Wedding Dress Shopping Tips

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Wedding Dress Shopping Tips

So, you are ready to go wedding dress shopping and are looking for some tips to help you along the way? Well, along with my own experience many moons ago, talking to several hundred brides and knowing a lot of bridal shop owners over the years, I have come up with the following tips to consider.  The list is not exhaustive and there may be other things to consider, but all in all I think these may help.  Oh, and don’t take my word for it.  I have enlisted the help of some experts who give their own personal advice further down the article.

Wedding Dress Styles

Now, I am not going to tell you to have a specific wedding dress style in mind because quite often you can go shopping quite convinced about the style you like and come out with something different that you absolutely adore.   And, those magicians at the bridal shop know how to (trick you into buying… cough cough) I mean sell you a veil. I personally went in with a halter neck straight line dress in mind and come out with a sweetheart gown adorned with a long white veil that I simply couldn’t get married without.  Some things to think about though are:

  • Consider your overall wedding theme, if you are going for a vintage wedding theme, then a straight gown with no detail may not fit into this at all. Likewise if you are looking for a modern contemporary look, a lace and pearl detailed dress may look out of place.

  • The time of year you are getting married should also be taken into account. If you are getting married in the winter, a fir shrug would look fab, but not so great in June. Likewise, a sheer dress will look whimsical in the summer but not so much in a winter wonderland theme.

  • If you are getting married abroad, your dress should not be too heavy for travelling purposes. Plus, if you are going somewhere with a hot climate, which I assume you are because otherwise why? (jokes), you should get something that travels well and will make you feel as cool as possible.  You don’t want to feel hot and sweaty on your wedding day as that is simply not a good look.

Oh, also please dress for the size you are now. If you lose weight that is great, if you want to but most dresses can be taken in 1 or 2 sizes. If you plan on losing more than that, it might be a good idea to lose the weight before you go shopping. Oh and if you do, please get in touch and tell me how the hell you managed it, me and weight loss are not good friends right now!!

Oh, and you fashionistas, remember that your wedding pictures are forever!! If you get something that is en trend now, it stands a chance of looking very dated in a few years time. Just something to think about..

Finally, don’t worry if it takes you a few shops and dresses. It is true that you ‘just know’ the dress you are after when you try it on. Even if you try on a few more, you will find yourself wanting to try on that one again. Trust your gut instinct, it is rarely wrong.

Wedding Dress Budget

So, how long is a piece of string right? I personally did not spend a lot on my dress as it was not an enormously important part of my day, but I do know brides who spent £2000 plus on their dresses. I have asked the important questions below to bridal shop owners to give you an idea of what budget to allow.

You should also keep in mind that along with your dress, your outfit will comprise of shoes, accessories such as jewellery, tiara and veil and good underwear which does not come cheap.

And, while we are talking budgets, if you have a smallish budget for a dress you should not rule out the sale rail. You can find these in some shops but also some bridal shop owners take these dresses to the bridal shows these attend and if you are willing to take it there and then you can often get a very good price too.

Other things to consider with a budget includes the seamstress costs.  Your bridal shop usually will have a seamstress they work closely with and may be able to advise you of costs to adjust your dress. Most dresses do need adjusting somwhere, just to make you aware. This was something I personally was not expecting, hence why my initial urge to go to London dress shopping was cancelled and a local shop was chosen. This should be taken into account when choosing your shop, you will have to revisit it for fittings when it arrives in store which may not be practical if the boutique is far away.

How to actually go wedding dress shopping

So, do you just walk into the nearest shop and start trying on dresses? No, unfortunately, that is not the case for many shops. Most shops I had contact with often required appointments and this is not because they don’t want to bother with people who just walk in, it is so they can plan their time and give you the time you need and deserve. A good bridal shop assistant is worth their weight in gold, believe me. And, if you think this is a ten minute job, you are in for a shock. I would allow a good hour to an hour and half for each shop. In fact it is better to ask them how long an appointment is for so you can stick to this timescale before their next bride is due in.

A midweek appointment can sometimes be better if you can as you will find more availability and probably get more one to one attention rather than at the weekend when they are really busy. Some bridal shops even do late nights so it is worth keeping these options in mind.

Also, ask if there is a charge for an appointment. This is unusual but there are some that do so it is worth asking for sure.

