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Bespoke Bridalwear - How to find and afford your dream wedding dress

Finding your personal style


Many young girls dream of their white princess bridal gown, the veil that trails behind them, and the huge bouquet of pink roses nestled at their chest…Or do they?

Father walking daughter down isle. Woodland wedding theme.

My amazing dad walking me down our woodland isle.

My fashion tastes have always been a little different. I loved experimenting with my clothes and shoes from any early age. I would often choose outfits for my parents when they were going out. Strangely, one of my favourite parts was laying the garments and accessories flat on the bed, side by side indulging my need for organisation and planning.


I still lay out my clothes when I am going away, right down my daily knickers! And yes, there is a specific colour for each outfit.


Before fast fashion was a global concern, I used to have too many clothes for my wardrobe. Most had been residents there for many years. These days, I really need to love the garments I buy. They need to form part of an outfit before I am content to take them home.


The same applied to my wedding dress. It would need to tick all the boxes before I could proudly carry it out of the bridal boutique. And I knew finding a wedding dress that would reflect my personality and my style would be a challenge.


I have become much more minimalist in my approach to clothes. Why should I have so many clothes that aren’t quite right when I could have fewer items that I love wearing? At least now I know they look great whenever I wear them. I would prefer to have several items that form exciting outfits and do not induce an identity crisis or spark a mini-fashion show for one!

Girl in colourful sunglasses, blue sky behind. Quirky fashion style.

Me in my colourful sunnies, Galway, Ireland

My beautiful sister used to say to me (in the nicest way possible!), ‘You look nice…it’s a bit weird, but it’s very you’ or ‘only you could wear that.’


It was always complimentary, and we both understood that my fashion sense was quirky. That is also obvious from the looks I get from strangers. A part of me wonders if they are thinking…


‘What on earth is she wearing?’


But I prefer to believe that they admire my fashion sense and that I bring a little colour to their day.


But it doesn’t really matter. I dress for me. It took me a while to realise it but when I did, it gave me even more confidence to have my fun with fashion.



Wedding dress inspiration


When it came to my wedding dress, I had all the Pinterest images and all the concept designs which I knew probably wouldn’t be in the bridal shops. My gorgeous mood board consisted of embroidered wedding dresses, pastel shades, and a fairytale elven vibe.


I had convinced myself I should make my own dress. Relatives and friends had asked if I would. I felt I would be letting everyone down including myself if I didn’t. Thankfully, that is not my mindset now. But you can see how the expectations we put on ourselves can mount up and add extra pressure.


If you are like me, you probably want to do everything. If you can, you probably feel you should. Weddings are expensive. Making your own decorations and putting together your own playlists would keep costs down, but it does give you plenty of work for those sacred weekends. Leading to a burnt-out bride-to-be.

Floral hanging hoops for our marquee decoration.

At this point in my life’s journey, I didn’t know how to say no and how to cut myself some slack. My advice would be to focus on what really matters to you and your partner. The ceremony, the rings, the photography, or the dress. Then dial down or get rid of the extras that wouldn’t be missed or could be exchanged for something just as nice, but a little more modest.


I will share some tips for boosting your dress budget shortly! (Head to tips)

Homemade wedding decorations


If you are lucky enough to have amazing parents like I did, they threw themselves into creating various wedding decorations. Among their creations was a post box, running order sign, and selfie photo frame. They looked amazing!

Left Photo: My amazing parents creating our running order sign.

Right Photo: The finished running order sign.

If you have relatives or friends offering to help you in any way, take them up on the offer. I know it’s hard to let go of the control, but it is so worth it! This way you can involve members of the family who really want to get involved and you have more time to work on the details that are most important to you and your fiancé(e).

Our homemade floral table arrangements, put together by my lovely mum and mother-in-law.


This is also a lovely way to get to know your fiancé(e)’s family better. I sat down with my mother-in-law and went through childhood photographs of my husband that she had gathered for our memory board. It was a lovely moment that we shared, and it provided a glimpse into my husband’s life before me.



Ways to afford your dream wedding dress:

 Here are a few tips for keeping costs down, boosting your dress budget and keeping your sanity in check!


