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5 Places to Shop in Ottawa for Wedding Dresses

I always pictured wedding dress shopping to be like what we see on TV…You know, a friendly consultant who asks about your relationship, an entourage of women with a scoring system to rank your look, and that moment where you pop in a veil and say ‘yes to the dress!’. As I soon found out, the reality of dress shopping is something of a different experience – some good, some bad, some ugly…At none of these stores did a ‘Randy’ appear with the perfect dress to save the day (holla SYTTD!), and I didn’t cry when I found the dress, but that’s okay!! The process of wedding dress shopping at Ottawa’s bridal boutiques was nonetheless one of the best experiences of wedding planning thus far, and I’d love to share some of that knowledge with you!

I must have gone to half a dozen bridal boutiques during my search for my wedding dress, and I was amazed to see how each Boutique approached the process differently. This post is for all future brides who are starting – or in the process of – wedding dress shopping, and want to read some unbiased, real-bride reviews on Ottawa’s bridal boutiques.

A note!: I wasn’t able to visit every store in Ottawa. If I’ve missed any that you love, or you have any opinions about the stores that are listed, I’d love to hear your comments below!

1. WITH LOVE BRIDAL BOUTIQUE

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Overview:
This was the first boutique I visited, and it set the bar high for other stores. The staff is incredibly welcoming (shoutout to Marla!); the showroom floor is modern, clean and streamlined; and they carried all the top name designers.

How you shop:
We were greeted by our consultant – Marla – who seemed genuinely interested in our day and of the style of dress I was looking for. The dresses on the rack are not covered in plastic, which really lets you see and feel the dresses before pulling them. We walked along the racks with Marla and pulled the dresses as we went along. Dresses were organized by designer.

If I did it again:
Of all the stores I visited, I’m happy this was the first; being a store with so much diversity, I was really able to narrow down the look I was going for in a way that made future dress shopping a lot easier. Looking back, I wish we’d pulled fewer dresses that I was unsure about in order to view more of the ones I’d be more likely to love. Once we pulled 6-7 dresses, we stopped looking and I started trying them on. In a way I felt like I left the store without a good understanding of what they had to offer, so I did end up returning on another day to look further through their selection.

2. THE HANDMADE BRIDE

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Overview:
Looking for a totally unique dress that’s custom-designed to your liking? Then this is the store for you! You’ll experience the creative process of designing your own gown with the help of HMB consultants and create a once-in-a-lifetime ‘heirloom’ gown that’s perfectly your own! A seriously impressive storefront that’s clean, modern and elegant.

How you shop:
I was surprised at first to find such a limited number of dresses on the showroom floor…until I realized how the design process works! First, they had me try on a couple different skirts to narrow down the silhouette I wanted. We then built on from there: adding beaded appliqués, crinoline and sashes. The possibilities felt endless and I have no doubt that we could have created a stunning gown!

If I did it again:
My one piece of advice for future brides would be to walk in with a knowledge of what you want. Narrow down your silhouette and 2-3 features you need in your gown before walking in. For me, the possibilities were too endless for the stage I was at in dress shopping. Had I waited to go to the HMB until later in my search, I would have almost certainly created a custom dress from this boutique.

3. SINDERS

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Overview:
The first thing you’ll notice about Sinders is the character and history of the building, which really sets it apart from other boutiques. This boutique offers friendly + knowledgable staff and the ‘how you shop’ experience was one of my favourites.

How you shop:
We were greeted by the Sinders staff, given a quick tour of the dresses in the showroom, and then invited to look through the dresses by ourselves (with our consultant nearby to answer any questions). This style of shopping may not be for everyone (especially if you’re in the early stages of shopping), but it was perfect for my style and stage of shopping. This gave us the opportunity to look at most of the dresses in the showroom before pulling any, so I knew I was trying on the most promising dresses in the store. Dresses were organized by style.

If I did it again… 
I wouldn’t do anything differently! I felt like I got a good sense of what they had to offer from our visit and we had a wonderful experience! I strongly considered returning to Sinders to purchase the gown shown above.

4. BARONESSE BRIDAL

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Overview:
A unique one-on-one experience with the store owner in a clean, chic fitting room.

How you shop:
The dresses are in an area off to the side of the store that felt off limits to customers. I gave a general description of what I was looking for, and the owner went in the side room and brought out dresses for me one-at-a-time. I must have tried on 4-5 gowns, most of which seemed to be dresses that she had professionally altered in some way.

If I did it again:
I went to this store with the specific vision to try on dresses from the trunk show they were advertising online; however, most of the dresses that were pulled for me were designs she had commissioned. I would have loved to know this in advance, as I would have gone into the store with more of an open mind for this idea.

5. ALLIANCE BRIDAL

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Overview:
The building is smaller and less modern than some of the other boutiques, but the ‘how you shop’ experience makes up for this ten fold. Well worth the 45 minute drive from downtown Ottawa. (Note: this is where I purchased my wedding dress, which is not shown in this post)

How you shop
Alliance Bridal is very smart. You see, Alliance has created a binder with magazine clippings of every dress they have to offer in their store. You can literally flip through the pages of the binder in less than 10 minutes and know how each dress would look on a real model (you can usually only see how it looks on a hanger). Once you pick your favourite clippings, the consultant will pull them for you and you can see how the fabric looks and feels in real life. The only setback to this process is that sometimes the sparkle and ‘bling’ of a dress would be understated in the magazine clippings, and the physical dress could look different in real life. Fortunately, the staff was incredibly knowledgable and knew right away whether the dress was the right style and fit for my aesthetic and budget.

If I did it again…
I would have brought my family. I felt bad asking my family to drive to Moose Creek if I wasn’t going to find my dress, but as it turns out, they had exactly what I was looking for!

2 Comments

  1. I purchased my gown from HMB after looking at several of the more traditional bridal shops but not finding what I wanted. HMB was absolutely perfect for me because after those failed attempts I then had a much clearer view of what not only what I DID want, but what I didn’t want. I couldn’t be happier with the dress I ended up getting from them and the sisters that own & run the shop are positively delightful, who carefully listened to my needs, as well as respecting my chosen price point.

    FOOD FOR THOUGHT: I found a great advantage having gone to other shops first, as it also gave me perspective on pricing. One of the things I think many brides forget when setting a budget is the cost of alterations and how they can vastly increase the cost of a dress, shortening the length of dress alone can cost upwards of $100-200 and more, depending on fabric and the amount of layers in the gown. With HMB, your dress will be perfectly made to your body and specifications, which allows you to actually “increase” the value of your budget without changing it. This played a major factor in my decision to go with The Handmade Bride, besides their wonderful client care and service :)

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