Understanding how a bride-to-be feels – and that every bride is different – is essential to running a successful business, says Sue Lovell
How fabulous is it to be back in business, doing what we all do best? Hand wringing and hand washing, face masks, and no hugs have become second nature, and for me at least, it does feel very normal
I think I had forgotten during lockdown, in the midst of all the personal worries about business, how much of what we do means to a bride. Of course, there has been the Covid worries for brides, which I was very aware of, but I think that over shadowed for me, or I had just forgotten how daunting buying a wedding dress can be, under any circumstances.
For many brides that first step into a bridal studio is terrifying. It is often perceived as being an alien world of whiteness, with us looking down from our Ivory towers. I hear horror stories of how badly a bride was treated somewhere over size, budget, dates etc, and it can be truly shocking.
How can someone running a business, or working in a retail business, treat customers so appallingly? But often of course, it isn’t the case at all. It can just be down to mis-communication, a simple mis-understanding, or just that the expectations don’t match the reality of what to expect when dress shopping,
No one would purposefully upset a potential paying customer, or deliberately belittle a client, but obviously there are times when a customer does feel that way – just as we can often be left reeling at how someone behaves in our store, simply because we don’t understand where they are coming from. Sometimes, it is simply because personalities don’t match and expectations are unachievable; in those instances, it is better for both parties to respectfully part ways.
But right now, so much of this confusion and nervousness comes from mask wearing. We need to see faces, we need to see smiles, to understand how a bride feels. She needs to see our faces, to understand that we are listening, that we see her. We communicate so much without saying a word, and whilst I am a very happy mask-wearer, and I want to keep everyone around me safe, I am looking forward to the day when I can see ‘that smile’ when you both know it’s the one.
What we do, is more than a simple transaction. We don’t just sell dresses, we are part of an emotional process, and what we do can have the most wonderful affect on a bride… or a devastating one. Every bride we have through our doors has a different story to tell, and a different requirement or need. It isn’t just about the dress, it’s about the entire wedding. The dress is only one detail, but how she finds her dress is often the biggest part of wedding planning. That is a big responsibility for us all, and we should never take it for granted.
I have very recently seen one of my customers get to her wedding day. Not unusual for a bridal shop owner, but after so long in lockdown, this wedding meant the world to me. Because of the months and now years of working with this bride, she has come to mean the world to me. I have loved her journey, the love she has for her partner, the joy she brings to appointments. From the moment she stepped into my store, with her lovely mum, I just wanted to make sure everything was perfect for her. Then Covid struck, and their wedding plans were thrown into chaos, again and again, and again – and again. I couldn’t make it perfect.
But then last weekend, in the rain, the cold, the restrictions, they finally got married. It wasn’t perfect, it was even better than that. It was magical, because all that mattered, in these uncertain times, was that there was one huge certainty on that day. Love. There was a moment that was shared with me later, that was so beautiful and romantic and one that could not have been foreseen, planned or ever replicated that gave me goosebumps, it made my heart burst. Two people celebrated finding each other, out of 7.8 billion people on the planet (not all of them appropriately of age or in a legal position to marry, obviously) but on a planet full of so many moments and decisions that affect our lives, resulted in a match that just radiates joy.
That’s what makes us different from non-essential retailers. That is what makes us specialists, because weddings are not transactions, they are commitments, they are a part of our community and touch all of our lives, in some way of another.
So after all the communications with MPs, and the hard work put in by fabulous independent bridal shops, lobbying the government to recognise bridal shops as personal care – I would just like to say in my professional capacity ….
“Non-essential, Boris?” “Not Personal Care?” “My arse! “