Tag Archives: Catherine Massey

Becoming a Bridal Consultant

I’ve been writing this blog for two years now, but I’ve only just realised that I’ve barely introduced myself! I reckon it is about time that I told you about myself, my background and explain why I’m qualified to write all these articles about wedding dresses! My name is Catherine Massey, and I am 32 years old.  I have been running the family bridal boutique for the last nine years, and just so you know ‘bridal’ was never my plan!

Catherine Massey, Cathedral Gowns

My mum and aunt decided to open the boutique when I was 18 and in the midst of my A-level exams.  To tell you the truth, I barely even noticed. I took myself off to university in England and four years later, after completing my degree (BSc Hons Communications & Society from the University of Leicester), I moved home with the plan to get a job in PR in Belfast. It was the middle of August aka bridal mad season, and mum was run off her feet and needed a hand, so I went to work with her. That was 9 years ago!

Cathedral Gowns, shop front

Somehow I got the bug for bridal and it turned out that I was actually pretty good at it. It’s bizarre to think how this all came about by pure accident, but somehow everything I had studied had somehow led me to be doing this.

My favourite subject at school was history of art and I can hardly believe now how much that prepared me for what I am doing – I reference something I learned there nearly every day. And as for my degree… I use it all the time, especially my marketing and PR skills.  However, more than anything, it was the film studies portion of my degree that informs my decisions regarding looks, details and accessories the most. If you’ve ever had an appointment with me you’ve probably heard me get excitedly geeky about ‘old hollywood’ and the imagery of ‘film noir’. Even just today I told a girl how her look in a particular dress was very ‘Veronica Lake’ and described the kind of way she should wear her hair.

Cathedral Gowns, wedding dresses on a rack

Sometimes it feels like fate brought me here. One of my first bridal clients was a girl I went to primary school with, her name is Katrina. During her time visiting us she told me how she’d always known that this is what I would be doing when I grew up.  Apparently all I ever did at school was draw dresses – if I wasn’t going to be a designer she was sure I was at least going to be doing something in the fashion realm!

I started out as a bridal consultant, but as time has progressed, mum passed on more and more responsibility on to me and now I am running the boutique and take care of everything except the accounts. I get to go to trade shows, meet the designers and buy our dresses.  Whilst I enjoy all those adventures the part I love the most is meeting brides and introducing them to their dream dress!  There is nothing quite like the buzz of suggesting a dress to a girl, and watching her fall in love with it. I never thought a job could be so fulfilling but I genuinely leave the boutique every day with a smile on my face, and I never dread having to go to work!

Article by Catherine Massey

Catherine has been writing Bi-Weekly Article for us since the 8th May 2012 and is our very talented Bridal Specialist. Catherine is a Bridal Stylist for their family Bridal Boutique, Cathedral Gowns. Find them onlineat http://www.cathedralgowns.com or on Facebook.

Any questions, email catherine@thebeautycloud.co.uk

Why does it take so long to buy a Wedding Dress?

I’ve noticed a huge trend recently for girls to leave bridal gown shopping until it’s almost too late! I hear lots of different reasons; some girls simply have only just gotten engaged, some girls have been dreading and putting off shopping, some haven’t had the money until now and others have been enjoying shopping too much and don’t want it to end!

The unfortunate reality of the wedding dress process is that they take quite a long time to be made and delivered to the bridal boutique. So when you leave it too late you really do limit your dress choices and options, and choosing a dress is hard enough!

Wedding Dress, Shopping, Order, Make time, Delivery Time, Cathedral Gowns

A wedding dress is typically made for the specific bride who buys it and orders it through a bridal boutique. The dress doesn’t exist until you order it, which is why it takes so long to be delivered. Bridal designers don’t operate like Marks and Spencers with epic warehouses filled to the rafters of spare stock, they might have twenty or so of their bestselling dresses available but the vast majority of dresses are made to order.

The time it takes to manufacture and deliver a wedding dress can vary. It will depend on how elaborate it is, whether the fabric is readily available, if appliqué and beading needs to be sourced etc. Contrary to popular fantasy, bridal gowns are not created by magical fairies! They are made by very talented seamstresses either in ateliers (high end designers) or factories (mainstream designers). The delivery time will obviously depend on where the dress is being manufactured, and how much the designer is willing to spend on shipping.  The whole chain of manufacture and distribution is longer, more complicated and long winded than you’d ever imagine!

Wedding Dress, Shopping, Order, Make time, Delivery Time, Cathedral Gowns

Most bridal gowns can be delivered to us within five and a half months of placing the order with the designer, but certain gowns and certain designers take much longer. I prefer a minimum of 7 months as it means that even if the dress takes six and half months to arrive we still have two weeks to organise fittings and the final prep and steaming of your dress. I do always encourage girls to order sooner though, just to make sure that the process is as stress free as possible.

Since a lot of girls don’t have the luxury of so much time, standard delivery isn’t an option, so what do you do when you are faced with this predicament? The most common option is the ‘rush cut’, where the designer can prioritise your order over all the other brides who have already ordered their dresses. Obviously since this equates to you bumping the queue and will require extra work behind the scenes for both the designer and the boutique, you will incur extra costs. Most rush cuts will be at least an additional £100 on top of the dress price, but can easily be more especially if you are really short on time. If the designer has to organise expedited shipping to get the dress to the shop as quick as possible, this can easily cost more than £100 alone. If you opt for the rush cut option be aware that any delivery dates will be approximate and the dress might only arrive with the shop days before your wedding.

