Evolving parental influence, living together before nuptials, and increasing female independence has dramatically altered the mores of marriage in recent decades. Still, a wedding remains a significant event, reflecting personalities, cultural expectations and varying degrees of tradition. Yet, remaining at the heart of even the most modern of marital rites is ‘The Dress’.

The dress, like the wedding itself, symbolizes a fresh beginning for the bride who may have planned both since childhood. Perhaps she has dreamed of arriving in a modern-day carriage dressed in a Cinderella ball gown, or gliding down the aisle in a sophisticated sheath and opera-length gloves. But, whatever the fantasy dress, its search can prove grueling, fueling tension and tears. Tramping from store to store, rifling through racks of wrong sizes, combined with general wedding fatigue, can turn the experience from one of joy to one of frustration.  

What was needed, envisioned Lillian Bowdring, was an intimate bridal salon where the client could find her dress in a stress-free boutique attended by an individual consultant. Lillian is founder and CEO of The Bridal Boutique with stores in Edmonton, Calgary and most recently, downtown Regina. She describes her business as family-run and “in love with all things bridal”. Lillian’s daughters, Lyia and Dorothy, manage the Alberta stores while the Saskatchewan-born Brooklyn Neuls manages the Regina shop, located at 1850 Hamilton Street. The shop is spacious and comfortable to shop in and wheelchair accessible. There, elegant but simple décor, luxe seating and complimentary mimosas create a setting where brides find the dress of their dreams. “We’re here to help the bride realize the absolute best version of herself,” says Brooklyn.

Surprises, though are not uncommon, says Brooklyn, citing the instance of a prairie farm girl first wanting something simple and down-home, but later choosing a shimmering extravaganza of a dress, like something out of a fairy tale. “It was quite a privilege to see the way she ‘lit-up’ when wearing it.” Similarly, another bride dreamed of a ball gown and later selected a stream-lined silk shift with subtle beading, while a woman of conservative tastes selected a vivid-coloured dress. “Sometimes we throw in a ‘wild-card’ just to get a bride to think outside the box,” explains Brooklyn.

Gowns in white or ivory remain traditional choices for many brides, but two-tone dresses are becoming increasingly sought after, such as an open-lace gown over a layer of honey-almond fabric. The Netflix period drama, Bridgerton, continues to fuel a contemporary passion for gowns with empire waists, elbow-length gloves and puffy, detachable sleeves.  

Some brides are also surprised by the time needed for the dress to arrive, up to six to eight months. Rush orders may reduce the wait to half that time for an additional cost. Those unwilling, or unable to wait, can choose a dress from the Boutique’s off-the-rack selections. This proved a popular choice during the global pandemic as weddings were delayed, and delayed again, until some brides simply re-scheduled to the first available date after COVID-19 restrictions eased and subsequently needed a ready-made dress.  

The Bridal Boutique in Regina opened during the pandemic, in mid-June 2021 to a success that startled and delighted both its manager and founder who now hints of expansions to come. “Our research indicated a niche for the bridal boutique experience in Regina,” says Lillian “but we were blown away by the response.” The enthusiasm is further prompted by premier designers exclusive to The Bridal Boutique whose extensive selections encourage both modern and traditional brides to find the dream dress that they can say “yes” to.     

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