Your guide to wedding dress shopping

Whether you’ve had your big day planned since you were six years old or you’ve never given it a second thought, shopping for your wedding dress can be stressful.


The amount of choice out there is overwhelming, from princess gowns to sleek styles and even elegant bridal jumpsuits. Not to mention the whole process of going into bridal salons, which can seem intimidating at first.


However, shopping for your wedding dress is one of the most exciting and emotional experiences you’ll have in the run-up to your big day. It should be fun, so we’re here to banish your worries and answer all the questions you have about wedding dress shopping, helping you to be prepared and most importantly, to enjoy it.


How far in advance should you get a wedding dress?


As you might’ve guessed, the answer is as early as possible. You might already have an idea of your dream dress even before you get engaged, but if not, it’s a good idea to start looking for inspiration straight away.


Ideally, your wedding dress should be purchased at least 6 months before the big day, to give you time to go to fittings (the average bride has 3 fittings) and to get the dress altered, which can take some time.


What to know before wedding dress shopping


Know your budget

It’s essential to have a maximum price in your head before heading to the bridal salons, to avoid you blowing all your wedding budget in one go. Remember that this figure isn’t just for the dress itself, but also for any alterations that might need doing, as well as a possible appointment fee for the salon visit.


We can’t stress this enough: don’t try on dresses that are above your budget, even if they’re beautiful! You don’t want to risk falling in love with one that’ll break the bank.


Call ahead

If you just pop into a salon without booking and expect to be able to try on all the dresses, you’ll likely be disappointed, especially if you’re going shopping at the weekend. To ensure some one-on-one time with a sales consultant, and to get all the necessary information beforehand, make sure to call ahead and book an appointment.


Allow plenty of time

You might be lucky enough to find ‘The One’ on your first try, but you might still be unsure on your 10th or 20th gown. Don’t worry if this is the case, but don’t expect to be done and dusted within a couple of hours.


Pick a day when you have no other obligations, and you can spend as long as you like browsing a couple of shops and trying on dresses without any time restrictions.


Gather some ideas

You may have no idea what you’re looking for, and that’s alright, but it’s still a good idea to do some research beforehand. The more specific you can be with the sales assistants – whether it’s a preferred colour, shape or material – the more suited the options they can bring you, and the sooner you’ll find your dream dress.


Don’t take all your bridesmaids

It might be tempting to invite your whole bridal crew along to get a bit teary and take pictures of you in all the dresses. But chances are that a big group won’t be appreciated by the sales assistants, and a wider range of opinions might throw you off. It’s best to just bring along the two you’re closest to – maybe your maid of honour and your mum.


Bridal sizing is weird

Remember: bridal sizing is not like normal sizing. You won’t have the same size wedding dress as you do a normal dress on the high street, and that’s fine. For some reason, bridal gowns are always sized smaller, so be prepared to try on a bigger number than you usually do – and don’t stress about it.


The admin bit

A wedding dress is a big and expensive purchase, so both you and the bridal shop will need to protect yourselves in case anything goes wrong. You’ll most likely have to put down a deposit and sign a contract, so make sure you read all the small print about refunds, alterations and liability.


What to wear wedding dress shopping


Nude underwear is a must while trying on wedding dresses, especially if you’re going for the traditional white gown. Seamless and strapless undergarments are also a good choice to stop them from showing through the dress and ruining the look. Bring spares if possible – the more options the better.


If you’ve already bought your bridal shoes, make sure to take them with you so you can try them on with dresses. If you haven’t found any yet, take a pair with a similar heel height to ones you’ll be wearing so you can judge gown lengths.


Don’t go overboard with makeup and fake tan. You don’t want the nightmare of transferring a brown smudge onto the neckline of a £1,000 dress!


How to choose a wedding dress style


If you’ve started researching wedding dress styles, you’re probably overwhelmed with all the terminology already. Basque, trumpet, illusion, bateau? What do they all mean?


Try not to get bogged down with what’s on trend while you’re shopping, and just focus on what you like. Try on as many different styles as you want to, and even try on dresses that aren’t really your taste – there’s no harm in stepping outside your comfort zone, and wedding dresses will always look better on you than on the hanger.


Make sure to pick a dress that you can move, sit down and dance all night in. It needs to be comfortable as well as beautiful, as you don’t want to be worrying about the material ripping or not being able to have a slice of wedding cake when you’re having a blast at your reception.


Another key thing to keep in mind is the location and time of year that you’ll be getting hitched. If you’re tying the knot in a beautiful countryside garden in the height of summer, you don’t want to be overheating in long sleeves.


Who buys the bride’s wedding dress?


Weddings are steeped in tradition, and one of those traditions is that the bride’s family pays for the wedding dress, as well as the bridesmaid dresses. However, don’t feel like you have to follow the rules at all – more and more brides are choosing to buy their dress themselves, or split the cost with their partner.

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