I’ve noticed a huge trend recently for girls to leave bridal gown shopping until it’s almost too late! I hear lots of different reasons; some girls simply have only just gotten engaged, some girls have been dreading and putting off shopping, some haven’t had the money until now and others have been enjoying shopping too much and don’t want it to end!
The unfortunate reality of the wedding dress process is that they take quite a long time to be made and delivered to the bridal boutique. So when you leave it too late you really do limit your dress choices and options, and choosing a dress is hard enough!
A wedding dress is typically made for the specific bride who buys it and orders it through a bridal boutique. The dress doesn’t exist until you order it, which is why it takes so long to be delivered. Bridal designers don’t operate like Marks and Spencers with epic warehouses filled to the rafters of spare stock, they might have twenty or so of their bestselling dresses available but the vast majority of dresses are made to order.
The time it takes to manufacture and deliver a wedding dress can vary. It will depend on how elaborate it is, whether the fabric is readily available, if appliqué and beading needs to be sourced etc. Contrary to popular fantasy, bridal gowns are not created by magical fairies! They are made by very talented seamstresses either in ateliers (high end designers) or factories (mainstream designers). The delivery time will obviously depend on where the dress is being manufactured, and how much the designer is willing to spend on shipping. The whole chain of manufacture and distribution is longer, more complicated and long winded than you’d ever imagine!
Most bridal gowns can be delivered to us within five and a half months of placing the order with the designer, but certain gowns and certain designers take much longer. I prefer a minimum of 7 months as it means that even if the dress takes six and half months to arrive we still have two weeks to organise fittings and the final prep and steaming of your dress. I do always encourage girls to order sooner though, just to make sure that the process is as stress free as possible.
Since a lot of girls don’t have the luxury of so much time, standard delivery isn’t an option, so what do you do when you are faced with this predicament? The most common option is the ‘rush cut’, where the designer can prioritise your order over all the other brides who have already ordered their dresses. Obviously since this equates to you bumping the queue and will require extra work behind the scenes for both the designer and the boutique, you will incur extra costs. Most rush cuts will be at least an additional £100 on top of the dress price, but can easily be more especially if you are really short on time. If the designer has to organise expedited shipping to get the dress to the shop as quick as possible, this can easily cost more than £100 alone. If you opt for the rush cut option be aware that any delivery dates will be approximate and the dress might only arrive with the shop days before your wedding.
Since a lot of bridal designers have noticed the trend for more and more ‘last minute brides’, they are trying to keep a lot of their most popular styles and sizes in stock, ready for immediate dispatch. But like I said before, they don’t have vast warehouses full of dresses, more like a few racks in a room next to their accounts office, so they may only have 20 or so dresses available. We are lucky that some of our designers will email us every few weeks with a list of what they have available, so you might be lucky and find that the dream dress you want is already made and ready to be posted!
If the designer doesn’t have a dress in stock, and a rush cut is not an option or sounds like way too much stress, you will find that buying a dress ‘off the rack’ is your best option. Lots of bridal boutiques keep a clearance rail of dresses that they are willing to sell from stock, but your choices will obviously be very limited. On occasion the boutique might be willing to sell off the rail from their full price stock, but be aware that since these dresses are current the shop might not want to sell you their stock dress. Popular dresses are very valuable to a bridal boutique and to be without their best dress for several months could cost a bridal boutique a lot of customers, especially in peak busy season. If you are lucky enough to be allowed to buy the stock dress, don’t expect a discount. Be aware that the shop are doing you a favour by letting you have their dress. I know of shops that actually charge you more since it’s such an inconvenience for them to lose a top dress. So if you must have it, be nice to the girls in the shop and they’ll be more inclined to help you out.
So now that you know the options, I encourage you to book your appointments and to make sure to tell the girls how soon your wedding is. If I know my next appointment has a very close wedding date, I’ll call our suppliers to find out which dresses I can get in time for you, since there’s no point in me letting you fall in love with a dress that you cannot have. I’m not that mean!