Things to Remember When Shopping for Your Wedding Dress

Things to Remember When You're Shopping for your wedding dress

I have to admit that, when I started planning my wedding, (and actually, even before I got engaged) one of the things I was most excited to organise was the dress. I already had a lot of ideas about what I was looking for and I couldn’t wait to start trying on gowns.

(It’s no surprise, then, that I’ve got my dress ordered already when my wedding is still 15 months away!)

But shopping for a wedding dress can be a big undertaking and, while there were some things I knew to expect already, there were also some things I learned through the process that I wish someone had told me before my first appointment.

So here are some things to remember when you’re shopping for your wedding dress!

Think ahead

The process of shopping for your wedding dress starts way before you step foot in a bridal shop.

Bridal wear is a huge market and the amount of options out there can be a bit daunting. Shapes, necklines, materials, colours; it’s a lot.  Start out by doing some research to get a feel for what’s out there, and then try to narrow down some elements that you might be interested in.

Pinterest is a great resource for getting dress inspiration. Find your local bridal shops and browse their websites and social media feeds to see some of what they have in store. Find out what designers your local shops carry and check the main websites for those designers to see a wider range of designs.

If you’re not sure what you’re looking for in terms of design, it could be worth thinking about dresses you normally feel comfortable in. Think about what you would normally wear to a formal event, like a wedding, and start from there. For instance, if you tend towards dresses with floaty skirts, you might prefer an a-line dress or a ball gown to a slinky, fitted number.

Woman using laptop, looking at images of wedding dresses on Pinterest

Start early

If I could give one piece of advice on weddings in general, it’s to save yourself stress and start early. Give yourself plenty of time to actually enjoy the experience, without worrying about looming time constraints. I went to my first bridal appointment almost a year and a half in advance, but I’m glad that I did.

As someone who doesn’t always cope well under time pressure, I knew if I waited too long, I could end up stressing and picking something just because I needed to find a dress in time. It gave me some leeway to go to different shops, or to take a break and come back in a month or two.

If you can, definitely start shopping at least 9 to 12 months before your wedding, particularly if you’re planning on getting your dress ordered new from the designer; you’d be surprised how long it can take to come in.

If you’re more limited for time, many bridal shops will let you buy their sample dresses. If you’re lucky enough to find one that fits you well enough, this can be a good option to save time and a bit of money. Alternatively, shops like WED2BE, who sell all their dresses off the peg, are also a great shout.

Prepare for your appointment

When the day comes for your bridal appointment, remembered to be prepared for it.

Wearing the right underwear is a must. Nude, no-VPL pants are a good shout to avoid any visibility under the dress. If you normally wear control underwear for formal occasions, definitely pop them on for your appointment. It’s also helpful to wear a well-fitting strapless bra, especially if you’re trying on strapless or off the shoulder styles.

You also might want to glam yourself up a bit with some hair and makeup for your appointment. Again, go for the kind of look you would wear for a formal occasion. This helps to give you a better idea of what you’ll look like on your wedding day.

Row of white wedding dresses hanging on a rail

Try a bit of everything

You’re (hopefully) only going to do this once in your life, so you might as well soak up the experience and try something in every style, from the meringue-esuqe ballgowns to the skin-tight mermaid dresses. This is supposed to be a joyful experience, so have some fun with it!  Try on something you would never normally wear, just for giggles.

Even if you’ve come in having looked at 15,000 dresses online and think you know exactly what you want, be open to trying different things. You could find that what you thought was your perfect dress just isn’t right for you. Similarly, you could try something that you would never have picked and find that it looks amazing on you and you feel fantastic.

Whatever you end up choosing, trying on different styles during the process can help to remove any inkling of doubt that you might have. In my case, I knew I wanted something with a flowy skirt. I tried some fitted styles, and even though some of them looked okay, I knew it wasn’t what I wanted because it didn’t feel like me. 

But I wouldn’t have known that for sure without giving them a chance and seeing how they looked and felt on. Doing that made me totally confident that I was making the right choice in terms of shape.

Think about comfort

While appearance is probably the main factor that you’re going to be thinking about, something you also have to consider when searching for your dress is comfort.

There are two big questions you need to ask here. One: is it comfortable enough to wear all day? Obviously, I’m not saying it has to feel like pyjamas (unless you’re going to pull a Vicar of Dibley), but you should still feel comfortable enough that you’re not dying to take it off by 4 pm.

Two: is it functional enough to do things in? You’re not on Don’t Tell The Bride, you probably don’t have to be prepared for mountain climbing or skydiving. However, you’re still going to be moving around a lot. You’ll be getting pictures taken, you’ll be dancing, you’ll be walking around talking to all of your guests. The last thing you want is to be left waddling like a penguin or getting tangled up in your own skirt. So make sure to find something that you can sit, walk, dance, eat and generally move around in without too much difficulty.

