Finding the wedding dress of your dreams

Joke image of a horrific wedding dress in a charity shop
My wedding dress... NOT!

When I left you, dearest readers it was with a rant about wedding dress shopping as a curvy girl. But I brushed myself off and kept looking for my wedding dress.

So… I found my wedding dress *does happy dance*. For real this time. I’d found wedding dresses I liked before but nothing I loved. And there was always something about the dress that annoyed me: the amount of petticoats that made me waddle as opposed to walk, or all the detail on the front of the dress with none on the back, itchy fabric, or the price (mostly it was the price). As you should know by now, I’m a picky bugger who is marrying another even pickier bugger (see: 36 venues later).

When I walked into the wedding dress shop, the Dress called to me like a siren, shining among the other wedding dresses like a diamond among the rough. ‘Try me on,’ The Dress said, in the voice of Kathleen Turner. ‘Yes, I’m expensive, but you’re worth it, aren’t you?’ How could I resist? When I walked out in the Dress and saw myself in the mirror, I got something in my eye. This was how I wanted to look and feel on my wedding day: a little romantic, with a vintage twist as if I was wearing my grandmamma’s dress, and not to forget really fricken skinny, yay! (What? I’m also a little shallow too). The Dress is beautiful and totally different from anything else I’d seen. Unfortunately I cannot get it mummy-approved until she returns from foreign parts. Selfish mummy! (I jest). But as soon as she has seen me in it, with approval from my maid of dishonour I shall be breaking open my piggy bank and ordering that sucker.

HWSNBN always teases me that I am the spoiler queen. I find it really hard to keep a secret or even remember that something is meant to be a secret.  So I’m finding to really hard to restrain myself from posting links to the Dress so you can all appreciate its wondrousness. I am not sure I am going to be able to last until next June.

But what I can do is show you lots of photo’s of dresses I did not choose and impart my advice on navigating wedding dress shopping with your sanity intact. Hopefully these tips will help you avoid my mistakes and find the wedding dress of your dreams. Then we can all have a wedding dress party like in Friends! Who’s with me? Guys?

How to find the wedding dress of your dreams

1. Do your research

Buy lots of bridal magazines and cut out any wedding dresses and accessories that take your fancy. This is great because it gives you an excuse to look at lots of pretty things under the guise of ‘doing your research’. Or if you’re a bridal geek like me you can build an online inspiration board or pin dresses to a virtual noticeboard using pinterest.

Look at all the dresses you like and see if you can spot a pattern of elements they have in common. For example,  I love: sweetheart necklines; a-line dresses that highlight my waist but skims my hips; graduated details (ie not the same pattern all over); lace and organza fabrics.

Equally important is figuring out what you don’t want. For me no:  scratchy fabrics, pick-ups, fishtail dresses, or a veil (more on this later.)

When doing my research, this was the dress of my dreams. This Manuel Moto dress looks absolutely nothing like my actual dress

2. Remember who you are and what kind of wedding you’re having.

I tried on some exquisite dresses, but they just weren’t me. Including an amazing range of slinky vintage dresses for the women I want to be rather than who I actually am.

You also need to bear in mind the type of wedding you’re having. For example if you’re having a destination wedding on a beach you probably won’t want a long satin train. I tried on a gorgeous short fifties dress which would have been a horrible culture clash in our Victorian gothic venue. I also realised I would probably wear that dress elsewhere in a different colour So once you know who you are and what type of wedding you are having it’s time to go shopping.

A beautiful Essence dress, but way too fashion-forward for me

3. The basics of bridal boutiques

Most women, but not all buy their dress from a bridal boutique. Here are my top bridal boutique tips:

  • Go to more than one shop. I tried to go to at least one high-end shop (for the whole champagne and nibbles experience) and then to somewhere more budget-friendly.
  • Book an appointment during the week if possible. You will get better service and have more time to browse than on a Saturday
  • In a hour’s appointment you normally be able to try on around five dresses.
  • Most bridal boutiques won’t allow your family to take photographs but always ask. Seeing yourself in the wedding dress on camera can really help you make a decision. It really helped me see that a dress I loved in the magazine, did absolutely nothing for me.
  • If you’re are buying a made-to-order wedding dress from a bridal boutique and you aren’t a sample size you need to order at least six months in advance.
  • At most boutiques you pay 50% of the price on ordering with the rest due when the wedding dress arrives in the store.
  • If you’ve read my previous post you’ll know that wedding dress come in sample sizes that may have to be pinned in or out depending on your size. Wedding dress sizes are based on hip to waist ratio and tend to run small so once measured you may have to order in a size bigger than you are. The dress will be ordered to fit the largest part of your body and then altered to fit. Alterations normally happen around six-four weeks before the wedding. Budget around 150 for alterations, although it’s likely it will a lot cheaper than that.
I loved this dress from a magazine, but it looked horrific on me

