Wedding Dress Shopping Tips From An X Bridal Shop Owner

wedding dress shopping tips

My wedding dress hunt has begun. Exciting times! But, I have absolutely no idea where to start. Lots of ladies have a very clear idea of what they want, and might even have a dress in mind. Before starting my wedding dress journey I was pretty clueless as to what would suit me. I haven’t really had a brief for the dress shops ready, other than I want something that ‘accentuates my curves’.

There used to be the most adorable wedding shop in my village, but it’s closed down now. The owners now run a lovely cafe and shop instead, it’s called The Perfect Blend.  So I have spent some time chatting to Jane, who used to run the wedding shop and has worked in the industry for years.

What better way to prepare yourself for wedding dress shopping than to speak to an expert? Now I know what to look out for and have some fantastic tips on how to find my dream dress. If you want to find the perfect wedding dress for you, know what to look out for and have an enjoyable shopping experience, then read Jane’s tips below.  

What you need wear/bring?

It helps if your hair is done up nicely, because then you can really see the dresses. But the main thing to keep in mind is to have your hair how you feel special, and if that’s down, then that’s OK too.

Style your hair in a true reflection of what you think you are going to look like. Maybe even buy some nice underwear without a VPL. It’s much better to wear decent underwear that won’t show under the dress. You are also more likely to feel good about yourself. Bring a nice comfortable strapless bra too.

Start thinking about what height heels you want to wear as this really impacts your dress. A good height is about nine to ten centimetres (about a three and a half inch heel). This makes you special enough but not it’s too high that you can’t wear them all day.

Who should you bring with you?

Bring your mum or a sister (or both), or your mum and a best friend. Another option is to go with best friend and a sister first, and then bring your mum back for a second look. Definitely two people only. Only bring people that you really trust, who are going to tell you what is right for you not what is right for them.

Don’t bring all your bridesmaids, as this presents too many opinions. Plus, they tend to say what they personally don’t like and it’s a very personal view, whereas you might have actually been happy with that dress. FYI, if you go on your own, the shop owners may not take you so seriously because they know you will be unlikely to buy the dress on the day.

How can you find the right wedding shop for you?

First off, you need to think of your budget, and how much you really want to pay for that dress. You don’t need to go to the most expensive shop to find the right dress. You can go to the high street and still find something nice. The last thing you want to do is go to a shop and try on a dress that you fall in love with that you can’t afford.

Get recommendations from experts and people you know who have similar taste. Go somewhere a friend has and had good service. Wedding shopping isn’t just about the dresses in the shops, it’s about the service you get and how comfortable the staff make you feel.

You want someone that is prepared to go the extra mile for you because this is your special day. Go for shops that provide the whole experience, as you only get to go through this process once.   

What to ask when you are in the shop

You want to figure out where the hidden extras may be, because the alterations may be a lot of money. Find out about time frames, and how the payment works. Some dress shops need you to sort your dress out at least six months in advance.

Be aware that some shops will tell you that have less time to try and pressurise you into buying a dress. So find out before you go what the lead time is (the time it takes to get the dress delivered).

You should also ask how they calculate what the alterations cost, and if you are planning on losing weight then what happens? At what time will you be measured for your gown? It depends on each shop, some shops might do it instantly and order in a standard size that’s nearest to your size.

Six months before is a good time period. Remember you need to take responsibility for yourself what size you will be. If you do want to lose a lot of weight, you have to keep in mind how this will impact your alterations. It may also spoil the way your dress looks.

A decent seamstress works about £20 an hour. Ask if alteration charges are included in the price of the dress. The average time for a seamstress to make alterations would maybe include a hem alteration and possibly a top line or a little knick in, which takes around five hours in most cases. Unpicking beadwork and really fiddly things can take much longer than you might think.

Final fittings should be four to six weeks before. You will usually collect your dress two weeks before.

Deposit – most shops will want to secure a sale, they want to take a deposit off of you. They won’t want to let you walk out the shop after ascertaining what dress you want and not take any money. They may ask for up to a 50% deposit, and they may measure you there and then. It’s best to come back 6 months before the wedding to take measurements if you can.

People may say there’s not enough time, or the dress could get sold, both of which could be a lie just to get a sale. Just be mindful of this. It’s fine if you really do love the dress and don’t want to lose it, but don’t let them pressurise you into making a decision. Staff will often have sales targets and can be very pushy.

How can you keep the alterations to a minimum?

Ordering the right size gown and maintaining the right size. Being realistic about what size you can get to, or allowing room for putting on weight.

How do you know when you have found the right dress?

You won’t want to take the dress off, you want to go home in it. Which means you feel completely comfortable in it. The shop owners often report seeing a body language change in how the bride to be carriers herself etc. You just get that feeling. Your mum, sister or bridesmaids might cry.

General tips for finding a dress

  • You can go to some of the wedding shows which run Sept/Oct and Jan/Feb and you can sometimes get 10 or 20% off your dress.
  • Go for a shop where you get a good feel for the staff and the atmosphere.
  • Don’t feel pressured in any way. It’s a big decision that you can take your time over.
  • Be open minded, because a lot of people come in with a set idea and then they end up with something completely different. Your ideas can often go straight out the window.
  • If you have your wedding plan, you have the venue booked and you have the colour scheme, then that can determine the length of the train, the size of the dress and the colour etc.
  • Think of your venue when trying on your dress. Some dresses just don’t suit some venues. For example a church with a narrow aisle may not have enough room for a huge dress. A castle would suit a huge meringue dress, whereas a relaxed garden wedding would suit a more floaty, boho dress. Catholic churches often suit something with lace that covers the shoulders. But keep you can adapt some dresses to the venue, for example losing a lace jacket for a more relaxed look, or a sparkly sash for some instant glam.
  • Leave your entire entourage at home.
  • Sometimes you don’t know until you have found your dress whether you will wear a veil or headpiece. It’s a very personal choice. Some people feel a dress isn’t complete without a veil, others don’t like the idea. It’s down to you. Traditional mums may want their daughter to wear a veil, but you don’t have to take that advice on board because at the end of the day it’s your wedding. A simple veil can work really well, and can set off the dress and make a frame around it.

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