The bridalwear specialist that is helping Irish brides bring their dream weddings to life
“It’s that moment when the bride looks in the mirror and sees herself in the dress for the first time and you see her face, the smile, the light in her eyes and you know that this is ‘the dress’. It doesn’t happen with every bride but you certainly can see it when it does,” says Christine Bourke, owner of Galway Wedding Centre (winner of Ireland Prestige Bridal Shop of the Year 2021).
“I love what I do and I am passionate about helping my brides find their special dress. That moment when it all comes together and you see that sparkle, it’s a moment that gives me as much joy to be a part of today as it did when I started in the bridalwear business more than 20 years ago.”
Christine, like many successful entrepreneurs, came from humble beginnings, starting out as a young, self-employed tailor and seamstress. Over time, she gained a reputation for her skills, particularly with respect to bridalwear. She had a good eye, was familiar with how bridal fabrics worked and knew what would flatter any woman’s shape so it was somewhat of a natural progression when she transitioned from simply adjusting bridal dresses to providing a small selection of bridalwear as an extension of her alterations business.
In 2018, Christine knew she had outgrown her small alterations business. She took a large leap and relocated her business to a larger, more commercial premises at Terryland Retail Park on the Headford Road in Galway. She significantly expanded her selection of bridalwear with new designers and specialty plus-size designs to cater for all types of brides. She also extended her overall offer to include both men’s suit-hire and menswear. The newly rebranded Galway Wedding Centre, now provided her the opportunity to target unique brands, and she successfully secured the only West of Ireland distributorship for bridal gowns by famed ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ personality and bridal designer, Randy Fenoli.
In 2019, Christine added communion wear to her one-stop-shop and is currently in the midst of extending her offer even further to include evening and promwear, expanding her line of bridal accessories and adding a small selection of flower girl dresses. A busy lady indeed.
Like so many of her counterparts, 2020 and into 2021 has brought challenges with many months of business closure but Christine, with her upbeat personality and commitment, rolled with the punches and kept herself busy. “There was a little bit of chaos worldwide with the delivery of dresses that had been previously ordered so I worked from home to stay on top of that so all my brides would receive their gowns as promised, even though many had cancelled or rescheduled their weddings at that point.”
Reflecting on this difficult period during the subsequent lockdowns, Christine added: “I’m lucky too that my husband works in the construction industry so we took the time to do a little renovation in the shop to make room for our new line of evening and debswear. We also began selling some ‘off-the-rail’ dresses online and when restrictions allowed, I opened for alterations and private bridal appointments. It was a difficult 18 months but we made it work.”
Today, with restrictions easing, the business is slowly returning to normal with brides and groomsmen resuming their search for the perfect dress or suit and communions, cancelled by the pandemic, taking place now through the end of the year.
“Last week, I attended my first Bridal Expo in the UK in two years and it was exciting to see the new trends and be back in front of suppliers,” noted Christine. “We ordered some beautiful new designs and new designers who will feature for the first time at Galway Wedding Centre. We are looking forward to getting deliveries in the coming weeks to give us a boost as we close out the year and look forward to a fresh start in 2022,” she added. “We obviously remain safety conscious and continue to limit numbers and follow government guidelines but you can feel that sense of excitement returning to our business and customers are just happy to be here and to be able to start the planning for their big day.”
Bridalwear brands now featured at Galway Wedding Centre include Randy Fenoli, Millie May/White Rose, Michelle Bridal, Romantica, Mon Cherie, Martin Thornburg, Bianco Evento, and Wedding Dresses by Sophia Tolli. For more information visit www.galwayweddingcentre.com