BRIDAL SHOPS TO RE-OPEN
So starting next week shopping will start to reopen in the UK and this will include your opportunity to go wedding dress shopping.
Here are some things you need to know before you start this part of your journey to get you prepared.
It's fair to say that buying a Wedding dress is not like any other item of clothing you would ever purchase in your life and there is something quite magical about the entire experience, not to mention it's often fuelled with emotions.
If you already know what designer you want, you can find your local stockist and just head straight there, but I would say still have a visit of a handful of shops and enjoy the process. You only get to do this once. Try on as many dresses as you want.
You can check out bridal shops first online to make sure their style is aligned with your wedding design and ideas. All bridal shops will have a website and more importantly social media for you to stalk and check out their dresses. You will soon see if you feel they are the right shop for you, especially if you have the bridal designer you may have in mind and they stock that particular gown.
Now, I am talking from experience, whatever you have in your mind, go with an open mind. When you visit your first bridal shop ask to try on the various styles. You will instinctively know what suited your body shape the best and what made you feel great.
Once you have found your perfect style, all you then need to do is decide on sleeves, no sleeves, neckline, embellishments, what type of material and the rest will start to fall in to place and make your shopping for dresses a much smoother and more enjoyable journey.
But don’t be completely surprised if the dress you end up with is the other end of the spectrum to what you had envisaged. I was a size 6/8 when I married and I had ideas of having a tight fitted dress in full lace that would suit a cathedral wedding with a long train, instead I ended up with a huge princess dress. Never did I see that one coming.
When you book your appointment, let them know over the phone what your maximum budget is.
This is not to say that the shop will only show you dresses at your top end, but you don’t want them to show you dresses that you fall in love with that you can't afford. That’s just heart-breaking as you can’t get that dress out of your mind. If that shop does not stock dresses of your budget, then they can tell you straight away and save you all a lot of unnecessary time.
You should know that your chosen dress will be ordered as close to your size as practically possible. However generally most dresses are made for ladies at 5ft 11 in height to cater for many, so it is very likely you will need to have the hem taken up.
Something to consider if you have a very fancy design around the bottom as you may lose some of that when its taken up. It is also likely that you may need sleeves adjusted, or waste, or bust taken in slightly, as they will size you up, not size you down. You could easily find yourself with another £200+ budget to your dress budget with alternations, so you may want to ask your consultant about alteration fees so that can be factored into your overall budget. Your shop will give you some guidance on this.
The next thing to realise is that all shops are independent and everyone will differ in what they will offer you, both in time and in experience. Some will offer you a cuppa, some wine and some don't do anything!
90% of them will work by appointment only and for a fixed time, and that may dictate your experience too. This will ensure they can dedicate time just for you rather than a shot gun approach.
You may find some will be flexible with time if they don’t have another bride right after you and some will be very strict and send you away within that time slot, especially now that they have to sanitise between visits.
Please do not feel that you are any less important to them than the next shop. They have all been missing brides for a year, and need to be fair to everyone and will likely already having to be open all hours to cater for the huge demand that will fall on them now. You can however do your bit by being prepared.
Also check to see if there is a charge for your appointment. Many bridal shops in London will charge between £15-25 for your appointment. This is to avoid no-shows and many will offer to put this towards your dress. Again ask when making the appointment to avoid any embarrassment.
MAKE UP OR NO MAKE UP
I would advice you do not wear a normal full face of make up if you usually wear a lot and if you do then take something you can put over your head like a pillow cover.
Be prepared that some (albeit very few) may not let you try on a dress where you may have to put it over your head to get it on, especially if there is no protection between beautiful blood red lipstick and their gorgeous clean white dress.
Also avoid having a new fake tan if you can too, Bridal owners will not appreciate the stain it leaves behind, not to mention do you want to try on a dress that looks like it's all stained?. So may be ask what their stance is on this when you ring for your appointment to avoid disappointment.
Your bridal consultant WILL be in the room helping you dress. So if you are shy person, wear some good old bridget’s to cover your bottom, but whatever briefs you wear, try to avoid ones that give you a vpl (aka visible panty line) as this will be the only thing you will hone into when the dress is on and will just put you off.
Wear a strapless bra (unless you are large breasted and won’t be considering a strapless dress). I would always recommend natural underwear in colour.
WHEN TO START SHOPPING FOR YOUR DRESS
We normally recommend you start anything from 9-12 months ahead of your wedding day.
