I found the thought of shopping for a wedding dress quite intimidating. I had watched hundreds of episodes of Say Yes to the Dress and had a good idea about what I was looking for, so I should have felt confident. However I put off shopping for a wedding dress for about 6 months.
Once I started shopping I loved it! We went to numerous shops and had a great time. I set out my wedding dress shopping journey below together with some of the tips I picked up along the way.
Before we were even engaged (we had been together for 6 years…) I had been browsing Pinterest and pinning dresses which I liked. After the engagement celebrations died down, I looked back and realised that there was a clear style I was drawn to; plain ivory, strapless, mermaid style dresses.
Although I knew what I was looking for, I had no desire to start wedding dress shopping. I think the main reason for my reluctance was that I wasn’t happy with my body. I hadn’t been watching what I was eating for a couple of years and hadn’t stepped foot in a gym for a long time. I was also in a really stressful job, which had led to eating at strange hours of the day and using food and drink as a treat.
I now realise that I was poorly educated in healthy eating to lose weight and how to exercise most efficiently. I knew what types of foods were healthy and what wasn’t, but I thought I needed to go on a starvation diet with loads of gruelling cardio to lose weight. This is what I had always done before for holidays and events. I didn’t feel ready to start this so far out from the big day. I have learnt a huge amount about weight loss, training styles and nutrition since then and will do another blog post soon on this.
So I was conflicted. I wanted to lose weight before dress shopping, as my self-esteem was so low, but I just couldn’t get motivated. I was still in the stressful job and felt I had no time to go the gym. So I just kept putting off wedding dress shopping.
However, I soon realised that you have order wedding dresses months in advance, as they need to be processed, shipped and adjusted. It is recommended that you order at least 6 months before your wedding date. I knew I would not be in the shape I wanted to be by then and that I had to start shopping.
I bit the bullet and decided to go to a bridal event at a shopping outlet. At the event you could try on sample designer dresses, which were available to take away that day. I am glad I started with this as it was not too intimidating and you were able to try on dresses in normal changing rooms. But we quickly realised that, whilst it was a great way to break the ice, it didn’t feel special and we were not going to find my dress this way.
On a whim my mum rang a local bridal boutique, which luckily had a free appointment for that afternoon. We drove to store which was a huge with windows straight onto the road. I felt very nervous going in, but they quickly made us feel welcome and the consultant was great.
The shop was so quiet and we had it to ourselves. I chose about five dresses to try on. I decided to pick a few different styles and there was one dress which really liked, so I saved that until last. The consultant made the experience fun, doing a big reveal and drumrolls each time she opened the curtain.
I tried a princess style dress, covered in sparkles and with a huge skirt. I came out of the dressing room and a guy walking past the shop knocked on the window and gave me two thumbs up. It was funny but so embarrassing! I just didn’t feel comfortable in the big dress and I knew it wasn’t the style for me.
The Mori Lee dress I saved to last eventually turned out to be my dress, but I didn’t realise it that day! It was a plain mermaid style with a soft, floaty train. However, they only had it in a nude colour, rather than the ivory I wanted. Although I loved it, I didn’t feel bridal and just couldn’t envision it in ivory.
I carried on dress shopping over the next few months with the help of my mum. I was no longer intimidated and I went to numerous different shops with my dad, mother-in-law to be and a family friend. I tried on lots of dresses including ones that were lacy, super sparkly, blush and backless. This really helped me decide what I liked and satisfy any curiosity I had about different styles.
It wasn’t until some months later that I tried on the Mori Lee dress again but in ivory and I realised it was the dress for me. It was the style I wanted, it was glamorous enough for our venue and I felt comfortable in it. My feelings were confirmed when my fiancé sent me a photo of a dress he liked and it was the same one!
I decided to go back to the original store to try it on one more time. Although it was still in the nude colour I knew it was the one and I ordered it that day. This was around 9 months before the wedding and it arrived about 5 months later.
I ordered the dress in the size I was at the time, which was before I started any weight loss or fitness routines. I had heard a tale of a bride who ordered her dress in a size smaller, but then broke her leg and actually gained weight as she couldn’t move around or exercise. Knowing how clumsy I am I didn’t want to take this risk!
