Sunday 6 August 2017

WEDDING: Tips for going wedding dress shopping

With just over 9 months to go until our wedding day, I have already purchased the dress! I wasn’t intending to buy it this quickly – I thought I’d have a bit of a look over the summer – but then various local shops started to announce their sample sales and I thought I might as well squeeze in some appointments.

As I confessed on Instagram Stories a little while ago, I was really intimidated by the idea of wedding dress shopping. I think there’s so much pressure on this one item of clothing that it’s hard not to feel a little overwhelmed. I was scared about spending too much money, I was scared that nothing would suit me (I've never found a maxi dress that suits me, and white is one of those colours I NEVER wear), I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to choose and I was scared that I’d feel disappointed. I think this is pretty normal.

In reality, everything was fine. It was actually a pretty enjoyable time, and I wanted to blog about my thoughts to help anyone else in the same boat as I was a couple of weeks ago. I really didn’t know what to expect, and I overthought it for a while instead of just getting on with it. In the end, I took a Friday off work and booked in three appointments with my Mum and my sister in tow. Three doesn’t sound like loads, but it takes time to get in and out of those big dresses, and even more time gazing at yourself in the mirror looking like a princess, so it was plenty – I was pretty done in by the last appointment!

I’m not going to share photos of me in the dresses on here because Matt really doesn’t want to see me in any wedding dresses yet, and I sort of like that - there is something kind of transformative about them, I have to say. So here’s what I learned…

Allow an hour and a half for an appointment
This is how long most shops allow, and it was perfect. It was enough time to try on 5 or 6 dresses, take some photos and deliberate about them all for a while. I booked appointments 3 hours apart, which gave me time for travelling (as mine weren’t walking distance) and eating – very important! It’s also nice to have some time in between appointments to think about the last one and decide if there’s anything you want to go back for.

A stranger is going to see your pants
And very possibly your boobs. On the first day of appointments, I wore matching white underwear and realised firstly that next to a gleaming wedding dress, my white bra was more of an off-grey colour (nice) and also that the matching pants had a fetching seethrough panel. The second time I went out, I wore black pants and a yellow bra. Didn’t matter. They’re used to seeing women in their pants, so don’t fret. They’re used to boobs, they’re used to dresses not fitting over your hips, they’re used to wobbly bits and they don’t care. You’ll look banging in the dress, trust me.

Dresses come up small
I personally feel that if there’s a time for vanity sizing, it’s for wedding dresses. But apparently dressmakers don’t feel the same. I’m a 12/14 at the moment – pretty much dead on a 13 to be honest – but my wedding dress is a 16 and fits pretty well. I also tried on an 18 that was snug - they're all cut differently. If you care about the size on your label (and you really shouldn’t), then you just have to tell yourself that it doesn’t mean anything, because it really doesn’t.

There’s a good chance not all the dresses will fit you
All the shops I went to had a mix of sizes, but most dresses seemed to be 10s or 12s. And taking my previous point into account, that means they were more like 8s or 10s. In many of my photos the lady in the shop is crouching behind me, holding the dress closed. You should still get a pretty good idea of if the dress will suit you, but...

If it doesn’t suit you now, don’t buy it
Don't buy a dress that hinges on you losing weight. Please don't. It will make you miserable and stressed and hungry and puts pressure on you that you really don't need. I tried on a mermaid-style dress that looked amazing from the front, hugging all my curves perfectly - but from the side, it also hugged my stomach and I wasn't a fan of how it looked. Even though the lady in the shop said that if the dress fit me properly, that wouldn't happen, I wasn't going to commit to something that I didn't feel great in now. And I'm glad I didn't.

Most places will let you take photos – and make sure you do
Unless they actually designed the dresses themselves, most places seem ok with it. The only shops I've been to (for friends' weddings, not my own) that didn't allow photos were only selling dresses they'd designed, not a selection. And that makes sense - they don't want to risk someone copying their designs. All the shops I went to sold a selection of brands, and they were all happy for me to take photos. And it was so useful - it meant I could go back and remind myself of what I did and didn't like, and I even took a video of The Dress so I can watch it dreamily.

When they put on the veil, they know you like it
At some point, in every shop, I tried on a dress that made me go 'Oh!' It's a moment where you stop and stare at yourself and think 'Bloody hell, I'm an actual Disney princess.' Wedding dress sellers are all masters of the soft sell - at least the ones I met - but they all have a little tell when they think they might make a sale. The veil. They'll creep up behind you and pop a veil on your head, and suddenly you'll realise that you look like a bride. It's very clever, and it nearly suckered me in a couple of times. Don't worry though - you can say no, you can ask to think about it - they're used to brides being indecisive. But also, that moment of saying yes is kind of liberating.

