The 7 things no one ever tells you about wedding dress shopping

Blogger Dawn Jenner from March to the Aisle shares her top tips on wedding dress shopping

If you’re anything like me, wedding dress shopping is (or was) one of the things that got you really excited when you looked at the wedding to-do list. The idea of having a few of your closest friends or family come for a day of trying on lots of gorgeous dresses whilst drinking champagne definitely appealed to me. But, there are a few things that no one ever tells you about dress shopping. While I had a fab time finding my dress, here are just a few things that no one ever mentioned…

Bride Trying on Dresses

1. There aren’t any bubbles

Having watched every episode of Don’t Tell The Bride I was the under the impression that you turn up at a bridal shop, get handed a glass of fizz and then proceed to try on lots of nice dresses while your mum/sister/best friend etc drink endless glasses of bubbly. This doesn’t happen. At my first appointment I put it down to being too early (perhaps 9.30am is considered too soon to start dishing out champagne flutes). Even at the second I made allowances, assuming lack of Prosecco was just an oversight by the fairly young assistant. However by the time I’d been to the third, fourth and fifth appointments and not been offered a single glass I resigned myself to the fact that glasses of bubbles at bridal shop appointments wasn’t a ‘thing’. It’s all just an act for the camera, unless I really am the unluckiest bride and managed to find the only 5 bridal shops that don’t serve champagne to prospective buyers!
Obviously it’s not the end of the world and I can completely see why you wouldn’t give a room full of girls glasses of liquids at an already emotional time while in a room of very expensive dresses. Thinking on it now it sounds like a recipe for disaster! But I would definitely recommend factoring in some time once you’ve shopped for a glass of fizz with your shopping buddies, not only to say thank you for coming but to sit and chat about all the lovely dresses you’ve tried.

2. Complete strangers will see you in your underwear

I was sensible and wore plain white seam free knickers and a white strapless bra because I figured this would be the most practical for trying on a whole variety of styles of dresses. What I didn’t realise was I would be told to get down to my undies and a complete stranger would join me in a teeny tiny fitting room with the biggest dress I’ve ever seen! I’d never really thought about it before, but wedding dresses are a two, sometimes three, woman job to get on. You won’t be left alone to navigate the layers of lace. Instead you’ll get very friendly (very quickly) with the shop assistant running your appointment. These ladies have seen it all before and they’re very professional so there’s no need to be shy. It’s just probably not the time to wear your sexiest thong and see-through lace bra though…save that for the wedding night!

3. 6 months is considered a rush

In the boutiques I visited, choosing a dress 6 months before your wedding day was considered an ‘urgent’ order. You either paid for the privilege of a ‘rushed’ order or you were limited to what dresses you could choose from a sample or in-stock range. Nine months was an ideal time frame, a year even better. I started looking with 12 months to go before my wedding, it’s now nine months and I am yet to order a dress. I’ve narrowed it down to my favourite two and I’ll be making my decision next week. Just make sure you plan enough time that you’re not rushed or pressured into buying a dress that you aren’t convinced is ‘the one’. Remember that you can’t just pop in and out of most bridal shops, you’ll need an appointment and you won’t necessarily find a dress on the first day of looking. Saturdays get booked up quite far in advance (especially if your wedding falls at a popular time of year) so make sure you’re organised and book in some shopping days with the people who you really want there pronto.

4. You can’t take photos

Wedding Dress Bodice

Admittedly this isn’t true everywhere but several of the shops I went into had signs up asking customers not to take photographs. The reasoning they give is that a snap on a mobile phone of a dress that is too big/too small doesn’t do it justice and won’t look like it will on your wedding day. Whilst I understand this, for me it would of been really helpful. I’m torn between two dresses that are in different shops and it’s quite hard to compare when you can’t quickly slip in and out of them or even have a photo to look at side by side. Just be prepared to memorise what they look like, or get a friend to take a sneaky snap.

5. Some boutiques charge a fee

While many bridal shops let you try on dresses for free, others will make a charge to secure an appointment. They refund this money on any dress you purchase, however if you don’t choose a dress in that shop it’s non-refundable. I’m glad I made the decision to avoid shops that charge to try on dresses. I’ve been to five shops and could have ended up spending over £150 on appointment fees that I wouldn’t have got back. Unless there’s a particular designer or a dress that you already have your heart set on, I’d personally avoid these fees and put the money to the final cost of the dress.

6. Sometimes there’s a limit

Most shops will give you a time slot for your appointment and this normally ranges from 1-1.5 hours if it’s your first visit. Others will give you a limit of dresses that can be tried on: five, for example. If you’re visiting a boutique that limits dresses, I wouldn’t book this as your first ever appointment to try on a wedding dress. Initially, you need the freedom to try on all different shapes, styles and even colours until you work out the style you’re going for. Once you’ve done this it becomes much easier to walk into a shop and narrow down potential dresses, so having a limit at this point isn’t so bad.

7. Most dresses aren’t white

I had assumed that the majority of wedding dresses were white but I was so wrong. At my first appointment I was asking for white dresses and being told that everything was available in ivory. At first I thought they didn’t hear me and then I thought they were ignoring my request. Even my mum thought it was a bit strange. I was standing in a shop full of white dresses and all they kept harping on about was ivory. It turns out the shop wasn’t full of white dresses at all. They were all ivory. Confused yet? In my head ivory was a horrible creamy, old-fashioned looking colour. It’s actually not. Ivory is a classic, sophisticated and slightly more understated form of white. When the shop assistant showed me one of the very few white dresses in the shop the contrast was massive. White is whiter than you can imagine. Remember Ross’s teeth in that episode of Friends? White wedding dresses are on a par with that, but not in a bad way. Sort of sparkling bright I suppose is a good description. And it’s a colour that I can imagine is too harsh for some skin tones and not as complementary as the ivory. Most shops seem to stock the majority of their gowns in ivory but will have a couple of white dresses available for comparison. I’d definitely try both and see what colour suits you, just be aware the dresses you see in the window probably aren’t white at all!

So those are my top tips for shopping for ‘the dress’. I’d love to hear your own stories and things you wish people had told you before you went wedding dress shopping. Read more from Dawn at March to the Aisle.

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