Before you buy
First things first, don’t start trying on gowns 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 velvet dress for a garden party, a ballgown (with all the bells and whistles) for a registry ceremony, a skimpy strapless frock for a winter wedding up in the mountains... You get the idea.
"I think it's important to be as open-minded as possible when you go for your first bridal appointment, because you never know what's going to suit you. I think it's best to 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.
Develop your idea
Browse through different dresses to find a style 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 a few on, you change your mind entirely...
"My number one tip is: make sure you look like yourself on your wedding day. 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
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!
About the 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. Arrive with an idea of what you like (scrapbooks come in handy, naturally) and they will most likely bring you dresses to try on one at a time. 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.
"Research is crucial. It's really important to understand the brands a bridal store stocks; it's also important to have an idea of what you'd like to wear on your wedding day. 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
At the boutique
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 too large an entourage as too many opinions may do more harm than good.
The Perks of Buying Your Wedding Dress From A Bridal Boutique
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!
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...
"Be yourself. That's the most important thing. During your wedding, it's all about how you feel. 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.
"I really wish that our clients knew to plan ahead. We're living in an Amazon world, where we all think we can just click 'buy' and it'll be delivered the next day by drone! But gowns, whether they're bespoke or made-to-measure take a lot of care and time to create. 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
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,mso 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. Even this is a special time that you'll remember forever.