You also want to consider carefully which shops to get an appointment with. Ask your friends and family for recommendations, your time and theirs is important. You could have a look at designers you like and find local stockists (pinterest to the rescue). Other ways to get a flavour of a bridal shop is to attend local bridal fayres where they will normally host a cat walk show. (I actually stepped in and modelled a wedding dress once on a cat walk… but I was only 31 so you know, I looked ok.)

Now, when the assistant is helping you with your dresses, make sure you tell them which you like and what you don’t like. This will help them pick out more appropriate dresses for you to try. Don’t be polite and say you like them all, that will not help find ‘the dress’..

Who do I take wedding dress shopping?

Ok, this is a biggie. Please, for the love of god do not take an entourage of people. This is no good for anyone. The shop will feel overwhelmed and so will you. You have heard the phrase too many cooks and all that? Yep, same applies. Take one or two people for a varied opinion. In my experience, take someone who is not scared to tell you what doesn’t look right but not someone who is over opinionated as they can overwhelm you and take over the experience making you feel like you are not having a say in your own wedding gown. It is traditional to take your mum wedding dress shopping, but sometimes you can take either your maid of honour or bridesmaid, a sister or best friend or even your mother in law. All of them is just too much. But, ultimately it is up to you.

What do I take with me when I go wedding shop dressing?

Firstly, if you have your shoes (which you probably don’t), take them. If not, take a pair of shoes that are the height you ideally want to wear. It will make you feel better when you try on the dresses and give you a better idea of how the style suits you.

Secondly, take a strapless bra just in case. Good underwear is a must, including those knickers that are going to smooth away any unwanted bulges you may have. If you have a fab figure and are sick of this bulgy talk, I apologise, I assume everyone has a big bum like me. 🙂

This tip isn’t exactly what to take but don’t put on too much make up. You don’t want to leave half of your face on the bridal stock although you do want to look pretty to give you a proper feel of the dress.

What to ask before you buy your wedding dress?

Ok, so assuming you have found the dress and you want to order it, consider the next couple of tips before you commit.

  1. How long will it take to get to you.

  2. How much will it be for the altarations

  3. Is there a storage fee or do you need to pick it up straight away

  4. What would happen in the event of you having to cancel.

When your dress does come in, go over it with a fine tooth comb in the shop as it will be too late once you get it home.

And, finally, enjoy it!! This is all part of the excitement of the planning so go with it and enjoy the ride.

Now, I don’t ever assume to know everything so I have chatted to a couple of experts in this field and asked them a couple of questions that I thought you might appreciate the answer too. I hope you find it helpful.

Katie from Gold Needle Ltd, runs her business with her business partner Olga.  She answered the following questions for me.  More details on her business and their specialities are just below the interview, so be sure to check them out.  They provide an amazing service to brides.

Q. How much should a bride budget for her dress? For instance, what is the cheapest and most expensive dress you have ever sold?
With so many bridal shops and boutiques based on the high street and online, there is always an opportunity to find very cheap, reasonably priced or very expensive outfits.  It is all depends on the budget set by couple for their wedding outfits. We have exhibited at many Bridal Wedding shows in London with our bespoke wedding dress collection. The cheapest we have sold was 1940’s silk style sample wedding dress for £250.00 and the most expensive wedding dress we sold was for £9550.00 princess style dress which had a lot of hand embroidery and details with real swarovsky crystals all over.

Q. Is it important to book an appointment when dress shopping?
Yes, it is very important to book your appointment when you go dress shopping to make sure that the boutique you are visiting is 100% dedicated to you.

Q. How many months before the wedding date would you advise a bride to go bridal shopping?
The Wedding day is the most beautiful and unforgettable day for so many couples! When emotions are high and the thought of finding the perfect dress or wedding outfit causes stress, just try to remain calm and instead think about exactly it is what you want. Once you know what you want you are one step closer to finding your perfect outfit for your wedding day.

Depending on the date of the wedding, some brides go dress shopping a year before, 6 months before, some 2 months before the wedding. Do not leave it too late, have a proper look at your chosen design and if you buy a dress that you LOVE but… there is something you would like to change or to add, know for sure that there are professional tailors who work their magic and make sure that you look like a Diva on your Big Day.

