Here's everything you need to know to get started.
1. Make sure you are ready to buy before you go shopping.
Wedding dress shops have stock which changes all the time. Between getting in new dresses, to dresses going discontinued and getting sold off the peg, the collection each shop carries is always evolving. If you are not going to be ready to buy until a year before your wedding, then wait until a year before the wedding. If you go two years in advance, the sales consultant will be working with the dresses that she has on that given day when she is helping you to find your dress. She won't know what dresses are going to be here a year down the line, so don't go looking for 'the one' until you know that what you see is what you are able to get!!! Sounds like common sense, but you'd be surprised at how many people phone to book 'just looking' appointments with no intention of trying to find a dress to buy. And don't leave it too late either or you may not be able to order in your dream dress. The dresses you try on in the shops are what we call our 'sample dresses', but each bride gets a dress made to order for her, so this takes time, and if you leave it until 6 months before your wedding, you won't have the same choice as a bride who comes out earlier.
2. Book in advance.
Most bridal shops work by private appointment in order to give a professional one-to-one service. If you just show up, there's a very good chance that you will won't get to try dresses on. A quick phonecall or email can save you a wasted trip and a lot of disappointment.
3. Ask questions when you are booking.
If you are looking for something specific, be sure to ask before you arrive. For example, if you are looking for a certain designer, make sure you check that the shop you are booking with carries that label. Or if you are adamant that you want a tea-length wedding dress or a destination wedding dress, don't assume that all shops will have a selection for you to try on. Check first. The same goes for plus sizes. Some shops only carry wedding dresses from size to 8 - 14, whist others (such as our shop) carry a wide range of size 18+ dresses up to a size 26. If you are a plus size bride and arrive to a shop which doesn't have anything over a size 14, you are going to very disappointed when you won't be able to try any dresses on, so run this by the shop first when you are at the booking in stage.
Also, if you have a friend or relative who has purchased their dress in the shop you are visiting, make sure the staff are told about this in advance so they can hide that other bride's dress before you come in - you don't want to pick the same dress as your future sister-in-law, so let the bridal shop know her name when booking so they can get organised to make sure this doesn't happen!
4. Keep an open mind
Many brides come in knowing exactly the sort of dress they want to wear on their wedding day. Many of them will end up wearing that sort of dress, but many more will wear something very different, so be prepared to allow yourself some flexibility and don't rule anything out because it's not what you imagined yourself wearing.
5. For trying on dresses on the day.....
If possible, wear a strapless bra. If you don't have one, try to wear a white or nude bra. You will have a consultant in the room with you, helping you in and out of dresses, so wear knickers that you are comfortable being seen in! If you're going to feel embarrassed in a skimpy thong, then wear your Bridget Jones pants! If you feel more comfortable wearing opaque tights, then that's no problem!(unless you are planning on trying on tea-length dresses - but you can slip the tights off if you decide to try some of those dresses on.) If possible, try not to come straight after the gym or after a hard day's physical work on a hot day!! Staff will have to get up close and personal with you, so bear this in mind, and feel free to ask for baby wipes or deodorant. Most bridal shops keep a supply for brides wishing to freshen up if you don't have your own and are only to happy to let you use them.
Also, you will be expected to come without fake tan so that you don't soil the dresses, and make-up should be kept very light (no heavy foundation, heavy black eye make-up or lipstick.) Bring heels if you wish (although you can always borrow a pair of ours if you forget) - but we (as well as most other bridal shops) have a box for you to stand on if the dresses are too long.
6. Bring your essential helpers with you.
If your mum needs to be there to help you pick your dress, make sure she is with you when you are going looking. Or your best friend or sister. It sounds like I'm stating the obvious, but you'd be surprised at how many people can't decide because they don't feel confident to say 'yes to the dress' without a certain close person by their side to give their approval. If they are essential to helping you pick your dress, make sure they are with you. Equally, be careful not to bring too many people. Too many people normally means too many opinions, and that can make things more difficult, especially if any of the helpers are seeing things from different viewpoints. Bring one or two helpers, and make sure you are all on the same wavelength!
7. Get babysitters if you can.
We understand that this isn't always possible, and at Beautiful Day, we are very happy to let you bring children to our shop (from babies to older children) but not all bridal shops allow children on the premises (be sure to check with each shop). Young children and toddlers get bored easily if they have to sit in the same place for an appointment that lasts just over an hour, and a bridal shop full of expensive dresses, mannequins, sparkly tiaras and shop displays can be a minefield for them (our toy box can only keep some children entertained for so long!!). If they do need to be constantly supervised, it can be very distracting for the bride and her helpers. We've had brides who have cut appointments short getting stressed with toddlers having tantrums or children toppling over mannequins. Each bride should feel relaxed so she can focus on finding her wedding dress, so try to organise bridal shopping around babysitters if possible to make the whole process easier and more enjoyable!
8. Bring your purse!!
You wouldn't go to buy a new handbag or shoes without bringing your purse - the same goes for wedding dress shopping. If you find a dress, you'll have to put down a deposit (at Beautiful Day, we can even take a partial deposit which you can pay up for if time permits) so come prepared. If you don't want to be carrying cash around with you, make sure you have a debit or credit card so that if you do find the one, you'll be able to get it ordered and relax knowing that it's all done.
9. Don't book too many appointments to start with.
See how the first one or two goes and take it from there. Some brides book numerous appointments together as they think that they need to visit loads of shops in order to find 'the one'. In reality, the average bride finds her wedding dress in one of the first two shops she visits. If you don't find one you love, then certainly, book more appointments in additional shops. And the trick is to stop once you find one you love!! (Easier said than done for some brides!!) Some brides keep looking at more and more dresses and accumulate a list of dresses they love, and this is when they get confused and often get overwhelmed and find themselves second-guessing themselves. And remember, it's ok to fall in love with the first dress - it happens quite a lot!
Remember, if you do buy and have a future appointment booked in another shop, cancel the appointment - the staff there will be very grateful for the heads up!!
Once you find a dress and order it, the worst thing to do is to keep looking at pictures of other dresses (or worse still, to go looking in other shops!!) And don't look at pictures of the dress you picked either unless absolutely necessary. Each time you look at it, it will lose a little bit of its magic, and you still want to feel special and magical wearing it on your wedding day. Try to remember that feeling you got when you were looking at yourself in the mirror wearing it. You're not going to get that same emotional feeling about your dress on a Monday morning looking at a picture of it on your mobile phone, so don't panic if you do look at a picture and don't get excited about it. This happens quite a lot and sends some brides into panic mode!!! So avoid this if you can!!
Happy shopping ladies, and I hope this blog has given you some food for thought. Remember to stay positive, don't focus on things that you see as negative about yourself, and remember that a wedding
isn't a competition to be the best or most amazing or unique bride. It doesn't matter if the dress has similar features to a dress worn by someone in your neighbourhood who got married last year. On your wedding day, I can promise you that you'll be the centre of attention and people won't be making comparison lists to already-married ladies. Be true to yourself and remember to step back and look at the big picture and remind yourself to keep it real! You want to feel beautiful and to look your best - not for the neighbours or relatives or for your circle of friends, but for you (and to impress your future spouse of course!) and to follow your heart when deciding on which one to grace the aisle with.
To book an appointment at Beautiful Day Bridal Cottage, tel 02871 813682 (or 04871 813682 from the Republic of Ireland) or follow this link to book online.
click here to book