If you’re not the type of bride who has had a dedicated wedding Pinterest board, or can’t say that you’ve ever watched an episode of Say Yes to the Dress, then it can be difficult to know where to begin when it comes to shopping for your wedding gown.
The process of selecting your wedding gown is heralded as one of the most exciting experiences of your life, and while it can be, it’s also pretty exhausting. From changing in and out of heavy dresses to feeling disheartened by the amount of dresses you have tried on without success, the experience can be physically, mentally and emotionally draining. But that’s not to say the process isn’t worth it for that final ‘wow’ moment.
FINDING YOUR STYLE
Before you start organising anything, it’s important to sit down with your partner to create a wedding timeline. In doing so, a date should be set in which to work towards. A year before this date is an ideal time to start shopping for a wedding gown, however it’s handy to have some other elements set in stone first, such as your venue. Your venue will most likely dictate the style of your wedding dress if you’re looking to keep things practical and cohesive.
With this in mind, begin to gather inspiration that will assist both you and your consultant when shopping for your dream gown. Compiling a collection of images, either on Pinterest or in a scrapbook, is a great way to keep all of your thoughts in one place. Another way to find inspiration is to look at the clothes you already own. Think about the silhouettes that suit your body type, as well as what you feel most comfortable in.
The next step is to piece together what you like about the different styles of dresses you have collected. Think about the elements that make up a wedding gown – would you like a train? Straps or strapless? What
materials do you like? What colour do you prefer? Do you even want a dress at all? If you’re struggling to find a picture of a dress that speaks to you, come up with three adjectives to describe what’s in your mind. This will give your consultant something to work with when you meet at the appointment.
As previously mentioned, it’s best to book an appointment roughly six months to a year before the wedding. “For brides with a smaller timeframe, we offer off-the-rack gowns,” Boardman says. However, don’t take this as encouragement to leave dress shopping until the last minute. “The earlier you shop, the better,” she concludes. Just know that if you’re pressed for time, there are still options out there for you.
When booking an appointment at a bridal boutique be sure to ask questions that will save you time on the day, such as if the store stocks dresses in your size, its price range and the length of the appointment.
When you arrive at the store, you will be assigned a consultant who will work with you to find your dress. For a more personalised service, try booking your appointment between Monday and Friday. “Weekdays are often quieter [than the weekend] and you may be able to extend your appointment, if required,” Boardman says.
Boardman also says there are many benefits to booking an appointment with a bridal boutique, rather than simply walking in. “You are guaranteed an appointment time on the day you require, as well as one-on-one time with a knowledgeable bridal consultant,” she says. “Your consultant will typically discuss whether you have tried on any gowns prior to the appointment, as well as your price point, expectations and any themes you’re looking to follow.”
IN GOOD COMPANY
When it comes to your entourage, Boardman suggests keeping it small. “When trying on gowns, limit the amount of people who accompany you,” she says. “Inevitably everyone always has a different opinion.” Sure, your cousin and neighbour may really want to be there, but too many voices can confuse you. Narrow it down to the people whose opinions matter most to you – perhaps your mum, best friends or a sibling. With that being said, don’t be afraid to go dress shopping by yourself. After all, it’s your opinion that matters most.
The store in which you choose to shop will also dictate the amount of people you can bring along with you. Some may have large private change rooms, or if it’s a smaller boutique, it may only allow for a maximum of two guests.
CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS
Your budget should be non-negotiable. “Never walk into a store without a budget,” Boardman forewarns. Before you arrive at your
In regard to wearing makeup to your appointment, Boardman is in two minds. “[Wearing makeup] can give you an idea of how you’re going to look on your special day,” she says. “However, from a consultant’s point of view, makeup can easily transfer onto wedding gowns and stain them.” She also advises brides to not apply spray tan in the days leading up to their fittings.
LEARNING THE LINGO
Before stepping into a bridal boutique, it’s essential to know the difference between a couture and off-the-rack gown. “Couture gowns are personally designed and made in house by a designer and their staff,” Boardman says. “Each gown is custom made to fit your body.”
In recent years, more brides have been turning to couture designers to create their wedding gown. The best part of wearing a custom gown is knowing that you will never wear anything like it again. If you’re willing to pay more for a unique piece, choosing couture means not having to make sacrifices or compromises.
appointment decide on a maximum amount you wish to spend on your dress. Sit down with your partner and work out how you would like to allocate your money, if you will be using your own money, or if relatives are helping out, and estimate how much this leaves for your dress. On average, brides who buy an off-the-rack gown tend to spend approximately five per cent of their budget.