Since a lot of bridal designers have noticed the trend for more and more ‘last minute brides’, they are trying to keep a lot of their most popular styles and sizes in stock, ready for immediate dispatch. But like I said before, they don’t have vast warehouses full of dresses, more like a few racks in a room next to their accounts office, so they may only have 20 or so dresses available. We are lucky that some of our designers will email us every few weeks with a list of what they have available, so you might be lucky and find that the dream dress you want is already made and ready to be posted!

Wedding Dress, Shopping, Order, Make time, Delivery Time, Cathedral Gowns

If the designer doesn’t have a dress in stock, and a rush cut is not an option or sounds like way too much stress, you will find that buying a dress ‘off the rack’ is your best option. Lots of bridal boutiques keep a clearance rail of dresses that they are willing to sell from stock, but your choices will obviously be very limited. On occasion the boutique might be willing to sell off the rail from their full price stock, but be aware that since these dresses are current the shop might not want to sell you their stock dress. Popular dresses are very valuable to a bridal boutique and to be without their best dress for several months could cost a bridal boutique a lot of customers, especially in peak busy season. If you are lucky enough to be allowed to buy the stock dress, don’t expect a discount. Be aware that the shop are doing you a favour by letting you have their dress. I know of shops that actually charge you more since it’s such an inconvenience for them to lose a top dress. So if you must have it, be nice to the girls in the shop and they’ll be more inclined to help you out.

So now that you know the options, I encourage you to book your appointments and to make sure to tell the girls how soon your wedding is. If I know my next appointment has a very close wedding date, I’ll call our suppliers to find out which dresses I can get in time for you, since there’s no point in me letting you fall in love with a dress that you cannot have. I’m not that mean!

Fall 2013 bridal trend report

I’ve always said that bridal style never changes, it simply evolves. So while sitting watching the designers new season styles on the catwalk I was surprised to see some really unusual new looks, unusual that is for bridal-wear! Peplums, sheer trousers and colour were the three main trends that seem to be emerging with many designers showcasing these looks.

1The sheer trouser was definitely the look that surprised me the most! I think I nearly choked on my champagne when I initially spotted them. My first thought was ‘what??’ and my second thought was ‘why?!’ and by the reaction of the designers agent when I said I wasn’t keen definitely suggested that this style hadn’t been popular with the other bridal boutique buyers. And that really is the major thing about bridal wear and bridal trends, a designer may produce it, but if the independent shops don’t think they could sell it, then the look will never be popular. So many interesting ideas have been showcased over the few years I’ve been attending the trade shows but unless it really is something that is flattering and will look appropriate for an actual wedding then we and other bridal boutique owners aren’t going to invest our cash into something that risky.

6The next look that took me by surprise was the peplum. A few designers showed this look back in September, but this time they were everywhere! I love a peplum in real life but since it is such a statement trend I’m not so keen on it for bridal-wear. I did spot some really beautiful interpretations of this trend though that really had me tempted to buy but I fear that unless you are tall and slim it might be a very unkind and unflattering silhouette.

There also seems to be a resurgence of colour! Claret, burgundy and pink and apricot gowns were popular five or so years ago so it seems like the right time to see this trend re-emerge, but this time the gowns were a whole lot less embellished, and the fabric more matte.

2One trend that delighted me is the Downton Abbey inspired look! I have always been very keen on the general fashions of that era so seeing bridal collections launching that kind of look really excites me. Unfortunately most of the good examples I saw were from higher end collections that our wee shop doesn’t sell but I expect the look to be a much stronger feature by the time the next collection launch rolls around.

For the most though the new collections did seem to be a gentle evolution from what we already have hanging on the rails. I am delighted that the designers are continuing to embrace the more covered up look with lots of cap sleeves, high necklines and long sleeves available in a variety of fabrications. Our customers are definitely requesting these kinds of looks more and more so I’m so happy to be able to fulfil the need for sleeves.

To compensate for the very covered up fronts lots of dresses had interesting back features, from very red-carpet inspired keyhole backs to sheer embroidered back sections, the back of the gown has suddenly become very important.

4In terms of fabric, lace is still very prominent but I am very glad to see that more and more designers creating dreamy satin gowns. But where the satin gowns we had a few years ago featured a lot of embroidery and beaded embellishment, these styles were much plainer, instead of the beading becoming the feature these dresses were all about the texture and sheen of the fabric. Most of the styles we saw were either very sculptural or very fluid and floaty.

In terms of silhouette there were still a lot of semi fitted and trumpet skirt shapes but there seems to be a bit of a resurgence in the classic a-line skirt shape. There was also an abundance of beautiful 1950’s full gowns with natural waists and basque waists and super full skirts.

Of all the new looks in bridal I am most excited for the arrival of the plainer gowns and the gowns with higher necklines! Who knew demure would be the next big thing?!

Dress of the Month ~ April

My current favourite wedding dress is such a statement dress! She is called Shelby and is definitely not a run of the mill wedding dress! A fifties style full skirted ballerina length gown, this little beauty is the perfect choice of gown for girls opting for a retro rockabilly themed wedding day look.

Since she features a natural waist and a full skirt this gown suits most body types, but is particularly good for adding curves to athletic figures and wonderfully disguises a pear shape. The high neckline and cap sleeves add a great balance to the fullness of the skirt and since the lace is sheer it offers a perfect demure option for a fuller busted girl.


The gown features a tulle skirt and soft lace bodice with subtly twinkling beading, and also features gorgeous little covered buttons.

This dress is gorgeous alone but also looks amazing with the addition of a sparkly crystal belt, it adds just the right amount of definition and creates a focal point of the waist.

I feel that Shelby really is a fun and cute wedding dress, and perfectly suits a more relaxed wedding day style and is the perfect dress for showing your moves on the dancefloor!