Everything you need to know about wedding dress shopping

After going wedding dress shopping last month and saying yes to the dress I thought I'd put my experience to good use and compile a complete guide to wedding dress shopping so you can all have the best wedding dress shopping experience. I already had quite a few ideas of what to include but I took to Instagram to ask fellow brides-to-be that have already bought their dress what they wish they'd known before shopping and I asked brides-to-be who haven't been shopping yet if they had any burning questions. So this post is a combination of all the topics I thought were useful as well as some great questions from Instagram.

a useful guide to wedding dress shopping

Overcome anxiety

I've spoken about this over on my 'how to overcome wedding dress anxiety' post in a lot of detail but I thought it was worth mentioning again. The pressure to be a certain weight or look a certain way only exists in your head. Don't let anxiety about your body image get in the way of what should be an amazing experience. I highly recommend reading my other post to help with overcoming this way of thinking but honestly, buying a wedding dress should be one of the big highlights of wedding planning and nothing should spoil this.

Don't shop online

Unless you're going for a high street dress from the likes of ASOS or Chi Chi I'd really recommend seeing dresses in person. This is totally your call but I don't think I could ever order something like my wedding dress online (again unless it was high street as that's completely different). I know brides have taken the plunge and it's paid off but I'd be devastated if it wasn't right. One bride who put forward this piece of advice told me she's ended up with two dresses because of this as the one she ordered online was a disaster. If you're looking to buy off second hand wedding dress sites, I'd still highly recommend going to a dress shop to try on styles and get a feel for how things fit and feel then you can look for the styles you liked online, this way you have a better idea of how things will look. Always make sure you measure yourself correctly and get precise measurements for the dresses you're looking at too.

Too many cooks spoil the broth

Or should that be too many maids spoil the dress. One piece of advice I was given was to not take too many people dress shopping with me. I'd originally planned to take 3 people but I only ended up with 2 and I think this, alongside the assistants opinion was more than enough. Everyone will have an opinion on the dresses you're trying on and that can become really overwhelming when trying to make a big decision. Don't feel like you need to take everyone dress shopping, this is a time where you're going to have to be a little bit selfish and really strict. One bride told me that she found wedding dress shopping really overwhelming with others there so sometimes it's better to go alone. I do think this is one point that definitely needs careful consideration or dress shopping could be a complete disaster.

Wearing makeup to appointments

I obviously cannot comment on each and every wedding dress shops policies but one bride-to-be really wanted to know if you could wear makeup to your appointments. I shopped at WED2B where all the dresses are off the peg so I was really conscious about makeup on the dresses. I did wear makeup to go shopping but found that lots of styles of wedding dresses you step into so they don't even go near your face. Big princess/ballgowns you usually dive into so again it's not rubbing against your face. I tried dresses on that were stepped into and one that I dived into and the dresses never rubbed against my face. I'd advise not going too heavy on makeup, keep it nice and light and make sure it's well set but the dresses shouldn't ever really touch your face.

Is there pressure to buy?

Again I can't speak for every store or every store assistant but personally I felt there was absolutely no pressure to buy. I feel like a lot of good stores know how big of a decision it is and the sign of a great store is one that has staff who can offer an opinion and advice without putting pressure on which is exactly the experience I had. Personally if I felt like I was being pressured I probably wouldn't shop there, go somewhere different and have the experience you deserve. There will be pushy assistants out there but most places have reviews somewhere online now so it might be worth doing a little research beforehand.

What underwear should I wear?

I'm going to hold my hands up and say this is one I definitely researched beforehand this was also a question that popped up a few times on Instagram. At the end of the day it's what ever you are comfortable in but do keep in mind you will be stripped down to your underwear a lot in front of an assistant. You also really need to consider what's practical for trying on dresses too. Personally I'd recommend, white, supportive and comfortable. Not to talk about my underwear on the internet too much but just so you have an idea, I wore white bikini style knickers and a white strapless bra. I was comfortable and covered and even in dresses where you could see the back of my bra it wasn't so bad as it was white so it still looked clean and a little more blended in. Not to shame anyone but a lady in the opposite changing room to me wore a black bra with straps and tried a lot of strapless dresses on, not the wisest decision really.