Bring the right people

The people you bring to your bridal appointment can make or break your shopping experience, so choose your team wisely.

Don’t bring your entire family with you. Not only will most bridal shops not let you bring a throng of people with you but, as they say, too many cooks spoil the broth. Stick to one or two people that you trust.

If someone else is helping to pay for the dress, you’ll probably want to bring them. Aside from that, the most important thing is to bring people who know you well and understand your personal style. Choose people who are going to give you honest opinions but who also aren’t going to take over and overpower you if you have a difference of opinion.

Close up of white lace top on a wedding dress

Make it your own

If you have a specific idea or can’t seem to find a dress that has all the elements you’re looking for, don’t rule out the option of getting alternations made. I chose to add a layer of glitter underneath the skirt of my wedding dress, and I feel like it’s just going to add an extra bit of magic to it.

Also, don’t underestimate the power of accessories. Belts, jackets, boleros, cover-ups, straps; things like these can totally change the look of a dress and make it perfect for you.

Take your time and be sure

It’s very easy to get swept away in the moment when wedding dress shopping, especially at your first appointment. Don’t be afraid to go away and think about it before taking the plunge. It’s useful to err on the side of caution and think it through for a few days, even if you think you’re sure.

Story time: at my first appointment, I found a dress that I really liked. I got the feels, my sister and mum both got the feels and, although I was slightly insecure about one element of it, it was a really gorgeous dress.  At the time, I thought it was the one and I put a small deposit down on it. But in the days after, my wedding-goggles lifted and doubt started to creep in. I kept looking at the pictures of me in it and the element that made me feel slightly worried in the shop was all I could focus on. In the end, I realised it wasn’t the one.

Take your time and try to look at it objectively. Take a long look at the dress and analyse it. Ask yourself, “is there anything I would change about this, if I could?”

Try to list the things that you don’t like about the dress. If you’re coming up short, you might be onto a winner. If you can easily name several things, or if there’s one thing that feels like a major issue to you, it probably isn’t the one.

Your wedding dress is most likely the most expensive item of clothing you’re ever going to buy. If you’re going to spend hundreds or thousands of pounds on one dress, you want to make sure that it’s perfect. So take your time and be sure. 

Choose what you feel good in at the time

A lot of brides choose to go on special diets and fitness regimes in preparation for their wedding, adamant that they want to lose weight or tone up or tackle some perceived problem areas on their body.

But try not to focus on that too much when searching for a dress. Find something that you feel good in right now. You don’t want your love for your dress to be conditional on achieving goals you have for your body. In other words, don’t buy a wedding dress that you’re only going to love if you change something about yourself.

That way, if you do manage to tone up, awesome! If you don’t, you’re still going to look amazing regardless.

My first dress had a lot of elements that I loved, but it had one major issue: it was sleeveless. It left my upper arms exposed, which is an area I feel really self conscious about. I loved the other aspects of the dress so much that I tried to convince myself that I could overlook the arm issue. If I lost a bit of weight and toned up my arms, I would feel good in it.

But then I realised, there was a good chance this wouldn’t work out. If I didn’t lose any weight or tone up my arms, I’d still be stuck at square one, feeling insecure about it. Even if I did manage to tone up, there’s a chance I might still feel insecure about my arms. 

In the end, I cancelled the order and chose something that de-emphasised that area and I’m a million times happier with my choice.

Moral of the story: if there’s an element of a dress that makes you feel anything other than your best self, think it over because it may not be the one for you.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t step out of your comfort zone when looking for your wedding dress. You shouldn’t feel like you have to cover up certain areas of your body because they aren’t ‘perfect’. But the point here is to find something that makes you feel beautiful. And if covering a certain part of your body or emphasising another part is going to help you feel amazing, then do it.

Dark haired woman wearing a white wedding dress and veil, looking down and smiling

Trust your own opinion

The most crucial thing to remember is that this is your wedding dress, so the person whose opinion matters most is always going to be yours. Listen to your gut and if it’s telling you it’s not the one, it’s not the one.

When I tried on the original dress I ordered, it took some time, adjusting and convincing for me to get the feels for it. When I tried on my final dress, I felt great in it immediately. While this might not always be the case for everyone, for me, my initial gut reaction when I looked in the mirror turned out to be a pretty good indicator for whether or not it was the right dress.

Try not to let your opinion be affected by other people too much. This can be easier said than done, when people are tearing up and your bridal consultant is super positive and convincing. 

But if you don’t feel 100% great in the dress, it’s likely that no amount of people telling you it looks lovely is going to change that. Likewise, if your entourage are telling you that they don’t like a dress, but you know in yourself that you feel amazing in it, don’t let them sway you.

The most important thing is to find something that makes you feel beautiful, regardless of what anyone else says.

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