The Honest Guide to Wedding Dress Shopping

Wedding dress shopping is so much fun. But it’s also daunting, overwhelming, and requires you to strip down into your Spanx in front of a near stranger, and parade your dress choices to a line-up of your closest friends.

It’s a little bit weird!

When you get engaged (or even before!) what is the first thing you start contemplating? For 99% of brides, I’m sure ‘the dress’ is number one.

However not everyone looks forward to dress shopping, some brides-to-be actually tell me they hate the thought of it.

Shocking? Not everyone likes shopping, it’s a fact of life, and if you don’t like wandering around House of Fraser trying on various forms of constructed material, the thought of wedding dress shopping possibly isn’t thrilling you either.

However it doesn’t have to be painful, or even stressful. I have worked with numerous brides in their search to find ‘the one’, and quite often they are unprepared for the wedding dress experience. It’s no surprise, most people have never done it before!

So here is my (truthful) guide to wedding dress shopping, best to read before you hit the shops.

It's OK to feel nervous

A lot of brides secretly feel some butterflies before their first appointment, it’s normal. You’re going to meet a complete stranger who’s about to see you half (mostly) naked, and has to help you choose the most important outfit of your life.

Be prepared to be out of your comfort zone (literally)

When you attend your first appointment, prepare yourself for the fact that you might be a bit uncomfortable. Wedding dresses are much more restrictive and heavier than clothes we usually wear, and the fact is they aren't as comfortable as our jean’s and t. (They can however suck you in and give you great posture, something which our favourite pair of jeans just won’t do)

Take people whose opinions you trust with you, and more importantly, who won’t push with their opinions/style on you

This might be a bit controversial, but if your mum keeps on about how stunning you would look in a princess gown, and you envisage a slinky- red carpet number, she might not be the person to take with you. In the appointment you are going to want to lean on your guests opinions, it's only natural, but if they walk into the appointment with a set vision for you, you might be disappointment when they don't love that backless fishtail number because it's not the princess dress they had pictured you in.

Try on a range of styles, but don't try on every style

There's a reason you might not be comfortable wearing a strapless dress on a night out/to a party, and that reason is probably true for strapless wedding dresses too, so rule them out and move on. 

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Be honest with the sales assistant

This one is important, even if you might find it difficult. It's hard to voice negative thoughts in front of the sales team, but it's important, they are there to help you and they absolutely know their whole dress stock inside and out. If you don’t tell them how you’re really feeling, they might not realise you would actually be perfect for that unseen dress in the corner that your bridesmaids didn’t spot.

If you can't take pictures try to take notes

Some appointments can be quite rushed, so if you aren’t able to, see if your bridemaid/mum/guest can. Take notes on the style, the colour (there's ivory and then there's Ivory, will make sense once you go I promise!) the good points and bad points, and especially how you feel (emotions are easy to forget later) in the dress. 

Go for a coffee/lunch after and re-evaluate 

Particularly if you can't take pictures, it's important to assess the appointment and overall experience whilst it's still fresh in your mind. It's easy for 5-8 Ivory dresses to blend into one once you leave the shop, that's why notes are important too. 

Double-check before you go

When you book the appointment double check - how long is it? Can you take pictures? How many dresses are you able to try on? Can you pick your own or will the sales consultant pick for you? That way you will feel less clueless when you walk in and possibly less nervous too.

Don't feel pressured

 If you aren't enjoying the experience, it isn't the shop for you. All bridal boutiques work differently and have different sales techniques, which suit different personalities. If you don’t like their approach, think about what you don't like, and when you book at another boutique ask how their approach differs. 

You might not find the "one”

And that's OK

The biggest element of weddings films and TV greatly over-play. There are so many designers and dresses on the market today that you are bound to find more than one dress you love, (and if you don’t, there are plenty of bespoke options out there too!) A lot of brides I have worked with narrow it down to 2 or 3 dresses they love, and then it's just a case of picking their favourite.

As magical as the whole wedding planning experience can be (did I say magical? I mean excitingly stressful) dress shopping isn't like picking out a puppy/kitten/hamster, they're dresses. Unless you are a very emotional person it's unlikely you will burst into tears, although I have known of the odd goose bump. Basically if you aren't likely to go evening dress shopping and fall madly in love with just one gown, then it's not likely you will just because the dress is Ivory.

Just something to consider. 

Wedding dress shopping can be exciting, fun and thrilling, and finding the right boutique for you can make it magical too, but remember that it’s only one element of your big day, and whatever you wear your fiancé will still love you in it!


All bridal styling by me. Special thanks to - Sanshine Photography | Photography by Anna Marie