It has to be perfect, you will be the centre of attention – everyone has advice to offer, there are bridal forums, magazine timelines and horror stories galore – but choosing your wedding dress is supposed to be fun! As bridal stylists, we spend hours talking with brides. We have come to the conclusion that to really enjoy the experience you need find the bridal suppliers who best suit your individual needs, so it helps to understand three key things before you start your bridal shopping:
NUMBER ONE: THE WEDDING DRESS CYCLE
STAGE ONE: GIRLIE DAY You are getting married! Your first thought after the engagement ring is the wedding dress. At this stage you want to rush out with your friends and try on lots of frocks to get some ideas – its fun, its frivolous – it’s a girlie day out.
STAGE TWO: I LOVE THAT MAGAZINE LOOK BUT WILL IT SUIT ME? You have chosen the venue and are now researching wedding dresses seriously. You love a particular dress style in the magazines/internet, you’ve cut out the pictures and put them in a look book/Pintrest page. You’ve considered bridesmaids, colours, chair covers and flowers. Now you need to find wedding dress boutiques to help put the look together to see if it works for you. Friends and family make recommendations, you research wedding shops on line and book appointments
STAGE THREE: SPOILT FOR CHOICE Wedding dress designers are a talented bunch. There are thousands of fab frocks out there and it can be confusing trying on lots of different dress shapes and fabrics to work out why some work better than others. How quickly you find your direction depends on how you well you communicate with your stylist. If you give honest and detailed feedback on each dress , a skilful consultant will listen carefully and guide you towards finding dresses that are perfect for you.
STAGE FOUR: THE SHORT LIST Because there are so many amazing wedding dresses, we think the idea that there is only one perfect dress is now a bit of a myth. By this stage you will probably have found several dresses that you really love and you may have a front runner – but you need to be sure, so you book retry appointments at your favourite bridal shops.
STAGE FIVE: THE DECISION You have some decisions to make, you have a timescale. You must order your dress in time for it to be made, delivered and fitted perfectly. You know this is ‘the one’. Time to order and celebrate, stop looking at wedding dresses, focus on other aspects of your wedding and look forward to the day your dress arrives.
NUMBER TWO: BEFORE YOU START BRIDAL BASICS – STRAIGHT TALKING – A WEDDING SHOP POINT OF VIEW
A bridal boutique is a bit like an iceberg. When you first arrive to look at wedding dresses, you only see the tip of it – attractive and exciting – but a wedding shop is not just about selling dresses, there is so much more going on than meets the eye. Here are Limelight’s top five before you start bridal basics:
1. Book an appointment: The best bridal shops will go to great lengths to make you feel like the only bride in the world, but in reality they are working very hard behind the scenes to make sure that twenty or thirty brides get married in perfectly fitting wedding dresses with immaculate accessories each month. Large boutiques will supply outfits for the entire wedding party – groom, ushers, bridesmaids, mothers of the bride and groom – that’s a serious time commitment with each outfit being steamed and pressed, altered and sometimes made from scratch to suit exact requirements. So when you bowl up with your friends excited, unannounced and oblivious at stage 1 of the wedding dress cycle, ready for a lovely girlie day out trying on wedding dresses, it can be very disappointing to be greeted with ‘I’m sorry but you need an appointment.’ You may well think the shop is unfriendly and unhelpful. This is not the case, it simply means there is no consultant available to help you because they are already booked by other brides or are preparing dresses for collection. They will be sorry to disappoint you, but may have no choice but to suggest you browse and make an appointment for another day.
Other alternatives include taking the girls to a bridal outlet where they can pull out lots of dresses for you to try on, or ringing to ask a bridal shop if the girls can help you into sample sale dresses without consultant service, or you can ask to book a special girlie appointment – there will be a charge for this but consultant service and hospitality such as a cream tea or bubbly and nibbles will be provided.
2. Bridal stylists offer you time and expertise – value your appointment. Bridal shops understand the cycle of choosing a wedding dress. Good bridal consultants are invaluable in your search for ‘the dress’ and won’t rush you into a decision you’re not ready to make. In appointments they freely commit significant amounts of time to you, knowing full well that you may simply use their expertise to help you buy elsewhere. Yet, inexplicably, there is a growing trend for brides to cancel appointments the same day or worse still, not show up at all – try doing that at the dentist! This denies other brides on the waiting list an appointment. As a result some shops now charge for bridal appointments and sadly we predict that this may soon become the norm.
