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picture of two wedding dresses on mannequins - ones is dropped waist with a tulle skirt and ruched bodice, the other is lace mermaid style, both are strapless, the mermaid style dress has a dark coloured belt around it with a sparkly buckle

4 Top Tips for Planning your Wedding Dress Shopping

It can be hard to know where to start looking for a bridal dress but it's a fantastic opportunity to try on some of the most beautiful (and expensive) clothing you're ever likely to own. Add to that the pressure of trying to find 'the one' (NB this doesn't exist for everyone so stop it with the pressure!). So here I'm offering some top tips for getting the most out of your wedding dress shopping trip.

I've worked with a few fantastic bridalwear suppliers and experienced the whole dress buying bit when looking for a dress for myself (all those years ago) and with friends for their weddings. I actually worked in a bridal shop for a couple of summers after doing work experience for them many years ago, I even made a few accessory items that were put up for sale (garters and bridesmaids posy bags mostly) and helped with sales and fittings. Just so you know.

Firstly, shops/boutiques generally prefer you to be make-up free as otherwise you could leave big smudgy marks on the beautiful dresses, that are difficult to remove from delicate fabrics, so be prepared! It's not about the shop staff trying to be difficult or to embarrass you, please just go along with it. The staff will help fit you into the dresses so if you're going to get paranoid about being in a state of undress infront of someone else, have a bit of a preen and wear suitable undies. NB they've seen it all before so relax.

Bonus tip: to confirm if you really like a dress, try it with accessories.

Secondly, try on a style or two that is different to what you had in your mind, because you might be surprised at what suits you. What looks great on the models in the magazines or even on the hanger in the shop might not look as good on you as you might expect, there's nothing wrong with that. Have an idea of the kind of style you think will suit you but try a few different silhouettes just to be sure. Go for a wild card outfit or something the shop suggest because you just never know, but don't be afraid to make it clear what you don't like.

Bonus tip: limit the number of people you take to a fitting. 10 people = 10 opinions!

Thirdly, not all shops are the same, it may feel like they offer the same stock, but they really don't. Do your research on-line to see which designers you like and see if the shops hold their lines. Many magazines avoid any mention of prices but if you look at real weddings you should pick up some hints. Most shops hold dresses in a range of prices but high-end boutiques will work in a totally different way to the average high street shop. Most will want you to make an appointment for a fitting.

Bonus tip: if you want something really different, think differently. Try the bridesmaids racks if you want a bit of colour.

Fourth, and final tip for now, getting a truly bespoke gown made just for you is not necessarily as expensive as you think, yes it's likely to be in excess of £1000 but many shops will offer you something in the range of £600+, and when you consider the cost of alterations, which can be in the range of £200. That said if your budget is much tighter than that there are now second hand/vintage wedding dress shops (including some run by Oxfam and other charities) offering significant reductions on some beautiful pre-owned dresses.

So, to get you started here are three of my favourite local bridalwear suppliers:

Delphine Alexander Bridalwear has been a top supplier in Luton for a long time for good reason. She has a great range and Delphine and her staff have an amazing knowledge.

Next up is The Dress House again in Luton, one of our newest but fastest growing bridalwear shops. Seriously dedicated to bringing the best dresses to their brides.

Final top local supplier is Lisa Lyons Bridalwear a fabulous designer and maker of bespoke bridalwear with years of experience in the fashion industry. She knows where to buy the best lace, how to create the perfect fit for your wedding dress, and so much more.

If you need help finding a supplier in your area that meets your needs, or even if you need a supportive shoulder to lean on whilst trying dresses on for the first time, I'm here for you. X