The one question that I am asked the most by brides to be is ‘How soon should I start shopping for my wedding dress?’ And my answer is always the same – that you should shop for your dress as soon as you are ready!
So… what do I mean by ready?
1. You should have your wedding date and venue booked.
The time of year and location as well as the timescales for ordering will all be things that your bridal consultant will need to consider while helping you to find your wedding dress. The kind of dress you could wear for a beach wedding could be miles away from a dress suitable for castle wedding.
2. You should have the money to buy the dress.
Sounds obvious but in speaking with other bridal boutiques, it seems a lot of girls hit the shops months before they have the money ready to be spent. Most girls seem to visit bridal boutiques with a ‘just looking’ attitude, but this is such a dangerous thing to do. Bridal gowns can be discontinued or sold from stock at any time, so you might find a gown you love and plan to return to buy it in just a few weeks, but you could be sorely disappointed to discover that ‘your dress’ is no longer available. Can you imagine how gutted you’d be?! I’ve had to deliver that bad news on more occasions than I care to remember, and I always feel like such a baddie, and it’s horrible to see that kind of disappointment on someone’s face. So definitely be prepared to buy the dress as soon as you find it.
3. You should know what your budget is and how far you are willing to compromise.
Most bridal boutiques are very upfront about their price range, so check the websites of the shops you want to visit before you book appointments. If you are willing to spend up to £1000 then there is no point in teasing and torturing yourself with couture gowns of £2000 plus in high end boutiques. You’ll only end up either blowing the budget or absolutely gutted at having to walk away from your dream dress. Most bridal boutiques have collections that start from £700, but don’t despair if you can’t spend that much – check out their sales where gowns might start from just £295 instead.
4. You should be aware of delivery timescales.
Most bridal gown manufacturers need between 16 and 24 weeks to create and deliver your bridal gown. This means that most bridal boutiques like you to have placed your gown order a minimum of 7 months prior to your wedding day. Some designers require much longer, even up to a year! My philosophy is earlier is always better, as having the dress at home with you months in advance is definitely better than stressing about not having enough time for alterations.
5. You should know whether you’d prefer an exclusive one-off gown or a more widely available style.
I meet girls all the time who expect to be the only girl in the county to wear a particular wedding dress, but when you are shopping in a mainstream bridal boutique with a £1500 budget, this expectation is completely unrealistic. However, if you have £3000 plus to spend, and commission a couture creation from a high end designer, you can pretty much guarantee exclusivity. The only way to make sure your dress is different from other local brides whilst shopping mainstream is to customise. Lots of mainstream designers such as White Rose offer the option to change things about your dress, to really make it unique to you. Independent bridal boutiques might be able to control who buys their dresses, so if you know your cousin has bought her wedding dress already, let the bridal stylist know before you start trying on, so that she can make sure you don’t fall in love with the same dress. But it’s very important to understand that the same dresses can be sold in lots of different locations across the province. Popular designers such as Ronald Joyce, Ellis or Benjamin Roberts can be found in lots of bridal boutiques, so be aware that a workmate could buy her wedding dress in a shop 40 miles from the one you shopped in, but you could end up with the same dress.
6. You should have decided if you are prepared to purchase an ‘in stock’ gown or if you’d prefer a ‘special order’ gown made just for you and never tried on before.
Buying ‘off the rail’, especially at sale time, can mean you can get a lot more gown for your money. Chances are it might have a few marks and maybe some missing beads, but these things are easily fixed. If you are limited on time you might already be limited to the in-stock selection, but keep in mind that gowns can be altered to fit , so if the gown you love is a 14 and you are a 16, a good seamstress can usually make it work.
7. You should be close to the weight you want to be on your big day.
I’m not saying to start starving yourself prior to dress shopping, but there is little point shopping for and buying your wedding dress two years before your wedding at a size 20 with a plan to be a size 12 on your wedding day. Most bridal boutiques have a policy of ordering your dress according to your measurements at the time, not your ideal measurements. So if you are planning to join slimming world, weight watchers or the gym, then I’d recommend leaving dress shopping until 7-9 months before your big day. That way you’ll have an idea of the pace of your weight loss and can gauge better what size you are likely to be on your wedding day.
So if you’re reading this and think you are prepared to find your dream dress, my last piece of advice is to be organised and book your appointments as far in advance as possible. Popular boutiques such as ours are already getting bookings as far ahead as March 2014, and our next available late night slot is early February! So if you know already that 7pm on a Tuesday suits you and your entourage the best, then get your appointments booked!