It’s also important to shop within your means – don’t shop somewhere that you know you can’t afford. “Stick to trying on gowns within your budget to avoid any disappointment,” Boardman says. So many brides commit the cardinal sin of trying on a dress that is out of their price range. It’s nice to feel expensive, but there’s no point falling in love with a dress that you can’t afford. You’ll only be heartbroken in the end.
PREPPING LIKE A PRO
As many bridal gowns are light in colour and fitted across the body, it’s important to bring along suitable undergarments to your appointment. “Nude seamless underwear, a strapless bra and shapewear, if needed, should be worn to an appointment to understand how the dress will look on your big day,” Boardman says.
It’s also a good idea to bring along a pair of heels. If you haven’t already bought the shoes you will be wearing, arrive at your appointment with a pair similar to the height that you plan to wear – this will give you an idea of where the dress will fall to. A good rule of thumb, which your consultant will share with you, is that the dress should just brush the floor. Wedding gowns are typically longer in length than the average person, and can of course be altered in time for the big day.
If you have any accessories that you plan to wear, such as your mother’s veil, or a special pair of earrings bring them along as well – this way you can see if they work with your dress before it’s too late.
However, the more popular choice with brides still stands with made-to-order and off-the-rack gowns. “Off-the-rack gowns come in standard sizes and will most likely require alterations,” Boardman says. “They are generally a less expensive option.”
If you are buying a made-to-order gown, don’t forget to include the price of alterations in your budget. Enquire instore about whether they do alterations, otherwise you will need to outsource a tailor. Get on top of your alterations as soon as possible to ensure that they are done in time for the wedding.
If your bridal boutique stocks sample gowns that are then made to order, keep in mind that you will need to allow time for the dress to be made to your measurements. “If you place an order, you will be required to either pay in full or place a deposit on the gown,” Boardman says. “Then there is a waiting game of up to six months for the gown to arrive in store.” Some stores also
offer variations on their gowns, such as different colour fabrics or altered necklines and sleeves. Some orders can also be prioritised if your wedding is less than three months away, however this usually comes at a price. “Alternatively, if you have chosen to purchase an off-the-rack gown, you can take it home that day or arrange a layby,” Boardman says. This is ideal for brides who have a short window before their wedding.
SIZING THINGS UP
When trying on your collection of gowns at a bridal boutique, you may notice that the sizing is different to what you usually wear. “Don’t let bridal sizing scare you,” Boardman says. “It’s normal to go up a few sizes from regular clothing.” While ready-to-wear clothing typically has more stretch to it, bridal wear is different. “Bridal sizing is more specific and closely fitted to the body, requiring more detailed measurements,” Boardman adds.
If you’re thinking about buying a dress that is too small in the hope that you will lose weight before the wedding, think again. Buying something that fits you now is the safest bet, and if you do end up losing weight, the dress can always be altered closer to the wedding day.
IN CONSULTANTS WE TRUST
Helping you find your dress from among thousands is no easy task, so it’s important to trust your consultant’s advice. If they suggest you try something on, don’t say no straight away. You’ll often find that an average-looking gown on the rack will look amazing on.
Use your one-on-one time wisely by asking your consultant any questions you may have – they’re there to guide you in the right direction. “Some popular questions that I get asked include, whether a gown is popular with other brides, if it comes in other colours, or if I think it will suit their body shape,” Boardman says. “I also advise against trying on too many gowns, as this can become confusing.”
Another frequently asked question is what to do with heavy or long trains, which can become cumbersome throughout the day. In these cases, a bustle can be incorporated into your dress in order to make things easier. “A bustle gathers up the back of the dress to stop it from dragging on the floor,” Boardman says. Typically this comes in the form of a ribbon hidden beneath the dress that the bride can then wear around her wrist to pick up the excess fabric. More heavy-duty options include hooks and buttons incorporated into the waist of the gown.
If you’re unsure whether your dress is the one, imagine yourself reminiscing about your wedding five years from now – will you still love it then? If so, you’ve found your dress! Regardless of which style or silhouette you pick, be confident in whatever you go with – you’re sure to look beautiful in no matter what you choose!