It’s more than just saying “yes” to that dress……

Wedding-Dress-Shopping1Photograph: Alamy

So…you said “yes” to the right man/woman and now you need to say “yes” to the right dress!

There is so much pressure on finding “the one” (and I’m not just talking about your life partner!) as this is going to be the dress you wear on that very special day where you commit your life to your loved one and all eyes (and camera’s) are on you! You need to find that dress that makes you feel and look at your best…but where to start!? Its a big and daunting world of lace, tulle and diamante out there and I am here to try and help by sharing some of my tips and experiences on how to navigate through it as gracefully and as stress-free as possible!

1. Budget.

This is the “not-so-fun” word that creeps up and wags its finger at your everytime you plan to have all those wonderful, quirky, fun and extravagant things you have pinned on your Pintrest board or spotted at a local wedding fair…. but at the end of the day it pays to be careful.

If paying for your own dress, think about how much you can afford for the whole wedding and then calculate from this how much you can afford to spare for your dress. Remember, buying the dress is going to cost a lot more than the price tag (which usually averages around €1500/£1200)! Alterations, accessories, underwear and shoes all need to be factored in when deciding on how much you can spend on your dress. It’s amazing how much more these essentials will cost you. For example, a decent veil or headpiece can cost anything from €/£50, with most ranging around the €/£100-200 price point when choosing ones made with lace or added crystals. Alterations can easily add another €/£100 or more depending on hours and work required to get it right (although my Mum always says, “if you need to change parts of the dress then it’s not the right one”!)

If someone has kindly offered to pay for your dress you will still need to decide if what they are offering will also cover the extra bits or is this something you can pay for yourself. There are great budget dress shops, factory outlets and sample sales out there to accomodate even the most sensible of budgets. I have been to a few of these myself and will review them my next post.

Once decided on price point, my best advice is to stick to it. When you go shopping, make sure you tell your shop assistant/manager what you are willing to spend before even looking at a dress. Otherwise you run the risk of trying on and falling in love with a dress you simply cannot afford.

However, if you get free rein to choose whatever you like at whatever cost, Happy Days!! Get that Vera Wang and those Jimmy Choo’s!!

2. Book your appointments in advance –  at least 6 months!

Start shopping at least 6 months before your wedding date as many boutiques will need this time to order in the dress and you will also need time for initial and final fittings! When starting out on your hunt for that dress, be aware that most boutiques require advanced booking of appointments, especially if you want to go dress shopping on a Saturday. I found that I had to book 2-3 weeks ahead of the weekend I wanted to go shopping for many of the well renowned bridal shops in both the UK and Ireland. While the outlets did not require booking, I still had to make sure I got there good and early before opening times to avoid very long queues!

3. Do a little homework.

Chantilly lace. Princess versus ballgown. Blush. Ombre. Tulle. Illusion neckline. Taffeta…..There is an overwhelming amount of styles, colours, necklines, trains, material, accessories and shilouettes when it comes to dresses. I used Pintrest and Google to research all the above and I found it much easier to communicate my preferences and to understand “bridal dress lingo” at each of my appointments. Familiarise yourself with the terminology and with the wide array of beautiful options that are out there – explore and expand your wedding dress world!

4.  Entourage

If you are like me, you want everyone to come to your appointments. I just wanted to share this fun and exciting time with all my nearest and dearest. However, I held back after watching endless “say yes to the dress” and realised that “too many cooks” can spoil the whole experience! In the end it worked out that it was just my Mum who came with me to my appointments (every single one in the UK and Ireland! hashtagbestmumever!) and on one occasion I also had my sister and a bridesmaid join us. I would suggest that you try and limit how many you invite. Try and keep it to a maximum of 4 people, if you can. I’ve even observed a handful of brides shopping on their own. It can become very over-stimulating with so many dresses for you to choose and try on. I suggest reducing any additional confusion and stress by limiting the number of opinions you bring along with you. Don’t worry about not having your aunt, second cousin or neighbours dog there! They will all get to see you in your full glory on the wedding day.

