A Cool Birthday

The invite to spend my birthday at The Rosewood Hotel in a £8k a night suite, dinner in the sumptuous Mirror Room and a chance to catch up with a great group of women was never going to be turned down. Lest you think that I can command this yearly it was actually an invite for Annabel Beeforth’s 40th birthday. For those of you who don’t know who she is the only excuse is that you must be a robot spammer or have no idea that there is a wedding industry.


What we talked about; what we laughed about; whether we behaved badly and whether we played with the posh toilets is not important, but very bloody funny.


I was struck at one point, despite the soundtrack of a girls night, “…more wine…I can’t get the iPod to work…love your hair…” that these are colleagues in the wedding industry are really very cool. Now before you all want to throw up a bit let me explain myself.


Yesterday The Observer published the CoolBrands survey which I read cover to cover.  Whilst anyone in the wedding industry is too minnow-like to appear, the message was very clear.

CoolBrands are “born and driven by genuine passion” and the CoolBrands  Council judges companies based on six factors

authentic love…naturally original brand… genuine innovationunique proposition… creating  first wave of desirability … an individual and differentiating style

These women, who I have met through work, and have fallen for through pleasure, have brands and businesses that meet the CoolBrands criteria, which in the normal world is hard,  in wedding world almost impossible.


In comparison to the uncoolest night out at The Bridal Buyer Awards this was women who are stylish game changers in their field. Who knew a venue could have a soul and a personality before Laura gave us Fetcham Park? Who curates a media title like Annabel does with Love My Dress with passion and heart above revenue? Who thought wedding planners and stylists were for billionaires before Charlie of London Bride? Who takes on a shoot with Miss Bush like Art Director Kate Taylor, aka Coquette and Dove,  and creates a unique and award-winning project? Who crosses the celebrity stylist/ bridal divide without ending up with  Kerry Katona or Kimye beyond Kate Halfpenny? From Tamryn’s wildly intelligent approach to wedding industry PR at  Candid Apple, Naomi Kenton’s ridiculously sought after photography to the new girls in my sights, Issidora, Ruth and Elizabeth with their hugely innovative make up, shoes and dresses, these are brands to watch and work with.


The purpose of the evening was to celebrate Annabel’s landmark birthday, her thoughts about being 40 are on Love My Dress and I urge you to read.

Back to The CoolBrand survey -

“Sustainable growth is fuelled by a positive, cool reputation yet that very same reputation is easily destroyed by focussing on growth through avenues that don’t stay true to the heart of the brand.”

These women are not power brokers like Ocean Media (that control the Harrogate bridal trade show The White Gallery, The National Wedding Show AND Bridal Buyer) or huge multinational dress labels. None of us own a group of hotels or run seminars telling others how to copy our success.  Nobody is making a killing only a living. I only have one small shop.


I find these women  inspiring, funny and with an influence that reaches far across the wedding industry disproportionate to the size of their companies. It was a great night with its roots in the Love My Dress Baltic Centre Soiree and it’s head in a London penthouse. We were, and are, passionate minnows punching above our weight.

As Annabel reaches 40 and I approach 50 it seems unlikely that I should describe us a cool, there may be much snorting of derision. Growing our businesses with heart and integrity is ageless. If that’s cool so be it.


Emma x


All photos by Naomi Kenton xxx




The Bridal Buyer Awards

Dropping through my virtual letter box today came the Bridal Buyer newsletter which promised to ‘look back’ at Harrogate and reveal the ‘award winners’ from The Bridal Buyer Awards.

I was invited by the Editor at large Susi Rogol, to be a judge for the Awards, an offer which I accepted with some trepidation.  I diligently researched all the companies in the Supplier Categories I was given with  thoroughness.  My conscience won over my interest, some shortlisted entrants & remarkably some finalists showed an unbelievable  lack of flair, adeptness or even ability in their chosen discipline let alone enough to be considered ‘award-winning’. I ploughed through my dispiriting task, voting where deserved, abstaining often & critiquing like a teacher with a brand new red pen.

I was then invited to go to the Awards, the last time I attended in 2009 Miss Bush was pipped to the best Best Retailer Award  by the now closed, but very lovely,  Mamfii Bridal. This was like the Olympics not the Commonwealth Games when there was one award, not one per home nation.