If it doesn’t feel quite right, it isn’t
So I tried on this amazing dress in the second shop we went to. It was a beautiful ballgown with a corseted waist and a huge skirt that managed to be floaty and delicate at the same time. My family gasped when I came in. In the pictures I look utterly in love with my reflection. But... something held me back. I had ideas of what I wanted, and this wasn't quite it. And that's ok - I think sometimes what you fall for isn't what you think you will (I tried on a couple of dresses I'd loved in Pinterest pictures that looked decidedly meh in person). But if that question mark is in the back of your mind, then it probably isn't quite right. If I'd bought that dress, I'd have looked great and I'd have been pretty happy, but I'd always have wondered if something better was out there. And it turns out it was - a couple of days later I stumbled across a dress just as lovely, which ticked those extra boxes for me. I was also a little pressurised as the ballgown I mentioned was in the sale, so it was a limited time offer. That can definitely skew your view.

Sample sales aren’t just for size 10s
Am I the only person who thought this? When a wedding shop sells samples, it usually means they're selling the dresses that people have tried on. While most dresses will be on the smaller size, they'll always have a few larger ones in stock - all the shops I went to had a good selection both in and out of the sale. I was torn between two dresses, both samples, both size 16. And on that note...

You don’t have to spend £1000+
Even though I'd budgeted for it and we're lucky enough to be able to afford it, I'd started to feel really sick about the prospect of spending £1500 on a dress. But shopping when there are sales on (right now is a great time) means you can buy dresses for around half what they'd cost. Yep, they might have been tried on by someone else before, but the quality will still be great and you can still get them professionally altered afterwards. I ended up buying my dress from Amelia George in Tring, a bridal boutique which exclusively sells samples and pre-owned dresses. They have a great selection, and I spent less than half that £1500 budget.

Don’t forget alteration charges
On the subject of that budget, don't forget alterations. Most shops charge around £250 for these, depending on what you require. It sounds a lot, but wedding dresses are intricate, man. Even just shortening a dress (hello, 5'1 over here - any maxi dress would need taking up on me, even with my most giant pair of heels from Spartoo on!) will probably have to be done by hand, especially if there's a lot of detail on the skirt. Before I went shopping, I didn't realise alterations weren't just part of the package - so it's good that I saved money on my dress, because if I'd bought a £1500 dress it would have ended up pushing £2k by the time it was altered.

You’re totally allowed to go away and think about it
Unless you try it on and say 'Oh my god, this is it, this is the one, shut up and take my money', then you might need a little time to think about it. The people in the shop know that it's an emotional purchase, and in my experience they were happy to write down the details and let you go and have a think. A good wedding dress seller shouldn't pressure you. And remember to take photos and videos on your phone so you can reconsider the dress when you're at home in your PJs.

Don’t worry about what everyone else thinks or did
I did this so much more than I thought I would! I can't wear X because so-and-so did, I don't suit X, I won't look cool, no one's heard of this designer, I have to spend a fortune... it gets in your head. Try and ignore it, and focus on what you love. It doesn't matter if it's a little similar to a friend's dress or not what everyone would expect of you, it's not up to them. Everyone thought I'd wear a short dress, and I was adamant that I wouldn't because it's what people expected. And I thought I'd just feel like I was wearing another nice short dress like I do a lot. And I figured when else would I get the chance to wear a fricking ballgown? (But I also made sure to try on a short dress to make sure that I was right. And I was.)

But do bring a second or third pair of eyes (but not too many)
Bring someone you trust, who's honest but kind, who gets your style and won't try and persuade you into something you don't like. I went for my mum and sister, which was fine - they both had opinions, but helped me make those decisions and supported me when I chose the final dress. My sister even tried to talk me out of the almost-dress - the ballgown I mentioned - because she could see I wasn't sure and was a bit blinded by the low price tag. Don't bring too many people though - it'll overwhelm you (and the tiny bridal shop) and make the whole day stressful. I'd have loved all my bridesmaids to be there, but I updated them regularly on WhatsApp so they were still involved. Most bridal shops do say to only bring a couple of people with you, because space really is at a premium.

You will doubt your decision (but that’s ok)
Every bride I’ve spoken to has had a moment right after they’ve given in their credit card information where they’ve wondered if they’ve chosen the right dress. I definitely did. And I’ve looked at the photos hundreds of times since then, and done awful, negative body-image things like fixated on the size of my hips and my arms. But I’ve always relaxed when I look at my face. I look so bloody happy. And I remember how easy the decision was on the day, because it felt so right. And ultimately, it is just a dress. It's always never going to be as lovely as your happy little face as you marry the man or woman that you love.

Any other observations? I'd love to hear from you in the comments! And I've got another blog post coming up soon about ways to save money on your wedding dress that you might not have thought of.


1 comment

  1. If in doubt buy the first one you see on Asos like I did haha. Some top tips here! I think people really need to consider climate too, what feels good in the shop might not feel good on a 27 degrees day in a yurt in a field.


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