As many brides-to-be will know, the process of finding a wedding dress can be exciting, emotional, stressful and confusing – all at once. With almost endless choices (budget and season-dependent, of course), it can be easy to lose sight of what your actual taste is – so having guidance from people with expertise and a discerning eye is key. With modern weddings being broadcast online and on social media often long after the day itself, many brides want something that’ll stand out but also stand the test of time.

With their Grafton bridal boutique LVR Bridal, Jacque Shaw and Lauren Kay Hooper want to redefine the experience for New Zealand brides and offer a new selection of wedding dress brands that haven’t been stocked in the country before. Shaw and Hooper both have almost a decade of experience in the wedding industry, and the friends opened their by-appointment space on Mount Eden Road earlier this year as a serene haven for fashion-forward brides to come for styling and fitting appointments.

Book in to browse gowns by Australian brands such as Lola Varma and J Andreatta, and Tel-Aviv-based Kim Kassas Couture which is holding an LVR trunk show (an event displaying the full collection) on February 17 and 18.

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Broadsheet caught up with Shaw and Hooper who shared a little more about the vision behind LVR Bridal.

You’ve both been in the wedding dress industry for a long time – what was it that drew each of you to this path initially?
Hooper: I initially loved the challenge of designing dresses that make women feel their absolute best on such a special day. Working with high-quality fabrics, and the incredible feeling of seeing brides in my designs sealed the deal. When you see the first images of real brides in one of your gowns, it’s really special, and for me, unparalleled.

Shaw: For me, I feel this path came more unexpectedly. I was working as a pattern maker and a friend asked if I would make her wedding dress. This felt like the ultimate honour and also equally intimidating. As we moved together through the different stages, from dress design, pattern making, fittings and final dressmaking, I realised how incredibly special it was to be part of someone’s wedding day. The process is intimate, personal, emotional and so rewarding – I was hooked.

What do you love about working with brides to find their wedding dresses?
Hooper: For us, working with brides is not just about selling a gown; it’s about being a part of a journey, and the relationships we build along the way. We love getting to know our brides and their guests during the fittings. It’s a really lovely experience, which means so much to people. As cheesy as it sounds, that moment when our brides find their perfect gown is what makes all our hard work and dedication truly worth it. It's an emotional journey, and we’re honoured to be a part of it.

What did you want to offer that wasn't here already?
Shaw: When it came to being brides ourselves, we noticed a gap in the NZ bridal market that we knew we wanted to fill. LVR’s focus is on stocking highly sought-after designers, catering to brides who would normally have to travel overseas to try on these stunning collections. The LVR bride is looking for something different – something fashion-forward, modern, and with a cool, unique aesthetic.

What wedding dress trends are you seeing take precedence at the moment? And what are you predicting will keep getting more popular?
Hooper: Right now, we’re still seeing those chic and refined silhouettes – and they won’t be going anywhere soon. But some more daring and bold looks are also on the horizon. We’re excited about seeing more fashion-forward details and hardware in wedding dresses; it finally feels like fashion and bridal are having a beautiful love affair! We’re also seeing more separates, including lace pieces, which brides can use to build up their perfect and unique bridal look.

What’s the benefit of creating a bricks-and-mortar space for LVR, rather than online?
Hooper: Having a physical space for LVR was a no-brainer for us from the start. It’s all about the unique shopping experience that the bridal industry offers. When else do you get to shop with your favourite people, sipping champagne and making a whole weekend of it? At LVR, we want our brides to have the full experience. When you come in for a fitting, the entire space is yours – it’s intimate, fun, and our top priority is making sure each bride feels empowered and supported. That’s at the heart of our business.

And what do you look for with the brands you showcase?
Shaw: We’re all about bringing in designers that are new to New Zealand, the ones we know NZ brides have been hopping on planes for. Not everyone can jetset for a fitting, so we’re making those designers accessible here. Working with like-minded people is a big deal for us, and it’s something we both really value. With our background in fabrics, we understand the importance of that fabric against your skin – the touch, the feel, and the elegance of quality. Building strong relationships with designers who share our values and aesthetic is key. Plus, we have some exciting trunk shows in 2024, where we’re bringing in those highly sought-after, cult-status bridal designers for a weekend – giving our brides the same opportunities to try on their dream dresses as brides all over the world.

LVR Bridal
13 Mount Eden Road, Grafton, Auckland

By appointment only