Your Essential Wedding Dress Shopping Timeline

15 February 2018

You’re engaged! Take a moment to enjoy the fact you have some incredibly exciting times ahead - planning your wedding doesn't need to be stressful, and you can make it fun rather than daunting by planning and choosing the right people to have beside you. Dress shopping is the highlight of the planning experience for many brides-to-be because it’s not every day you get to dress up in exquisite gowns and feel like royalty. As long as you do a bit of thinking beforehand, and have a good grasp of the shopping and alterations process, you’ll be able to immerse yourself and thoroughly enjoy the best moments. A few weeks ago, our sister site, Auckland Weddings ran a giveaway for a free consultation at The Haven Bridal. The winner had their consultation shot by the talented Wild Souls Photography. Having received the imagery we decided the best way to share it was in a helpful article, and so, we teamed up with Sally Eagle to bring you a timeline of tips to help you arrange the perfect wedding dress.

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All imagery by Wild Souls Photography 


Before you start looking for bridal stores in your area, have a think about the style of clothes you generally wear and in what you feel most comfortable in. For example, do you like a plunging neckline or a more modest scoop neck? What kinds of details attract your eye? Maybe you have a penchant for lace or sparkles? Or do you prefer a more minimalist and modern aesthetic? This can be a good time for you to browse Pinterest and figure out what styles of wedding dresses you click on over and over again; it can be helpful to create a board with your favourites to help you identify the elements that comprise your dream dress.

Once you have a general idea of the styles you have in mind, it's time to start researching bridal stores to visit. Scope out the boutiques’ websites and social media pages to make sure that their dress styles align with yours. It’s better to curate a small list of the most appealing boutiques to visit, as you can quickly succumb to decision fatigue and feel overwhelmed if you visit too many and try on too many options. 

Contact the boutiques and make your bookings. It can be helpful to let the bridal consultant know in advance if there are any particular dresses from their range that you want to try on so they can have them ready for you when you go. It’s best to limit the number of boutiques that you visit per day to one or two boutiques to keep the atmosphere nice and relaxed, rather than tiring and stressful. 

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When it comes to planning the bridal boutique visits, there are a few things to do. Firstly, reflect on who you want to take with you. This is a critical decision, as you want people who: know you well; will be a positive influence and make you feel good about yourself; will able to voice their opinions honestly if they find a dress particularly unflattering, but will ultimately let you freely make your own decisions about what you like. One of the mistakes people can make is to take too many people along - we would recommend bringing no more than three people, to avoid too many conflicting opinions making the experience confusing. Secondly, plan a nice lunch or afternoon tea after or between your appointments. This will help you make a day of it and give you the opportunity to reflect on the styles you’ve just tried on and figure out what you loved (and what was missing). And finally, remember to wear nude underwear and a strapless bra to your dress appointment, so that you can properly try on a variety of dress styles. 

At the dress appointment, your bridal consultant will most likely have a chat with you about what style you’re looking for, and then help guide you to the dresses that will suit you. Sample dresses won’t always be in your size, so often will have to be clipped at the back or won’t be fully done up; keep in mind that your dress will be ordered in your size so the fit will look a lot better. When you have a dress on, think about the features you like and dislike, and don’t be shy about communicating your thoughts to your consultant - the more they know about your preferences, the easier it’ll be to find the dress with all the perfect components. While it is a great idea to know what you’re looking for, try to stay open minded with regards to other styles. Sometimes a style or shape you didn’t think you liked could look amazing on you. It’s can also be really fun to try on dresses that are a little crazy, and it’s really now or never (when else do you get to try on wedding dresses?). 

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Once you have found 'the dress', it’s time to contact the bridal boutique to place your order. The lead time for getting your dress in is usually 4 to 6 months depending on the designer; in your timeline, make sure you factor in at least six weeks for alterations after your dress arrives. You will need to get your measurements taken when placing your order so they can get the correct size, and usually, a deposit is required to secure the order.

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With the reassurance of having found the dress, it’s now time to think about your shoes, accessories, and underwear. When it comes to shoes, comfort will be a big priority as you’ll be standing and walking all day, and painful feet will impair your ability to last through (and enjoy) all the festivities. If you want some extra height, a wedge or platform heel can be a more practical choice than a stiletto. But as a rule of thumb, opt for what you are used to wearing - if you already wear heels all the time, then you will be fine, whereas a pretty and comfortable alternative would be better suited for those with less experience. Once you have purchased your shoes, wear them around the house as much as you can to wear them in and get them as comfortable as you can.

Choosing accessories is a lot easier to do once you have your dress (or at least know the design of the dress you’ll be getting). Again, opt for styles to which you’re naturally drawn: if you like simple and classic, then a pair of pearl studs can look stunning; if you love big jewellery then choose some statement earrings. When it comes to statement pieces, it’s a good idea to keep the rest of your accessories minimalistic. For example, pair a chunkier necklace with some plain stud earrings so that your own natural beauty isn’t overshadowed by overcrowded accessorising. It can also be lovely to wear a family heirloom. However, if it doesn't work well with your dress or look, then there are a variety of ways you could incorporate it into your outfit (e.g. tying it around your bouquet). That way your family doesn’t get upset that you’ve chosen not to wear it. 

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Your underwear should work with your dress - generally, nude-coloured and seamless is the way to go. If your dress is backless, then bra options are more limited. However, there are some excellent stick-on bras available. Alternatively, you could chat with your alterations specialist about sewing cups into your dress. An important point to remember is that it’s best to have your underwear before you start getting alterations on your dress so the dress can be fitted with the underwear you’ll be wearing on your wedding day.

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Research alterations specialists and book in advance once you know the date you can pick up your dress. Make sure the alterations company has a lot of experience with wedding dress alterations. Wedding dress boutiques often have specialists that they recommend, so it’s a good idea to ask the staff at the place where you made your dress purchase. Generally, you’ll need to have one to three fittings, depending on how many alterations your dress needs.

Now you have everything you need to arrange the wedding dress of your dreams.

Article by Maria Yeonhee Ji from our sister site Auckland Weddings