Set the date before you start shopping
First things first, don’t start trying on wedding dresses until you’ve confirmed a few technical details: what time of the year will the wedding take place? Where will the reception be? This will stop you from falling in love with a dress that doesn’t suit your wedding (i.e. a giant ballgown for a registry ceremony, a skimpy strapless frock for a winter wedding... You get the idea). Having said that, don't leave wedding dress shopping too late. Designers and boutiques typically recommend shopping 12 to 8 months before your wedding day.
"We think purchasing a dress eight months in advance is ideal – to allow fittings and alterations to take place without a lot of last-minute stress." – Maria Yiannikaris, Mirror Mirror
Get an idea of what you want
Before you go shopping it's important to browse through a whole range of different dresses in order to get an idea of what you like.
Here at Brides HQ we are firm believers in the Pinterest moodboard, Instagram bookmark and/or scrapbook methods: gather your favourite ideas all in one place to inspire you. Even if at the beginning it seems like you like everything you see, eventually, a theme will emerge and you'll have a clearer idea of what to look for. One word of caution: don’t get dead set on a certain dress style – you might find that, once you try a few on, you change your mind entirely...
"I often equate wedding dress shopping with going into a library and simply asking for 'a book'. Where to begin?! It's good to know what 'genres' of dress you'd like to look at, be that princess, bohemian, strapless... But, in the same vein, don't have such a fixed view that you won't allow yourself to be influenced by the stylist. I'd say eight out of ten of our clients actually find their dress this way." – Mandi Visser Markham, The Wedding Club
Have a budget in mind - and stick to it!
Before you head out shopping it's important that you set yourself a general budget. Do you have £500 to spend? Or £5,000? That way, you won’t fall in love with a dress you simply cannot afford. It is important to find an outfit you adore, but it's also important not to blow your budget before you've even begun!
Make a bridal appointment
The majority of bridal boutiques require an appointment. Some come with a charge that you can redeem against the purchase of a dress – others don’t. But once you are in the boutique, the sales staff will ask you a few general questions about your wedding. By arriving with an idea of what you like you'll be able to help the staff save time guessing and find you dresses you'll like. They'll be in sample sizes, so don’t worry if they are too big or too small, it’s just to give you an indication of what each style will look like on you.
"Don't lose sight of who you are or what type of bride you want to be. It's so easy to copy other brides via Pinterest, Facebook etc., but remember: looking back at photos in ten years, you want to see yourself – and still love your dress!" – Lauren Crispin, The Mews Bridal
Enjoy the shopping experience
Shopping for your dress is a special occasion, so treat it as such. Take someone with you who'll enjoy it as much as you – your mum or dad, future mother-in-law or best friends. Really take time to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy. But don’t take a large entourage as too many opinions may do more harm than good.
Keep an open mind
Be flexible about what dresses you try on. Even if you really want a boho-chic gown, you may find that when you try on a full-bodied skirt and sparkly top you feel more special than you could have ever imagined!
"Try on a huge variety of silhouettes to begin with. And listen to the advice of the person that's leading the appointment; they know what they're doing and, quite often, you'll be surprised by what you end up with!" – Katherine Radford, Suzanne Neville.
Think about practicalities, too
Your wedding will be an active day. So, if you think you've found The One, run a few tests. Sit down, stand up, try raising your arms (as if you were to dance or hug someone) and make sure you're comfortable. Is the dress too heavy? Too revealing? These are all-important matters to consider...
"If you feel yourself, happy and beautiful, everyone else will see you that way. Katya is famous for making very light and comfortable dresses a bride can wear all day." – Marina Kvasova, Katya Katya London
Once you've chosen your dress
When you’ve decided which gown you want, your measurements will be taken. Most stores require a deposit (sometimes as much as 50 per cent), with the rest of it due after your final fitting. Don’t despair if, when you go back for your first fitting, the dress isn’t what you imagined it would be. At this stage, there should still be plenty of time to get it adjusted and altered. This is the time to pinpoint any problems you may have overlooked during the excitement of choosing it. Trust the seamstress to do her work and keep a positive mentality.
The second fitting will usually give you a much better indication of what your gown will look like on the day. It may still need a little tweaking, but not much. If more changes need to be made, make sure you book in another appointment before the wedding to check that everything is how it should be and that it fits like a glove. It's a good idea to take a friend who'll also be with you when you get ready on the day, so they can learn how the ties, hooks or buttons work.
On the day
Remember to let your dress breathe before you put it on, making sure that it is hung from a height, undisturbed and not creased or sitting with anything else on top of it. You don't want it get stained or crumpled before you’ve even had a chance to put it on! Then, enjoy the process of putting it on. The morning of your wedding is a special time that you'll remember forever.