X-Ray's Rachel speaks to the six brides about their big days
Scroll below for advice on what you can do to avoid getting into the same situation...
A wedding dress supplier has left customers' dreams of a perfect gown in tatters.
La Belle Bridal Wear in Swansea charged hundreds or thousands of pounds for dresses which fell apart or smelt of damp as brides walked down the aisle.
Other brides ordered dresses which never arrived.
Carolyn Edwards, who ran the shop on The Kingsway for several years, refused to comment.
One bride, Natalie Howes from Plasmarl, Swansea, chose a couture wedding dress, apparently made by a designer company, in 2008.
Her mother Sheran Rasstatter paid £2,000 for the gown.
She told X-Ray's Rachel Treadaway-Williams: "She looked like a vision in it, like a daughter should look like on her wedding day, and if that's what she wanted, I was prepared to pay it."
By the time Ms Howes' dress was paid for in full in 2010, La Belle Bridal Wear had downsized and Carolyn Edwards was renting a room above another shop in Swansea city centre.
Ms Howes said Mrs Edwards was unclear about which dress she had ordered for the anxious bride, and there were delays in getting hold of her gown.
The reason for the delays became clear on the wedding day as her dress began falling apart.
Both shoulder straps snapped off before the reception and the skirt began unravelling during the wedding breakfast.
Marcia Pendry believes her dress had been a sample to try on in the shop. Her mother contacted the company which Mrs Edwards claimed had made the dress.
The company confirmed it was not one of its dresses, although it contained parts of a shop sample it had previously supplied Mrs Edwards.
The bridesmaid dress which cost her nearly £200 was not the one she had chosen, and fell apart when her daughter tried it on.
By the time Charlotte Hurford and Kayley Criddle collected dresses they had ordered from Mrs Edwards for their weddings this year, she had moved premises again and was trading from a unit on an industrial estate in her home town of Ystradgynlais.
The cramped and dingy office was far from what the brides expected when it came to arranging dress fittings, but Mrs Edwards was proving increasingly difficult to contact.
When they finally collected their dresses with hours to go before their weddings, Ms Criddle was concerned that her dress smelt of damp, and Ms Hurford's was hanging in unfinished swathes of fabric.
Ms Hurford said: "I just broke down in tears. I just sobbed for about an hour while I was there, and on the day I felt I was putting a bed sheet on, not my wedding dress."
Ms Criddle told X-Ray: "I was paranoid that when I was walking down the aisle that people could smell the dress and think I smelt."
Five days before Lisa Needham's wedding, Mrs Edwards admitted she could not supply the £700 dress which had been paid for.
Ms Needham had to find a dress at short notice and is still waiting for the refund she says Mrs Edwards promised her.
Rebecca Hardwick is getting married next year. She has been unable to contact Mrs Edwards, who she paid £2,000 for wedding and bridesmaids' dresses.
She said: "That's when the sinking feeling starts, that the realisation is you're probably not going to get your dresses or your money back."
X-Ray contacted Mrs Edwards to ask her to explain what had gone wrong and why she had taken money for dresses she had not provided, and some which were falling apart, but she refused to comment.
When presenter Rachel Treadaway-Williams called at Mrs Edwards' Ystradgynlais home, although the dress seller answered the door, she refused to provide any answers.
La Belle Bridal Wear is unrelated to any other bridal supplier.
So, how can brides avoid problems when buying wedding and bridesmaid dresses?
Karen Taft who runs Swansea based wedding dress company Benjamin Roberts. She’s also a member of the Bridal Industry Supplier’s Association.
Karen suggests that brides do their research on suppliers before handing over any money for their dresses.
If you fall in love with a dress or a particular designer, make sure you check that the seller is an authorised retailer. You can check with the manufacturer’s website, or give the company a ring – they’ll be more than happy to confirm whether the shop you’ve visited is an approved stockist. If they aren’t an approved retailer, you can’t guarantee that the dress you end up with is the genuine article.
Make sure you get a contract which clearly states what dress you have ordered – including the manufacturer’s name and the style of the dress, the size, price, and when you can expect to receive the dress, as well as details of when payment is expected and contact details of the company you’re buying from. You’re dress should be in the shop ready for any fittings with time to spare for alterations before the big day.
Some authorised retailers will sell sample dresses or ex-display gowns at a reduced rate – but this should be reflected in the price you pay, and it should be clearly explained when you buy the dress, and on any paperwork you receive.
Buying from websites or mail order companies can carry risks. Some disreputable traders use pictures stolen from legitimate websites to give the impression they are selling designer dresses. Again, check with the manufacturer direct. It may seem like you’re saving money by ordering from a cheaper supplier, but if your dress doesn’t arrive, or isn’t what you expected, then you could find you need to buy a different dress at short notice from another source.
If things do go wrong, here’s the advice from BIS:
If you have paid by credit card, contact the credit card provider to start the process of reclaiming any money paid on the card. You are protected and as long as you have all receipts, should get a full refund. If you have wedding insurance, your policy should also protect you against any losses.
If you paid by cash then you will have to make a claim through the shop's administrator, details of which may be found through HM Revenue and Customs, local courts, Companies House and possibly even your local Trading Standards office. The shop may also display a sign of which company is dealing with the closure of the shop.
If you have time before your wedding, find another bridal shop that stocks that label. Even if they don't stock that style, they may be able to order your dress because of your special circumstances. Look at the supplier's website to find out other stockists and bear in mind that local stockists may be inundated with similar requests so why not look at stockists further afield, within a 30 minute to two hour train or car journey?
BIS members, the suppliers to bridal retail shops, will also try and offer help, especially if your wedding date is very close. Call the supplier and see what they can do. They will try and help in whatever way possible but please note that some dresses are made in the Far East and are normally made to order - the dresses in bridal shops are samples. So please don't take out any frustration on suppliers if they are unable to help in a short time frame.
If this is the case, BIS’s advice is to call shops to see if they are prepared to sell you a sample off their rail. Most shops can get the dress cleaned and altered. Again, shops don't want to let any bride down and will do their level best to help out.
Who is BIS?
Bridal Industry Suppliers (BIS) is a trade association of companies that supply gowns and goods to bridal shops. BIS represents everyone involved in manufacturing, wholesaling, importing and exporting bridal goods and services in the UK. Any supplier to UK shops can join as long as they have a link to a UK postal address.
Brides Aware is a useful website giving further advice.