Whether you have been dreaming about your wedding dress since you were 10-years-old or whether the mere thought of a wedding sent shivers of fear down your spine, there’s no hiding the fact that shopping for ‘the perfect’ dress can be daunting.
The bar is high – you want to look more beautiful than you have ever looked before – but there are so many styles to choose from, trends to follow and budgets to consider, how do you even get started? By following these few simple tips, you will be well prepared when stepping foot into your first bridal boutique and know exactly what you are looking for.
Location and season
Don’t even consider dress-shopping until you have set the time and place of your wedding. Getting married bare-foot on the beach requires a totally different style to holding your wedding in a fairy-tale castle. What’s the theme of the day: classic, bohemian or vintage?
The dress needs to suit the theme and also the season. Turn up on the beach in a heavy brocade dress and you will feel miserable for the whole ceremony (if you manage not to pass out first!). Certain materials work well for winter such as velvet, taffeta or brocade whereas in the summer months you need a lighter material, think linen, chiffon etc.
Dress styles and necklines
There are five or six main styles of dress to consider. An Empire Waist is fitted under the bust and then gently flares out. This is a great style to flatter any figure and works especially well for petite ladies. A-Line is also a flattering shape for many women, with a fitted bodice and a gentle flare in the skirt. A Sheath or Column dress is narrow cut and emphasises curves, a great look if you are tall and lean. The Mermaid/Trumpet style of dress has a corseted bodice with a fishtail-shaped skirt that flares out either just above or below the knee. A simple but elegant outfit can be achieved with a short wedding dress, perfect for beach weddings. Last, but definitely not least, is the Ballgown: a fitted bodice with a voluminous skirt. Think Cinderella!
As well as the style of dress, there are a multitude of necklines to choose from: sweetheart, off-shoulder, v-neck, square-neck, halter, Grecian, spaghetti-strap to name but a few. This may seem overwhelming but it means that out of all these styles, there will undoubtedly be at least one or two that are absolutely perfect for you.
In light of the numerous styles and necklines available, it is important that you do your research before you set off dress shopping. Knowing which style will suit you and match the theme of your day, will focus your search and make it easier.
However, although this sounds contradictory, it is also vitally important you approach your first venture into your dress-shopping journey with an open mind. Most stylists know their trade well and may be able to make suggestions because they can see what you, the novice, doesn’t always spot. Whilst it goes without saying that you should never be pushed into buying a dress that you really don’t like, do listen to the advice that the stylist has to offer and be open to trying on a few of their suggestions as well. You can always discount their opinion but you may find that the dress that looks awful on the peg makes an amazing transformation on your body. Research, be focused, be open and enjoy the ride!
One of the most important factors in buying your wedding dress is invariably your budget. Work out what you can afford to spend and be honest and upfront with the stylist from the start. That way they will show you dresses that you are able to buy. This will avoid the heartbreak that will undoubtedly occur when you find that dream dress only to realise that it is priced way above what you can afford.
Something worth bearing in mind is that the dress budget will likely need to include alterations.
If you are on a tight budget then don’t despair that you won’t be able to find that perfect dress. Start shopping early enough and you will have time to shop around. Boutiques often have sales racks or sell off discontinued lines at hugely reduced prices so these are definitely worth looking out for. If your budget is really tight, there are many great off-the-peg dresses to choose from on the high street that are really worth taking a look at.
Entourage, expectations and enjoying the experience
Now it’s time to venture out and go shopping. The first important thing to emphasise is not to take too many people with you, find one or two friends or family members whose opinions you trust and limit the trip to you and them only. Take too many people with you and although it may sound like an exciting group activity at the start, you will soon be confused and stressed from all the different opinions and advice.
Secondly keep your expectations in check. This is particularly important when trying on dresses for size. Always focus on the fit of the dress and not what size is written on the label. Bridal Gowns often come up one or even two sizes smaller so don’t sink into the depths of despair when you see the number on the label is higher than you normally wear. It’s how you look in the dress that’s important, not what size it is. Also buy the dress to fit the size you are now. Buying a dress smaller than you need because you ‘plan’ to shed a few pounds before the big day can increase your stress.
And lastly the most important point here is to enjoy the experience. If you start off stressed, it will inevitably become a chore. See it as an adventure where you get to try on several gorgeous dresses, some which may look disastrous but with the ultimate aim of turning you into a beautiful bride.
Shopping for a bridal gown should be an amazing experience and one that, if you approach it right, should be as trouble-free as possible. We all want to look amazing on our big day but remember that your new partner will likely think you look amazing whatever you wear. The worry about finding the right dress is often bought about by our own high expectations. So set the bar high but stay realistic and enjoy the shopping experience. Your perfect dress is out there and the stress-free version of you will look amazing in it!