Wedding Dress Shopping 101: Your Complete Guide!

By Paperswan Bride and

From the first appointment to the final payment, shopping for a wedding dress is no easy task. Even if you’re a quick, decisive, know-what-you-want kinda gal, finding a dress that flatters your figure and fits your requirements will take some time and wise decision-making. This means that the indecisive among us might have even more trouble. But don’t despair! Jennifer, from Paperswan Bride, knows exactly what brides struggle with when they start the search for the perfect gown. These are her top 10 tips to assist you during your shopping experience. If you keep them in mind, the whole process will be a fun, painless experience!


1. Budget

How heart wrenching would it be to find your dream dress only to realise that it’s half your wedding budget blown. Don’t be afraid to tell the sales consultant or designer your price range and check whether alterations are included. If you’re on a very tight budget, look out for sample sales as this is a great place to find a bargain. There are fabulous wedding dresses available in all price ranges these days so your perfect dress will be out there, whatever your budget.

2. Support Party

Do not underestimate the importance of taking the right people with you when shopping for your wedding dress. First things first, don’t take too many supporters to the first appointment as it can be daunting enough without 6 other people’s opinions thrown in the mix.  Two or three people at the most is a good number. Mothers are great as they always have your best interest at heart and won’t be afraid to tell you if something doesn’t look good.  A close friend or sister (someone closer to your age) is also helpful as they will know your personal style. Don’t feel pressured to bring an entourage of bridesmaids, aunties, and cousins; instead, bring them to the final appointment once you’ve found your dress so they still feel involved in the process.

wedding dress shopping

3. Underwear

Plain and simple, wear a strapless bra and well supporting underwear. You don’t need to wear spanx or Bridget Jones knickers, but full nude or white briefs that hold everything in is the ideal choice. Having the right underwear can drastically change the appearance of your figure – why wouldn’t you want to look your best?

4. Be Prepared

To make the most out of your appointment do your research beforehand. Are there any specific designers and styles that you want to try? Do you like lace, satin or tulle? Think about silhouettes you like to wear normally, the aspects of your body you want to show off, and the ones you want to hide!  What is your personal style? Are you classic and sophisticated, or playful and girly? Keeping these things in mind will stop you feeling overwhelmed when faced with so many options.

wedding dress

5. Under Pressure

Don’t feel pressured into buying a dress on the spot unless you really feel you’ve found ‘the one’! This is probably the biggest clothing purchase you’ll ever make so go away and think about it for a few days before handing over the credit card.

6. Open Mind

It’s easy to have preconceived ideas about what will and won’t suit your figure before you go wedding dress shopping, but being open minded is very important.  Wedding dresses are structured differently from everyday clothes, so even if you wouldn’t normally wear something strapless, a strapless wedding dress will fit quite differently from the boob tube you once bought at a high street shop. Sometimes a dress won’t have much ‘hanger appeal’, but once it’s worn, it will take on a different shape and look. Let the sales consultant guide you to the dresses they think will suit you – they are the experts, so let them do their thing!

bride and groom

7. Photos

You may assume that most shops won’t allow you to take photos of the dresses you try on, but don’t be afraid to ask. The worst they can say is no! If they have no rules about picture-taking, then this is a perfect way to remember your favourite dresses and compare them against each other.

8. Timeframe

Depending on your requirements it’s ideal to start looking for your wedding dress around 6-9 months prior to your wedding date. By this time you will probably have your venue confirmed and have an idea of your choses colours and themes. Most designers require around 6 months turnaround time to make your dress. Some will do it faster, but be aware there may be a ‘rush’ charge.

paperswan bride

9. Book an Appointment

Although some stores do accept walk-ins, to ensure you get the best possible service, try to book an appointment ahead of time. An appointment ensures that you’ll receive the full allotted time and will be able to try on a good selection of gowns. The alternative is that you turn up unannounced and they are busy and can only see you for half an hour. You leave unhappy and unable to try on a selection of dresses.

10. ‘The One’

As with houses and men, once you’ve found ‘the one’, stop looking!

wedding gown



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