Weddings are a costly occasion, so any way to alleviate financial pressure is worth considering. When it comes to the big day, there is one thing that can’t be disregarded: the dress.

However, there is no need to splurge on a wedding dress that you’ll only get one wear out of. St Vincent de Paul charity shop in Jocelyn Street, Dundalk, has its own bridal boutique, which offers a range of pre-loved dresses to suit every bride. Irish Country Living spoke to Aisling Matthews, manager of the shop, about the unique bridal experience.

Public interest

At the end of 2018, the shop began to receive donations of wedding dresses. Reluctant to put them on the shop floor in case they’d get damaged, Aisling designated a space for the dresses. From here, the initiative took off.

“We saw a need for cheaper dresses than what’s available on the high street,” says Aisling. “So we converted a small office into a bridal room to see how it would work for us. Once there was enough interest, we moved into our current bridal room. As well as donations, we have a lot of people interested in getting cheaper dresses.”

The shop now includes dresses from boutiques as well as those donated by the public. Customers travel from all over Ireland and even from overseas to view the range of dresses available.

“Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve had a lot of people visiting from outside the country – Irish ladies living abroad and returning home,” Aisling explains.

“A lady rang me the other day from West Cork, she said, ‘Would it be worth my while coming up? It’s a long journey.’ She was looking for a wedding dress and a mother of the bride outfit. I said to her, ‘Well, if you can get your wedding dress and mother of the bride outfit for under €400, it’s definitely worth the trip.’ So, she came up, got her outfit and she was very happy with it.”

Positive initiative

Not only does the boutique encourage sustainability by giving dresses a second day out, it also provides budget-friendly options. The highest price point for a wedding dress in the boutique is €300.

“You can get any kind of pre-loved bridal wear from €80,” says Aisling. “A lot of people are telling us that they can use the money elsewhere for the wedding, or they simply have a smaller budget. It’s taken off and we’re getting a really positive response from it.”

Buying a pre-loved dress from the bridal boutique also has a ripple effect, as proceeds from the dresses sold go back into the community through the ?St Vincent de Paul.

“As well as donating a dress, you’re giving someone the feel-good factor, so somebody else gets to feel what you felt on your special day and in turn, the money goes back into the society to help people in the community,” says Aisling.

Something for everyone

Aisling explains there are currently over 300 wedding dresses in the boutique, of all different shapes, sizes and even colours.

“We definitely have a mix of ages coming in to us looking for different styles. Some want the princess dress, the big ball gown and others are just looking for something plain and simple.

“We’ve been very lucky. We have a lot of what we call vintage, older dresses and then there’s also up-to-date dresses coming in. Some brand-new dresses were donated by boutiques that unfortu­nately closed down after COVID.”

As well as wedding outfits, the boutique stocks evening gowns, Communion outfits and debs dresses. Aisling explains that the debs dresses are also popular.

The full experience

“For us, part of the reason we opened the bridal boutique was to give the princess experience,” says Aisling. “I suppose the dress and venue are the two main aspects of a wedding day. That’s why we do appointments only, so we can give the same experience a bride would get anywhere else.

“They can come in with their family and friends and the appointment is unique to them.”

One thing that is emphasised when brides are trying on dresses is honesty - this is how you find the dream dress.

“A lot of people come in with a style in mind, but leave with a completely different style because once they try the right dress on, they get the feeling, ‘Oh, this is the one.’”

Seeing the range

The boutique is holding an open evening on 20 April, which will give brides-to-be a chance to see the range of dresses available.

“We’re opening up so that the public can come in and have a look,” she says. “It’s about showcasing what we have and that we cater to everybody’s needs.

“The bridal room is separate and at the back of the boutique in Jocelyn Street. It is private and it is secluded, so nobody has to know where your dress is from, if that’s the way you feel about it, and you can still get it at a great price.”

More info

For more details see

Read more

Trócaire marks a milestone 50 years of charity

FéRí: Slow, sustainable fashion; from the farm