Every bride wants to look absolutely stunning on her wedding day, when all eyes will be on her in the dress.
But shopping for what will probably be the most important dress in a woman’s life can be a very stressful experience.
Enhance your strong points
Brides face what can be a daunting choice of styles, cut, material and designs. Your gown needs to suit you and enhance your strong points while hiding the areas you don’t like.
Before you start, there are some important points to consider:
- Set yourself a budget and stick to it so you don’t fall in love with a gown that needs a mortgage to pay for it.
- When setting the budget include the cost of possible dress alterations, a veil, shoes and jewellery.
- Don’t forget to budget for hair and make-up.
The provenance of the dress
You might want to think about the provenance of your gown. Do you mind if the dress has come off a Chinese production line, or is it important that it’s been produced using high quality cutting and dressmaking skills? Are you looking for an off-the-peg sample or do you want a made-to-measure?
When it comes to style, there are several different shapes of gowns on the market and with a variety of necklines. The shapes are: ball gown, A-line, modified A-line, trumpet, mermaid, sheath, tea-length, mini and retro 50s style.
For inspiration, research online or in bridal magazines. Decide how you want your dress to look: what sort of the neckline; a flowing dress or a structured one; light or heavier fabric? Then there is the colour: traditional white, off-white, oyster and champagne; or break with tradition by choosing black or a bolder colour.
Best to avoid trends
Some brides don’t want a popular designer as they worry that their peers will have a similar dress, while others want the kudos of wearing a dress by a designer that everyone is talking about.
It is best to avoid trends and establish your own personal style by focusing on what flatters you most. Consider whether you want simplicity or intricate detailing such as beading.
Think about what designs you like and dislike, as this will be a good starting point when you walk into a bridal shop. Give some thought as to where you are getting married and having the reception, as this may dictate the style of the dress and theme of the day.
There are numerous independent bridal shops but the challenge is knowing where to go. Check out their reputation, read online reviews and find out if they give good customer service, as attention to detail is important. Get an idea of a shop’s prices before making an appointment.
Tell the shop about your budget
Start looking for your dress at least nine to 12 months before your wedding. Book your appointments, ideally not too late in the day so everyone is fresher and more energetic.
Tips for visiting bridal shops:
- Don’t book more than two or three appointments a day to avoid becoming tired – most appointments last about one and a half hours.
- Tell the shop your budget before your visit.
- Wear decent lingerie.
- Don’t take too many people on your search for the dress – lots of opinions can be confusing.
Be open-minded on the day because you may find that the styles you love in magazines do not suit you. The dress you wouldn’t have considered trying on is perhaps the one you finally fall in love with, thanks to the guidance and expertise of the shop’s stylist.
Try on the size you are
Be realistic about your size; don’t consider dresses that are too small. Bridal shops offer samples to be tried on and once a bride has decided which she wants, it will be ordered in her size. A wedding dress can be altered down by at least three sizes smaller, sometimes five.
There are some designers who will adapt the style of their dresses, for example by creating sleeves in a strapless dress, but at additional cost.
A more expensive route is buying a made-to-measure gown. This is when the bride chooses a particular style dress and a calico version is made and then fitted by a seamstress. The calico dress is the template for the final dress in bridal fabric. The fit is crucial and for many women it is their first experience of having a made-to-measure dress.
Be sure and try on again
At appointments don’t try on too many dresses. If you find a gown you love, think about it for a few days and go to a couple more bridal shops. You need to be sure that this is ‘the one’. If you are still thinking about that particular dress, go back and try it on again.
There are usually up to three dress fittings, with the first about six weeks before your wedding and the last one or two weeks before to ensure that the dress fits perfectly after last-minute tweaks.
The stress of planning a wedding or following a strict diet means that most brides lose weight before the wedding, so start fittings when you’re the size you want to be.
Less is more with jewellery
As well as the dress, you need to consider whether you want to wear a train and how it will work with the style. You might want a detachable train or a bustle to hold it up.
With jewellery, remember that less is more. The style of the dress will dictate what jewellery works. Small, elegant jewellery gives the finishing touch to a lot of necklines.
Whether high or low heels, the right shoes complete the look but they must be comfortable as you will wear them all day. Silk shoes can be dyed to match the dress or covered in the same fabric.
There are lots of options out there and a good bridal shop will give you reassuring guidance. Whatever style you choose, you will know when you find your dream dress.