“ Address: 115 Exning Road / Newmarket CB8 0EL / Suffolk / Tel: 01638 661648 „
I feel it's only right that I warn other future brides-to-be of my bad experience with Brides By Solo. To cut a very long and stressful story short, they ordered me the wrong sized dress (one dress size smaller than my measurements) and when I queried the dress size with them they absolutely refused to accept that they had ordered the wrong dress size. It was only after many phone calls, letters, visits to the shop and seeking advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau, that Brides By Solo finally agreed to order the correct dress to match my measurements. The whole ordeal was horrendous and I wouldn't want any one else to go through the same experience.
When I decided to start looking for my wedding dress one of the places I knew that I was going to try was Brides By Solo, a small wedding shop which is located just down the road from where I live in Newmarket. I had never been in the shop before but they always have a window display of various bridal gowns and bridesmaid dresses along with the odd suit occasionally, and over the months I had seen some lovely dresses displayed so thought this would be a good place to start. As with most bridal shops you cannot just turn up and try on some dresses you have to make an appointment, I was lucky as I called one Saturday morning last year and they had had a cancellation that day so I managed to get an appointment within the hour.
About Brides By Solo
Brides By Solo is a small family run business with over 28 years of experience, the staff are able to advise on anything from which style dress best suits you and your bridal party to they types of alterations you need and where to go to get them done if they are not able to do them in store for you. Brides By Solo is also part of the Retail Bridal Association, this association looks at the quality of the stock as well as the variety, appraisal of the staff and the presentation of the shop to its customers, there are only 150 retailers that are assessed by the strict guidelines of the RBA so I knew that I would be getting a good quality service as well as a quality range of dresses to try by choosing Brides By Solo.
Brides By Solo is a small shop which is located along the Exning Road in Newmarket, Suffolk, it has a large glass window at the front of the shop which looks onto the road, here they have weekly displays of various dresses they have in stock, it was these displays that caught my attention as most of the dress looked lovely. Upon entering the shop there is a large open space at the front of the shop which has a seating area and a till, along both walls is a very long rails containing a huge range of wedding dresses of all different styles and colours. The appearance of he shop is very modern with light coloured walls and a laminate floor despite the shop being small it does feel quite spacious once inside. The shop went back further than I thought, you pass through a narrow corridor which has a further rail of wedding dresses to a wider opening at the back of the shop which contains a variety of suits and bridesmaids/ prom dresses. The shop has 3 large changing rooms, these are massive which is needed for trying on some of the dresses, they are totally private with large thick curtains around them. Inside each changing rooms are a variety of full length mirrors positioned so that you can see what you are wearing from all angles, there is also a chair in each room in case you have brought someone with you, in my case my Mum. The shop also has a bathroom which comes in handy as you can be there a while during some fittings, also before trying on any of the dresses you have to wash you hands to keep all of the dresses clean.
There are only about 3 people that work in Brides By Solo but they do work hard to ensure that everyone gets one to one attention and receives the care and service the need, this is also helped by the appointment only system. The staff are extremely helpful and very friendly as well as knowledgeable about all aspects of choosing bridal dresses, bridesmaid dresses and men's suits. One of the members of staff is also qualified to carry out alterations to the dresses, although she is the only one and can only take on so much work at a time, she did however carry out one of two alterations to our dresses and made an excellent job of it. Although you were given an appointment which typically lasted about an hour and a half when choosing a dresses you did not feel rushed at all, I think my appointment may have over run slightly but they do not rush you out of the shop or push you for any decisions, they advise you on what they think is best but do not pressurise you into anything. I actually brought my wedding dress after that first appointment as I was lucky enough to find the right dress there and then, however there was no limit on the amount of appointments you can have, if you wanted further appointments to try on more dresses or even have a look at ones you had already tried they were more than happy for you to do this. The staff also got to know you personally by name and did not just treat you like another customer, they always knew exactly what you were at the shop for when you had an appointment and if you were there to try anything on it was always ready and waiting for you in a changing room, they were extremely organised.
