Wedding belles

First published in Business The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Business Reporter and Books Editor. Please contact me on 01865 425461

Flautist Rachel Illsley has spent 35 years playing romantic tunes — now her own dream has come true as she launches her own wedding shop.

She specialised in wedding performances, which meant she got to know the florists, photographers and other suppliers.

Gradually, she started offering advice to brides and by the end she was often co-ordinating whole weddings.

“People said to me that if I offered wedding dresses as well they would come to me for everything,” said Mrs Illsley, 53.

She had always wanted to open a shop, but ended up spending more than 30 years working in the insurance industry.

“I have been made redundant three times now and I decided I did not want any more of it. I decided to use my experience and contacts to set up a wedding shop. The final redundancy, in June, gave me the push to do it.

“I visit dozens of weddings a year because my husband plays at weddings as well, in a band called Locomotion, and I know a lot of the best suppliers.”

Mrs Illsley has her adoptive parents to thank for nurturing her musical skills, and when her mother died in 2009, she raised £10,000 for charity by organising fundraising events.

“It made me realise that I had the experience to do it,” she said.

Mrs Illsley and husband Garry have worked flat-out to renovate a former party supply shop in Coxwell Street, Faringdon, which wias opened last month by the mayor of Faringdon, Dr Mike Wise.

Naturally, the Champagne was flowing on the opening day, with two beauty queens from Swindon in attendance.

Mrs Illsley chose Faringdon because although it already has one wedding shop, she felt there was room for another to provide choice. Her labels include Mia Solano, Kiss the Frog, Phoenix Gowns, Ebony Rose, plus dresses from Promwear.

“I am very excited at the prospect of becoming part of a very up and coming and expanding town,” she said.

As a former insurance professional, she is well aware of the risk of investing so much time and money in premises and stock, but she said: “Sometimes you have to take a risk to try and do something, and my skills will not be wasted.”

There is only one snag.

While she is minding the shop, it will be difficult for her to attend any weddings, or perform her most requested number, which is From This Moment On by Shania Twain.

She will be at Alexandra House Conference Centre in Wroughton on February 24, 2013, with local beauty queens modelling her dresses. Contact: 07917 726308 Web: www.rachelsweddings.org

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