Whether you have been dreaming about your big day and the perfect wedding dress since you were 4 and know every little detail down to the last peal, or you have never even given it much thought until your boyfriend’s mother started nagging you to get your affairs in order for the big day. Not to worry, we have got you covered when it comes to choosing the wedding dress of your dreams.
It can be very stressful to find your dream wedding dress. After all, you have most probably never even tried one on before, and it is the most expensive piece of clothing you will probably ever own, so the pressure is definitely on while shopping for your dress. In addition to this, your dress will set the tone for the entire wedding, whether it is a casual beach wedding or a grand ballroom affair. It may also feel like there is an entirely new language to decode – A-line, tulle, and flare, sheath, organza and so on. Lately, brides have also started having multiple dresses, the formal one for the ceremony and then the party-centric one for the after-party, which only makes your dress shopping more stressful.
With all eyes in the room on you, not to mention the photos that you will keep forever, of course, you are going to want to look your absolute best on the big day. The question is what is perfect for you? For some brides, a dream dress is a sexy little sheath dress that will make all the guest appreciate her curves or a dress that allows her to break it down on the dance floor, and for other brides, the perfect dress is a regal ballgown made for a princess.
With all of these choices, it may become very overwhelming. But regardless of what your budget, timeline, or style, the below wedding dress shopping tips are sure to help you find the perfect dress, the dress you will love now, on the big day, as well as in 40 years when reminiscing and going through old photos.
- Do research to find out which looks you like
Click through online bridal boutiques, tear pages out of magazines, check your Pinterest page, and have a look at what the celebrities are wearing and compile a visual file of all the looks you like. Then it’s time to decide on a connecting theme, are all the looks you like lacy, embellished, or voluminous? Do they all have a plunging neckline? Find those commonalities of styles and bring all of your ideas to your first dress fitting appointment.
- Be open-minded
Most bridal consultants will tell you that they very commonly see women come in to their shops with a strict set of ideas of what they want for their dress, and once they have tried on a couple of dresses, they completely change their minds. You will need to keep an open mind while shopping for a wedding dress. You may just find the dress of your dreams and did not know you would even like it at first.
- Prepare yourself for bridal sizing
When it comes to bridal sizing, it means that your gown number may just be one or two sizes bigger than what you would wear in your usual clothes. Even if the thought of going bigger horrifies you, the only people who will know your gown size are you and your bridal consultant.
- Always shop true to your size
Even if you are planning to drop a few sizes before your big day, shop for a dress that fits you currently instead of going smaller. It is going to be a lot easier to take a dress in than to work with one that is a bit too snug.
- Don’t be shy to shop early
Many wedding gowns can take anywhere from four to eight months to make, and once it arrives, you will still have to add some more time onto the process for accessorizing and alterations.
- But not too early
If you and your partner are planning to have a long engagement but you are already shopping for a wedding gown as he asks the question. The dress you end up buying might no longer be in style by the time your big day arrives, or you may even find a better one closer to the day.
- Figure out what your budget is
Yes, it is always a bit uncomfortable to talk money, but it may save you from some heartache at a later stage. Before you make your first appointment, find out who will be paying for the gown. If someone else is paying for it, get those hard numbers on your limit, so that you do not go over your budget or you can pay the difference yourself if you really want the more expensive gown.
- Decide on a wedding theme beforehand
Before shopping for your gown, decide whether you want a formal, romantic wedding or a casual garden-party-themed wedding. Always keep the theme and the venue in mind as you look for your gown, as the very last thing you want is for your gown to clash with the overall style of your wedding.
- Try to plan the non-obvious costs into your budget
Say you plan to cap your fashion spending at R30 000, you should probably not buy an R30 000 gown. You still need to factor in accessories, tailoring, and preserving and cleaning the gown after the wedding day if you would like to keep it.
- Find the best bridal shop
Before you start making appointments, do your research, since you do not want to waste precious shopping time at a shop that does not even carry the gowns you are interested in or have terrible customer service. Ask your married friend for referrals and have a look online for reviews on shops with good reputations.
- Always call ahead
Try not to waste your time shopping at a store that does not have the designer, style or price range that you want. Call the store first and get all the information you may need to decide if you want to visit them or not.
- Make appointments
In many bridal stores, the gowns are not always displayed in a way where you will be able to just browse through them and do it on your own the way we do in retail stores. You will need to make an appointment in order to have a consultant assisting you with picking gowns and trying them on.
- Start off cost-effective and work your way up
Choose the least expensive shop for your first appointment and then keep scaling up if you are not finding what you are looking for. The same goes for trying on gowns during the appointments, choose the most cost-effective one first to try on and then work your way up to the more pricey ones. You may fall in love before getting to the bank-breaker.