How should I have my hair?

This is something I've seen a lot of different opinions on. Some people that you should have a similar style to what you plan on having on your wedding. I say after wearing my hair down for my dress shopping experience that it all just needs tying up out of the way. It gets very warm getting in and out of dresses, especially if you're trying on big dresses and underskirts too. I have quite long hair and it really just added to how hot I was getting. I didn't even take a bobble with me and I really wished I could have just scraped my hair up out of the way. So for this one I'd honestly recommend having your hair up or at the very least take a bobble with you!

It's all about the shoes

Luckily I had my wedding shoes before I even went shopping which seriously impressed the store assistants but I know this isn't always the case. If you don't have your wedding shoes yet I recommend taking a pair of a similar height or style with you. My shoes are actually going to be on show because of the length of my dress so it was even more crucial that I could see how it all worked together. 

The assistants have seen it all before

One question that came up from fellow brides-to-be and something I certainly worried about before dress shopping was how undressed do you have to get in front of the assistant and the simple answer to that is right down to your underwear which I why I recommend having a good think about your underwear above. Seriously though it's nothing they haven't seen before so don't stress. After trying on one dress all awkwardness went out of the window and I just got on with it. In my experience the changing room was really big so it's not like you're squashed together face to face while you strip off. Usually when your getting undressed the assistant is busy getting your first dress ready. In the case of dresses that could be stepped into the assistant passed the dressed to me and I got myself into them and then she fastened them for me and then the same for getting out of them, she unfastened them and I stepped out. For bigger dresses you dive into them meaning the assistant will hold the dress up and you stick your arms up and dive in then the assistant pulls it down and gets in sitting right. I will warn you, getting in and out of a wedding dress is not graceful at all, my assistant and I even had a joke about this as I was huffing and puffing about it I said "it's not exactly graceful" and she was like "oh don't worry about it, no one ever is, I've never seen anyone just slink out of a wedding dress." It made us laugh and made me feel even more at ease. You have to remember it's their job and you haven't got anything they don't see everyday! 

Opinions are good but only yours matters 

This sort of goes back to not taking too many people shopping with you so you don't get overwhelmed with opinions. Finding a wedding dress is about finding something you love and that you feel comfortable in. Opinions can be great but at the end of the day only how you feel matters. If you love a dress and think it could be the one keep that in mind well above what anyone else says. I was super lucky in that the two people I took shopping and even the assistant were all on the same page as me with every dress but that won't always be the case for everyone. Basically it's fine to listen to opinions and then ignore them anyway!

Is it O.K. to walk away and have a think?

If you think you've found the one but would like a little time away from the store to think about the dress it's perfectly O.K. to take some time out and think about your experience. I did exactly this but again I can only speak for how I was treated at WED2B. I was 99% sure I'd found my dress but after the excitement of it all I really wanted half an hour away from the store to think things over. They were so understanding and put my dress to one side and even recommend a lovely cafe we could go to for a drink. If you want some time to think don't feel pressured to commit there and then. It's good to take a rest and discuss things with the people you've taken shopping then you can return to the store with a clear mind. If you're at an appointment based store then you may have to make an appointment and return another day. If you're shopping at WED2B you can just do what I did as long as you plan on returning to the store that day or if you think you'd like longer then they'll hold your dress for two weeks for £50 and if you buy the dress that £50 is taken off the total, if not it's transferred over to another dress.

Should I go with an idea of the styles I like?

For this one I'd say yes and no. It's good to have a starting point so a few ideas on style are great, but do go with an open mind. Don't be dead set on one style as what you think will look good might look terrible and what you think will look awful might look amazing! Be willing to try on lots of different styles to find out what really looks good and what's comfortable. Keep in mind that what you see online might look completely different in real life. The dress I've actually bought is one I originally dismissed online because none of the detail shows up on the online photos but in real life it's stunning, I didn't even realise it was the same dress at first!

So that was my bumper guide to wedding dress shopping. I really hope this post has helped a few people out, let me know in the comments if you found this post useful. Also comment with any extra advice you have that I've missed!

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