1/ Establish your budget
Image by Patina Photography
Budgeting is one of the very first steps you should take in wedding planning. It’s much easier to stick to limits if they’re established clearly and early! Otherwise, you’ll only waste time (yours and others’) looking at dresses outside of your price range.
The amount set aside for wedding attire differs from one couple to the next. Some things to factor into the decision include: how many accessories you’ll purchase in addition to the dress (including veil, shoes and jewellery), whether you’d consider a vintage or pre-worn dress or would prefer new, and how important having the perfect outfit is to your happiness (you can certainly find the perfect outfit at a low price point, but a larger budget can increase your options).
2/ Know your wedding date, venue and level of formality
Image by Fineline Photography
The time of year, location and formality of the wedding will play a role in your decision. Certain dress lengths, styles and fabrics are simply better suited than others to some locales! A grand church venue is an opportunity to think bigger and grander (a cathedral length veil, a voluminous or embellished dress), whereas an outdoor wedding calls for a dress that’s easier to move in, usually in a more relaxed style (perhaps a shorter skirt and veil length, with minimal embellishment).
3/ Put dress shopping on the calendar (and leave plenty of time)
Image by Amy Pezzicara
Dress shopping may sound straightforward, but it’s not something that should be left till the last moment. While the dress may well be the first one you try on, it may also take you months of research, shopping and trying on to find the perfect gown! When you add fittings, alterations and ordering delays on to that, you’ll want to make sure you leave plenty of contingency time. Around 8 months before the wedding date is a good time to start browsing.
4/ Do some research
Image by Anna Routh Photography
It’s possible that you already have an image (or several) of your dream dress. If not, now is the time to delve into Pinterest and wedding blogs to gather inspiration! Much better to have this done before you set foot in store – it’s easier to narrow down decisions from the comfort of your own laptop than in person and having a clear picture of your taste will help focus you if you find friends and family members overly keen to guide your decision!
It’s important not to get too bogged down with the details at this stage, so be sure to keep an open mind to styles beyond those you’ve singled out. It is worth making a note of designers that fit both your taste and price range, however. That way, when you come to decide which bridal boutiques to visit first, you can compare their websites to see which ones stock the designers you like best!
5/ Find your shopping gang
Image by Stacy Bauer Photography
Outfit shopping for the most important day of your life often calls for back up – taking your closest friends or family members with you on the journey. Don’t feel any pressure to bring every bridesmaid along, though. Stick to how you work best. If you want plenty of support and camaraderie, by all means, gather everyone together. If you envision too many opinions hindering rather than helping, however, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with going alone or only taking a sibling, your mum or best friend!
6/ Bring a bit of glam
Image by Aaron Delesie Photographer and Ryan Ray Photography
To appreciate the full potential of a dress and feel great trying things on, it can be worth treating yourself and getting glammed up ahead of time! Have your hair done (or create a similar look yourself). Get a manicure, massage or a mild facial to give you a bit of a glow. Then bring some jewellery and heels to complete the look! While underwear and shapewear may be a little less glamorous, it’s worthwhile to bring something similar to what you’d wear on the day (nude, strapless styles are the most versatile). This will give a realistic idea of the look and comfort level you’ll get with each style.
The only thing we’d suggest avoiding is a full face of makeup – foundation and white dresses is a disaster waiting to happen!
Don’t forget to check out more tips with our dress shopping 101 guide.