4. Shop around:  think high street, second-hand or made to measure

You don’t have to buy your dress from a traditional wedding dress boutique. Check out the highstreet where Coast, Debenhams and Monsoon all offer bridal ranges at a fraction of the price of bridal boutiques.

Many of my friends picked up their dresses through online sites like Ebay, preloved or Oxfam bridal. You get a dress that has been worn once for a fraction of the original price. If you are going down this route remember to factor in money for cleaning and alterations. My favourite story is how a friends very expensive Pronovias gown that she bought on Ebay was driven down from Middlesborough in the back of a builders van. And she looked beautiful in it

Or if you have the budget get a dress designed especially for you.

5. Take back-up… but pick your shopping companions wisely

Just in case you have a less than idyllic dress shopping experience you’ll want your mum or somebody else there. Listen to their opinion and the suggestions of the shop assistants but remember it about what you feel comfortable in. My mum loves flowing grecian inspired empire-line dresses, which look beautiful on her. In those flowing grecian inspired empire-line dresses I look pregnant.

Also take my advice and don’t get your dad to come with. The plan was that my mum was to came down for the day to go wedding dress shopping with me while my dad browsed record shops. At the last minute he decided he wanted to come with us.

D: I could come with you

(This from the man who has not gone shopping en famille since my little sister hid in the coasts in M & S in 1992!)

Me: I don’t think that’s a good idea.

D: How long will it take 15 minutes, 20?

Me: It’s an hour and a half appointment

D: It won’t take that long

*stunned faces*

All throughout my appointment I could hear my Dad calling my mum

D: What’s she doing now? She’s still trying on dresses? Well, how many has she got left? That many?

My dad did come to another appointment and let out the immortal line ‘I like it but I can’t tell the different between this one and previous dress.’ I love you dad!

6. Try on things you would never consider.

I did not want a veil. I was sure that my clumsiness + obscured vision = bridal faceplant. All I wanted was a shiny side tiara, like this beauty:

Paloma headpiece. I love it! I can't afford it!

But then my mum nagged me into trying on and loved it. When else would I get to wear a veil? Besides I look kind of cute in a veil 🙂

I also tried on My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding dress that I had to climb into, it had so many petticoats it stood up by itself. The corset hoiked my boobs up so high that I could not lower by chin. I could barely walk, from the layers weighing down my legs. The thought of what HSWNBN would do it I came stumbling down the aisle in that dress, made me laugh for days later.

7. Take your time

Even if your dress is The Dress of your dreams do not buy it straight away. Wedding websites are filled with brides who bought their dress in haste and are now reselling it. You’re only getting married once so take your time. Go away and think about it. Try the dress on again. And then if you still love it, then you can part with your hard-earned cash.

This very pretty romantica dress is also not my dress

8. Negotiate

Like everything else in wedding-land it pays dividends to negotiate. A very pushy shop assistant told me if I ordered today I would get 20% of a dress. By the end of the appointment that had become 25% off. Often if you negotiate you can get accessories thrown in for free. My Dress came with a ridiculous headpiece included in the price. Minus the head piece and with a veil thrown in for free I ‘saved’ £250.

9. Comfort, comfort, comfort

This can be hard when the dress is not your size or if you are in a teeny shop but try to move as much as possible in the dress. Lift your arms. Sit down in it. Walk around. It may be the most beautiful thing you will ever see but if you can’t move in it, it’s not the dress for you.

The Big Fat Gypsy Wedding dress I tried on= so much fun! But I couldn't move in it. Also HWSNBN would die laughing

10. Stop looking

Once you’ve found the Dress, stop looking. If you keep looking you may start to doubt your original choice and regret handing over that deposit. Strike the dress off your to do list and start looking for the perfect shoes, hairpiece, underwear…

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