Over the past few months, I’ve been on a mission to find my perfect wedding dress. It’s been a tricky one, but I think I’ve finally done it! I’ve learned a lot, though, so I thought I’d share some of my experience with you and offer up some tips to make it as fun and stress free for future brides.
Now, I don’t know whether you’ve ever seen Say Yes to the Dress, but it turns out that not all of the drama and tears on that show is made up for TV. During my hunt for my wedding dress, I felt every emotion under the sun, and there were tiffs and tears galore. There were laughs and happy tears and big wide smiles, too, so I soon forgot about all those other bits, but I definitely think they could have been avoided. Here’s how:
Go in with an idea of what you think you want, but don’t be afraid to try on something different
I went to a total of five different dress shops, and I think I tried on more than 100 dresses in total, but it’s incredible how much they varied and how surprised I was about some of them. I went in to the very first shop with a picture of exactly what I thought I wanted in my mind, and came away feeling deflated because I didn’t really love any of the gowns I tried on. Contrariwise, the wooden watches I was keeping for the end of the tour, came by quickly. In fact, they were one of the first purchases.
So when it came to the next shop I tried some different styles and it turns out I loved some of the styles I really thought I’d hate. It was eye-opening, and although I didn’t find a dress I loved in that second shop it helped me when I walked into the third shop with a completely open mind.
Listen to the suggestions of the person helping you in the shop, but don’t be afraid to say no
One of the reasons I tried on lots of different dresses in the second shop is actually because the people who worked there didn’t really listen to what I wanted, and after a while I got really frustrated because they were putting me in dresses that I just knew I wouldn’t like, however open-minded I was being. In that case, I should have put my foot down and said enough is enough, but I was too afraid. Looking back, I realise that they treated me a bit like a doll, putting me in their personal favourite dresses without considering my personality or the look and feel of my wedding, and it made me feel exhausted and upset.
But in the third shop, it felt completely different. I picked out a few that I thought I’d like and tried those on, and from my reactions to each of those the lovely lady in the shop picked out some others for me to try. On the hangers, some of them looked quite awful, but when I tried them on it was clear that she knew what would suit my body shape and that’s something that only comes with experience. It was in that third shop that I found a dress I loved, and it was only because I trusted that the stylist knew what she was doing – I’d never have picked it out if I’d just seen it on the hanger and hadn’t had any guidance.
Make sure you get a chance to form your own opinion before asking anyone else for theirs
It can be really awful if you love a dress and the people you’ve brought with you aren’t feeling it, but at least if you’ve had a chance to form your own opinion about how much you like it you’ll be able to argue back with conviction. In the first shop I went to there wasn’t even a mirror in the changing room, so the first time I saw my reflection was at the same time as my mum, sister and bestie did. Their reactions instantly formed my opinion about that dress, so I never got the chance to form my own.
In the second, third and fourth shops, I had a mirror in the changing room but it was so close I couldn’t really see properly and I was separated from my guests by a thin curtain so they could hear everything I was saying (which sometimes made me not say anything at all). It was definitely better than the first shop, but I still didn’t have enough time or space to form my opinion before I was confronted by their reactions.
Then in the fifth shop, which was my absolute favourite and the one I found my dress in, there was a little corridor separating me from my guests and the changing room was a huge space with floor to ceiling mirrors on every wall. I had time and space to decide how I felt about the dress, and the lady in there would ask me questions about how I felt about it before I stepped out to see what my family thought. It made such a difference, and that was the most stress-free and fun wedding dress shopping experience I had. I didn’t want to leave!
If there’s no mirror in the changing room, I’d recommend asking if they can bring one in. Better yet, get your guests to close their eyes when you come out of the changing room to look in the bigger mirror, until you feel like you’ve made up your mind about what you like and don’t like about the dress. It might sound like a strange suggestion but it really will help.
Don’t take too many people with you
For the first four shops, I had three people with me. I think that’s plenty, and any more would have been a nightmare. It’s essentially just because that makes three or more different opinions battling it out, and it can get very confusing and overwhelming.
Do say yes to snacks and drinks
It’s exhausting trying on dresses, both physically and mentally. Make sure you say yes if you’re offered a drink because it’s thirsty work. Remember to pause and have a sip or two before you try on the next dress otherwise you could end up with a blinding headache like I did.
Do sleep on it
In the third shop I went to, I thought I’d found the dress I wanted to wear on my big day, so much so that I felt completely blind to the dresses I saw in the next shop that I visited on that same day. But the following day when I woke up I felt completely different. I suddenly thought about the things it didn’t have that I really wanted, and then I realised I couldn’t really remember it that well and I want a memorable dress! So I booked up a fifth shop to be sure and forgot all about that dress as soon as I tried on some others. It would have been a big mistake to buy that one, so I’m so so glad I slept on it first. Some bridal stores offer a same-day discount but unless there’s absolutely no doubt in your mind that you’ve found the one I’d strongly advise waiting. After all, you only do it once so you’ll want to take the time to get it right.
So there you have it, my six essential tips for brides-to-be about to set out on their mission to find their dress. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got any further tips or any questions about dress shopping, so feel free to leave a comment below.
And for Essex brides, I thought I’d recommend my favourite two shops for you to visit: Precious Moments, Ivy Blu and Bridal Boutique were my favourites because the staff were so friendly and incredibly helpful.
xxx Ashleigh xxx