- Wedding Favours

(These will honestly not be missed. It’s lovely to have traditional almonds, or bubble tubes, but this is another job, expense and is not expected.)

- Band/Live Performer

(Create your own personal playlist for the evening and have a family member keep it in check during the night, a great role for ushers and bridesmaids! Plus, you know you’ll love all the songs, you could even pick out tracks for different guests!)

- Table flowers

(Although beautiful, fresh floral arrangements can be extremely pricey. Why not opt for artificial flowers, or singular stems for a minimal but still impactful centrepiece. Or even a lantern!)

- Outside Venues

(Independent landowners. If you want to have your reception in a meadow like my husband and I did, find a local farmer and ask to hire a field!)

- Caterers

(Shop around for local businesses who cater for sports clubs and festivals or opt for food trucks!)

- Small Bridal Party

(Keep your bridesmaids and groomsmen down to a minimum, choose a few good friends who will help you keep things in motion on the day. If you offer to pay for their dresses and suits, having a large party can get expensive very quickly, especially if you are booking hair and makeup for everyone.)


All these swaps can help you afford your dream wedding dress!

Left Photo: The wildflower meadow we hired for our wedding, Scraptoft Hill Farm, Leicestershire.

Right Photo: The marquee we had set up on the meadow for the reception.

Handmade wedding dress



Originally, I wanted to make my own wedding dress and having my amazing mum, who had made her own dress and a dress for another family member, I thought we could give it a go.


Of course, I still wanted to go to a few bridal boutiques with my mum and sister to try a few wedding dresses on for the ‘bridal experience.’ There seemed to be two different approaches, one boutique wanted me to try on as many as possible, which did become quite overwhelming after the sixth dress change. At the second boutique I chose around three dresses and we worked with what I liked from those to progress. The second bridal boutique was in Leicester, my hometown.


After careful consideration I decided I wanted to focus on the embroidery details of my dress and work with the bridal boutiques tailor to help me transform it into a full gown. It was here that my excel spreadsheet came out and my fiancé and I worked out how I could have the dress of my dreams.


I embroidered the bodice with floral lace, 3D flowers, beads, and sequins. After many evenings of stitching, I had my bodice.

Left Photo: My bodice embroidery ready for tailoring.

Right Photo: Close up of my completed wedding dress bodice.

I delivered my embroidered bodice to the bridal boutique and awaited my next fitting. Trying it on for the first time brought tears to my ears, it was beautiful! But some of my tears were for how much work I had put into embroidering the bodice and seeing how my work could be made into something so special.


This ignited the flame that burns inside me today. My passion for my work runs through every piece I create, and I want to share that feeling with all the brides I work with.

My first wedding dress fitting after handing over my bodice embroidery.

Custom made wedding dresses


So, when it’s time to choose your wedding dress, make sure it’s the one! I have seen brides buy a dress in haste only to buy another a few months later, the total cost amounting to that of what their perfect dress could have been.


Bespoke bridalwear often comes with a higher price tag, but you will be buying something that has been made for you and only you. Something you are going to feel fabulous in! And as I mentioned earlier, there are ways for you to focus your spending and save some pennies for your dress, if that’s what your heart desires!


Adding embroidery to an existing wedding dress


If a fully bespoke gown isn’t in your price range, you can have existing dresses customised. I have added embroidered flowers to layers of tulle skirts and onto lace bodices to add personalisation and even these adaptions have totally transformed the dress.


You may find your perfect dress and wish to have sentimental messaging or motifs added to it, this is possible too! Even if you are not sure if something will work, reach out and ask, where there is a will, there is usually a way.



Custom bridal embroidery


Seeing my embroidery work on my very own wedding dress was a very emotional moment. This dress was the beginning of my bridal embroidery journey and signified new possibilities of where I could take my work.

Left Photo: Our wedding, Scraptoft Hill Farm, Leicestershire.

Right Photo: My bespoke wedding dress with embroidered bodice.

Now I create my embroidery full time. I work with extremely talented designers who construct your wedding dress and incorporate my embroidery both during the make for fully bespoke or adding embroidery to existing gowns.


If you are interested in my embroidery services, head over to my contact page and send me a message. I would love to hear from you.


Thank you for reading, Ashleigh X

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