Why so early? Many designers can take anything up to 6 months to make the dress for you. When you visit a bridal shop the dresses you try on what is known as a sample dresses. These are in fact perfect dresses that the shop has bought from the design just to give you the opportunity to try them on. so they too have had to wait 6 months for it to be made to have it in stock to show you, so they make a huge commitment too. So don’t ever expect them to sell you that one off the shelf.
However, during covid with the bridal shops being shut you may not have the luxury of time on your side, so just check in with the bridal shop to see if they have any designer dresses that are discontinued in your size that you could try on and potentially purchase.
There are some shops that will sell off the shelf, but bear in mind these are not normally any particular designer you may be familiar with. Places like Bridal4less that have cost effective dresses readily available to buy on the spot or wed2b. Lots of other places for last minutes like ChiChiLondon and even Asos nowadays do dresses.
SHALL I TAKE MY BRIDAL PARTY?
At the moment, and especially during the pandemic, many bridal shops are only accepting one or two guests. However, I always say that if you take a big party of people with you, your decision making is going to be scuppered as you won’t please everyone's taste. So just make sure that the ones you do take you trust 100% to give you an honest opinion and someone you trust implicitly. At the end of the day however, it is how you feel in that dress, not what anyone else thinks. Not everyone cries when they find the one, but don’t be surprised if you do, even if that’s not you! Go with the moment!
ORDERING YOUR DRESS
Most places will offer you a payment plan, and some will want 50% up front to order.
Some hard facts worth noting. You need to be 100% sure that this is the dress for you. This is not like walking into the likes of Karen Millen or even Matalan and changing your mind and taking it back. Once you have chosen your dress and put your deposit down, the order is in and that dress is made just for you. It is non-returnable, non-refundable, fully payable. The chances of the shop having someone wanting the same dress as you with the same budget and in the same size after you have changed your mind is 1 in a goodness knows how many. You will have to continue with your payments until that dress has been bought. You will need to collect it and then try and sell it yourself if you are not going to use it. This is a hugely emotional purchase, but does not come without repercussions if you make an unsure and speedy decision.
On that note, do not let any bridal shop talk you into "buying today". If you hear “If you buy today you will get 10% off” OR "I think that dress is going to be discontinued" don’t make any commitments until you are 100% sure. If it’s within your budget, then forget the discount, or just ask for it at a later stage and if you realise you are now completely sure, you can always go to another shop that sells the same dress and see if they will give you the “buy today discount”.
COLLECTING YOUR DRESS
Once your dress arrives to the shop you will be invited back in to try on your dress and that point you your bridal consultant will advice you what alterations will be needed on your dress and it's likely you will feel where it needs adjusting.
Make sure that you have your wedding shoes with you to ensure you get an idea of the length of the dress and where that will sit and if have your underwear take it with you. I made a HUGE mistake in not taking mine and when I finally got my underwear on and my dress on, because it was silk, it kept making the dress slip down. So found myself after 3 hours just taking off my underwear. Wasn’t ideal being it was a Basque! You should get a better indication of costs at this point for your alterations.
Finally, when your dress arrives to the store, I recommend you do not take it home with you. If the shop can store this for you until you need it then keep it there. OR keep it at your parents or another home where you wont be tempted to try it on too many times. If you try it on its likely that you won't feel as special in it on your wedding day.
FINALLY, ONE LAST LITTLE TIP
If you are planning to dance the night away, try and think how practical that will be in your chosen dress.
If you have a train, make sure you can hook it up, or even remove it.
If you have something tight, make sure you can sit down in it and move around.
Check to see if the material you chose will be easily creased, especially around your tummy area after you have sat for 2 hours during your wedding breakfast.
Make sure someone is with you when you collect it that will be with you on the day and will know how to do it up and undo it for toilet breaks.
Check how easy it is to use the toilet, before you find yourself walking on to the toilet, not backing up to it! (I've seen it all ladies) Never really a consideration when buying a dress that I would likely make if I had to do it all over again now!
Why not come and join me on instagram and keep up to date on any new blogs and tips that we share with you. @busybridesweddingplanners
We have a handy PDF guide of some London Bridal Boutiques that tells you their pricing, location, what style of dresses they stock. If you are planning to shop in London, drop us an email or a dm on our socials and we will send you this handy guide.
Good luck and enjoy!