How To Find Your Ideal Wedding Dress
First of all you need to decide what "look "you want for your wedding. Is it going to be a small, intimate affair or are you having 1000 guests? Church or register office? Where is the reception?
You don't need to have all the above already booked and sorted but you do need to have a vague idea on what you want to do.
Wedding and Bridal Magazines
The next step would be going through wedding magazines, you'll see pretty quickly what styles of dresses and designers you are attracted to. Magazines also advertise venues, accessories etc and you can get plenty of ideas from them.
Unfortunately anything that has the word "wedding" next to it seems to be far more expensive than its "non wedding" equivalent but luckily you don't need to buy everything from a specialised bridal shop.
How do I find My Ideal Wedding Dress
You have quite a few options:
- Buy a new dress from a bridal shop
- Hire it
- Second hand
- Having it made
- Making it yourself
- Sales events
- Unlikely places
Buy A New Wedding Dress From A Bridal Shop
Probably one of the most popular options, they have a good choice of dress styles, are usually in good locations, offer an alteration service and often sell bridal accessories such as veils, shoes and tiaras.
Big bridal chains are a good place to start from since the sales staff has been trained properly and can offer valuable advice.
The downside is that they don't really offer the best value for money, shop rents, staff and advertising greatly affect the prices. They are also not very flexible when it comes to design changes, e.g. if you want a longer train, different beading, adding sleeves etc. it's unlikely they'll be able to accommodate you. Although they have a huge range it is the same in each bridal shop across the country so your cousin in Brighton could get married before you do in the dress you were planning to wear. Furthermore, sales staff tends to put brides in the same "safe" wedding dresses most of the time so it's only a small proportion of a big range that is actually getting sold. This means that if you want something different you are better off going to a small retailer who might have designs from some yet unknown up and coming designer. A small independent bridal shop might also offer a more personal service and be more flexible when it comes to design changes.
Most shops work on an appointment only basis so you'll need to book even if you just want a quick peek. This is not to make your life difficult but often people shop during their lunch breaks or just after work and there aren't enough sales assistants to cope with the rush.
Once you've found a bridal shop you'd like to visit, ring them up and make an appointment. You'll be asked your wedding date and possibly other dress related questions, if you tried on before etc. Some bridal shops ring you up a couple of days before the appointment to confirm you are showing up.
The Bridal Shop Appointment
Don't be frightened by the idea of the one-to-one sales experience, it's usually fun. Sales assistants at wedding dress stores have received more training than your average retailer and should put you in suitable dresses. It's not in their interest to make you feel fat and ugly when they want to sell you a dress.
Who To Bring to A Bridal Shop Appointment
Anybody whose judgement you trust and you know will respect your decision.
The advantage of bringing somebody is that you should get an honest opinion and you are less vulnerable if the sales assistant is very pushy.
Avoid bringing all your mates though, everybody has different tastes and you'll end up trying on the dresses your friends would like to see on themselves.
What to Bring to A Bridal Shop Appointment
- A strapless bra, white or flesh coloured.
- Knickers, again white or flesh coloured.
- Tights or stockings.
- A hair clip if you want to wear your hair up at the wedding.
- Anything you intend to wear at the wedding, such as grandmother's pearls, auntie Martha's veil etc.
- Magazine pictures of any wedding dress you liked.
Most shops will lend you bridal shoes to wear throughout the appointment so don't worry about those. If you are not too happy about wearing shoes worn by other people, bring your own obviously, in which case you should know that wedding dresses in shops are samples and might not be very clean. A thin vest is an idea to consider.
What to Expect From A Bridal Shop Appointment
An appointment usually lasts up to 1 and a half hours and is an opportunity to see what really suits you or doesn't. That gorgeous wedding dress in the magazine was on a size 8, 6 foot model and we are not all made like that so us common mortals have to be realistic.
Before you can try wedding dresses on there is usually a brief chat where you are asked questions about your wedding, the "look", the venue, how many guests, if you tried on before etc. All this serves two purposes:
- The sales assistant wants to get to know you, wants to understand your taste, your likes and dislikes to avoid showing you wedding dresses you won't like or would not be suitable for the occasion.
- Some questions are designed to gain information and maximise the selling potential, e.g. if you describe your wedding as "romantic" be assured that a lot of the dresses you try on will be described to you as "romantic".
Trying The Wedding Dresses On!
You should be given a quick run through the collection to see if there's anything you'd like to try on. Do listen to the sales assistant's advice, while you were chatting she took a good clinical look at your figure and if they are experienced they'll pick dresses which suit you.
After the initial chat the real fun begins when you try wedding dresses on. You'll be given a dressing room and the sales assistant will help you getting in and out. There are ways of pinning a dress at the back so it fits at the front and would give you a pretty good idea of what the finished product would look like. Beware of shops which make you stand on a stepping stool if the dress it's too long, it will make your legs look longer but you won't have it at the wedding. Ideally the dress should be pinned up at the hem.
Depending on the size of the bridal shop you might have to share the dressing room with another bride so it's a good idea to get a wax beforehand.
Try not to linger too long in a dress, if you are not sure, it's not THE one and it takes a while to get in and out of wedding dresses so don't waste time.
At the end of the appointment you'll be given details of the wedding dress you liked the most but it's unlikely you'd be able to take a picture, shops don't want you to go and have it copied elsewhere.
If by the end of the appointment there's nothing you really like, don't despair, plenty more shops to check out.
You might be offered a second appointment but if there was nothing you really liked, don't bother, you are wasting their time and yours.
On the other hand, if there is something you really like draw it on a piece of paper when it's fresh in your memory because a month afterwards you won't remember much about it and will get it confused with other dresses. Try not to have too many "favourites" or you'll never make your mind up. Be ruthless, you are spending a lot of money and you have to be 100% sure. Learn as much as you can from appointments, ask questions but above all enjoy the experience. Honestly, it's fun!
About the author
Lucretia Agnus was born in Hungary in 1947.
She trained as a costume designer and worked on theatre and TV productions all over Europe. She settled in England after her marriage to raise a family and transferred her skills and experience to the bridal industry where she stayed for the next 20 years.She has now retired and enjoys cooking, gardening and skiing.
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"i have a brand new wedding dress still in its own bag with matching vail and shoes i payed £1900 for it and now i want to sell it could you help me my name is ellen my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my number is 07504956618"