6 tips for wedding dress shopping you need to know

For someone who had always hoped of getting married, I had never really looked into what sort of wedding dress I wanted. This was partly due to the fact that as much as I am a complete over planner (some may say control freak but I like to pretend it’s not true) I am also a firm believer in fate, and the idea of planning my wedding before it was on the horizon seemed to dice with destiny somewhat.

Like most brides, a major part of this process for me was choosing my dress.  It’s billed as the most important dress you’ll ever wear, so special you’ll never want to take it off.  I’d been led to believe from bridal magazines that “you’ll know as soon as you put it on” and was expecting an instant flood of tears when trying on “the one”.  It turns out that it’s not always as simple as that, so here’s my whistle stop guide on making the right choice as painless as possible.

  1. Research, research, research… but not too much research

When getting married, the internet is your friend…to a point.  Instagram and Pinterest are full of beautifully filtered shots of models in wedding dresses, and whist this is a great way to learn what different styles are called, try to not set your heart on one on the screen, because they can look very different in real life, and on different people.  There are approximately 6-8 general styles of wedding dress (trumpet, princess, sweetheart…) that you’ll hear being bounced around and you’ll want to know what they mean.  So, go in with an idea of what you like, but have an open mind. 

2. Don’t over book yourself

If you’re like me and hate trying clothes on in a shop, then don’t book back to back appointments on the day.  Wedding dress shops often charge a fee for an appointment, and you won’t get this back unless you buy a dress from them, when they usually take it off the price.  I shopped in London for mine and paid between £50 and £75 an appointment.  Trying on dresses is tiring, you can try on up to 20 in one session, so if you race round six shops in a day, you’ll burn out by the third.  There is such a thing as too much choice!  Stick to around three or four shops a day.

3. Mind the bubbly trap…

Part of the experience is having a glass of complimentary fizz as you play dress up.  Whilst free champagne can always seem like a bonus, if you’ve got a long day ahead then try to not be knocking back the booze by 11am.  By all means enjoy the perks, but pack water and snacks to carry you through!  It’s a big expensive decision, so you want a clear head. 

4. An HONEST second opinion counts

Take people with you who’s opinion you value, who know you well.  Usually this is a bridesmaid, your mother, family or close friends – it’s worth checking with the shop how many they allow to accompany you.  Turning up with your whole girl squad in tow will result in some of them having to wait in a coffee shop nearby.  You may need help making the decision, and you’ll want to take people who will give you an honest opinion, whilst being sensitive to how you feel.  It’s a very personal decision, so your company should care about it as much as you do!

5. Budget realistically

Probably the number one rule when planning a wedding is to work out your budget first and try to stick to it. Whilst I’ve read (and found comfort in) in the fact that no wedding comes in under budget, try and only go over budget in categories where it is really unavoidable. Wedding dresses range from very affordable to “is this dress lined with diamonds?!” so work out what you can spend. The shop should ask you your budget before you start trying, but if they don’t then point it out so they only bring you dresses in that bracket. Don’t go in and try on a dress out of your budget just for fun, as you’ll probably love it and then be crushed you can’t have it!

6. Patience is a virtue

Lastly, the most important thing to remember – do not rush it!  Dresses can take a while to arrive so make this near the top of your timeline.  Many shops charge a ‘rush fee’ if the wedding is less than six months away, so make sure you order it in plenty of time, to allow alterations to be made if needed.  If you don’t have the epiphany when tying on a particular one, or if you’re only 95% sure, then sleep on it.  Most shops will let you back to try it on again (without charging a fee) before you say yes to the dress.  Trust your gut – the final say should lie with you and you alone.

So, there you have it, my advice on finding the dream dress.  Follow these tips and you’ll go in as prepared as anyone!

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