Shopping in St. John's and Area

No time like the present! I say this knowing that I haven’t even sent out thank you cards yet. Call it what you will, at least I still intend to send them. I was surprised to learn that many don’t. Not that I do,in general, but a wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime thing and they can be expensive to attend. Plus, it just feels unfinished to me unless we’ve “talked” about it with all of our guests (god knows we didn’t get to talk to them at the wedding itself, not even some who came from out of town).

But that is not the point of this post.

The point of this post is twofold. One: to assist @BogTrotterGirl with scoping out bridal salons here in St. John’s and area, and two: to get started on my wedding/vendor recap, because it seems like a waste to have done all the research and planning and gone through the frustration of not finding enough local content and inspiration without passing some of it along. Giving back a little Google karma.

So, here is what I personally found when shopping for a wedding dress. Shopping for a wedding dress is a unique experience, because you generally end up having the full customer experience with only one shop. I can’t advise on how alterations went for any of these (except the Bridal Salon) because I was lucky enough to buy my perfect dress right off the rack. Also, I’m not affiliated with any of these vendors. They’re just lucky (or unlucky) that I was able to link to them online for you.

Model Shop (St. John’s)

I went to the Model Shop many times and at different times of day, because I work downtown and they don’t require you to make an appointment. They have a good selection of dresses so it’s a good place to start to get a feel for the shape and style of dress you want. If you’re going to the Bridal Salon, it’s across the street, so drop in before your appointment to make sure you have all your bases covered. Note that they generally only have 1 or 2 bridal consultants working at any given time, so be prepared to wait. I suggest avoiding it on the weekends, if at all possible. There should never be 6 or more brides-to-be in one room! I had no problem getting assistance with fitting rooms (except on the weekends – again, avoid!) and the salespeople were not pushy at all. Seriously, I went there like 20 times and never felt uncomfortable.

Bridal Salon (St. John’s)

Meh. I spent a lot of time preparing for my adventure to the Bridal Salon, because it’s supposed to be the “best” bridal place around, with all the designer gowns. I pored over styles and, as suggested on their website, sent the consultant pictures of what I was interested in, with comments and all. So, I was surprised and annoyed when I met my consultant and she said, “do you have any idea what you’re looking for?”, then proceeded to bring me the exact opposite of what I’d requested, and in styles that were completely wrong for my body shape/type. With all the implied exclusivity, it would have been nice to have been prepared for as an individual client, you know?


Formal Sales and Rentals also had a good selection of dresses, with the bonus of having a lot more space than the Model Shop. This was where I ultimately bought the dress (you can see pictures at www.colinpeddle.com/janet-sean). They were good in that I was able to take my dress home if I wished, or leave it there in storage. Steaming of my dress the week before the wedding was complimentary and everyone I worked with there was friendly enough. They were flexible in price (within reason - asking for tax in is a good place to start). My issue with them was the fact that even though I bought an expensive dress there and they knew that I had a need for accessories and bridesmaids dresses,they would not measure my bridesmaids for dresses without a fee of $20 per girl (which would be deducted from any purchase, but if you decide not to buy there, you lose the fee). This really irked me, because we could have had any seamstress or tailor do measurements for $5-$10 a pop. Just an unnecessary additional charge that actually worked to ensure that I would not be purchasing any other wedding items from them.


From the beginning of my dress hunt, I had my eye on the Watters Wtoo collection. I was not interested in making the big trip to TO for my dress and sadly, no shops in NL carried that line... that is, until Ever After opened and I had already purchased my dress. Oh well. This is a gorgeous little shop with a real boutique feel and excellent selection of gowns, bridesmaids’ dresses and accessories. My girlfriends and I felt so relaxed and excited to be shopping there, thanks to the attentive (but not too pushy) owner. Well worth the visit!

Bridal Suite (Carbonear)

This was the first place I went to try on dresses (well, the first place after I went to some lady’s house in Airport Heights thinking I’d find a perfectly cromulent second-hand gown before realizing that I’m not Kate Moss and therefore “vintage” and “sophisticated” pieces do not quite flow off of my bone rack the same way they would on a more willowy physique).