5. Keep your options open! 

Be open-minded to trying on something different to what you think you want. Of course you might already have some idea of what colour, neckline, shilouette and material your prefer after trailing through endless Google images, magazines, websites and Pintrest boards in order to fit in with what you are comfortable wearing, in keeping with your venue and time of year you are getting married.

However, this is where I ask you to take a leap of faith and put your trust in the hands of your faithful entourage and devoted shop assistant! Ask them to pick one or two dresses (3 at maximum) for you to try. Your family and friends might spot something you may have over looked or they are more brave to choose something that you were a little shy or hesitant to pull off the rail (you can always be honest if it really is not something you would wear!). The shop assistant/manager can also be a great asset as they know their stock better then anyone alse in that group and an experienced assistant will have fitted 100s of brides! So they will know what to suggest for your shape, height and complexion. You never know what you might end up finding or might even change what you had initially thought you liked!

6. Arrive prepared 

I have seen it and I just don’t understand why…..Why are brides showing up to their appointments wearing black underwear?? Fine if you are looking for a dark colour dress (i.e. black!) but not if you’re trying on white, ivory, champagne, cream or blush! Think nude colour and structured with minimal visible straps and lines. I would recommend a good strapless bra if you can get away with it (or just tuck in straps when trying on dresses) and wear your tummy-hugging spanx or a nude thong (depending on your preference). You want to see the dress, and see yourself in that dress, in the best possible way. It will be much easier to judge the dress if you are wearing the right underwear.

Makeup, fake tan and hair:

Think fresh, light yet polished makeup. You are not going to turn up with panda eyes and makeup lines on the wedding day so why do it when choosing your dress for that day?

I wore my hair up for all appointments and it helped for two reasons: one, I could judge the necklines more clearly without a veil of hair in the way, and two, it gets hot and a little flustering when hopping in and out of dresses and I found it much easier by tying it up!

I would be very careful about wearing fake tan to an appointment, many boutiques have a “no tan” policy and others will just plain refuse to let your try on anything if you waltz in completely tangoed! It can be very off-putting when you try on dresses with orange streaks and very often these sample dresses are for sale…so be kind to your fellow brides and the manager will love you if you are considerate about your body make-up.

8. Stay true to you.

This is your dress, your wedding. This is not your mum’s, your sister’s, your aunt’s or your best friend’s wedding. Everyone will be happy with your choice, if you are. While their advice is valuable, you still have to listen to that little voice inside, believe in yourself and just go with your gut feeling.

9. Don’t worry if you don’t cry!

Crying does not always signify it’s “the one”. This is a very exciting and joyous time. You are choosing a garment to wear on the day that you and your partner declare your love and devotion to one another for life, so emotions are going to be high when you are dress shopping! Don’t be surprised if you cry everytime you try on a dress and veil, or even if you don’t cry at all! Celebrate these moments and embrace the emotions however and as they come. It’s all part of the experience.

10. Know when to stop!

However, if you found the dress and know it’s “the one” (its perfect, you love how you feel in it, how you look in it, you don’t want to take it off, the price is spot on, you can actually see yourself walking down the aisle in it..etc)… then stop looking! Be confident with your choice and be brave to commit to it. I will admit that I thought I had found my dress on my 4th appointment but there was a moment of doubt and hesitation and I knew deep down that it was not the right one. It was perfect in so many ways, it ticked so many boxes, but I was only 80% ready to commit. However on my 6th appointment (I did  total of 7!) I knew right away when I spotted it in the window that it was going to knock my 80% dress out of the park and the moment I was fitted into it I was 100% ready to say “yes” to my new found wedding dress! It was very special moment and one I will cherish forever. I am sure many brides can relate to this and I wish this moment for all future brides.

I hope you will find or have found this post helpful. I can confidently say that these are my top 10 tips I would love to share with any bride currently looking for a dress, to reflect and share with anyone who has been through this experience already or just a little bit of interest for all those beautiful ladies out there who hope to go wedding dress shopping some day.

In my next post I will be reviewing all 7 places I went to in search of my dress. In the end I visited 4 in Ireland and 3 in the UK, with a mix of budget friendly and more exclusive type boutiques.

See you soon!

Love, Emma (aka The Wholesome Bride) xxx

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