I am Jemma Palmer, owner of Halo & Wren Bridal. Halo & Wren is a modern bridal store located in Old Town, Hemel Hempstead, Herts.
Halo & Wren has a small team of stylists and an in house seamstress. It’s very much for the non traditional bride or the brides who don’t want to look like all of her friends. H&W is a nationally renowned boutique for its welcoming and relaxed bridal shopping experience, independent designers and doing bridal the modern way.
What made you want to start a bridal boutique?
The boutique was started after my own bridal shopping experience didn’t meet my expectations, I found my gown on Pinterest, only to discover there was only one stockist in Mayfair, London and the gown started at £6500.00.
I subsequently started an 18 month journey visiting lots of local boutiques and further afield into London, locally I was disappointed with the overwhelming amount of mainstream traditional gowns that didn’t represent my relaxed, modern wedding or myself. In London, I found more gowns but was treated as a number and at some places almost an inconvenience, my budget of £2000.00 didn’t really get me many options. I certainly wasn’t made to feel special or did I really enjoy the whole experience like I thought I would.
Because I couldn’t find what I wanted I even had a replica gown made in China, it was terrible, I tried on second hand gowns, I went to number just sample sales, I didn’t find my gown but I was learning and noticing that there was a huge gap for a modern, cool, affordable and welcoming boutique where you’re looked after and made to feel special whilst having an amazing selection of gowns.
Once married I was very lucky to have my children quickly and whilst my Son was a baby with some financial loans from my Mum, I took the plunge and started H&W in February 2017 with renovating an old florist to a beautiful boutique on the Old High St, Hemel. Fast forward to 2021 and we have moved shops to a much larger store this time renovating an old Italian restaurant to be the new chicer and utterly stunning H&W.
What’s different about the Halo & Wren experience?
Halo & Wren cares, that’s the real difference, it’s a passion project that’s just exploded. I know that I have an eye for what my brides want so I am able to pick the best gowns for my modern, relaxed bride. They want what I want, they are me, just younger.
H&W isn’t afraid to lose a sale because we don’t have the right dress, it’s non pressured and oh so chilled, so brides know we have their best interests at heart.
The team and I are completely transparent and give constructive advice on styling and what works. We won’t let a bride purchase a gown unless they look and feel exactly what they looking for.
My designers are world leading, independent creatives who design gowns for brides that want to make a statement for the right reasons.
We love what we have seen of your new boutique! Can you tell us a little about your reasons for moving and also how the renovation project’s been?
August 2020 was my busiest Month ever, I had worked hard on the socials over the first lockdown and it gave me an opportunity to really shout to my audience about what makes us the best.
The larger shop came available and I took the jump, you can’t grow without risk and in the middle of the pandemic taking on a renovation and a store that is four times the size was a huge risk but I knew that Rob (my husband) and I were capable of achieving this and I had a strong vision what I wanted it to look and feel like.
The biggest risk was the staff as it’s always been me full time with one day a week from my one of my team Sam and the seamstress Sarah.
For me, I was worried that having staff would mean that I lost what made H&W so unique and my interview process involved me taking them in the middle of the renovations when we didn’t even have walls. But ALL of the team have blown my mind, they’re all incredible, they hit the floor running and they get it. They get the vibe that we deliver to the brides, and I couldn’t be happier to have such an amazing team by my side.
What should all brides know, but no one ever talks about?
Oh man, I could fill this section over and over again.
But I think a few things; the gowns in store are one size, we don’t have more ‘out the back’ his means you have to try on a gown that very very likely won’t fit you. It’s essential to put faith in us and the process that the gown will fit and be even better than the sample because it will fit!
Alterations are not a Prosecco filled experience, when you get to the fit stage, it’s down to business, fittings are a process meaning that when one thing is altered it may have knock on effects to another area and again trust the seamstress but remain flexible and understand that you may need more than one or two or three fittings! And alterations are not included in the cost of the gown.
The average price of a gown in H&W is £2700 we do have whole ranges around £2200-2400 and we have ranges for more money including our Jane Hill label is which £3740-4300, understand that these are handmade, made to order premium gowns.
Sometimes I want brides to visit other stores first so when they come to H&W they can really appreciate the difference in quality and environment.
What is your absolute favourite bridal trend of the moment?
My favourite trend at the moment is definitely the psychological trend of having exactly what you want. After the worst 18 months of most people’s lives I’m loving seeing brides just choosing something that makes them feel incredible. Listening less to the opinions of others and wanting a gown that ensures they feel incredible and have the best time. This almost transcends into accessories, veils, sleeves, second dresses, two/three day weddings, smaller guest lists. Cut out what you don’t want or need and just make yourselves happy.
What do you love about being located in Hemel Old Town?
I love the Old Town, I’m from Hemel and I think it’s just a special place, I looked into renting in St Albans but it’s flooded with bridal boutiques, I wanted to be close to London as a large percentage of my brides travel out from London, Luton airport is a bonus too with brides travelling from abroad to visit. Locally I looked at Harpenden and Berkhamsted too, but the rents were so high for not very much.
Old Town Hemel has retained its character and I love that it’s not ‘perfect’ it’s real, you can grab an Uber to the train station in 6 minutes, you can get a coffee or dinner, walk the park and visit the gardens all with free parking for an hour and all day larking for £1.70! The shop and the vibe is non pretentious and seemingly the bridal boutique industry is full of it so I wanted an area that doesn’t pretend to be anything else than what it is. All of our visitors are surprised when they visit and comment on how pretty it is.
Right now we have Tom Hanks & Steven Spielberg filming on the Old High St, it’s just one of the places.
If I was getting married again, I would…
Be more open minded about my dress choice, take a risk. The only regrets bride have from their weddings are playing it safe!
Check out Halo & Wren on our directory here