When I dreamed about the day I finally got to go hunting for the dress of all dresses, I never imagined we’d be in the middle of a global pandemic.
This did change things slightly, which I’ll explain later, but I’m just grateful that shops were able to reopen after months of closure. It’s been a really tough year for the wedding industry – as it has for most industries – so it’s great to see them back up and running again.
Having started and completed the search for my wedding dress within a couple of weeks, I wanted to chat about the process for the benefit of other brides-to-be.
So grab yourself a cup of coffee, get comfy and read on to see all the best bits and harsh realities of my wedding dress shopping experience!
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Starting the search
Where to begin? Well if you’re anything like me, get on Pinterest! I’ve been pinning dresses since I got engaged and I’ve found it so helpful in terms of narrowing down what I like and what I don’t like.
Instagram is also a great place to look for styles, and you can click the little save button to find them again later. Failing that – flick through magazines and watch wedding dress shows to browse different styles, colours and materials.
You might know what you want from day one, or you might have no idea. Either way – be sure to do your research, and be prepared not to rule anything out. What you end up buying could be far from what you thought you’d want.
Booking bridal appointments
As a starting point, I’d say book two or three appointments at bridal boutiques. I started off with three but ended up getting greedy and booking a fourth, though I never actually made it there.
My biggest tip is to have a look and see what dresses they stock online and on their social channels. If you don’t love at least a few of their dresses, don’t bother going. I made this mistake by going to one that was a bit old fashioned for my taste, and in hindsight it was a total waste of time.
My second biggest tip is make sure they stock budget-friendly dresses. People kept recommending shops to me but their dresses started about £500+ above what I could afford, so there was no point in going.
Lastly, book early! Especially during these weird times, as the waiting lists can be months long.
Preparing for bridal appointments
Depending on your style, it’s nice to do your hair and makeup in a way you love, so you can see what you might look like on the day. That said, go easy on the fake tan and foundation as you don’t want to ruin their lovely dresses!
If you’re thinking of taking shoes, just know that I bought a pair of white heels and never bothered wearing them. Unless you’ve already found your wedding shoes, don’t bother. Sometimes they’ll have spares for you to try on anyway, though maybe not in covid times.
In terms of what underwear to wear, I’d recommend a strapless bra and seamless, nude pants, but it doesn’t really matter.
Lastly, don’t forget your face mask! I’m sure this won’t be a rule for the rest of time, but for the foreseeable future you have to wear a face mask to your appointment. Most places let you take it off when you’re up on the box, but you’ll need to wear it the rest of the time.
Choosing your entourage
Who do you want to be a part of your entourage? I always had a rough idea of who mine would consist of, but that got squashed when I found out there’s a one or two person limit currently due to the pandemic.
I decided to take my lovely mum and my maid of honour. I’m super close with my mum, and my maid of honour has been in my life since we were tiny kids and knows my style.
The two of them were absolutely brilliant, super supportive and actually, I wouldn’t have wanted additional opinions. It was hard enough having my own thoughts to deal with!
Trying on the dresses
I may have had a bit of a warped expectation on this part of the process – having watched about 657 episodes of Say Yes to the Dress over the years – but trying on dresses wasn’t *quite* the dreamy experience I imagined.
Here’s how it went…
Dress shop no. 1
I welled up as I walked into the boutique thinking oh my god, this is actually happening. The people were lovely, the shop was small but beautiful and they made us feel very welcome.
I always thought I would pick the dresses I liked the look of, but instead they asked me what I liked and picked nine for me. But I only liked one of them – yikes.
I felt I was being super picky, but they weren’t remotely close to what I’d said I liked. Apparently this is because it’s important to try on different styles, which I was fine with, but the things I said a definite no to were still making their way into the dressing room.
Because of this, I left with very mixed emotions. I was on cloud nine having just tried on wedding dresses for the first time, but I spent two hours battling with my face mask and feeling a bit meh about the dresses I was seeing myself in.
There was definitely no ‘I’M A BRIDE AND I’M GLOWING!’ moment, which I thought I’d feel when I saw myself in the very first dress.
Dress shop no.2
The second boutique was booked for the same day, and sadly was not a very fun experience.
The place gave off a cold, unwelcoming vibe the minute we arrived (which my mum and friend also picked up on) – and although this time I could choose my own dresses, I couldn’t find more than about two dresses that I liked within budget.
I ended up trying on eight dresses, none of which I was mad about, and I felt really insecure about my body afterwards as they were either unflattering styles for my shape or a poor fit, with tons of bulldog clips clips hanging off and getting caught in my hair.
I left feeling really flat, which again wasn’t what I expected.
Dress shop no.3
The weekend after I had another two appointments booked, the first at a boutique where I liked a few of the dresses and most were in budget. I knew this because they had an amazing online portal where you could see and ‘favourite’ dresses you liked – genius.
When we arrived the boutique was spacious, beautiful and gave off Kleinfeld vibes (if you know you know). There were a few other appointments happening nearby, and because of the virus, they came over immediately to take me off to my private changing room.
For this appointment I’d actually paid £25 for unlimited prosecco or cocktails and a range of sweet treats. I’m so glad I did this, as it really added something special to the day for the three of us!
I couldn’t choose my dresses because of the other appointments going on, so my allocated consultant came in with a few dresses for me to try on, based on the ones I’d favourited online.
The first dress I tried on I *really* liked, and I think my entourage loved it even more than I did. It was a very good start to say the least, but I tried on a few more to compare.
I eventually asked to see one that I knew was a little out of budget. This sounds like a terrible idea, but I knew that if I didn’t like this dress, that style was just never going to work for me. I was also hopeful because the consultant had said the moment I arrived that she thought this dress would look incredible.
Before I knew it, the dress came swooping in through the door, I put it on, and I burst into tears. This was the moment I was waiting for! It really is true when people say you just know when it’s the one.
I thought about still going to that fourth appointment – but having tried on 22 dresses at this point and only one making me feel that way – I quickly cancelled that final appointment and said yes to the dress at Serendipty Brides!
Things to know
Now that’s I’ve been through this process, I have a few extra words of wisdom for you…
Some bridal boutiques might charge a booking fee, which is usually redeemable against a dress. I’m not sure how I feel about this so generally avoided it myself, except the one were I got food and drink for my fee.
The consultants may or may not ask you to strip off in front of them. The first two did, the third didn’t. I personally didn’t enjoy standing there topless as they hoisted a dress over my bum. The last place let me get myself into the dress and then came in to do it up, which I massively preferred!
If you don’t jump to saying “yes” immediately, you might be lucky enough to get a little discount. I wasn’t sure on mine at first as it was over budget, but they kindly dropped the price slightly for me.
Your entourage might not blub when you find the one. My mum – who cries at most emotional things – had a mere watery glaze and still tried to blame it on the prosecco. Just because there aren’t floods of tears doesn’t mean they don’t love it!
What you like, others might not (and vice versa). This can be disheartening, but we weren’t all born with the same thoughts. And don’t be swayed by the consultants telling you how great you look in all of them – remember they’re trying to sell it to you!
Don’t expect everyone to be excited about your wedding dress once you’ve found it. Obviously you will want to shout about it – but others might not share the same excitement and that’s ok. Don’t let it get you down.
And that’s that, until I get the call to say it’s arrived and I can go for my first fitting!
I really hope this is helpful to anyone who’s planning their wedding and still needs to find their dress. Despite a few setbacks, it’s such an amazing experience. Enjoy every single moment!
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