Weddings can be expensive affairs. But one bride showed that you don’t need bags of money for a beautiful dress – just £35!

That is the price Cat Wilkinson paid for her vintage dress at a charity shop in York. And as you can see from the picture, she looked a million dollars in it.

Her story has taken the internet by storm, being shared thousands of times on Facebook.


Cat, 29, a senior lecturer in education at Liverpool John Moores University, got engaged to her boyfriend Mike after he proposed to her at Falling Foss, a waterfall tea garden on the outskirts of Whitby.

Mike then arranged for them to spend a night in York “knowing that it is my favourite city in the UK,” said Cat. “We went for a lovely celebratory breakfast the next day at Bill’s.”

But it turned out that she left the city with more than just happy memories.

‘I loved it’

Simply beautiful: Cat in the dress
After breakfast they went to browse the shops on Goodramgate. Cat told YorkMix:

  • I love the street as it has charity shops dotted on either side.

    I went into the Sue Ryder shop which I remembered having an upstairs area with vintage clothing – it was there that I found my dress.

    The dress immediately caught my attention hanging from the rail. I loved the lace design and the intricate detail on the flower embellishments.

    The dress also had unusual pointed sleeves which I have since learnt is characteristic of dresses from that period.


There was something else that was special about the dress – the price: just £35.

She said the people in the Sue Ryder shop were great: “It is a really lovely charity shop.

“The staff were very friendly, and one lady who I have since learnt is the assistant manager helped me with the dress, including taking photos so that I could send them to my mum and sister.

“I always had a feeling I would buy my wedding dress from a charity shop. I just never imagined it would be the day after I was proposed to!”

‘Even more beautiful’

Cat discovers the dress in the Sue Ryder shop
Cat had a few alterations made to the dress to make it just how she wanted, including adding buttons instead of a zip to the back, putting buttons on the sleeves, and moving the placement of some flowers on the front of the dress.

She later took the dress to a vintage bridal store and discovered that the dress dates from the 1950s, and made at home rather than in a bridal store.

The flower embellishments are older still – meaning they were likely passed down from an older relative as a ‘something old’ keepsake.

Cat and Mike married at Fishlake Mill in Fishlake, Doncaster. It was an outdoor ceremony where guests sat on hay bales, with an evening reception in a marquee.

So how did it feel to wear a wedding dress that had its own history?

  • It was amazing to wear a preloved gown on my wedding day, particularly a gown which I have been told has been made from home, with flower embellishments passed down from another generation.

    For me it made the dress even more beautiful to know it has its own history.

She hopes her story inspires others to consider the charity shop route.

“It is amazing how many people have contacted me since reading my story to tell about their preloved gowns. Charity shops are also great places to find wedding decorations.

“It is lovely to know you are recycling, and donating to a good cause at the same time, so it is a win win!”

What will happen to her wedding dress now? “For now I am going to hold onto the dress in case the person who donated the dress wants to see the changes I had made for it,” Cat said.

“I would definitely consider donating the dress back to a charity shop in the future, and most likely back to the Sue Ryder shop in York so that it can begin its next journey to making another bride-to-be happy.”

So thrilled

Cat discovers the dress in the Sue Ryder shop
Assistant manager of the Sue Ryder shop Victoria Stone told YorkMix: “I remember Cat well!

“She was so excited as her fiancee had literally just proposed the night before and we were having to keep him away so he didn’t see the dress.”

She added:

  • We are so thrilled that Cat found her perfect dress in our vintage range.

    Our first floor is a real treasure trove, jam packed with exciting vintage finds, you will always find something extra special with us!