They say that your wedding day is the most important day of your life. If you speak to a group of friends, you’re bound to find at least one that has been planning their wedding since they were about five years old. They’ve probably got a scrapbook of ideas and themes which they’ve been accumulating all of their lives. Or perhaps even a Pinterest board dedicated to the big day, so that when their boyfriend proposes, they’re ready. If you’re not one of them, worry. (I wasn't!)
There is so much to consider and arrange when your fella pops the question: the venue, entertainment, catering, transport, flowers, the cake, the stag and hen dos and the honeymoon to name just a few. Of all of the arrangements to be made, the wedding dress may be at the top of your list. It’s the one day when the focus is on you. You’re surrounded by friends and family, marrying the person you love – so you want everything to be perfect, yourself included.
This guide has been put together by Hen Heaven who provide hen party and weekend ideas for brides. The guide intends to take some of the worry and stress out of picking a wedding dress and make it a little more fun. Of course, we can’t choose and buy your gown for you but we can make the process a little more straightforward.
The most important place to start is by doing your research – and lots of it. Wedding dress shopping can be very daunting and it’s difficult to know where to start, so the more research you do, the better. The earlier you start, the more time you have to reach a decision. By doing research you’ll start to get an understanding of what’s out there, styles and colours you do and don’t like, and a realistic price range of dresses.
Start by stocking up on a range of wedding dress magazines. This way you can browse through dresses in your own time without the pressure from a sales assistant or questions from anyone. Put together a collage or mood board of things you like. It doesn’t even need to be a picture of a dress – it can be anything that inspires you. Perhaps you see a really striking colour on a sheet of wallpaper – tear away a sample and put it on your mood board. Visit fabric shops to have a look at the texture, feel, thickness of different materials such as silk, satin and lace. Keep a small section of a piece of fabric you like and add it to your mood board. This will eventually help to give you a bigger picture of the type of dress you’d really like.
The style and colour (and body shape)
A-line, fishtail, empire, ball gown… is it all gobbledegook? If so don’t fear, keep pictures of things you like and sales advisors can help when you’re ready to hit the shops. Colour may be an easier place to start initially. Think about whether you want something traditional or unconventional, and which colours suit your skin tone.
You should also have an understanding of which shapes, styles and necklines suit you. After all, you want a dress that enhances your body shape and is flattering. For example, if you have an hourglass figure, a dress that hugs your waist will accentuate your best asset; whereas if you’re very slim, a full skirt will create the illusion of curves. Any detail or embellishment will also draw attention to that area of the dress, so bear this in mind when looking at styles.
It’s a good idea to have some of your other wedding details in place before you decide on the style of dress you want too. For example, a ball gown may look out of place if you’re getting married on a beach. At least have an idea of the type of venue you may opt for.
Where to shop
You know what kind of thing you’re after now? Well done, that’s a big step! It’s important now to not get flustered when shopping for your wedding dress. Take your time and look around properly – don’t feel pressured by other people or by special offers that are only available when buying today.
There are many different types of wedding dress stockists, and you may find it easier deciding which ones to visit once you have an idea of the type of dress you’re after. For example, a bridal boutique may be perfect for you if you’re looking for an exclusive designer dress; whereas a discounted outlet store may be more up your street if you want the label without the price tag. These tend to be discontinued dresses, cancelled orders or one-off designs rather than ‘seconds’. If you are on a tight budget, you also have the option of buying a second-hand dress or hiring one for the day. This way you could get the designer dress of your dreams for a fraction of the price.
There are also specialists that focus on sourcing original vintage wedding dresses. Alternatively, you could work with a dress designer to create your own bespoke dress.
When trying on dresses to buy, weigh up the pros and cons of taking people with you versus going alone. If you decide you don’t want to be alone, take along a sister or best friend: you’ll hopefully get an honest opinion as they will have your best interest at heart. However, on the flip side you might find their opinions are overwhelming and it might be best to take someone along once you’ve narrowed the options down a bit. Do make the most of the sales assistants, they know what they’re doing and they’ll help you filter through all the dresses to pick out the styles you’re after.
Although it’s a good idea to try on a number of different wedding dresses, don’t try on dress after dress after dress. You’ll end up overwhelmed and confused – forgetting what you were originally looking for. If you’re trying on too many dresses, it’s probably because you don’t yet know what you want and you’re not ready to buy.
When you try a dress on, don’t just focus on how it looks and your reflection in the mirror. Pay attention to how it feels against your skin. The length and fit can be altered but the fabric will stay the same. Is it soft or scratchy? Is it heavy or lightweight? Remember, although you’ll only wear it once it will be for a full day so you should feel comfortable.
Buying your dress
So after all that searching and shopping, you’ve finally found the perfect dress. It makes you feel confident, beautiful and it flatters your figure. Congratulations! That’s one major thing ticked off the wedding list.
It’s worth bearing in mind that you may not necessary burst into tears when you find “the one” as often depicted in Hollywood rom-coms. It’s ok if you don’t get goosebumps. It doesn’t mean it’s the wrong choice for you – you just need to be happy with your decision in that it meets all your requirements. Don’t rush into anything.
In terms of timeframes, made-to-order dresses can take anything from four to six months to arrive at the bridal shop, while if you go to a designer, a bespoke couture dress will depend upon their workload. You’ll also need to allow time for alterations. With all this factored in, it’s a good idea to purchase at least six months before the big day.
Finally, when you know you’re happy with your choice, make sure you ask up front what their alteration prices are – and any extra costs to store the dress during alterations. It’s also worth asking for a discount, you might just get lucky!
Good luck and most of all, have fun.