This is where my bridesmaids’ dresses were ordered from. The customer service was excellent, with Lori responding to emails and taking the time to work with us in the shop. The dresses also arrived about 6 weeks earlier than promised. Unfortunately, they fell down in the alterations department (which I understand are outsourced to a local independent seamstress); they did not go as well as hoped. I would send a warning to anyone considering purchasing a dress here or anywhere that it be a priority to have the seamstress who is working on your dress do your measurements. In this case, the shop did the measurements and sent the dresses out, so the seamstress had no context for the alterations, resulting in a poor fit. I really believe if we'd taken the dresses out for alterations ourselves, we would not have had the fit issues.


Croix Hill Bridal (Spaniard’s Bay)

I only went here long enough to see that most of the dresses were for a younger and more trend-oriented bride than I. The interaction was short, as I only tried on one style, but the salesperson was very helpful in suggesting other shops to check out and in showing me their catalogues of accessories and other dresses. Lots of more budget-priced options here!

If anyone has questions or comments on the various bridal shops in St. John's and area,please feel free to post! I'd also be happy to answer any questions about my dress shopping experience if this gloss is not enough!

- Janet

PS: some helpful hints for wedding dress shopping:

  • Don’t get caught up in a particular style until you’ve tried them on. I ended up in a princess gown. That was... unexpected, to say the least.
  • Allow lots of time and patience - especially when shopping on the weekends. Fill up your water bottle and take some deep breaths. Frustration is going to get you nowhere.
  • Try it on with similar shoes to the ones you will wear on the day. Of course, you are going to look great when standing on the platform in the store - it makes you look 6 inches taller than you are! Standing flat on the floor with appropriate shoes will give you a more accurate view.
  • Get your picture taken: front view, back view, side view.Wedding gown sales are generally final - this means you want to be positive that it looks good from all angles!
  • Bring a friend. Then revisit alone or with a different friend before you buy. My girlfriend wept when I walked out of the dressing room with the dress on. I still didn't believe her. When I brought a different friend a few days later and she wept too, I knew it was the one.

6 comments:

  1. I got married last year and went to the Model Shop and Bridal Salon for my dress hunt; ended up buying from the Bridal Salon.
    Model Shop: I felt like I was being ignored by the workers. They would look at me and then look away. One older worker finally came over to help me. She was not very helpful or patient. She didn’t help with the dress, I felt like I was being rushed because I was a larger bride. Everyone else including the workers was smaller. I had a specific style in mind and when I told it to her she said that is a beach style dress Are you getting married on a beach? My answer was no I just love that style. She gave me a very rude look and sort of rolled her eyes. Needless to say I walked out of that store empty handed and never went back. I don’t recommend this place to brides to be (and that is what I tell them too)

    Bridal Salon: I made an appointment and went in with all the pictures and info of things I liked. I had a consultant that was there for a while. I had a wonderful experience. She took all my information and we went up stairs to the dresses. I tried on a total of four dresses. I picked my three favorite and made another appointment. I took my husband and daughter back with me and I left with my perfect dress. She helped me when the dress came in. She also helped my bridesmaids with their dresses. The dress area up stairs was nice, it wasn’t out in the open with prying eyes and nosey people, it was quiet and you could focus.
    Overall I had a lovely experience with the bridal salon and would definitely recommend it to future brides (which I have been doing :))

    Croix Hill Bridal
    We went here for the tuxes. They are a wonderful bunch of ladies. We found the perfect style for my husband, the dads and the groomsmen. They were very patient and helpful, excellent prices and even let one of the groomsmen pick up his tux the day before the wedding (it was a perfect fit)
    I recommend this place for the tuxes. Not so much the wedding dresses. They have a huge selection in prom dresses though.

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  2. I'm a plus sized woman, and I live five hours from st johns but I am going there every second weekend during the summer and three days mid week in August. My two final choices are the bridal salon and the model shop. This- among orher- reviews have been helpful. Any advice for a bigger girl? king_kayla@hotmail.com

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