Bristol brides on a budget are loving the gorgeous new Bridal Rooms in St Peter's Hospice stores. Natalie Banyard visited the Portishead branch.
Savvy brides-to-be can bag a stunning gown on a tight budget while supporting a fantastic charity. What's not to love?
Some of Bristol's best loved St Peter's Hospice stores have opened specialist Bridal Rooms, offering a wide range of quality wedding and special occasion items at a fraction of the usual cost.
In addition to the great quality clothes, accessories, homeware and toys already sold at Bristol's St Peter's Hospice stores, frugal fashionistas with a wedding to plan can discover a gorgeous range of quality bridal items in the charity's Portishead, Westbury-on-Trym and Nailsea branches.
St Peter's Hospice Area Manager Louisa Merchant-Locke says: "Our Bridal Rooms are a great opportunity for couples to find wonderful treasures for their wedding day, without breaking the bank.
"Often as soon as you mention the word 'wedding', suppliers double the price of products, but our stores counteract that with thousands of items available for minimal prices, some under £5.
"Weddings are hugely costly so anything couples can do to help their budget is so worthwhile. Having said this, we understand that it is the most important day of people's lives so we ensure that only the best quality items make it on to the shop floor."
When I visit the Portishead shop on the town's vibrant High Street, Manager Sue Cox, who has been working at the store for 18 years, shows me upstairs to the Bridal Room.
"People are always wowed when they come in," says Sue as we walk into the pretty showroom. "I think they are taken aback by the number and quality of the dresses we have on display."
Complete with mirrors and a changing area, the room boasts rails of gorgeous bridal dresses as well as beautifully displayed hats, handbags and shoes.
From vintage to contemporary, there's every style, shape and size to suit all ages, body shapes and budgets.
In whites, creams and golds, there are classic A-line gowns, flattering empire dresses, strapless numbers and elaborate princess gowns complete with trains.
Some are beautifully embellished and bejewelled while others are stylishly simple.
Though pre-loved, you would never know these dresses had been worn before; they are all in superb condition and absolutely spotless.
"Since we opened this section, people have been really supportive, parting their gorgeous dresses and saying that they want them to go on and be loved again.
"Initially, we expected to receive very dated, flouncy dress, but they've all been lovely. We have some very beautiful, contemporary ones.
"A couple of them still had the labels on when they were donated, but we didn't like to ask the story behind those."
All styles have proven popular with customers, with vintage gowns particularly in demand.
"Vintage-style weddings are really popular," says Sue. "Brides-to-be can shop for dresses and accessories in one room and then browse our very popular vintage room opposite for decorations and finishing touches."
And if the fit isn't quite right, you'll be saving so much that you can afford to have the dress altered so it fits like it was made just for you.
Prices for the gowns start at £75 with the most expensive dress at £300. Accessories start from around £5.
"I know the bride who donated the dress the £300 dress," smiles Sue. "She paid £1,300 for it and found it hard to part with, but she wanted to support the charity and let another bride enjoy the dress as much as she did."
The Bridal Room, like the rest of the shop, has a lovely atmosphere. There's none of the pressure or hard sell that you might experience in other bridal stores and staff are always patient and happy to help.
"We try to give you space but are here when you need us," says Sue. "We want this to be an enjoyable experience and the start of your special journey towards your wedding."
Following the success of the Portishead and Westbury-on-Trym stores, the Nailsea shop launched its new Bridal Room earlier this week, offering a wide range of wedding attire alongside a new hat hire service.
Area Manager Louisa says: "We reopened the Nailsea store to a great response. We decided to offer a hat hire in this store due to the number of gorgeous hats we have had donated. It's very exciting.
"The Bridal Rooms are a really exciting development for us and one we hope will not only benefit the charity but also the customers who will be able to take advantage of the wonderful, affordable goods we have handpicked.
"Of course to make this venture a success we rely on the generous donations from the public. We would greatly appreciate any gowns, bridesmaid dresses, mother-of-the-bride outfits, accessories and vintage goods that people may want to find a new home for."
As Bristol's only adult hospice, St Peter's Hospice cares for more than 2,670 patients each year as well as supporting family members.
All services are provided free of charge but this care costs around £19,000 a day. For around £14,000 of that, the hospice relies on gifts in wills, kind donations and funds generated by the hospice shops.
The Portishead St Peter's Hospice shop has been open for 22 years and raised almost £39,000 last year which went towards vital patient care for those with life-limiting illnesses in Bristol and North Somerset.
Louisa says: "It is vitally important that we continue to revolutionise our shops and come up with ways to sustain the amount of funding we need to be able to support our patients in the way we have become renowned for.
"The profit raised from our Portishead shop last year enabled our community nurses to make 387 home visits to our patients, which is just a fantastic achievement and is so valued by our patients."
St Peter's Hospice shops with Bridal Rooms are at 76 High Street, Portishead;126 High Street, Nailsea; 12 Canford Lane, Westbury-on-Trym. For more information visit www.stpetershospice.org.uk
Read more: yellow bridesmaid dresses
Follow us: pink bridesmaid dresses