There was a drinks reception, a pre-dinner speaker, a comedian, whose name I forget, who was funny and used to a conference audience. Topical and relevant jokes were followed by Awards where the winners were duly noted and I believe that Ian Stuart had a word, which I always loved, championing student designers and ignoring the ‘no speeches’ directive. I was on a table with the Maggie Sottero team including the American big hitters.

Drink was consumed, there was dancing post awards, there may have been some drunkenness, evidence below…

bridal Buyer Awards

The Awards used to be in March as an incentive to pull reluctant buyers & shop owners to the less popular trade show time, now as Harrogate loses it’s shine still further, it sits in what should be the main event of  Ocean Media’s bridal trade calendar.

As I walked away from the awards,  just as some disco line dancing was breaking out, I apologised profusely to The Lovely Marshy. The evening was an absolute farce. There was no sense of it being ‘hosted’, the decor was barely smart let alone inspirational. the food was edible. and, yes, we did get one of those chicken breasts with the microscopic skinny bone sticking out that is beloved of conference caterers. Whilst we ate a ‘crooner’ wandered between tables murdering swing classics at the decibel level of an Airbus A380. Whist I wriggled nervously in my seat praying that he dare not approach my table,  I struggled to hear my table companions let alone converse. Eschewing the white wine, the acidic nature meaning it should have had a bottle of Gaviscon not water next to it, I ordered Prosecco hoping that a warm glow of Italian bubbles would allow me to tolerate the evening whilst not exactly joining in. Sometimes there is just not enough Prosecco.

Before the end of food service I witnessed a spectacle that sent chills down my spine. I have no idea of how to describe the ‘entertainment’ but a man conducted the audience in a mass karaoke & spoon & flag waving exercise adding horror to that which was just intolerable. The scene looked at best like a staged Republican rally , at worst a break out of nationalism that would have suited the 1930s. All of this whipped into a Phoenix Nights debacle that caused the actual awards to run an hour late.

I don’t expect Awards events to be fun in the sense of a night out with friends. I do expect when I, and dozens of others, have spent days considering entrants for it not to be a post script to a Northern club impresario’s ‘turn.’

If this really is the kind of mise en scene, entertainment and food that the wedding industry gets off on it is no surprise that vast tracts of exhibition halls are filled with garish polyester dresses, generic tat and cynical side labels used to exploit wide eyed new boutique owners.  Where is the class? Where is the design? Where is the aspiration, the inspiration?

My appreciation of the entertainment may be a matter of personal taste, but the lack of appreciation shown to the entrants is a matter of fact. The most disappointing aspect of the evening was not all of the above. Downright inventive, original, successful, groundbreaking shops from Rachel Scott Couture in Scotland, The White Closet in Didsbury, Ellie Sanderson in Oxforshire & Buckinghamshire and  Allison Jayne in Wales were recognized for their brilliance. The evening was running so late due to the football terrace chanting that the awards were started so fast and rushed through so quickly that one award winner was not even in the room. If the organisers use an event like this to fete buyers, to encourage exhibitors the very least they could do is feature them as the ‘main’ act.

The quality of the short listed retailers was above  entire categories on the supplier list. Retailers, whose  innovation, engagement with their brides, social media marketing, PR and overall presentation are just better. It is  these retailers that are creating the inspirational environments, both real and virtual,    that keeps a pulse in bridal wear in the UK. The Awards organisers need  to up their game before, to quote the famous ending of Vanity Fair, retailers realize the prize is not worth the winning.


Emma Meek, MD of Miss Bush Bridalwear
Miss Bush Bridalwear is Surrey’s leading designer bridal shop

Real Bride – Sarah in Maggie Sottero Boston

Real Maggie Sottero Bride Sarah from Miss Bush Bridalwear in Surrey (32)

One of the enduring benefits of my mild addiction to social media is that is has made me less ‘shy’.  I am not nervous in the company of others and I am certainly no shrinking violet. I positively love a spot of public speaking. My utter lack of musical ability has prevented me from being any kind of rock star  but give me a dance floor, spotlight or platform and I am happy to perform, dance wildly and sing like a tone-deaf banshee.