After I ordered my dress I started eating better and HIIT training a few times a week. I had lost around a stone in weight and the dress fitted perfectly.
As there was still another 5 months to go until the wedding, we decided to leave the dress at the store and pay a storage fee. I arranged another fitting for around 5 weeks before the wedding to see whether alternations were needed.
After I tried on the dress I was really motivated. I lost another stone and gained a lot of muscle through healthy eating and weight training. So by the next appointment I needed the dress taken in a few inches. Luckily the store arranged this, so I didn’t have to find a seamstress or take further measurements.
At the fitting the weekend before wedding, although the dress looked great, I was not 100% happy and felt it needed some adjustments. It bulged around my hips when I sat down and just didn’t feel perfect. The consultant was reluctant to arrange more alterations so I had to be a bit pushy. I am so glad I did and it fitted like a glove when I collected it a few days later.
Lessons and advice
I realised that it is normal to find wedding dress shopping daunting, but once you get started it can be great fun. We turned it into part of the wedding planning experience. It is a rite of passage and can form invaluable memories for your loved ones.
It is ok to go to lots of different stores and try on quite a few dresses. Most wedding dress shops only stock a limited number of designers and a selection of their dresses. Therefore do not expect to see multiple versions of the style you love in every store. Just make sure you give yourself plenty of time to shop, order the dress and arrange fittings.
You may not have that moment where you know that you have found your dress and your whole entourage bursts into tears when they see you. It is ok to think with your head and your heart. It is important not to settle or rush into buying a dress; it is an expensive and important purchase after all.
It is good to research dress styles before you start shopping. It is helpful to look at styles on models and real brides, to establish what styles you like and don’t like before even setting foot in a shop. It will make shopping easier if you can go in with an idea about what you are looking for. Also take your own personal style as a guide and to take inspiration from what you would normally wear, look back at your prom dress and at outfits in your wardrobe.
It is also important to take your venue and wedding style into account. A destination wedding on a beach will suit a completely different dress to a winter wedding in a ballroom. A plunging neckline may not be appropriate at a traditional church wedding. Think about the look as a whole, what accessories are you intending to wear? If you want a statement necklace or your hair down, it may impact the neckline you should choose.
Try on at least one of each style and be open-minded. Whilst you may love a certain style on the models, it may not suit you in the same way. I always had a nagging feeling that I should wear the traditional princess ball gown, which my dad was really keen on. However I tried on a few in different styles which confirmed it wasn’t for me.
Trust the consultant and be honest with them. They will not be offended if you do not like a certain style or dress, they are not the designer. Tell them what you do and don’t like and they can guide you in the right direction. They will know which dresses they stock and will be able to suggest alternatives within your budget.
It is better to go shopping mid-week, as the shop will be quieter and you should have more time to try on dresses. Think about booking some time off work and making a day of it. Weekends are very popular and you may only get a short slot in a busy shop.
Wear suitable underwear! The consultant does not want to see your new red thong and the wrong underwear can even change how a dress looks.
Try not to take too many people with you. Only take people whose opinion matters to you the most and that you know will be honest. A huge entourage will only lead to you being overwhelmed with differing opinions and you may even be discouraged from buying your dream dress. I would recommend a maximum of two or three people for each appointment. This also meant I could keep my dress as a surprise for my bridesmaids and was able to see their reaction on the day.
Don’t be tempted to try on dresses over your budget. This is one of the cardinal sins. If you fall in love with a dress over your budget you will always feel like you have had to settle for the less expensive dress. Also keep in mind that detailing, including lace and sparkle, will add to the cost significantly.
Don’t be scared to negotiate. I managed to get my veil for free by asking the question. I wasn’t bullish or pushy; I just asked if there were any deals if I bought the dress from that particular shop on that day. I also had to push for the final adjustments but knew I wouldn’t have been happy on the day if I hadn’t done so.
Order the dress in the size you are at the time. You don’t know what will happen in the coming months and they can take in or adjust dresses by numerous sizes and relatively quickly.
Good luck and enjoy yourself!
Comment below or message me with you dress shopping story!