How to choose your wedding dress
Saying “yes to the dress” is a big milestone for any bride and although it’s exciting it can be a little daunting too; so I thought I’d share some tips to help you choose your wedding dress.
There’s lots to think about and consider before you start to shop for your wedding dress.
I did lots of research before I bought my perfect dress and want to share some pearls of wisdom with you.
You can read all about my saying yes to the dress story here.
Before you start wedding dress shopping
- Think about your day, and what kind of wedding dress is most appropriate. Different styles of wedding mean different styles of dress. Are you having a beach wedding, formal ballroom reception? Are you getting married in the winter or summer?
- Think about your body shape and personal style – consider all your choices, the style and shape of the wedding dress, necklines, length, waistlines, trains, sleeves and so on…
- Do some sofa surfing – spend a few days or weeks looking at magazines and wedding blogs before venturing out to the shops. Save the styles you like, create a mood board (virtual or physical) and a clear picture will start to emerge. Pinterest is your best friend here. Here’s my wedding dress inspiration Pinterest board.
- Be realistic – you may tone up and lose some weight on the run up to the wedding day, but you’re not realistically going to grow 6 inches or drop your D-cup to a AA chest – so think about what suits you and what you love to wear, not what looks fab on someone else.
- Set a realistic budget – the average wedding dress in the UK costs £1,385 according to Marie Claire magazine. That doesn’t mean you have to spend that much or little – depending on your budget. It’s best to agree an amount with your other half and possibly your parents (if they are buying your dress for you) before you fall in love with a dress you frankly can’t afford. Remember to also factor into your budget money for shoes, accessories, bridesmaids etc. too!
Give yourself enough time to find the right dress for you
- Start looking sooner rather than later. It’s never to early to start trying on dresses as it will give you an idea of what you like and what suits you and if it fits in with your day.
- It’s worth remembering that it can take up to six months for a dress to be made to order from a bridal boutique, if you leave it any later you may have to pay extra for a rush order.
- Make sure you factor in time for any alterations too. Wedding dresses usually come much longer as you can easily take away from the length. I needed a few alterations to my dress but factored in time for this with the seamstress who was also booked in for prom alterations too.
- Make sure you look into all the options, bridal boutiques, high-street shops, online, rental, sample sales, second-hand and charity shops. Think about what works for the style and budget you have in mind.
- Some bridal boutiques are really popular and you may have to wait several weeks for an appointment, particularly on weekends, evenings, and during wedding season (May through to September really) – so if you have your eye on somewhere it’s best to book your appointment well in advance.
Making the appointment to try on dresses
- Before you make an appointment, check what dresses a bridal boutique carries and see if they meet the look and style you’re after, while most boutiques have a range of styles, some will carry only classic styles, others vintage and some will be more high-fashion. This is where your sofa surfing will come in handy.
- If you have a certain dress in mind and you’ve found a stockist for the designer, call ahead to check if they have a sample of that particular dress – many boutiques will only keep samples of the most popular styles but they might be able to order it in. If you don’t ask you won’t know – shy bairns get nowt is what we say in Newcastle!
- If you have special requirements, or are worried about whether a boutique will have samples to fit you, just call ahead and chat through with the staff. Bridal boutique staff are so lovely, and they’ll try to meet your needs as much as possible.
- Check in advance if the shop charges a service fee for trying on dresses – I didn’t even know this was a thing so it’s definitely worth checking especially if you go to numerous shops.
- It’s best not to go to the appointments with a huge entourage. Organise to go with the people whose opinions you know you can trust. I went with my mam and one bridesmaid to the first appointment. My mam and nana came for the fitting and my mam came when I picked up the dress and to my alterations appointments. You need to be able to hear yourself think, and follow your own instincts about which dress makes you look and feel great. Remember too many cooks spoil the broth.
- If you have kids it’s worth thinking about leaving them at home (with a babysitter of course). You don’t want to be trying to entertain the little ones or sticky chocolate-y hands when trying on expensive white coloured gowns.
Before you go to your appointment
- Make sure to wear appropriate underwear as you will be helped in and out of dresses by the bridal consultant. It’s worth wearing a good quality strapless bra and nude pants. I personally left my tights on as didn’t feel comfortable without them on!
- Wear little or no make-up to protect the dresses and to give you the chance to see which shades are more flattering to your skin tone. It’s also worth thinking about laying off the fake tan too. Your makeup will probably be different on your wedding day anyway.
- Bring along any items you have already decided to wear – like a veil or piece of jewellery to make sure it ties in with the dress. Even if you think you’ll buy accessories elsewhere, it’s really worth trying on veils, belts and accessories in the shop while you’re wearing the dress, just to get an idea of what goes and what you like.
- Bring along heels in a similar height to those you will wear on the day unless you already have your shoes picked out in which case bring those with you.
- Check with the boutique beforehand about whether you can bring along a camera, most bridal shops don’t allow it. But if you can, take some snaps of the dresses you like so you can look over them later and compare them. If you can’t take photos keep a note of the dress name or number as well as the designer so you can look them up online and save them that way.
During your appointment
- Don’t get too caught up with designer labels. Choose the dress not the label, and stick to a price range that’s realistic for you and your budget.
- Also decide on a size that is also realistic. If you have chosen to slim down before the big day, buy the dress at your size now, therefore the dress can be taken in, whereas if you put on weight it is more difficult to release the dress. You don’t want to put extra pressure on yourself to lose weight. A dress that is too small is far worse than a dress that is too big.
- Be open-minded, try on a range of styles even dresses you don’t like on the hanger, and listen to the consultant’s recommendations, they know their stuff!
- Don’t get discouraged, you may visit several stores and try on dozens before you find “the one” – try to be patient.
- Clip pictures from magazines or online of designer dresses which may be out of your price range and bring them with you when you shop, the boutiques and shops you visit may be able to help you look for something similar. A lot of shops have styles that bear a resemblance to dresses by an expensive designer as a cheaper alternative for brides who have smaller budgets. It’s always worth asking!
- If you have found “the one”, shop around for the right price before you commit to buying, remember when you order your wedding dress it is a final sale.
- When you have found your dream wedding dress, stop looking! You might find your dress is cheaper somewhere else or fall in love with another completely different dress which might make you really upset. It just isn’t worth it.
- When your dress arrives, put it away in your mum’s house or somewhere safe. Don’t look at it. This eliminates the risk of temptation and doubt setting in and your dress getting dirty or damaged.
Wedding dress alterations
- Make sure to allow for alterations in both your budget and your time frame
- If you need to have your dress altered, make sure you do your research on the person or company you will be using, you don’t want to risk it! Word of mouth and personal recommendations are always best
- Some boutiques may be “all-inclusive” so alterations may be included in the price of the dress. Again it’s worth asking the question.
- At a bridal boutique where an alterations service is offered but not included in the price, it can be more expensive than an outside seamstress, but if a mistake is made by the in-house alterations service, the boutique is still responsible for it
- Always have a back-up plan for your wedding dress, just in case – the high-street has amazing dresses right now that can be bought at short notice
- Before your final fitting, make sure you have your chosen shoes, underwear and accessories, and bring them along to make sure it all works together
The most important thing about wedding dress shopping is that you have fun!
You might not get that ‘butterfly feeling’, but wedding dress should make you feel gorgeous and get you excited to wear it – if it doesn’t move on!
Why not make a day of it, pair your dress fittings with an afternoon tea with your mam, cocktails with your bridesmaids or a pamper session with your sister – you’re a bride, make the most of it!
What was your wedding dress shopping experience like? Have you got any tips to share? Let me know in the comments below.
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