It has provided a way for brides-to-be to have the wedding day of their dreams on a shoestring budget – and today the Big C’s bridal boutique on Timberhill is celebrating its fifth birthday and a fundraising total of £100,000.

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Selling donated wedding wear to blushing brides, as well as offering an alteration service, since its official opening in January 2008, the department has raised £20,000 each year to be spent locally.

The money is used directly to help buy equipment and deliver services in the Norwich and Great Yarmouth centres, as well as carry out research at the University of East Anglia.

And in celebration of the fifth year, the shop will be having a 25pc-off sale, starting today.

Richard Lee, head of retail for the charity, described reaching the five-year landmark as “astonishing” and said so much of the work and progress could not be done without the volunteers.

Retired nurse Ruth Perfitt, 75, has been working in the department since the first day it opened.

Altering dresses, and advising brides, the grandmother-of-five from Bramerton works a day a week in-store, and is highly knowledgable on all things sewing.

She thought a lot of people went into the shop for the same reason – because the money they spend goes towards helping local people with cancer.

She said over the five years she and the volunteers had seen real changes in what brides want with some, lately, even desiring a Big Fat Gypsy Wedding-style gown.

But she added: “With any girl it is very noticeable, as soon as she puts on a dress, she is transformed. A bride is always a bride and she wants to look like one.”

With an average dress selling in the shop at £200, Mrs Perfitt said for every two dresses that were donated, they sold three.

However, she said: “Without the donations we have nothing to sell.”

Some of the dresses donated to the shop are more than 30 years old, and having been in a box for that amount of time, Mrs Perfitt says, once donated, they fall apart. But she urged married women to donate their dresses for the trade to be able to continue.

After a call-out for donations, on its first day of opening the department had 200 dresses to sell, as well as veils, shoes, petticoats and tiaras to make the big day special and affordable.

Shop manager Theresa Webster, from Costessey, said many people did not realise where the shop is.

However, she added: “But people can come and get something for a fraction of the price, really unusual and a one-off, whilst helping a local cause.”

All other items in the shop will also be reduced from today, including occasion items such as bridesmaid gowns etc.

Do you have a story about a local charity? Email reporter Rosa McMahon at rosa.mcmahon@archant.co.uk

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