You've just got engaged and one of the first things on your mind is the wedding dress. Questions race through your mind - what shape will I wear? What neckline will mine be? Will it be a modern style dress? Will it be vintage inspired? When will I start shopping? Who will I bring with me? Where will I go to look? What is my budget? How much research do I do before I go shopping?
There are so many questions and so many ways to go wrong when it comes to picking your dress. I've got to see these over the ten years I've had my shop (Beautiful Day Bridal Cottage) and I hope to address some of these questions and help you steer away from making some of the mistakes that many brides make which will help you on your quest to find that perfect dress!!
- Don't go looking too early. You really shouldn't go shopping until at least 12 - 14 months before your wedding. Couples tend to have longer engagements these days and the temptation is there to go looking as soon as you get the ring on your finger. If you go too early, you run the risk of over-thinking things and seeing styles that will be gone or discontinued by the time you are ready to buy. New styles are always coming along, and if you buy 2 or 3 years before your wedding and a new trend comes along 12 months before your wedding, you may find yourself getting tempted to change your dress - a very costly thing to do!! And as wedding dresses are made to order, there's no exchange policy in bridal shops if you change your mind!!!! So go shopping when you feel it's time to start properly looking for a dress to wear for your wedding. For some ladies, this time may be 9 months before, for others, it's 13 or 14 months before - each bride feels ready in their own time. The key point is to go only when you are ready. This might sound logical, but we get numerous 'out for ideas' appointments where the bride isn't focused and ends up getting overwhelmed and more confused. Plus, she may go back months later to see a dress she loved when it was too early for her to commit and find that it's been sold or has went discontinued. Don't assume that if you see one you love that it will be still there later on for you to come back to.
- Don't go too late. Wedding dresses have to be made to order, so if you leave it too late, you will be at a huge disadvantage as you will have a very limited choice ie. whatever the shop has in the size you are. As a rule, most dresses need to be ordered about 7 months in advance (although some can be ordered a bit closer than that) so you will be cutting down your choices substantially if you leave it past this. There is also a risk of 'panic-buying' your dress which you may regret!
- Choose your helpers wisely. I have a whole blog post dedicated to this one!! My advice is to bring one or two helpers with you, and to make sure that they are on the same wave-length as you. If your mother or sister or best friend is very opinionated and is always pushing ideas on you, then leave her at home and bring her along to see your dress once you've picked it. I sometimes get brides who bring four, five or six 'helpers' and they are getting various opinions thrown at them before they even get to look in the mirror and end up feeling deflated if negative things are being said about how the dresses looks (eg. 'that makes your bum look huge', 'you've got back fat in that one', 'you can't carry that style off', 'your shoulders are too broad to wear that neckline'.) More of a hindrance that a help!!! Often your helpers will think they are giving constructive criticism, but what you find is that the whole experience just highlights your insecurities and turns into a bit of a nightmare - so choose wisely!! And remember that old saying about too many cooks!
- Don't have tunnel vision . Many brides spend hours online looking at 6ft tall size 6 or 8 models who are perfectly proportioned and choose their type of dress based on what they see in these pictures. They come to visit a shop and won't look at other styles, therefore limiting them to a style that may not be all that flattering compared to a different style of dress. It pays to keep an open mind when coming shopping, and don't forget that the staff in the shops have seen all the dresses on and will often be able to guide you to things that will be really flattering on.
- Picking a dress to please someone else. This one follows on from point number 3. All brides will want to get opinions from friends, and/or family members - I can count on one hand how many have bought in my shop in the past ten years without bringing along a helper. However, she should be careful when it comes to taking opinions on board. Well-meaning friends may influence a bride to go for a dress that she doesn't really love. Up until she asks people for opinions, a bride may be over the moon with the dress that she has been considering, but if the negative comments follow, she may decide to choose something else based on the lack of enthusiasm from her helpers and she could end up with a dress that doesn't make her as happy, or as I call it, a 'compromise dress'. Expecting others to refrain from voicing their opinions isn't realistic. Asking people for recommendations and advice is one thing, but asking them to give their verdicts about a specific dress is another. In the end, the wedding dress only needs to please one person: the bride. As long as she is happy with it, everything else should fall into place.
- Trying on too many wedding dresses. If you end up trying on dozens of dresses, they all tend to blur together in your mind, and what happens is that looking back and trying to remember a single one can be just about impossible. If you try on too many dresses, you are a lot less likely to experience that magical moment of discovering the perfect dress when you try on one after another - after another after another.....- over a period of several months. (back to point one in the first tip - this often happens when you start looking to early!!) If possible, try to limit yourself to about 12 dresses at most (unless the 12 are horrible and you need to keep trying to find one that you look good in!) You should only keep trying on more dress when you the ones you've been trying aren't the right ones for you. In some cases, a bride-to-be may be tempted to keep trying on different styles because she just isn't ready to commit to a single one. This kind of thinking is dangerous and can lead to a lot of wasted time and confusion. If a bride tries on too many dresses, she's far more likely to second-guess herself as well and later doubt her decision. Don't fall into that trap!! I did a survey recently and found out that 40% of brides found their dress in the first shop, 26% on the second shop, and 18% in the third shop. (leaving 16% who went to look at 4 or more - one even went to 24 appointments!!!) so don't be assuming that something is wrong if you haven't visited 7 shops!!! That isn't the norm - far from it! 84% of brides buy their dress after visiting three shops or less, with the first shop being the most popular shop to buy in.
- Trying on dresses that are over your budget. If you have a strict budget of £850, don't be tempted to try on a £1700 dress if there is no way that you can afford it. It will only leave you feeling down in the dumps if you fall in love with it and can't re-work your budget to suit, You will always look at the dress you end up buying and feel like it's second best. I had a very depressed bride in recently who made the mistake of trying on and falling in love with a £5000 dress in another bridal shop which was four times her budget. She was very frustrated trying to find one that lived up to this dress. Always let the sales team know your budget and they will always help to guide you - they might even have a discontinued dress in the store room that would be perfect for you.
- Waiting for 'that reaction' Some brides have been told that you will get a certain reaction when you find 'the one'. Some people tell you that you should cry. Others reckon you need to be jumping up and down with excitement. The truth is, neither of these are common reactions and I can never predict how an individual will react when she finds her dress. Some brides are more dramatic in general than others and they will have a different reaction compared to a more placid or easy-going bride. If you find yourself saying that you really like a dress, but feel that you still need to keep looking, then it probably isn't the one. Some brides tell me when they visit my shop that they have a potential dress picked out in another shop but not ordered, and I always remind them that they wouldn't be out trying more dresses on in my shop if it was 'the one.' When you find 'the one', you won't be interested in any other dresses. I often compare it to finding your man - I ask brides if they felt they needed to kiss all the men in their town to be sure that their fiancé was the one for them. They all tell me that they fell in love and didn't need to kiss any more frogs to know . Finding your wedding dress is a bit like that and you shouldn't put yourself under any more pressure when you find one that you love to keep trying on more and more dresses to try and get some sort of stronger reaction. When you fall in love, stop looking!!!
The dress you will pick has to do one thing to you. It has to make you feel beautiful. You should look in the mirror and get a 'feeling' about it. For some, it's simply feeling like a million dollars. For others, it's butterflies in their tummy or feeling their heart skip a beat. For many it is feeling excited about your fiancé seeing you walking up the aisle in the dress you are standing in. The earth won't move. The tears probably won't flow, and you won't pass out with excitement, but you will will say 'I love this dress!!' and the thought that for one reason or another you couldn't have that dress would probably make you feel gutted.
Best of luck with the wedding dress shopping!!! xx Ciara