13 Essential Wedding Dress shopping Tips

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Essential wedding dress shopping tips? Really, how hard can it be to shop for a wedding dress. Before you go hurtling down the High Street in search of your nearest bridal boutique there are things you need to know.

We have rounded up some essential wedding dress tips for two reasons one is to ensure that the process of buying your wedding gown is the magical experience you imagine it to be. Second, as mentioned there are quite a few things you need to know about buying a wedding dress and getting this wrong can prove both costly and frustrating. Common complaints from brides are often directed at the experience received from wedding dress shops.  Some of this could undoubtedly be down to poor customer service but usually problems can be avoided if you are prepared and know what to expect. Buying a wedding dress is very different from buying a new outfit for the weekend.

Long sleeve wedding dress

Credit: Midsummer Night Bridal via Etsy

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What you need to know about buying a wedding dress

For most brides the thought of wedding dress shopping conjures up magical ideas of finding that once in a lifetime wedding dress that only dreams are made of.  For some brides the thought of wedding dress shopping is filled with fear and worry.  Regardless of where you are on this spectrum, we can all agree that there is a huge expectation placed on this one element of the wedding. It will be the one thing everyone is waiting to see (no pressure ladies).

Wedding dress shopping checklist

1. Don’t start shopping too early

What, I am getting married in 3 years time and I can’t go shopping now!  Hold your horses ladies we know how tempting it is to hit the shops, especially that pretty bridal boutique you pass everyday to work.  There are things to consider, such as how much you want to spend as well as whether you want something designed bespoke. If your on a tight budget then preparation and bargain hunting is going to be key not rushing to the first bridal shop you see. If bespoke or couture is what your looking for the chances are you could be looking at extended lead times so you need to start making enquiries and discussing this with your chosen designer.  Other reasons to not shop too early, are if your planning on a drastic weightloss plan. Buying too early means your having to bypass future wedding dress collections you may like more. The risk of falling for a second wedding dress is high. In most cases 12 months is ample time to kick start the buying process.  If you only have 1 month or 3 etc. don’t think all is lost either.  However, you may need to be more realistic with the options available in this time.

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2. Do your homework on local stockists

This is a really important step in your journey to finding your perfect dress.  Fact no 1: all wedding dress shops are not the same. Each wedding dress shop will cater for specific budgets and in some cases may specialise in set sizes of wedding gowns and of course the designers they stock.  Step 1: Determine your budget Step 2: Find out about the dresses the bridal shop stocks Step 3: Does the wedding dress shop cater for your size.  If you don’t do your homework you risk walking into a shop that will not meet your expectations frustrating for you and time wasting for the bridal shop owner.  Check out the details on the bridal shops website and if need be follow up with a phone call or a Facebook message to clarify anything. The questions you need to ask your bridal shop is what price range are there wedding gowns and what sizes do they stock.

3. Don’t over shop

Seriously, is this even possible. Wedding dress shopping is intense each appointment could last 2 hours and you could expect to try on at least 6 gowns, if your looking for serious contenders they all need to be narrowed down. This means remembering in detail each gown.

Never visit more than 2 bridal shops in one sitting this will give you the best chance of not confusing your thoughts.  I can guarantee anymore shopping and even the most ardent shopper will begin to lose the will to live. Ask someone to photograph you in your shortlist of dresses if the shop allows, this will help you jog your memory.


4. Decide wisely who you take dress shopping.

We’ve all seen episodes of Say yes to the dress you know the ones when no one likes the dresses and the Mum proves impossible to please. Know your entourage if you have these naysayers then please leave them behind. The problem you will then face is finding a dress to please everyone else. Don’t be that bride because eventually you will realise this and slowly risk hating that dress. I have known brides to be to shop with their prospective husband/wife but always make sure if your taking a male counterpart into a bridal shop it’s expected and OK.  It could be just be parents of flower girls coming in for fittings but please check out of courtesy.

5. Decide on your budget

Establish this early on especially if your whole wedding is on a budget there is no room to keep an open mind on this point. As wedding dresses can vary wildly in price. Not having this fixed early leaves you wide open for overspending, of course us ladies never do that!   Don’t set yourself up to fall in love with a wedding gown you cannot afford. Equally, don’t be tempted to hide any overspending this is a habit which you don’t want to start with in your married life.

6. Factor in alteration costs and accessories

I have kept this as a seperate point because the alteration costs can be very significant. Think about weight loss, weight gain, unexpected pregnancy it all happens. Be mindful of buying a dress from a shop that does not have a seamstress as part of the team. If the shop have advised a dress can be altered and implied this won’t cost much you don’t have much come back once you have bought the dress. Always get an expert opinion from a seamstress before buying the dress to see what can be achieved.

7. Think about shoes and underwear

Check with the bridal shop what shoes and underwear you should bring to your consultations and fittings. A well fitted bra can make a massive difference to the fit of a dress.

8. Keep an open mind at your bridal appointment

Depending on your personality this for some is quite difficult. The chances are you have already been pouring over magazines and blogs and have pretty much ruled out some certain styles you wouldn’t want to be seen dead in. However, your wedding dress fitter is a very experienced and capable professional and will know how each dress hangs and whether it’s going to complement your body shape. Trust their advice and keep an open mind.

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9. Always make appointments

This is a really big golden rule in bridal.  Always ring for an appointment and always show up or give the shop notice that there has been a change of plan. It’s a private and emotional journey and sharing it among the changing rooms of primark is not something you will want to do. Equally, you don’t want the public gate crashing your special moment if they turn up annanounced.

10. Weightloss and wedding dresses

It’s not uncommon for brides to be to be on a weightless plan. This is a tricky one as I know many people will not even start looking for dress until they have reached the goal weight they expect. My advice would be to get started on your weightloss journey but speak to your bridal shop about your expectations. The most likely scenario is the wedding dress has to be altered it is very highly unlikely a dress shop would order you a wedding dress size based on what you expect to be in 6 months.

11. Only buy from reputable sources

This goes without saying but this mainly applies to buying a wedding dress online. The market for copied wedding dress designs and wedding dresses sourced from overseas can be dubious in authenticity and quality. Often without little recourse for the buyer. Beware of online scams and make sure you double check before you click buy now. Online marketplace Etsy is a reputable source for buying online wedding dresses. All the sellers have ratings so you can check out a sellers reviews.

12. Check the Terms and Conditions

Always check the small print, know what their cancellation and refund policies are.

13. Always confirm everything in writing.

Always make sure you confirm your requests and discussions in writing following your appointment. Making assumptions is always the biggest cause of miscommunication and problems.

Wedding dress shopping checklist