Brides By Solo has a very large range of bridal gowns available with something for woman of all shapes and sizes, as well as something to suit all budgets. They stock dresses from designers such as
Some of the designers they stock are award wining including Maggie Sotter and Rondal Joyce who have be awarded the best UK Bridal Designer award in the under £1500 category and Mark Lesley who has won the Best UK Bridal Rising Starr of 2011. When I first entered the shop I had no idea where to start, however I was given a photo album to look through to choose anything I liked the look of and afterwards I had a look through the rails, anything I fancied trying was taken to the fitting room ready for me. All of the dresses come in a variety of sizes, however the shop only stocks one of each dress in just one size, but if you put together all the dresses in the shop they do stock in every size dress available, there is no way they could stock every single dress in every size, by doing this you can try on the style dress you like and then get a rough idea of the size you need by trying on another dress in your size, although no dress fits perfectly and most of them have to be altered and are fitted to your exact shape. The staff take great care with all of the dresses, before you can try anything on you have to wash your hands and remove any jewellery you are wearing this is to keep the dress clean and also to prevent the fabric from being damaged. When it comes to putting on the dress all dresses are lifted over your head, therefore if you are wearing make up you are given a piece of white cloth to put over your head and cover your face to prevent any make up rubbing off onto the dress, I did think this was a bit odd to start with but I can see their point as the dresses are not cheap. The reason for keeping the dresses in perfect condition is so that they can be sold off of the rail, if you see something you like in your size on the rail they are happy to sell it to you there an then without ordering it in, also this is useful if someone has left buying their dress until the last minute. They recommend that you leave at least 3 months to order your dress, mine took nearly 4 months to come in, that was before it had had any alterations as well, some people do not leave this amount of time and then do not have enough time to order the dress in meaning they have to buy off the rail so it is important all dresses are in perfect condition suitable for being sold. Most of the dresses are hung on rails for you to look through although they do have one or two on models in the shop, particularly ones which are on special offer, they usually had one once a week or every two weeks from what I can remember, they usually have several dresses on sale every now and then so there really is something for all budgets.
There did not seem to be such a large range of bridesmaid dresses available compared to the bridal gowns, although there was plenty to choose from in a variety of different lengths and styles, again something for all bridesmaids whether you have adult bridesmaids or small flower girls, I had 2 adult bridesmaids and one who was 11 and I had no problems finding something to suit both ages groups which went together perfectly. They do some ranges which have dresses for adult bridesmaids and then an alternative for younger children, these often consisted of strapless or very thin straps for the older bridesmaids and then wider straps for the children. Again as with the bridal gowns they had one of everything but only in one size but they did cover every size available. They also had a wide choice of colours available in the bridesmaid dresses, however it was not possible to stock every colour available as each bridesmaid dress was available in 70 different colours and shades. The dresses we chose for the adult bridesmaids were short strapless dresses but came in purple, we wanted a pink fabric so in order to choose the right shade we were given several books containing swatches of material in the 70 colours available, they had the perfect shade of pink we wanted, they even gave us some samples of the fabric so that we could match all of the wedding accessories, this came in handy for sending to the florist, chair cover people and car company for the car ribbons, this ensured we had everything matching perfectly. The younger bridesmaid had a slightly longer dress with straps, hers was mainly ivory, but the one we chose had a red sash around the middle, we changed this for a pink sash in the exact same material that the older bridesmaid dresses were made from. Choosing the bridesmaid dresses was harder than choosing my dress and with so many colours to choose from it was hard to imagine what they would look like in the colour we selected, however once they arrived they were better than I imagined and looked so much better in pink than the purple we had tried them in.
After we had sorted out the girls it was time to sort out the men. Again the system with the suits was the same as with the dresses, they stocked one of everything in one size but covered all sizes and ranges. We were given a book to look at so that we could give them an idea of what we wanted, personally I didn't want the suits to be too light and suggested black, however Mark preferred a dark grey suit, after all it was him that had got to wear it so we went for the dark grey. All the suits came with a jacket, trousers, a waistcoat and a white shirt, we chose the shirt which was designed for a cravat rather than a regular tie, shoes were extra on top of the suit hire, however I wanted all of the men to have matching shoes rather than all different ones so we paid the extra for these. The shirts were plain white the only choice we had with these was the collar type, the waistcoats however were a bit more tricky, there was rather a large range to choose from in all different colours and patterns, style wise they were pretty much the same. I was the one who wanted a pink themed wedding, as I was making them men wear pink cravats and button holes I said I didn't mind if they had ivory coloured waistcoats which they said they would prefer, and I had to say they did look very smart next to the dark grey suit and the pink cravats, I think pink waistcoats may have been a bit over the top. Again I let Mark choose the pattern of the waistcoat as he was wearing it and after trying on several different patterns we finally chose one. The suits came in a wide range of sizes and even catered for small children as with the bridesmaid dresses, the sizes of the suits went up to quite large sizes which we were glad about as one of the ushers was rather on the large side, we had one small problem when his waistcoat arrived without a back, the problem was that because he had to have such a large size past a particular point no back was supplied just a strap to hold it in place, he was not happy with this and as he was only one size too big to have a back he wanted to try the next size down, after a bit of persuading they let us order the small waistcoat at no extra charge just to try, luckily it fitted and he was much happier with this. The cravats were something we could hire from the shop, however they did not have the right shade of pink so we ordered extra material in the exact shade that the bridesmaids dresses were in and had them specially made along with matching handkerchiefs, the shop gave us the measurements we needed and all the details of one of their dress makers local to us.