3. Start shopping nine to tewelve months before you get married: the wedding dress cycle takes time. So does making your wedding dress, delivering it, having accessories made to compliment it, fitting it and steaming it. Wedding dress shops ask you to order at six to nine months in advance of your wedding, not because they want to hurry you into parting with your cash but because it genuinely takes that long to bring it all together.
4. Make wedding dress fittings your priority: the huge amount of work that goes on behind the scenes in bridal shops is centered around the sewing room. Expert bridal seamstresses work long hours to help perfect hour glass figures and they work to very tight schedules during peak wedding season. We understand that the run up to the wedding is a busy time for brides, with hair and makeup trials, hen dos and spa days to fit in; but your wedding dress is a vital part of your day! If you change your fitting appointment with your seamstress it affects the sewing schedule and has a knock on effect for completing your dress so it needs to be your number one priority.
5. Decide where you will store your dress before the wedding: Bridal shops will aim to have your dress fitted and steamed two weeks before your wedding day. Once steamed your dress needs to be hung with the train spread out in a room where it can be kept undisturbed and pristine. Brides often ask us to store their dress right up to the day before their wedding and we have to refuse. Wedding shops simply do not have enough private space to store lots of dresses that have been prepared for collection so it is really important that you ask a friend or relative with a spare room to store your dress for you.
NUMBER THREE: WHAT KIND OF BRIDE ARE YOU?
If choosing your wedding dress is going to be fun, it is important to recognise what you want from your wedding shopping experience and to choose your bridal suppliers accordingly.
I am very indecisive and will struggle to make a decision: Too many opinions will confuse you. Take only one or two people who know you really well to your appointments. Research bridal shops with a good reputation. Ask the stylists to help you find a direction and try on only the dresses which fit your criteria. Give your self a timescale and stick to it. As soon as you decide on your dress order it and focus on another aspect of your wedding.
I am interested in keeping the budget low and don’t need bridal consultants to help me: A bridal warehouse or outlet may be a good choice but be aware they do not offer a seamstress service and bridal shops will not fit dresses that have been purchased elsewhere, so you will need to organise your own alterations.
I want to buy from a bridal boutique but am worried about cost and sales pressure: Do your research – find out which bridal labels fall within your price range and which bridal shops stock them. Ring the boutiques and ask if you can call in to browse – you will get a feel of the boutique and its consultants before you book an appointment. Good bridal boutiques don’t pressurise you and will help you work within your budget.
Considering buying from the internet? Beware!
FAKE BRITAIN ETERNITY BRIDAL
The Retail Bridalwear Association takes daily calls on their Helpline from disappointed brides who have been let down by fraudulent online traders. Distraught brides who have had poorly made wedding dresses in cheap fabrics delivered to their door often ring our store to ask if our seamstresses can help, unfortunately there is nothing that can be done to make a cheap copy look like the real thing!When you buy from a reputable retailer, you know what you’re purchasing – a quality wedding dress from a genuine bridal label and that you will receive good service throughout the entire process.
I want to buy off the peg: Most bridal shops will have some samples to sell off the peg. Allow yourself plenty of time to look for your dress because you are not just looking for one that you love, it must also fit you! A wedding dress can usually be altered down by two sizes but no more.
I want to buy from a bridal shop but I expect a good deal: Bridal shops are not car dealers – try asking John Lewis for a discount after a sales consultant has spent hours trying to help you. You would be better asking up front for a pricing policy. Some wedding shops will offer discounts depending on how much you spend with them overall – for example if you hire so many mens suits you will get one free. Bridal stores hold trunk shows and sample sales regularly so if getting a bargain is your priority look out for these events.
The whole experience of buying my dress is very important to me. I really want to spend time on the styling of my dress: Research bridal shops with reputations for excellent stylists and read testimonials to see what other brides say about them. Choose boutiques that carry a range of quality labels and call into the shop to browse to get a feel of the store before booking. Book your appointments well in advance, preferably during the week, as Saturdays are often very busy. Make sure you know exactly where the shop is and parking arrangements so you are not late and can maximise your appointment time. Wear your hair and a light facial makeup as you might on your wedding day. Talk honestly with your stylist so she knows exactly how to help you find your dress. Enjoy!