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Things To Know Before Going Wedding Dress Shopping

It is not unreasonable to believe that many brides dream about shopping for their wedding gowns. I was one of them. I was eager to try on dreamy gowns, and feel the very best version me.
It was a shock to me, therefore, that I did not enjoy the process of shopping for wedding gowns. I also made the error of purchasing a bridesmaid dress I didn’t like and ended up not liking. (Big mistake, huge!)

The dress I ended wearing, and adoring, as I said “I do”, was a rescue purchase that I made last minute after the original gown that I ordered did not look like I expected.

I now realize that I made every mistake when it came time to shop for wedding dresses. These are my top tips to help brides-tos find the perfect dress for their wedding.

These are the things that I wish I had known before I agreed to the (wrong!) gown.

8 things you should know before you go wedding dress shopping

Do your research

Although it is obvious, this was something I did not fully understand before I began. I was so excited about starting my wedding dress shopping, that I went straight to my first boutique with no idea of what type of dress I wanted.

I knew the right shapes for me and had a long wish list of items I didn’t like for my bridal gown. But, apart from that, I expected my shop assistants to do some magic and create perfect dresses for me.

There are many dresses in stores, but the women who work there don’t know what you like or your style. I wish that I had looked at more wedding gowns online, and spotted the styles, themes, or designers I liked.

Even if you don’t know what kind of dresses you would like to wear, you can bring a Pinterest board to help the assistants start.

2. The dresses will not fit.

This applies especially to women like me who can’t get sample sizes. It was my foolish hope that there would be a wide selection of sizes for a bridal shop to offer. However, I have found that in Australia, most gowns I tried on were size 8-10. I would be very grateful if someone could give me a size 12.

This means that you may find yourself tucked or pinched into a fitting for many reasons. You need to see it fitting properly.

Some shops excel at this task and will securely corset and attach you discreetly. Other stores, however, may expect you to dance in front your friends with your pants showing or, as was the case with me, with just a few cold hands holding your dress together.

I tried several gorgeous gowns, and I would happily pay the high price tag if they could show me one that was longer than my hips.

3. Make sure you pay attention to the size of the dress that you order

If the sample in-store does not fit properly, the store will order you a different size. This may, as I found out, change the entire look of your dress.

According to my conversations with other brides, it is a common practice for bridal shops to measure you and order a dress that fits the largest part of your body. This works in most cases. After all, a bride does not want a dress that’s too big. But for someone like me who is up 2 sizes smaller at her top and bottom, this can be a huge problem.

I fell in love a size 10 sample gown (which was admittedly a bit too small for me), and it had the perfect proportions to flatter my smaller bust and conceal my larger bottom. I didn’t know that a dress had been ordered in to fit me on the bottom (even though it was not fitted over my bum), and the bodice ended up being 2 sizes too large. In fact, it barely touched my sides during my first fitting. After four rounds of modifications and the addition of cups one size larger than my breasts, I was finally able to get the dress that ‘fit’ me. But it was not flattering. The proportions of the dress that I loved were absent. There were also creases in the bodice from multiple modifications to the gown.

This ordering style is quite common in wedding dress shops. However, I met two brides while shopping for dresses and it didn’t work out so well. In retrospect, I would have asked them what size they ordered and demanded a smaller one. Or B) paid more for a custom-made gown that was exactly my size.

4. Be sure to choose the right bridal shop

After I had identified a designer I liked for my boho wedding gown, I sought out a stockist for this designer in central Sydney. I lived there at the time and could easily travel there to make appointments. Now that I’ve had the benefit of hindsight, I can say again that it is not a good idea to choose where your dress will be purchased on location.

Despite feeling that this shop wasn’t the best at customer care, I persevered. I later deeply regretted it. It affected how I felt about the dress and affected our overall wedding experience.

You should pay close attention to such things as how long it takes to get your order, whether they listen and how the lighting is in the fitting rooms.

Some of the things I didn’t like about my experience at Sydney’s bridal store were:

Because the fitting rooms were full, alterations were done behind a curtain in the shoproom. (This was a pre-arranged appointment for alterations I had paid $550!
It was necessary to be asked to move the box halfway to the end by someone who had been cutting my hem in order to make a purchase for another bride.
However, the lowest point in my dress experience was when my comments about not liking the creases on the bodice led to an assistant lifting my skirt and pulling my knickers in order to fix the defective stitching. This was right in front of a glass-fronted shop. Lovely!

In the end, I wish that I was more careful about who I spent $4k with and how much of my wedding build-up I did.

5. Don’t let the stores’ timelines scare you into purchasing something.

It was 9 months before the destination wedding and every bridal shop I went to said that I had to make an immediate decision if my dress was to arrive on-time. These pressures led me to make the mistakes I mentioned earlier.

It’s much better to keep searching until you find what you love than to settle for something that you aren’t sure of or have to make a decision quickly.

It’s a good idea not to start looking too soon as details can change. Also, your preferences may change as new gowns come out.

6. It is possible to not get what you pay.

It’s a shame to say that every bride-to-be will quickly find out that there is an extra wedding tax. This makes everything twice the price if you mention the term wedding.

This is especially true for shopping for wedding gowns. While some gowns are stunning and beautiful, if you feel special and can afford it for your big day, then go for it!

My biggest frustration with my negative experience with a wedding dress is the fact that I had better overall customer care spending $400 at a designer boutique than I have spending $4k on one.

7. It’s an emotionally charged purchase

My friend was right when she said that your wedding gown is the most emotionally charged garment you’ll ever buy. I completely understand what she is referring to. There are so many things that go along with your gown. Your self-esteem, your parents’ views, and your groom’s wishes all have a lot to do with it. You should pay attention to all the points I’ve mentioned from 1 to 6.

The dress isn’t the only thing that matters at a wedding. However, it does have an impact on how a woman feels and looks back on the day. Do everything you can to feel great when you look back at your wedding photos.

8. Get support from your friends

Many articles have been written about the dangers of taking too many people (and their opinions). Although I’ve done my own wedding dress shopping, I know how important it is to have friends.

I decided to say yes to the gown because my family and friends, who were waiting for me in the change room next to her, were very supportive. They were very kind to offer their assistance, but if these strangers had been my mum or bridesmaids, they might not have said anything like: “This dress is beautiful Jayne, but you didn’t say you wanted a train?” or “Won’t you get a little too hot in that in Thailand?” Unfortunately, they didn’t bother to help me and the store had already taken my credit card details when I got up in the UK.

These were just a few mistakes I made when I was looking for my wedding dress. I hope to save other brides from my rookie mistakes by sharing them with you.