Q. How many people should attend the consultation?
At Gold Needle studio we have brides who come along with their best friends, mothers, mothers in law, sisters and they all have a great time with a cup of tea and coffee and support the bride in her decisions. Some brides are very confident and come on their own. So again it is down to each bride, if she has someone close to come along or not we always make sure we do not push or force into making spontaneous decisions and we always welcome as many people as the bride wish to come with.

Q. How long does an appointment in dress shopping usually take?
Usually a dress shopping appointment lasts between 45min to 1h. If an appointment is booked for a bespoke outfit making we are happy to stay and discuss all requirements, designs, fabrics, accessories, colors up to 2 hours.

Q. Any specific advice relating to choosing someone to do your alterations and how much should this typically cost?
Be clear about what you want your finished product to look like. As technology has progressed over the years and every company is driving success by true clients testimonials, it is very important for anyone who is wishing to find a professional Tailor to fulfill their tailoring or alterations requirements to spend time to read potential companies testimonials. If in any doubt, you are always free and welcome to either call, send and email or come to the store in person (if the one actually exists) and ask as many questions as you want. Or, you can always get in touch with those clients who already left their review and ask about their experience with that particular company. It is a great idea of taking samples and images of what you want the final result to look like and you need to make sure you understand the changes that will have to happen to your garment if you are bringing one in for alterations.

Alterations costs differ from company to company and it is never possible to say anything without actually seeing what exactly client wants to achieve. Costs also vary on design, fabric, accessories, beads etc.. each garment is unique and needs an individual professional touch. Do not be scared, get in contact and book your appointment. Do not forget some companies have a set fee in place for bridal consultations.

Q. Do you have any other advice that brides should take into consideration before wedding dress shopping?
Be assured that there is definitely a dress design that you will fall in love with. It be definitely be yours, the one and only dress. Stay calm and know exactly what style of the dress you want. If you are in doubt have someone to come along with you for a dress shopping.  Please remember, the more people you take with you for a dress shopping the bigger chance is that the opinions will differ and that might make you unhappy and drive you away from your dream wedding dress style.  Set a budget you want to spend on your dress. When you go dress shopping make sure you have proper underwear (no no for black), that will give you a better idea of how the chosen dress will fit you and if anything needs to be changed or added.  Shoes are very important too, you do not have to buy them, simply have something similar heel height you would like to wear on your wedding day.  Know for sure that there are professional tailors who can always help, check their true testimonials and call if you have any questions.

One last thing that Katie was keen to add is that you must be aware that while a custom made dress is not overly expensive, given the work, time and overall detail that goes into making a gown, they are certainly not the cheap option.  But hey, this is simply the most important dress you will own.. need I say more?

Read more about Gold Needle Ltd
With over 40 year of experience in fashion industry, Gold Needle Ltd with immediate success became a family run business run by Olga and Katie.
They specialize in all sorts of garment bespoke making, reshaping, restyling, resizing from small to big and vice versa. Over the years they have met increadible amount of interesting clients who’s clothing garment had a story to tell which were given as a present or the ones that they have inherited from their loved ones. They have worked on very delicate Vintage pieces of clothing including Vintage Wedding Dresses dating back to 1890’s. Saying that, they have established a name for talent and customer care with attention to detail to reflect our clients personality.
They have recieved several awards: Platinum Certificate Of Excellence by Bridebook Wedding Awards 2018 and Certificate of Excellence 2018/2019 by Bark Awards.

Visit their website to find out more: or call them on 02083402332

Adele Jones from The Little White Dress was also kind enough to answer some questions too below.
Q. How much should a bride budget for her dress? For instance, what is the cheapest and most expensive dress you have ever sold?
A. Our gowns here at the Little White Dress start at £1200 going up to £3000.

Q. Is it important to book an appointment when dress shopping?
A. It’s super important to book an appointment as we work on a ‘One to One’ Bridal appointment only. We just love to spend time getting to know you and your style.

I hope this has helped you new brides a little. Other blogs in this series include the following:

Choosing the Venue

Setting the Date

Wedding Checklist

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Thanks for reading folks, I truly appreciate it and hope you got even one or two tips.

Have a fab time shopping for the best dress you will ever wear!!


Paula 🙂