Unless you actually know me the idea that I might be a bit self-effacing and  apprehensive might seem at odds with level of profile of my shop and by extension me.  My reticence had stopped me reaching out over invisible relationship boundaries, probably the biggest being that between my clients and I. Whilst my job means I get up close & personal  to brides boobs and a shimmy of the bum into a wiggle skirt is something I have seen from the business end, a lot, I rarely used to connect beyond the supplier/client relationship.

Twitter, specifically, has been instrumental for the change. A ‘follow’ and a ‘follow back’ is hardly like letting someone rifle through the knicker drawer that is Facebook. It is an unobtrusive, almost unwitting way, of casually getting to know someone.   A ‘bride’ becomes not just not someone with a budget for a dress but someone who you know in ‘real time’ if not ‘IRL.’ The bride is on a  sofa elsewhere watching the same crap TV show or at work reading the same blog article as me. This is not bride and shop bitch, in this instance, it is just Sarah & Emma.

Sarah and I had a great time playing dress up. I used my secret weapon dress that is Maggie Sottero’s Boston. This dress is a miracle worker, one of those ‘is that actually a ‘Maggie’?’ numbers. The ruffles of corded lace over sheer spotted tulle make it perfect for rustic and rural settings. The style details are pure vintage, the corsettry pure vixen. Read Sarah’s love story on Love My Dress here .

Real Maggie Sottero Bride Sarah from Miss Bush Bridalwear in Surrey (2)

Sarah is just one of those brides that is savvy. From clever eBay & Etsy finds to locally sourced flowers and a photographer friend that just happens to be amazing Sarah could have left it there. No… Sarah has a blog called You Me Venues  that helps couples source wedding venues that do not insist on a  minimum number of guests or spend. Follow her on Twitter @youmevenues

Real Maggie Sottero Bride Sarah from Miss Bush Bridalwear in Surrey (14)

After the last flutter of confetti hit the cobbles Sarah nipped into the shop to share photos and anecdotes which is how I found out she was reselling her styling props at a Bridal Boot Sale. As the move to The Chapel was underway and the contents of several back cupboards and stock rooms was under scrutiny I offered her a few discontinued ‘bits’ – headdresses, shoes and a couple of 50s style dresses to sell. The boot sale was a little down at heel but instead of bringing the stock back Sarah upped and sold it all on Ebay.

Real Maggie Sottero Bride Sarah from Miss Bush Bridalwear in Surrey (20)

For years I have been meaning to get my head round eBay, for years I have been too busy. Suddenly here was a Miss Bush bride that was a virtual pro. Immediately, but as a result of the slower  ‘getting to know you’ process across social media, the plan for the Miss Bush Outlet was hatched. Sarah is now running the Miss Bush Outlet on eBay – check it out Miss Bush Outlet 

Real Maggie Sottero Bride Sarah from Miss Bush Bridalwear in Surrey (25)

It is been an absolute pleasure getting to know Sarah, meeting her son Lewis and now to watch another little bump growing along with our business.

Blog posts inspiration is usually about escort cards and colour schemes. There is so much of this in Sarah & Huw’s  wedding so click through and have peek at all the pretty. The inspiration for me comes from Sarah herself. This is more than the girl in the cool cardie; this is a woman who can balance motherhood, work,  plan a wedding, find the time to write a blog and start a business with me whilst navigating  the administrative circle of hell that is PayPal.


Sarah I take my hat  floral crown off to you…

Real Maggie Sottero Bride Sarah from Miss Bush Bridalwear in Surrey (26)26


View the full gallery


Photography: Vanda Ralevska
Venue: Gate Street Barn, Surrey
The Dress: Maggie Sottero Boston at Miss Bush Bridalwear
Veil: Richard Designs at Miss Bush Bridalwear
Hair: Sharon Roberts
Makeup: Kristina Gasperas
Cake: Spongeworks
Rings: Nichols
Catering: Kalm Kitchen
Photobooth: Photo Lounge


Emma xxx

Emma Meek, MD of Miss Bush Bridalwear
Miss Bush Bridalwear is Surrey’s leading designer bridal shop