17th November 2021

7 Things to Know Before Going Wedding Dress Shopping

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The media will have you believe that wedding dress shopping is a walk in the park. We have all seen brides in films waltz in and out of changing rooms, sipping champagne and falling in love with every dress they try. In reality though, many brides find this aspect of wedding planning very stressful! It feels like such a huge decision to settle on the gown in which you’ll say “I do”. Don’t panic though, if you plan in advance and keep your head then the process can be just as enjoyable as in the movies. Here are our 7 top tips of things to know before you hit the shops. Keep these in mind and you might be one of the lucky brides who falls in love with the first dress they try!


Set the Budget

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This is a big one. The most important aspect of your wedding to have in place before you go wedding dress shopping is your budget. Not only do you need to budget for your dress, but you need to keep extra expenses in mind too. This ranges from your shoes to your veil, and extends to any alterations and fittings you may need for your gown. Some gowns increase in price for larger sizes, so this is also worth bearing in mind.

Keep your budget realistic. Do some online shopping and look at the prices of styles you like. If you are after a simple sheath you will probably be able to keep it pretty low. However, if its a dramatic ballgown that you are after then the starting price will be higher. Decide how much of your overall budget you want to spend on the dress and make sure it is proportional to the rest of your wedding.

Some bridal shops charge per appointment. This is usually a fairly small fee, but if money is tight you might want to factor this in. It can really add up if you want to visit multiple boutiques!

If funds are low, why not consider purchasing a sample dress. Lots of bridal shops hold annual sample sales which give you the chance to purchase a dress off the rack. This way you can get the designer you love without the brand new price tag.


Call Ahead if You Want a Specific Dress

Bridal shops have a limited stock in store, so you should definitely call ahead if you have a specific gown in mind. Often stores will be able to call a sample in for you to try so this will avoid disappointment.

Further to this, bridal stores have a radius of exclusivity on designs. This means that they will have an agreement with a designer that they will be the only store to stock certain designs in their area. This may mean that although a store carries the designer you like, they may not have the dress you are after. This has a great benefit though of knowing you will be able to see a good range of dresses within the same area.


Who is Coming With You?

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While it may seem like you need all of your bridesmaids, best friends, mum and mother in law present for wedding dress shopping, this may get overwhelming fast. Too many cooks spoil the pot, and this large group of clashing opinions won’t be an ideal situation for decision making.

Our advice is to pick one or two people you are really close to. Think hard about who you trust to be helpful and constructive. Secondly, consider who knows you the best. Less importantly but still worth considering, is to choose someone with a similar sense of style to you. This way you can be on the same page and you won’t have to do any convincing.


Have a Realistic Timeframe in Mind

Wedding dresses are made to order and often have a long lead time. This can range from 3-6 months, so it is best to start shopping as early as you can. You need to leave enough time to order the dress and have it made, but also to shop around enough that you don’t feel rushed. We don’t suggest you spend months shopping as going to too many boutiques can become overwhelming. However, you don’t want to feel time pressured to buy the dress.


Have an Idea of Your Venue and Theme

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Second to the budget, these factors may have the next biggest impact on your dress. You need to ensure that your wedding dress is seasonally appropriate. If you are planning an autumnal outdoor wedding for example, you may want to choose sleeves and a heavier fabric.

Similarly, you want the dress to fit the vibe of the venue. A chiffon ruffled gown will look enchanting in a country garden, while a beaded satin ballgown will be right at home in a Catholic church. Think about how much walking you will need to do, as well as whether stairs will have an impact.


What Suits You?

This is a tricky question, but it is vital when choosing your wedding dress. Ask yourself what clothes you normally gravitate towards, and think carefully what sort of dress would be cohesive with your everyday style. Of course, your wedding dress will be an enhanced version of yourself, but you do not want it to eclipse your personality.

On a similar vein, it is probably best to have an idea of how you want to wear your hair and make up before you go to your appointment. For example, if you love having long flowing locks an illusion back or detailed neckline would be lost amongst the hair. Likewise, a dark moody make up look might be at odds with a tulle blush gown.

We don’t believe in “dressing for your body” in this office, as fashion rules are arbitrary and the dress that you love and feel good in is undoubtedly the dress for you. Having said that, do make sure you are comfortable in the silhouette/neckline/sleeve situation that you go for. You might love the off-the-shoulder look, but find this restricts your arm movement while dancing. If you go for strapless, you must ensure that it fits to perfection. This way you can avoid any slipping, or an over tight neckline that feels uncomfortable.

Lay the Foundations

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This one is vital! You must purchase an appropriate undergarment beforehand and wear it to the appointment. This will most likely be a strapless bra that matches your skin tone, but it could be a basque or corset depending on your style. If you plan to wear shapewear on the day, then bring that too. Not only will this give you an idea of how the bra will look underneath the dress but you will avoid any nasty surprises on the day like the undies showing or the shapewear not working with the skirt.

The other great benefit of this is that you can try on dresses with them looking the way they are intended. A daily black bra will show through illusion necklines and sheer panels and throw off the whole look. This will help you shop without distractions.

Following this theme, bring a pair of shoes that are the same height and bulkiness as your planned wedding shoes. Whether you’re going for heels, ballet flats, or biker boots, each shoe will behave a bit differently beneath a skirt. Knowing how the skirt will fall and how much of the shoe you want on show is very important for alterations.