Ashling Mathews in St Vincent De Paul showing off one of the beautiful wedding dresses they have in stock
Since July 1, 2019 brides from across the country have been flocking to Saint Vincent De Paul on Jocelyn Street to bag a bargain wedding dress.
The Dundalk branch is the only shop out of the 226 SVP branches across the country, to stock bridal wear - and news is spreading.
If you book a fitting appointment in the store you’ll deal with the friendly store manager Ashling Mathews, who has worked as a manager with the charity for the past eight years.
Ms Mathews explained: “Last year we had small office space above the shop and we decided to use it for private, by-appointment-only bridal appointments. We had 60 brand new wedding dresses donated to us after a bridal shop closed down and people had started donating wedding dresses, so we went for it.
“At the moment we have 200 bridal dresses, some of them are brand new and some are pre-loved, and over 100 bridesmaids and debs dresses. Another thing that has been very popular is mother of the bride outfits.
“We’ve had a lot of few people donating wedding dresses recently and they’ll even bring in the matching headpieces and accessories.
“And we have a lot more brides donating their old wedding dresses. The dresses are usually sitting in a wardrobe, so there’s that feelgood factor for people knowing that they are helping someone else in the community out on their special day.”
And the shop manager says they have brides travelling to the store from all over Ireland: “Since we opened on July 1, we’ve had customers coming to see us from all across the country from Skibbereen in Cork, Castlebar in Mayo, Galway, Clondalkin, Monaghan. People are realising it’s worth travelling for if they can get a dress for under €200.
“We have pre-loved dresses starting from €50. Some brides are buying two to three dresses and then donating two of them back after they decide.
“We had a woman who came in recently and she got everything for €380. That included her wedding dress, the two bridesmaids dresses and the mother of the bride outfit.
“And recently we had a family of five in from down the country who had never had a family holiday. And with the money, they saved from getting the wedding outfits with us they were able to go on a honeymoon which was their first family holiday.”
“I would say to people, it’s definitely worth coming into us to have a look. You will save money on your dress and we have a full range available of sizes and styles. From modern to vintage. We stock sizes 6 to 22. And if we don’t have your size we will keep your details and get in contact when your size comes in. 90% of people who come into us for appointments end up buying.”
Ashling says she has also noticed changes in attitudes from modern-day brides. The SVP manager says she’s noticed brides aren’t focusing on the dress as much and don’t want to end up in debt after the big day:
“For more and more brides, the emphasis is not so much on the dress anymore, it’s more about the special day as a whole. Everybody is more concerned about recycling these days, so people are much more open to pre-loved wedding dresses, and the rest of our floor stock too.
“People are a lot more conscious about the impact they have on nature now and it’s very important for future generations.”
Another part of Ashling’s job that she loves is the appointment fittings where she gets to allocate two to two and a half hours to each bride so that they can choose their perfect dress.
Ashling explains: “It’s by appointment only. We want to offer the exact same experience as a bridal store. We have multiple time slots available each day and it is a fully private room. People like to make a day or afternoon of it - go for a coffee beforehand, or a prosecco!
“And they can bring in their friends and family. The room is 100% private. We do two to two and a half hours per fitting. We aim to make the experience really special.
“People come back into us to show us pictures of their big day, so it’s lovely for myself and the lady who takes the appointments here to be part of their big day.”
“So if you’re getting married, keep us in your mind. Come in and have a look! As well as getting a dress you will be indirectly helping out families in the local community - it’s great for everyone. It’s all about helping the community out.”
Ashling added: “We are currently accepting donations for the bridal shop. The only thing we ask is please wash the dresses or outfits before you donate. To make a fitting appointment with Aisling call 0870572221."
“Keep an eye on our Facebook page which you can find at VincentsJocelynStDundalk or come along to the fashion show in Bellingham Castle on Thursday, October 17 to see our latest styles.”