- Think of three adjectives to describe your dream wedding gown
Where you are going for a vintage, classic, and comfortable, or glamorous, romantic, and beautiful, always go into your wedding gown shopping with a clear vision of how you want to look on the big day. By choosing three adjectives to describe the dress of your dreams, can help you narrow down the dress selections.
- Shop for your dress on a weekday
Bridal stores are generally jam-packed on weekends, which means you may be getting less personal attention or the dress you have your eye on is being tried on by someone else. It is worth using some personal time off work in order to have your appointment on a weekday.
- Make wedding gown shopping a whole-day affair
You may be surprised by how time-consuming it is to get that wedding gown on and off, let alone five or six, and you do not want to feel rushed while trying to find the perfect gown. Instead of making brunch plans after appointments or trying to fit lunch in somewhere, free up a few hours so that you can take your sweet time.
- Pick the shopping crew wisely
Yes, you love your mom, sisters, sister-in-law, mother-in-law and 12 bridesmaids, however, trying to get a crowd to agree on a place to go for lunch, you can probably just imagine how difficult it will be to find consensus on a wedding gown. Try your best to narrow the group down to just a few people whose opinions matter most to you.
- Wear the right undergarments
It may be difficult to imagine how a strapless gown will really look when you have hot pink bra straps sticking out, or how a curve-hanging gown will fit without the tight underwear. It is best to wear nude and strapless undergarments to your appointments.
- Decide on your silhouette
Your ideal gown’s shape is somewhat based on the style that you like, the venue, and mood of the big day, and also what is going to flatter your body the most. A fit-and-flare is both traditional and contemporary and will work on most body types, whereas a simple, elegant sheath is better on taller, willowy brides. Having a voluminous ball gown can add that drama aspect, but it may also overwhelm a petite frame. A mermaid style gown will show off your curves like that favourite pencil skirt f yours.
- Do not forget about your travel arrangements
If you are planning on flying to your wedding destination, you should look into airline regulations way before. You definitely do not want to fall in love with a ball gown only to have it exceed the airport size specifications on the day of departure.
- Consider less traditional lengths
While this will most likely not befitting for a formal wedding, for the rustic, casual, or beachy wedding, having an untraditional length to your gown may be a fun way of bringing your personality to your big day. Tea-length generally suits a quirky bride, whereas a white minidress will suit the rocker-chic party bride.
- Pay attention to fabrics
In addition to colour, silhouette, and embellishments, the type of fabric used can make a huge difference in how your gown is going to look on you. Unstructured silk and filmy chiffon are not always flattering on a curvy bride. A heavier material with more structure will hold its shape and smooth out the figure.
- Take heels t the appointment
There some bridal stores that have communal heels that you can borrow for your fitting, but you may want to stick to your own heels. The wedding gown will look a lot different in stilettos than in your flip flops. Bing heels that are the same height as the ones you will be wearing on the day so that you can get a better idea of how the gown will look on you.
- Bring along your dress photos for inspiration
Whether it’s a page from a magazine or printouts that you’ve accumulated over the past 5 years and put in a file, be prepared with your photo collage of wedding gown styles you like best while shopping.
- Bring scene-setting photos with
In addition to the photos you have kept of gowns and styles you like, bring along the photos of what your ceremony and reception will look like. Seeing the venue ambience may help your consultant pick certain gowns that will suit you and your big day best.
- Believe your consultant when they say, “It looks better on”
Often, wedding gowns have a lot of detail and heavy embellishments that may make it sag on the hanger. Unlike when shopping for a new blouse, you won’t really know what the gown looks like until it’s on you, so be open-minded and believe them when they tell you it will look better on.
- Shop at trunk shows for savings
This way, you can often get 10% off a gown and you will get to meet the designer, who may also discount or waive certain things, like extending the length, raising or lowering the neckline, adding straps, or changing the colour.
- Hit the sample sales
Mark Ingram, who is the president of Mark Ingram Atelier in New York City, says that bridal salons often have sales in order to move older inventory, so you might find a designer gown for 25 to 50 per cent off. The only downside to this is that most of the sales are stocked with sample sizes instead of wearable sizes.
- Embellishments add big bucks
Handwork like beading or embroidery will always add to the cost of your gown. However, if simple is not your style, then the embellishments are definitely worth it, just make sure you have factored that into your budget.
At Vonvè Bridal Couture, one of our biggest initiatives is that each bride feels beautiful, comfortable and experiences a personal custom-made bridal fitting. To find out more about our bridal collections, visit our website on www.vonvebridal.co.za.