illusion neck wedding dress

Real Life Bride: Danielle and the dress

Real life bride dress shopping

Good morning! I’m extremely excited to share today’s post – not only is it the last post in Danielle’s Real Life Bride series before she gets married – eeek!! – but it’s the one that counts. Today it’s all about the dress!  Danni has been keeping her final choice a closely guarded secret (even I haven’t been able to prise a hint out of her!) but today she’s sharing some of her initial inspirations and dress shopping experience.  From the great, to the not-so-great, Danni’s story is a great insight into the world of wedding boutiques, what to expect (and what not to!) and a must-read for any bride-to-be nervous about finding ‘the one’.

I haven’t been back to the UK since my visit last Christmas so have been organising everything over email. Thankfully I was very lucky to have very productive wedding planning week back in December when we visited for Christmas. It was probably one of the most fun weeks I have ever had! In 5 days I crammed in months worth of planning and managed to tick off one of the most important items – THE dress!!! (and a whole lot more!)…

When I started thinking about my dress I decided that I didn’t want to start looking in South Africa, instead I wanted to save this special time and share it with my Mum in England. So with military precision my Mum and I organised an itinerary for the week before Christmas. Day 1 was dress shopping day – we researched the most popular bridal boutiques in Exeter and booked appointments throughout the day. Lots of people has said I was mad to attempt 4 shops in one day, that I would be overwhelmed with the amount of dresses I would try on and they would all become a blur. But I wasn’t too daunted by this and in fact I think it helped me to stay focused on what I liked and didn’t like. 

My first appointment was at Pirouette; the only word to describe the experience was charming! The shop is in a 16th century building with low ceilings, sloping floors and a rickety old spiral staircase. We were warmly greeted by Marion who took the time to ask me what I liked and got an understanding of what I had in mind. I had done some browsing online before hand (OK, I had spend hours and hours on Pinterest!!) so had a fairly good idea of the kinds of styles I liked.

illusion neck wedding dress{via}

The first dress I tried was beautiful and I had a smile on my face that we were off to a good start, the second dress I tried made me smile even more! I think I secretly knew in that moment I had just found THE DRESS!! But anyone that knows me, knows I’m quite a sensible kinda gal. And my over riding thought was ‘I couldn’t have just found the dress, surely it couldn’t be that easy’! But when I looked at Mum the glint in our eyes probably told us everything we needed to know!  But very sensibly I tried on a few more dresses and I left the shop practically skipping down the street mumbling the words “we should keep an open mind”!! 

lace illusion neck wedding dress{via}

Our second appointment was the polar opposite experience to the first. We had an appointment but were left to browse the rails alone, with no guidance at all.  I persevered, unzipped two gowns and tried them on. I was quickly told they were for people who were 6ft tall and was ushered to stand on a step to get the ‘full effect’.  The bottom of each dress was devoid of detail from the knee down – to make it easy to alter the length – this cost-saving option was a step too far for me!

embellished illusion neckline {via}

We visited another two stores, Catwalk 09 and Se Marier, where the staff were super friendly and helpful and there I found 2 real contenders. But by the end of the afternoon with 3 dresses I liked, I knew I needed to go back and try on the  dress in the first shop. When I tried it on for the second time I just knew it was perfect and when I looked at my Mum we knew this was the dress!!   All I will tell you is it’s beautiful, by Maggie Sottero, and I can’t wait for everyone to see it!! 

On day 2 of my trip we set off for Bristol and spent the afternoon visiting florists and the following day we tackled Ikea – armed with a shopping list for tea lights and picture frames we slowly ticked off more and more of the list! Mum and I stayed a in a hotel and made a little break of it, we really had a wonderful time. The following day was my hair and make up trial. I had decided to choose suppliers who were recommended so I asked my photographer for any ideas. Holly put me in touch with Kelly Hooper from The Barn and Becks from Thairapy.

Real life bride hair & makeup inspiration

I was so happy with the results of the hair trial, Becks knew exactly what I wanted and I know I am good hands in June. Kelly asked me lots about what I liked and didn’t like and the end result was just what I hoped for.  Both these trials were really interesting for me, Kelly gave me some great advice after the trial, she told me to keep looking at myself in the mirror that evening and think about if there is anything I would like to change, remembering that on the day everything has to step up gear, your dress, your hair and your make up. The trial gives you the chance to get everything perfect, I’m really excited to have found 2 suppliers who totally ‘got’ the look I am going for and are both super lovely people.

On the final day we fitted in a planning meeting back at Coombe Lodge where I could picture all the details coming together! What a week!

I can’t believe this is the last blog post before the big day! We arrived in the UK on Friday, and I can’t wait for the 16th of June to arrive! I can’t wait to have all of our family and friends in one country to share what I know will be the most magical day of our lives :-) 

Danielle x

We’re all wishing Danielle and fiancé Christiaan a magical day at b.loved HQ – most of all me as on her wedding day I won’t just get to be there as her stylist and guest, but I’ll get a brand new sister-in-law too!  Want to see the details as the day unfolds? Follow me on Instagram for a few sneaky peeks!


After a decade-long career in corporate interior design, I took a giant leap of faith, left the security of an office job, and founded B.LOVED in 2011 as a platform for romantic and beautiful wedding inspiration. Thanks to a whole lot of creativity, hard work and passion, my gamble paid off and B.LOVED became one of the leading wedding blogs in the UK.

I'm also a co-founder at The Brand Studio, where I design and curate beautiful photoshoots for wedding and lifestyle brands, as well as running wedding industry community the B.LOVED Hive where I support and nurture wedding pros building industry leading businesses. Yep, I definitely have the best job in the world.

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