All photographs by Jess Schamroth
Our founders share what’s important to consider before you start shopping for your wedding dress. These are the answers to the practical questions brides-to-be don’t know who to ask.
When to start trying on wedding dresses
If the length of your engagement allows, 10-12 months before your wedding is the perfect time to start looking for your dress. It means you will have plenty of time to gather inspiration and think things over before making your final decision.
While it can be useful to start browsing designers and silhouettes before you have your wedding date and venue booked, we recommend you have this decided on before you actually start trying dresses on. Your date and venue are the foundations of your wedding and will influence the style of dress you choose, as well as your budget.
Most designers take 7-9 months to deliver your dress. But for an extra ‘rush’ fee, dresses can often be made in a shorter time frame so if you don’t have much time, don’t worry.
Second-hand wedding dresses are also a great option if you find yourself in this situation, as well as bridal sample sales.
Be sure to be upfront about the date of your wedding so that there is enough time for your dress to be finished and perhaps arrive back to the U.K. if it’s being made abroad. You will need to take into account time for alterations (more information below).
How to start the search for your dress
We recommend starting a folder (we love a Pinterest board) where you save down images of wedding dresses that you like as you’re looking through Instagram etc. This will give you an idea of what you kind of silhouettes and designers you are naturally drawn to before you start looking at what bridal boutiques to go to.
If there’s a particular designer you like, or a particular shape you want to try on, make sure the boutiques you book an appointment with stock what you have in mind.
It may be an obvious tip but it is important to make sure you know your budget and that the boutique you’re visiting has a good selection of dresses within your price range.
The first time you go wedding dress shopping, we recommend you go to a boutique with a wide selection of styles. You may think you want a particular silhouette but it’s always good to try on a range of dresses as sometimes you just fall in love with something you didn’t expect, or what you think will suit you doesn’t quite work.
If you’re in London, The Wedding Gallery in Marylebone has a great curation of bridal brands, selected to suit all styles and budgets and is a great first store to visit to start searching for your dress. You can also enjoy an in-person consultation with our Bridal Concierge there, where we’ll expertly guide you through trying on different silhouettes and dresses by different designers to help you get a strong idea of what you like. An introductory appointment with The Wedding Gallery is £70, for up to 90 minutes.
Wedding dress shopping is more overwhelming and tiring than you probably expect so the first time you go, maybe book just two appointments, one with time for a break, followed by another, then digest what you’ve tried and what you’ve liked. You then may well know what style of dress you want and can be much more targeted when booking your second round of appointments. If this isn’t the case, don’t worry!
What to consider if you’re interested in bespoke / custom bridal
For brides who have a strong idea of what they want, there are some amazing designers out there that do bespoke / custom bridal which is a very exciting route to explore as it means your dress is truly your dress. You can tweak an existing style you’ve seen, combine a few elements from various pieces, or work closely with a designer to achieve something you have envisioned from scratch.
It is important to note that this option will take longer to create and can often work out to be more costly than buying an existing style (even if made to measure). So if you do want to explore going down this route, make sure you have plenty of time to play with, and be sure there’s a buffer on top of the budget you have in mind as custom tends to go over what’s originally quoted.
The best place to start if you want to create a custom dress is to put together mood boards of pieces you like and then explore bridal designers who you think could create a version of this for you. That way, when you make your appointments you have references to show the designers you’re meeting with.
Depending on the calibre of the designer you want to meet with, they may charge you up to £500 for your meeting with them. If not, they will definitely charge you when they start to work on sketches for you. This is very norma and these costs are often redeemable against the final cost of your dress. If you decide to create your own dress, it is very important you connect with whoever will create your dress as making a wedding dress is a very personal experience between both you and the designer.
It is also important to realise that you may visualise something that either isn’t achievable, or won’t suit you. We’re not suggesting to pare down your ideas or play it safe but the only way of knowing if something you’ve dreamt up can actually work and if it will suit you is by sitting down with a designer. It is therefore important to keep an open mind while working with a designer and follow their advice as they are the real experts.
