How to shop for your wedding dress.

I don’t often delve into weddings on Florence Finds but it’s not an era of my life that is completely over yet, particularly as I’m going to be a bridesmaid for Jess next year. I’ve written about wedding dress shopping in the past but it’s interesting how your perspective changes as you get older – it’s easy to say that’s as a result of having ‘had’ one type of wedding whereas I think it actually stems from a certain degree of maturity, because I notice similar theories from Jess. I also think that the older you get, the more in-tune with your personal style you are and therefore less likely to be sucked into the ‘you only get to do it once,’ advice.

The way Jess and I have been looking for her dress has been such a lovely stress-free experience (so far!) that I thought I would share my tips and how we have gone about it. I would love it if those of you who are married would chip in with any advice you have on finding the perfect dress too.

1. Pinterest is your friend.
The temptation on getting engaged is to rush straight out dress shopping, (it’s what I did,) but I think it’s a much smoother process when you have a look around at what’s available first and try to narrow down what you’re looking for. Make a Pinboard (see some of my favourites here) or a paper scrapbook of everything that you like and narrow down the shapes and styles that you see emerging as a trend.

2. Identify the designers you like.
You might find that the dresses that you like all come from a certain designer which makes this bit easy, but looking at individual designers is also very useful for expanding your search. Designers tend to have a trademark style and so chances are if you find a dress you like they may have several similar ones that you would also like.

3. Find the Bridal stores that stock the designers you want to try.
I’m pretty sure most people do what I did and head off to a local bridal store hoping to try on a selection of dresses and find ‘the one’. I know that I then found it very off putting to arrive at said bridal shop and look around seeing nothing but the opposite of what I thought I was looking for. It’s a waste of time and leaves you feeling deflated. Whereas if you go to a store that you know stocks dresses that you think will suit you and you like, you’re already onto a winner.

4. Use your wild card.
It’s always worth scheduling an appointment at that local bridal shop that has pretty dresses in the window to try some dresses that are the opposite of what you want. You never know, you might find that the opposite of what you imagined is actually the dress you feel sensational in. I think it helps you have confidence in your eventual choice to know that you have ruled something out with full knowledge of what it is rather than ruling out an ‘idea’.

5. Stay Strong.
Remember, it’s your wedding. So much ‘advice’ is thrown at you from every direction when you’re planning and spending money on anything wedding related that is essentially a sales pitch, it’s easy to lose sight of what you know is right for you and your fiancé. Whether thats keeping a tight rein on the finances, not letting things get too formal, or just staying true to your vision of the day, you have to hold onto it. Trying to conform to what you or anyone else thinks you should have is the quickest way to regrets post-wedding.

Please do share your wedding dress shopping tips and perhaps any thoughts you have as a married looking back… would you change your choice of dress if you did it again?


*All images taken by me in Morgan Davies Bridal – our first port of call and an absolutely wonderful experience – I’d highly recommend them. 🙂

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15 thoughts on “How to shop for your wedding dress.

  1. Ooohh…hello!

    I’m going to a “follow on” to Rebecca’s advice above. I started at a “mixed shop” i.e. that stocked a number of designers. I did this for high end (Sassi Holford, Suzanne Neville, Stewart Parvin) and mid range (pronovia, benjamin roberts etc) to find out what I liked and to compare the structure and quality of each. Once I narrowed down what I liked in terms of style AND designer AND price then I went to the designers boutique.

    I would also advise price hunting around. One dress I saw retailed for £4,500 in the designer boutique but £2,350 in a stockist in the regions. Both designs were completed by the same people at the designers workshop in London, were made to measure and neither involved involvement from the actual designer. I definately found that regional stockists of SN, SP and SH were willing to throw in “made to measure” with a toile for free. Saying that, one designer in Newcastle wanted to charge £1000 for made to measure service when it retails for £300 from the designer. So shop around!

  2. I loved, LOVED, wedding wedding shopping. I HATED having to choose The Dress though, and to this day it still keeps me awake at night, pondering and re-imagining. I’m still not sure I made the right choice, but I have no idea what that choice would be. Does it matter? Not really. but you know…

    I waited a good six months before I tried anything on. It took me nearly seven months to choose something… which turned out to the be the second one I tried. I had scrap books coming out of my ears and visited about 12 shops in three counties. I listened to too many voices. I allowed myself to be persuaded. I thought about it too much. Meh.

    I have a real issue with decision making anyway, and my way of dealing with it is that i have a small internal chat with myself and say “does it really matter? Paint it blue – if you don’t like it, paint over it. Cut it – If you don’t like it grow it out. etc etc”.

    That doesn’t really work with wedding dresses. Ha ha!

    • P.S. to add to this, I am wearing it for the 3rd time this weekend for a fancy dress costume. So, on pound per wear it gets it almost down to, uh…. still WAAAAAAY too much money for SOMETHING MADE OF CLOTH!!!!

      But ,do I win the prize for the most worn wedding dress?


