How to shop for your wedding dress: The Basics

Walking into a wedding dress shop for the first time you might be a little overwhelmed by the amount of tulle, satin and sparkle that you see. More than likely you will have been admiring dresses online, in magazines and in shop windows before deciding to bite the bullet and go shopping. In my experience here is the best way to shop for your wedding dress.
  • When to start shopping?
    • I have bought my wedding dress 2 years before I am getting married - I know - I am crazy! You should start looking around 12 months before... keep in mind that shops often need to order dresses up to 6 months before. 
  • What to wear?
    • Wear something loose fitting - if you have booked to go to more than bridal shop that day then you will be getting unchanged multiple times and I don't know about you but I think a comfy slouchy t-shirt and jeans is probably easier to keep changing out of than a dress, tights and boots. 
    • Think about what you are wearing underneath your clothes as you will probably spend most of the day in your underwear! I would suggest wearing white or nude - you don't want to be able to see a pair of big black panties underneath that beautiful white chiffon wedding dress! It would be worth wearing a bra with removable straps or in lieu of that a strapless bra as a lot of bridal gowns are strapless or have detailed straps which bras may be seen under. You could also think about wearing some shape-wear - if you are planning to wear a pair of magic knickers on your wedding day then take some with you, they are great at smoothing out lumpy bumpy bits when you are wearing tight fitted dresses. 
  • What to take?
    • I would recommend taking a pair of heels with you that are a similar height to those that you intend on wearing on your big day. If you have been a bit of a keen bean and already have your wedding shoes then take those.
    • Take a scrapbook of your ideas, magazine cuttings, images save on your Pinterest - anything that will give the shop assistant some kind of idea as to the kind of styles that have caught your eye.
    • An open mind! Most women have an idea of a dress or style in mind and some of them get to the stage of trying on these dresses to find out that the dress is a bit of a disappointment in the flesh. If you have never considered trying a fishtail dress on then give it a go (see below) - you never know, it might be much better than the A-line style you were thinking of going for.
    • A bottle of water... you are going to getting in and out of dresses for hours - it can get pretty warm in those changing rooms!
  • Who to go With?
    • This can be a bit of a debated subject. I only had my mum with me when I bought be wedding dress but some people in shops we went into had several people waiting outside the changing room. The more people means more conflicting opinions - everybody has different ideas and before you know it there are so any opinions on each dress you can't think straight. I would say take a maximum of 3 people with you and in some bridal shops I went to this was the imposed maximum number of guests people could take with them. 
    • My main point is take people with you whose opinion you trust - you need to have people with you who will be honest and not be "yes" men. Most wedding dresses are lovely and you will look "nice" in most of them but that doesn't mean they are necessarily the right one. I knew just from my mums facial expressions that a dress wasn't quite right or she didn't seem as excited as before. Also you want the people who are to help you choose the right dress for "you" - they might think that champagne meringe dresses are the best thing since sliced bread... but if you are looking for a chic satin strapless number then that is what they should be helping you to find. 
  • How to find the perfect shape?
    • Before you run around the shop and pick out 12 dresses in the same style that you want to try on - stop! You need to get an idea of the perfect shape for you and then work from there. the advice from a bridal consultant I received was "If you try on a fishtail and it looks terrible on you and then you see a fishtail dress with gorgeous detailing that you love and want to try it on...chances are the shape still won't look right". I am not saying don't ever try on a dress of a shape that didn't work ever again but I think after following these steps you will probably find a style that flatters you so well you won't want to. 
    • the four shapes you should try on are:
      • the A-line dress
      • the princess dress (ball gown)
      • the fishtail dress (mermaid)
      • the straight dress (sheath)
      • there are always other shapes available but the ones above are the "big~ four for example an empire line dress. I personally would suggest trying on a short dress too!
Here are my awful hand-drawn depictions of the big four wedding dress shapes


  • How to find the perfect dress - things to think about.
    • When is your wedding? Are you getting married in the height of summer or are you getting married abroad? Do you want to be wearing a heavy princess dress with layer of tulle when you are walking around on a beach in 38 degrees heat. If you have always wanted to wear that Disney wedding dress then go for it - but I would recommend looking at some lighter breathable fabrics too. 
    • How are you planning to have your hair? I hate having my hair up - I only ever wear my hair up when I am at the gym or cleaning. I tried on a dress with a beautiful illusion back with lots of intricate beading - it was lovely but the reality was no-one would ever see it as my hair is half way down my back!
    • You  love the dress but there is something missing? Does the bridal shop have some bridal belts or sashes you could try on with? Justin Alexander do some stunning bridal belts which finish their lace dresses off to perfection.
    • What would it look like with shoes? (if you didn't take a pair with you)
    • What would it look like with a veil/hair accessories? Most bridal shops stock bridal accessories. Once you have started to narrow down your options I would suggest trying your dress on with a veil and/or a tiara 
  • Other tips
    • bridal sizes often come up smaller than regular high street sizes. I would always recommend trying bridal gowns in a size up from what you would usually buy. If you need to go up a couple of size - please don't get upset and declare that you are only going to eat celery until the ceremony. When I first went bridal shopping I did begin to start develop a bit f a complex before I was kindly reassured by the sales assistant that it is completely normal - bridal sizes are smaller! 
    • So you have decided on the dress and it is time to get measured. The shop assistant measures you a size 14 in bridal. You tell her all about this amazing juice extract diet that you are planning to do three months before the wedding that is guaranteed to drop you at least two dress sizes and you ask the assistant to order you  size 10 instead. DON'T DO IT! Most bridal dresses can be altered by two sizes anyway by a seamstress. A sales assistant told me so many brides ask for their dresses to be ordered smaller and she says to them "you can lose two stones - that is fantastic - and we will notice when you walk into the shop and think how well you look. Then we re-measure you and find out that all the weight has been lost from your bust or your thighs and your waist hasn't changed that much...Other time we have brides in who have wanted to tone u before their wedding and at their last wedding we can't zip up the dress due to all the new muscle bulk in their shoulders!"You can't select to lose weight from just certain parts of your body guys plus you are putting an enormous amount of pressure on yourself to slim down for your big day by doing it this way. 

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