Living the Dream: Rebecca Doyle and Isabella Grace bridal boutique
4th April 2019
Isabella Grace, based on Mount Ephraim, is consistently voted the UK’s best bridal boutique. Eileen Leahy talks to its owner Rebecca Doyle about its huge success and finds out why her other passion in life – renovating houses – has made her a big social media star
So Rebecca, please can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a 40-year-old mother of 10-year-old twins Max and Isabella and wife of 13 years to ‘Mr D’, as he is widely known! We live in central Tunbridge Wells with our ancient, and now deaf, cocker spaniel, Chilli. I own the Isabella Grace Bridal boutique and I’m also an Instagrammer under the guise of @thehousebuild. I renovate and develop houses in my spare time.
Have you always been in the bridal business?
Not at all! A former corporate lawyer at one of the Magic Circle firms in the City, I left my legal career behind 13 years ago to set up my first business. I accidentally fell into the bridal industry while planning my own wedding in 2006 when searching for the most perfect bridal accessories. I launched my first bridal business, Chez Bec – which is now a multi-award-winning bridal jewellery and wedding accessory brand – soon after that. My twins came along in 2008 and I went on to open the boutique Isabella Grace in September 2011 when my children were three years old.
Did you find the market very competitive when you arrived in Tunbridge Wells?
There were only two other bridal boutiques in Tunbridge Wells when we opened but I felt that there was room for more. Another one opened just after we did but they sadly closed last year.
Tunbridge Wells is now a bit of a bridal mecca with brides travelling to the town knowing that they will be able to find their dream wedding dress here. Competition is good for business and the consumer!
You’ve been consistently voted as the UK’s best bridal boutique. How does this make you and the team feel?
To receive this consistent recognition at a national level is just the most incredible feeling. Running a business and striving to be the best isn’t easy, especially in the current economic climate, and our awards make all the hard work worth it. It’s a great sense of achievement to think that we have been voted the Best Bridal Boutique in the UK five times in the last five years.
How important are awards like this and do you find that people travel from further afield as a result?
Awards are hugely important to the success of our business. Most of our brides come to us via word of mouth and hearing about our awards. We now have brides travelling to see us from as far afield as Dubai, Oman, Malta, Italy, Spain, Ireland and all over the UK!
What would you say are the key factors that set you apart in the bridal business?
When we first opened our doors I set out to redefine the bridal shopping experience. I wanted every bride, regardless of budget, to have a luxury experience and very personalised level of service.
This is quite different to what I received when shopping for my own wedding dress back in 2005 and something which wasn’t being done in the industry when I opened.
What plans do you have for the future of Isabella Grace?
To continue to be at the top of our game in offering the best bridal experience out there.
How to say ‘I do’ to your wedding dress
Rebecca shares three of her top tips when choosing the perfect wedding dress:
1 Be true to yourself and don’t choose a dress that is way outside your comfort zone or that doesn’t represent you as a person
2 Think about your venue and choose a dress that will work with it. We have a lot of brides who get married in Italy and huge trains are a no-no for cobbled streets
3 Choose a dress that is timeless. Who wants to look back at their wedding photos in 40 years’ time and think ‘why on earth did I choose that’? I’m thinking the big puff-sleeves from the 1980’s here!
Why I love Tunbridge Wells
Where’s your favourite place to shop?
I love to support the independent boutiques on the High Street and my favourites include Kitch, Bod & Ted and Anna Poulsen.
And to eat out?
I adore Hatton’s and Juliet’s for breakfast. For lunch and dinner it would have to be The Ivy, the Mount Edgcumbe and the Nevill Crest & Gun. We also love the roasts at The Tunbridge Wells Hotel.
I’m much more of a gin fan to be honest so it would have to be The Ivy or Chapel Place Wine & Gin Bar.
And to get away from it all?
We have a rather ancient cocker spaniel so walking is always an essential part of our weekends. There’s something so peaceful and grounding about being surrounded by trees and our favourite walks are Eridge Rocks, Harrison’s Rocks and Hargate Forest.
A lot of our walks often end up in the pub (funnily enough!) and one of our favourites on a Sunday afternoon, while the dinner is cooking at home, is the Duke of York for a quick drink and family game of cards.
Rebecca’s other passion in life is renovating old properties, which has made her an Instagram sensation with over 97k followers
Your Instagram account The House Build is hugely successful, what’s your secret?
I’m not sure! One thing I can tell you is that I’ve always remained very true to myself and incredibly open and honest, especially in my stories. What you see on Instagram is the real me. I’m not pretending to be anyone else. I share my life, the good bits and the bad, and I think that a lot of people feel they can relate to me being a busy, hardworking mum of young children who also enjoys some of the finer things in life.
I’ve always believed in being kind and living your best life and I certainly try to make the best of my life. Being a working mother is a huge juggling act, and I don’t know if I’ve ever found that perfect work/life balance. I am passionate about so many things and try to make time to fit them all into my life.
When did you start posting and what has it taught you?
I started @thehousebuild account in May 2017 to document our house build, hence its name. I wanted somewhere to log the progress of our build to be able to show friends and family. It’s been an incredible journey in under two years.
I have learnt that social media can be hugely inspiring and motivating. Yes, it can have a negative side, but my following is very engaged, loyal and supportive of everything I do. It’s also enabled me to work with some of my favourite brands including The White Company, Mars, KitchenAid, Neom, Sofa.com and Andrew Martin.
Can you tell us why you enjoy house renovating so much?
It’s the challenge and every single project is different. It’s also hugely stressful as you are always learning. I love being creative and I find it hugely rewarding taking a dilapidated old house and turning it into a beautiful family home.