Wedding dress whisperer Helen Rodrigues on her 3 tips for finding your perfect gown
19th Jul 2019
Helen Rodrigues is one of the most famous names in Australian bridalwear. The care, the attention and the honest advice she gives her brides has earnt her a reputation as Sydney’s wedding dress whisperer. Her namesake bridal bouquet, Helen Rodrigues Bridal in Neutral Bay, is a must-visit for any Sydney brides set to walk the aisle, as well as those who travel from across the country to seek Rodrigues’s advice in finding “the one”. This year, Rodrigues will celebrate her 20th year so we chatted with her about her career, the common pitfalls she witnesses brides experience and how to find the perfect dress.
You’re about to celebrate 20 incredible years of Helen Rodrigues Bridal. How does that feel and how do you plan to celebrate?
“I am very humbled that we are still in the position to help brides find their dream gown. It is so incredible to know you have helped someone possibly feel the best they ever will. We are planning to celebrate with a thank you event, similar to my recent event at Catalina. Watch this space for our 20th celebration!”
How would you best sum up the journey of the last two decades?
“Hard work, focus, fun and a real mix of laughter and smiles. It is a real family business – both my son and daughter know all the names of the dresses we carry! I always try and surround myself with like-minded people, both in the teams I recruit and the suppliers we partner with. We are certainly in it for the long haul! It is a love and passion.”
In what major ways have you witnessed the bridal landscape change over the past 20 years?
“We were the trailblazer and the first to bring international designers to the Australian shores. I have seen the want for international designers grow over the past 20 years. More and more brides are seeking the unique combined with exceptional high quality. With the world driven online now and all weddings being accessible at the touch of a bride’s fingertips, brides want the unique experience not the cookie-cutter wedding. They want to be able to put their personality on their day. Brides are able to get inspiration for real weddings on Instagram and have direct access in real time with most catwalk shows being live streamed direct from NYC and Europe. It is more important than ever that we keep up-to-date and stay current.”
You have such an incredible portfolio of international designers – how do you select the brands you work with?
“Thank you. As we are one of the most long-standing boutiques in the luxury bridal market in Australia we are extremely fortunate to have built up such a strong reputation internationally that designers often approach us to represent their brand. I remember receiving a call when Elie Saab was launching his standalone bridal collection asking us to be their exclusive stockist in Australia. It doesn’t get much better than that! I travel internationally at least twice a year attending shows and looking for new talent. Before taking on a new designer I ask myself:
- Are they unique and going to add something different to our boutique and to the Australian bride?
- Are they going to fit in with the rest of our portfolio?
- Are they humble and good to work with?”
What is the process like for a HR bride?
“For a HR Bride they will start with a one-on-one appointment. It is here that we sit down and get an understanding of the bride and their personality as well as their vision for their day. We will then try on different styles of gowns until the bride finds ‘the one’!
Once a bride has decided on her gown, we then place the order with the particular designer. Most of our gowns are made-to-measure but some are made-to-order. We like girls to be placing their order at least nine months prior to their wedding although we can obviously take orders with much shorter lead times.
Depending on the time frame, we then get the bride’s dress in approximately eight weeks before the wedding. Their gown will have been made overseas depending on where the designer they choose is based; for example all Inbal Dror and Lee Petra Grebenau are handmade in Israel.
Once we have received the bride’s gown in the boutique, we invite the bride to come in and try it on. This is usually very exciting and nerve-racking for the bride but within seconds of putting their gown on again, they are so excited. At this viewing appointment it is always a good time, if we have not already done so, to complete their look with a veil and jewellery.
Fittings then start approximately five weeks prior to the brides wedding date. This is when we meet with our tailor to ensure their gown fits in all the right spots! Brides then collect their gown a couple of days prior to their wedding or departure date!”
What would you say is the secret to finding the perfect wedding dress?
- “Do your research – look at whether a boutique has what you are looking for first so you do not get overwhelmed going to too many stores. We often get brides going with their first gown they have ever tried, as they did their research.
- Get recommendations – this is our single best marketing tool! 90 per cent of our brides have had someone they know purchase their gown from us.
- Trust your gut – go with the gown that makes you feel the best you have ever felt. I can’t stress enough that you need to feel ‘you’ on your day. You need to feel comfortable, confident and amazing!”
What are the common pitfalls brides can experience when buying a wedding dress?
“I think to be rushed into it. I hear so many brides say they were told they had to place an order that day or it would be too late. Or they get overwhelmed by having too many guests at their appointments that they sometimes end up purchasing what everyone else wanted and not listening to their gut. It’s always best to go with how you feel and no one else knows this! They also get carried away with the idea of having a gown custom made. So many brides reach out to us and say that their gown they are having made is not what they thought it would be and does not make them feel how they wanted to feel.”
What is your one expert tip when looking for a wedding dress?
“To stay true to yourself. If you feel amazing you will look amazing.”
What’s your favourite part of what you do?
“There are so many! I honestly think it is when the bride has the moment of realisation that this is ‘the one’ and they then start dreaming of the entire wedding day as they now know what they will be wearing to marry their partner.”
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