As well as selling the dresses and suits Brides By Solo also sell a range of accessories including tiaras, shoes, veils and jewellery. I purchased my tiara and veil from them, however they do not have a massive range of shoes available so I brought these else where. It is worth having a look at the shoes as the styles are always changing and they do have sales regularly. They also sold fabric flowers or added detail, we actually brought one of these to go on the front of the youngest bridesmaids dress where the sash tied up at the front. The staff are happy for you to try on all of the accessories to see how they go with your dress, and if once you have brought something you wish to change it they are happy to do this providing it is in its original condition, I ended up changing my veil twice with it getting longer each time, I started off with a short one, then changed that for a mid length one, and finally changed that for a floor length sparkly one which was the one I kept, each time they were more than happy for me to change my mind, their main concern is that you are happy with your purchases.
The prices are something that I really cannot list as it depends on what you choose, the bridal gowns can range from several hundred pounds to several thousand pounds, and the bridesmaid dresses also vary in price too from just over a hundred pounds to several hundreds pounds. The prices we paid however are
*My dress - £449.00
*Veil - £199.00
*Tiara - £50.00
*Bridesmaid dresses - £500.00 (for all 3)
*Suit Hire - £112.00 Each including extra for shoes
Because we hired 5 suits Mark got his for nothing which helped. We also got 10% off of the bridesmaid dresses because I had ordered my dress from Brides By Solo. We were also supposed to be charged £5 a month for the storage of the dresses at the shop which covered insurance for them, however they did not charge us for this as we placed such a large order with them (bridal wear, bridesmaids dresses and 6 suits)
These are just the prices I paid, however they did have items which were a lot more expensive and also cheaper than what I paid, there was something to suit all budgets.
When we went to choose the dresses and suits for everybody all measurements were taken and the closest sizes were ordered, the men's suits were pretty much accurate and only a couple of things needed to be changed however the dresses needed a bit of altering with a couple of bridesmaids dresses needing letting out and the other taking in, my dress needed the most altering as it needed taking in quite a bit, and I'm sure they come in a standard length which was miles too long for me, I couldn't walk in it and totally lost track of my feet. Because our wedding was at the peak wedding season they were unable to do the alterations in shop however they gave us the details of their best dress maker to make a convenient appointment with her, she was based in Bury St Edmunds about 20 minutes away from us, she did an excellent job of the dresses and was very reasonably priced with all the alterations being done for under £200. We did have a couple of alterations done in shop which were done for free and again to an excellent standard.
I would definitely recommend Brides By Solo to anyone getting married, they offer a large range of bridal gowns, bridesmaid dresses and suits which would suit any budget. The service you receive is excellent and personal to you, nothing is too much trouble for them, you can have as many appointments as you like until you are completely happy with your purchases, although they do recommend the appointments you need, I actually ended up having an extra dress fitting right near the end just to make sure everything was perfect and they were happy for me to do this. The staff are extremely helpful and knowledgeable, the dress I actually chose in the end was not one I picked up off the shelf but one which was new in the shop and that they recommended I tried. They have an excellent website should you wish to browse prior to making an appointment, they are open Tuesday - Saturday 9:00am to 5:00pm with late night opening until 8:00pm on Wednesdays, although they are often there later they do not rush you out of the door at 8:00 and they are open one Sunday a month and closed Mondays, they are very busy so making an appointment is necessary. I was glad I chose Brides By Solo as we managed to get everything from one place and received an excellent service with excellent quality products.