  3. My wedding dress is stored at my mums. I found it a few years ago and it was £1,800 in the shop. I got home, googled the designer and dress and found a shop about 40 minutes away. The owner of the shop was relocating to the North East and I managed to get my dress, which was the sample, in my size for £450. It looked as good as new once I got it cleaned and saved me a fortune.

    Alas, before I got to wear it I fell pregnant so had to cancel our wedding and we’ve still not rearranged the date yet (too busy chasing after our 15 month old daughter!). My tastes have completely changed now and whereas before we were arranging a large wedding, we now want a more low-key celebration and therefore I want my dress to be more low key.

    Some good advice here that I’ll be bearing in mind when I finally do go dress shopping.

  4. I think my first bit of advice (like the above comments!) would be go to your first try on in a shop that stocks a variety of styles. Try on a big one, a slinky one and a few in-between and see how you feel and have a look at what suits you. I went to this with my bestie and we had a lovely time and I would say that was my favourite dress shop experience even though I didn’t find the one I ended up wearing.

    I would also say think about what kind of clothes shopper you are normally. I’m quite a decisive shopper and always knew I would be most likely to find the dress on my own. I researched a couple of places near me that stocked the kind of dresses I liked that were in my budget and I went in and tried on ones that I liked and could see myself wearing on the day. I think its easy to get clouded by other people’s opinions. I realised that all the ones I liked fell into the same category which was fishtail-ish, with a bit of drama and no sparkles. This helped me narrow it down. I actually found my Pronovias dress on my own!

    My last bit of advice is bear in mind that there is no such thing as the one! There are tons of dresses out there and there are many that will suit you and you will like. I think it’s a bit of a myth that you should try it on and know… The dress I wore I loved because I felt like it suited me and the venue, however if I was getting married on a beach in Australia I would have gone for something completely different as I would have had a different vision of how I wanted to look on the day.

    That said I loved my dress – its currently hanging in our spare room. I almost cant bear to try it on again as I know it wont look the same especially as i have put on a few pounds since the wedding! 😉 xx

  5. Great advice Rebecca. Couldn’t agree me on desktop research before hitting the shops.

    My tips:
    – Make sure you have someone really good to do the alterations, or a brilliant seamstress in the shop. You will not feel confident in a poorly fitted dress.
    – It’s not just about the dress, I chose quite a plain (and very reasonably priced) dress, but then went on to spend much more on alterations and accessories (including jewellery). In fact, I spent longer choosing the veil, than the dress.
    – If you want straps, don’t be coerced by sales assistants into strapless. Everyone kept trying to persuade me they could add straps to the dress, but I wanted them to be part of the dress, and I’m glad I held firm on this.
    – You cannot rely on the sales assistant to tell you how you look, they want the sale. They will especially praise a dress that is over your budget.
    – If budget is tight, and you have a long dress, save on the shoes, as they will not be seen as much as the dress.
    – Go with what you feel comfortable spending, rather than what the magazines tell you. I spent more on a white gold diamond necklace and earrings, than the wedding dress. I like to think of the jewellery as future family heirlooms. I’m not saying this is the right attitude, but personally I’d rather have diamonds, and so set myself a budget of £400 for the wedding dress.


  6. I definitely agree it’s worth doing some online research first, finding out which designers you like the look of and then going to shops that stock them, as a starting point. Also try stuff on even if it doesn’t look good on the hanger – it might look great on, and if not you haven’t lost anything. I regret not taking the opportunity to try on more dresses just for the hell of it!

    I also second Katie’s advice to make sure you trust the person doing any alterations – I travelled a fairly long way to get my dress even though I could have ordered it from a local stockist. Partly this was because the one further away was slightly cheaper, but also because the lady running the shop was a trained couturier and did all the alterations herself, whereas the other shop was run by a lady who was obviously new to the business and was outsourcing alterations to an unknown third party.

    I loved my dress (Sassi Holford, all lace) but I do feel I was influenced a bit too much by my mum, who wanted me to look what she felt was ‘appropriate’ for a church wedding. I started off really wanting a Jenny Packham or Vivienne Westwood dress, but was put off in the end because I knew mum disapproved of them. My dress felt right for the occasion on the day, but I do wonder if I could have got away with something different.

  7. A couple of tips I was given by some very helpful shop assistants when I was trying to decide between different dresses:
    1. While you’re wearing one of the dresses, have the assistant hold the other one up in front of it and then take it away, so you get to see the two very close together. Most of the time it makes it easier to decide which one you prefer.
    2. If you had to rescue one of the dresses from a burning building, which one would it be?!

    From my own experience:

    If you’re on a budget, don’t try on dresses that you simply can’t afford. More expensive dresses tend to be made out of better quality fabrics, and just feel different on – and it’s hard to shake that feeling when you then try on a cheaper dress.

    If your measurements are very close to a standard size, it’s not worth having a toile made with the extra cost that involves; it would be cheaper just to have your dress altered later on, if necessary. (This saved me about £300, as it turned out I didn’t need any alterations from the standard size.)

    It is normal once you have ordered your wedding dress and are waiting for your first fitting to wonder if you made the right decision! In my case at least all of the anxiety evaporated once I tried on the dress that had been made for me – I just knew it was right.

