I spent the day at our Knightsbridge store on Saturday and carried out fittings for some of our lovely brides. As a fashion designer I feel it is so important for me to be constantly aware of what brides are looking for and create designs which cater for their wide range of requirements - their feedback will often influence my designs. This inspired me to write a blog this week which might offer some practical advice to brides starting out on the adventure of buying their dream wedding dress. Below I have addressed the five most commonly asked questions by brides looking to buy a designer bridal gown. 1 - What is the difference between a couture and ready to wear gown? Ready to wear gowns are dresses which have been made up in a range of sizes and are ready to buy - off the rail. Usually some adjustments are possible, such as a hem adjustment, at an extra cost. Couture is a word that is misused a lot these days. A true couture gown is one that is handmade to the client's measurements. Our gowns are fully couture, and each one is handmade for each bride. We provide a service where a toile of the corset is made up (this is a mock version of the corset) to enable the perfect fit. At this point changes can be made to fit and style until the bride is completely happy with the result. THE gown is then made up based on this fitting. Finer details and fit can be adjusted in the final fitting. Our gowns involve a minimum of three fittings- first measurements, toile fitting and final gown fitting, but this can vary depending on each gown. 2 - Do I need an appointment and what is the process the first time I go into store? The majority of boutiques do work on an appointment-only basis, purely to ensure that the consultants have the time to get to know you and find out exactly what you are looking for in a gown. Saturdays can be really busy so you may need to book a few weeks in advance for these days. It is usually better to try and book a day off work during the week when stores will often have more time to spend with you. We give all of our brides an hour-and-a-half appointment in which they have the showroom to themselves with a consultant. I always recommend that a bride does some research on the bridal designer before they book an appointment - find out what they do, what their signature style is, etc. This means you can limit the number of appointments you have as you will already have a good idea of which designers you like and the look you are going for. 3 - Do I have to pick a design from the collection? We introduce at least 30 new styles per season, so hopefully there is a something for everyone! However, I do like to work with brides to find out what they like and make the dress perfect for them. We are flexible and it is possible to select a bodice from one gown and a skirt of another, or to design something especially unique. 4 - How long will it take to make and how much would I pay for a Suzanne Neville gown? We prefer to have a minimum of five months to make a dress, this enables us to stagger appointments for the client. We make all of our gowns in our London studio, and therefore need to work the studio timing out so that every bride has their gown in time for their appointments. However, if you do not have five months, it is worth asking whether the dress can be made, which may be possible if the right fabrics are in stock, etc. We do have brides that have ordered their dress for up to a year and a half in advance - it is never too early. A Suzanne Neville gown starts from £2,000 with the majority of gowns priced between £2,000-£3,500. Of course, we do have some very special gowns with very elaborate detailing and in really luxurious fabrics which can cost up to £15,000! In terms of paying for the gown, most stores will require a deposit of between 1/3 and 1/2 of the balance when the order is placed, with the final balance being paid at the final fitting. 5 - When will I receive the finished gown? Will it be stored at the showroom until I want it and can it be delivered to me? Depending on the dress and the timings of the various fittings, the gown will be completely finished and ready to take home two to four weeks before the wedding date. It is possible to store the gown at the store up until the day of the wedding. It is advisable to have a car with an empty back seat when you collect the gown so that you can lay the dress out - so don't bring the whole family! When you get home, take the dress out of the bag, hang it up and let it breathe - but make sure it is covered in a sheet to protect it from any marks. The same applies for your veil. If you are travelling abroad for your wedding, I always recommend taking the dress on the plane with you, rather than checking it in. We are able to box the gown and courier it, but obviously this would be for a very special circumstance - it is such a valuable item that it is best that you collect it personally or ask someone you trust to collect it for you. I hope this helps. My advice is to savour the experience- it's such an exciting time in your life... and one I am very proud to be able to be involved in! Happy dress hunting!