From one bride to another.
First off, let’s get one thing straight, wedding dress shopping is NOT like in the movies, all fun and games and magical moments. There are some elements of fun, sure, but mostly, it’s stressful and a bit confusing (not quite as bad as that shitting scene from Bridesmaids though, don’t worry).
So here are a few things I learned along the way to finding THE dress, in the hope that it’ll make your experience a bit smoother than mine. Enjoy.
1. Go early
There is no such thing as ‘too early’ when it comes to wedding dress shopping. Some stores custom make them to suit your shape, so it can take up to six months. Also bear in mind you will need time for alterations before the big day (usually two-to-three appointments).
I will say this though, if you got yours super early on, don’t look at any other dresses in case you change your mind!
2. Don’t bring too many people
I’ll admit I fell at the first hurdle with this one. I got so excited, I brought my mum, sister, and four bridesmaids with me. To be fair to them, they weren’t critical at all, but they all had different favourite dresses, and then there were so many different opinions that I got confused as to which ones I liked best.
3. Your mum probably won’t cry
I was fully expecting my mum to be a blubbering mess when she first saw me in a dress. But I was robbed. Instead, when the sales assistant opened the curtain for the big reveal, mum wasn’t even there. She was running about the shop picking other options instead. Cheers mum.
4. Sales assistants can be a bit pushy
Do NOT fall for the hard sell techniques shops will undoubtedly try on you. They range from ‘well, if you want to buy it right this minute, we’ll give you a discount’ to ‘this is the last dress that will ever be made in the entire world so if you leave it you’ll never have a happy marriage’ (slight exaggeration here but you get the gist).
They’ll also try and sell you everything from the veil to the hoop skirt (which most dresses don’t need FYI), but shop around, as chances are they’re overcharging you.
5. Do not try on dresses above your budget
I did this. And of course I loved it. It all ended in tears, it wasn’t pretty.
6. Do not be snobby about sample sales
I went to a Jenny Packham one and the discounts were amazing, and I hear the Browns one is great too. Sure, the setting isn’t as nice as a chic bridal shop, but who cares if you’re getting your dream dress at a fraction of the cost?
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7. Do NOT pay to try on dresses
Absolutely, under no circumstances, should you pay to try on a wedding dress. Quite a few stores do this, especially if you’re going on a Saturday. Usually, you can redeem the cost against the dress you buy, but if you leave empty-handed, you’ve essentially paid £20-£30 for nothing.
8. Try on styles you don’t think you’ll like
I was adamant I wanted a ballgown, but thought I’d try on a few other styles just for fun and was quite surprised by how nice the fishtail dresses looked. While I did end up with my original choice, I very nearly caved.
9. Go by yourself
A bit of an echo of the first point, but for the second appointment, I recommend going by yourself. Then you can really make your own mind with no influence from anyone else.
10. There is no epiphany moment
You know those people who say, ‘I put it on and INSTANTLY knew it was The One’? Well they’re lying. Or maybe a bit less cynical than I am. I absolutely loved my dress, but there was no lightbulb moment.
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11. Wear the right underwear
You want to see what the dress will look like on the actual day, so wear white or nude underwear that’s supportive and/or nice. Because it looks a bit weird if you’ve got a black bra strap sticking out.
12. Do not be prudish
The sales assistant will see your boobs. Fact.
13. Try on a veil
It’s not for everyone, but as soon as I tried on a veil, it really pulled the look together and made me feel like a princess.
14. Shop for the body you have now
None of this, ‘I’ll get it four sizes down because I’m going to lose a shedload of weight’ thing, because you’re only putting pressure on yourself. If you want to lose weight, then obviously that’s totally your call, but chat to the sales assistant and see what size she recommends you get – some dresses lose their style if too much is taken in.
15. DO look online
Obviously, be cautious, there are tonnes of fake websites out there, but you can usually tell if it’s fake (usually from spelling mistakes and from stealing pictures from other sites).
I was lucky. I fell in love with a Carolina Herrera gown that was way over my budget, but I found someone selling it for 60% off on PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com. She had never worn the dresses so it was brand new, and I found the matching veil on OnceWed.com.
Both sites are for brides wanting to sell on their dresses, so they’re totally legit, and you can usually barter the cost down. They are mainly US brides, but some are happy to ship to the UK at an extra cost.
16. Trust your gut
My mum will hate me mention this again (hi mum, if you’re reading this!), but she really didn’t like my dress. Neither did my grandma. The gold bits, I’m told, aren’t very wedding-y. But I knew it was very me, so I got it, and on the day they absolutely loved it.
17. You will have doubts though
That’s not to say I didn’t have doubts. My dress was hanging in my closet a year before the wedding, and I couldn’t help but look at bridal magazines and Pinterest and see other dresses I loved, that made me doubt my choice. However all those doubts melted on the big day!