  8. I’d say go with an open mind. I really loved a certain designers dresses I saw on the web but when I looked at them in the shop they looked very cheap. I agree that you should try on a variety of dresses, even if you think they look hideous on the hanger. You should see a theme emerging. For me, it was fish tail without bling but detailed in the cut and structure of the fabric.
    I do regret my eventual dress choice though. It was a choice between 2 and the shop with the better service won. The dress I really wish I had chosen was a Jesus Piero from a shop where I was put off my a snooty sales assistant and I couldn’t find a stockist anywhere else.

  9. I waited a whole year after getting engaged to going dress shopping (giving myself a year before the wedding to buy). I knew from reading wedding blogs that I would love a tea-length dress so I made 2 appointments in London- the first at Morgan Davies and the second at Candy Anthony.

    I’d read good reviews about Morgan Davies and I knew Candy specialised in short dresses. I had a fantastic experience last December in both shops and eventually bought my dress from Candy Anthony.

    Although there was only one shorter dress In Morgan Davies, which was so much fun and very Audrey Hepburn, the assistant was excellent at adapting styles and adding sleeves (a must) and didn’t once try and persuade me to try anything other than what I had felt and she agreed would suit me. She also pinned my hair up perfectly in a matter of minutes.

    It was a close call, between an Augusta Jones dress and the Candy Anthony, but ultimately the Candy Anthony dress is just me and I LOVE it! The girls there are excellent and I’ve enjoyed every visit. However, I did go on to buy the basque I had worn from Morgan Davies- it is a miracle and I recommend it to everyone coming up to the party season- it’s a Dominique satin basque, worth every penny.

    So London brides-to-be I would also recommend Morgan Davies.

  10. Really enjoyed the post Rebecca and great advice in the comments too.
    I only went to one bridal shop and my dress was the third one I tried on.
    The shop actually had no mirrors in the fitting room (having only been to the one shop I’m not sure if this is the norm) and it’s amazing the difference this can make, Apparently when I walked out of the fitting room in the third dress my shoulders were back and I held my head high – amazing considering I had no idea what I looked like. It just felt right!
    I have to agree with Rachie that there can be more than one dress. If I hadn’t had an Autumn evening wedding I think I would have opted for different detailing on my frock.

  11. If I had my time again I would definitely shop differently, I was in such a rush to find The One that I went about it in completely the wrong way. As Rebecca said, look in magazines / online and narrow down the designers you like and find shops that stock them. I ended up going all over Manchester to various shops just to try on one particular dress when I should have tried several. Try and group your appointments in the same area so you don’t end up going from one place to another.

    Go with an open mind, even though I ended up with a dress similar to one that I fell in love with on a catwalk show, I was very close to buying a lace dress which I was adamant I would never wear!!

    I really wanted a dress with straps as I have quite big boobs and felt like I would be spilling out in a strapless dress but most of the assistants put me in a strapless dress, I wish I had been more assertive and asked for dresses with straps.

    Go to your appointments with only one or two trusted friends or family so that there isn’t too much conflicting opinion and ask them to go with you to all the appointments if possible. I ended up taking about 5-6 different people to see different dresses and not one person ended up seeing all the dresses so could not help in my decision (unfort only one of my bridesmaids lived in Manchester and I had 5!).

    And finally DONT RUSH IT, I was in the mindset that I HAD to get my dress asap even though I nearly had a year to find my dress, I ended up buying one dress even though in hindsight I wasn’t totally happy with it (I was pacing Macclesfield High Street for nearly 2 hours trying to decide….I think this should have been a warning sign that I wasn’t 100% sure), but fate lent a helping hand and in the end I was able to buy a completely different dress which as soon as I put it on was perfect for me…..and it had straps 🙂

    Manchester Brides – I would definitely recommend Cheshire Bridalwear in Altrincham and my friend bought her dress from The White Closet in Didsbury who were just lovely! There is a new shop in Bowden called Love Bridal too which looks just beautiful and run by one of the ladies that used to work in The White Closet…..I would totally be in there if I wasn’t already married!

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  13. I just got married in August and my tips are as follows!

    If, like me, you don’t like shopping with other people. Figure out what YOU like before taking a posse with you. I heard about a sample sale at a charity shop and nobody was free to go at short notice so I went by myself – and it was great because I got an idea of some things I really liked/hated/wanted/didn’t. Which meant I was much happier and more relaxed going shopping with my mum and bridesmaid because I had a good idea of my own mind. I know lots of brides love to make it a big group thing but if you don’t it helps to go alone first.

    Don’t assume you have to spend thousands. My dress was £867 and the alterations cost £20. It was ready-to-wear ie I just ordered my size and it came in 2 weeks later but you know what? Nobody said: “Oh wow, your dress so obviously wasn’t made to measure,” they just said it looked gorgeous. And it fit me perfectly anyway – the only alterations I had were adding a bustle and changing the back slightly.

    Don’t buy into this rubbish about how it’s all about the dress. It’s not, so don’t fixate on the idea that everyone should be sobbing like on Don’t Tell the Bride. You need a dress that makes you feel fabulous, but don’t overthink it!

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