Designing your own bridal look can be a truly amazing experience but you do need to be aware that this will require effort and time on your behalf as well.
For more information on custom/ bespoke bridal, or for recommendations on designers, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What to know before attending a bridal appointment
All wedding dresses are sample sizes so don’t expect to find the perfect fit. This can be frustrating but with the help of the boutique’s sales assistant, you should be able to get a good indication of what you’d look like in each dress you try.
A lot of bridal shops are funny about you taking pictures. In the online world we live in, this seems quite outdated. However, don’t be afraid to ask if you can take a photograph.
It’s always fun to bring family and friends along to your bridal appointments to share the experience with you. However, choosing your wedding dress is ultimately your choice and having too many people with different opinions can sometimes lead to unnecessary stress. You can always go to your first few appointments with your closest family member or friend and then once you have chosen your dress, invite your ‘wider group’ to join a fitting.
What to take to your bridal appointment
What underwear you wear to try on dresses can really make a difference to how you feel. Always bring a good, uplifting strapless nude bra and seamless underwear that provides you with support where you feel you need it. If you feel as though you have problem areas, we recommend buying what you need from Spanx, or somewhere similar, to help you to feel happy when trying on dresses during your appointments.
Give yourself the best chance of actually liking yourself in a dress and go to your wedding dress appointments feeling happy with how you’re looking. If that means fake-tanning the night before, or having a blow-dry, do it. Feeling self confident can make a huge difference when you’re stood in front of a mirror in a wedding dress for the first time. A helpful tip is to take a hair bobble or a hair clamp with you, so you can easily see how a dress looks with your hair up.
All good bridal boutiques will have a selection of shoes for you to try on with their dresses. But you can always take a pair of your own that are a similar height to what you would consider wearing on your wedding day.
Alterations and dress fittings
It is helpful to note that alterations are not usually included within the price of your dress when working out your budget.
Most boutiques will charge a set amount for alterations and work with you through a number of fittings until your dress is perfect.
Your first wedding dress fitting is usually 2-3 months before the actual date of your wedding. Your last fitting should be as close to your wedding day as possible to take into account any fluctuations in weight etc.
If you buy your dress from the brand’s own boutique, we advise on having the alterations done by them.
If you buy your dress from a multi-brand boutique, they will often have an in-house service. However, in this case, you may decide you want to explore a few different options for alterations which the boutique should be happy with. However, if looking for an alternative alterationist, depending on the complexity of your dress, make sure they have first-hand experience working on wedding dresses.
A good tip is to ask for any off cuts from alterations to be kept for you. For example, if your dress is made from a beautiful lace you could use leftover fabric and applique the lace onto your veil if you’re having one, or maybe even utilise any left over on your flower girls’ dresses.
Something else to consider is that someone apart from you (the bride), knows how to put on your dress. On your wedding day you may need help getting ready, especially if your dress has any kind of corset detailing. Make sure someone in your bridal party is familiar with how to fasten your dress, this is something that you can cover in your final dress fitting if you take someone with you.
Paying for your dress
Most boutiques require you to pay 50% when you order your dress and 50% when it arrives and you attend your first fitting.
Some boutiques will however ask for 100% payment upfront.
Transporting your dress
If you are will be travelling with your dress you will need to factor that in too. We recommend having the boutique you buy your dress from wrap it and package it for you so you can carry it as hand luggage, either in a suit bag or suitcase, depending on its size. If you are getting married abroad and don’t want to check your dress in as luggage, make sure you speak to the airline to see if they have hanging room, or if you will have to book in a seat for your dress – this will most likely depend on if it’s a ball gown silhouette, or not.
Want more advice?
If you have any further questions, or want more personalised advice on shopping for your wedding dress, don’t hesitate to email us at email@example.com