This is one of the most exciting moments of any bride’s life.....shopping for your wedding dress! It is one of those moments that you will want to cherish and make the most of - so it is important to slow down, take a breath and enjoy the process.
Check out our Questions to Ask about attire
Where to Start
Naturally most of us will want to start shopping for the gown as soon as we get engaged, however you need to be sure you don’t ‘over-shop’ - if you start to early and/or spend a lot of time in boutiques trying on dresses you can get fed up and may end up just choosing a dress that works instead of a dress you want. On the other hand; if you start searching too late you may not be able to find a gown you love in time and if you do, it may not be available or it may require alterations, all of which take time, which you may not have. So, a good time to start would be 9 to 12 months before the wedding, this will give you several months to calmly shop around with time to spare should your dress need alterations or need to be made from scratch. Keep in mind though that if you have a specific designer in mind and the dress needs to be imported it can take up to 9 months to get here, which you will have to plan for accordingly.
Start by browsing on Pinterest and in bridal magazines to get an idea of the type of dress you want, focus on the different styles, colours and materials available and do some research on these aspects. Take the wedding venue, season and time into account; a full ball-gown dress may look absolutely beautiful on you but will not work for the beach wedding you are planning or if you love to dance choose a material that does not crease easily. You also need to consider how practical the dress is, remember that you will be wearing it for about 8 hours - so it is important to make sure the dress fits comfortably and does not limit your movements. Check that the dress does not affect your ability to sit, dance and use the restroom.
Next you need to look at boutiques and here it is important to do your research - have a look at their website and look for any reviews about them. You need to take into account how long they have been in business and how much experience they have - this does not mean you should disregard the new designers, they may still be able to give you the dress of your dreams and this at a cheaper price.
The best way to determine if the boutique is right for you is to make an appointment and see what you feel like afterwards. You want to ensure that you feel at ease with them; are they knowledgeable, do they offer you assistance from the moment you walk in the door, are they interested in getting to know your story and do you get the feeling that they genuinely want to help you get the dress of your dreams? If you walk out of the boutique and it feels right then you have the right place.
Making the Appointment
Most boutiques work by appointment only, it may be a bit of a schlep to make one - but ultimately it means that for the hour or two of your appointment you will have the full attention of the consultant or designer to help you pick out the perfect dress. Along with them you will want to bring some support of your own, but before you arrange with your entire bridal party to come along keep in mind that every person you bring along will have their own opinion and they may not all agree - it can be overwhelming and actually make your decision more difficult with a larger group. The best is usually to bring only one or two people who are instrumental in helping you make decisions, they need to be honest and have your best interests at heart.
When making the appointment you need to make sure that the boutique will be able to give you what you want, for example if you want a unique dress, making an appointment at a boutique that does not do their own designing will be pointless - or if you require a plus size dress and the boutique only have up to medium it will be a waste of your time. Another aspect is to make sure of is their price range so you can be sure that they fall within your budget.
Lastly confirm with them what you need to bring along to the appointment, you want to make sure you get the full effect of what the dress will look like on the big day, and the right shoes and undergarments will help you achieve this. We suggest that you keep your lingerie simple, a thong with a strapless bra and/or slimming garment (white or nude - as close to your natural skin colour as you can) and shoes of the same height you want to wear on the day - naturally if you have the exact items you want to wear at your wedding that is perfect, just make sure (from every angle) that they are not visible (especially if you have a tight-fitting dress). Some boutiques may provide an array of shoes and lingerie for you to use with the fitting - if they do, it is a great way to help you see what will work best with the dress you want before you go out and spend money on items that might not be right. Another way is to simply sew the undergarment into the dress (if possible); sewing in a bra or adding a corset will make the dress feel more secure and you won’t have to worry about pulling it up throughout your reception - this can be especially useful for strapless gowns.
At the Boutique
As mentioned earlier the best way to find out which style suites you is to simply try on different styles - even if you have a picture of THE dress in your head and it looks beautiful on the mannequin it does not mean it will look good on you. Different styles compliment different body types and you may be surprised that the dress style you thought would never work might be the one that best suits you. This is where the assistance of the consultant or designer at the boutique will come in handy. They have been fitting dresses on brides for years, so you can be sure that they will have a good idea of what will best suit you. Make use of their knowledge and experience, it may make the process quicker and a bit more stress-free - but always remember to go with your gut. Never buy a dress because the designer thinks it is perfect for you (it does not matter how much experience they have), if you are not 100% sold you should rather take some time to think about it or go to a different boutique.
Once you have found the dress style you can start to look at the other aspect - this is where you can put your personality into the dress - play around with the options available to you; maybe ad a splash of colour or some unique embroidery. Also look at the accessories, this can have a big effect on the overall look and feel - something as simple as a veil, custom hair piece or belt can take the dress one step up and make you feel like the princess bride you have always wanted to be. At this point your consultant’s knowledge can also help, but make sure to confirm that they will be able to do the alterations or modifications you want beforehand.
If you are having a dress made from scratch, you just need to make sure that there is enough time to have it made as well as for any alterations afterwards. The alteration should ideally be done about 6 weeks before the big day. The reason for this is because you want the dress to fit perfectly and if you get it altered too far in advance it may not be perfect on the day due to weight loss or gain. Closer to the day will give you a much more accurate fit, the last fitting should be no more than a week or two before the wedding.
Something to just keep in mind is that your wedding dress is not something you are going to wear on a daily basis, so unless you want to keep it for sentimental reasons you can consider hiring. This does not mean you have to select a dress from a shelf, many boutiques offer you the option to have your dress made and then hired - so after the wedding the dress goes back to them and they can then rent it out to other brides, plus, you then do not end up with a dress in your cupboard that you are unlikely to ever wear again.
You now have your gown....and it is perfect - and you will want to keep it that way. Some boutiques can give you the option to store your dress with them - no one better that the experts to keep it pristine - for you to collect the day before. But if they do not have that option, make sure to get specific instructions from them on the best way to transport and store the dress so it will look its best on your wedding day.
Another important thing is to make sure you know exactly how to put the dress on....on the day it will be the responsibility of your bridal party to get you dressed and it can become a complicated process - especially when nerves and emotions are involved. So, on your final fitting take the whole lot of them with you so they can see how it is done, this will make the process much easier when getting ready. Also, make sure how the dress works....sounds funny I know.....but most designers wil incorporate small things to help make the dress more practical - for example they will add a button on the back of the dress where you can secure your train should you need it out of the way for dancing.
When you look at your budget you have set yourself for the dress you need to keep in mind that it includes not only the dress, but also the shoes, lingerie, jewellery and any other accessories you might need or want. So it is important that you know exactly how the pricing works, when you try on a dress and ask the price you will be given the price of the dress (as is)....but what a lot of brides don’t realize is that it may not include basic extras like the veil or alterations/modifications. You also need to confirm if there are any additional costs like storage fees or consultation/fitting fees.
Along with this you need to make sure you are aware of the basics; like what percentage deposit is required and what their cancellation/refund policy is - not that you are planning to cancel but it is always better to be prepared. Some boutiques might offer you a payment plan - which can give you the room to go for the gowns that is a bit above your budget.
10 Quick Tips
1. Take photos
If you are shopping around at several boutiques, by the time you get to the third one you will not remember the dresses at the first one. We suggest that you take photos of the dresses as you go, you can then go through them at a later stage in the comfort of your home (with mom) to compare. Just make sure that the boutique allows for photos, some don’t.
2. Stick to your budget
This is VERY VERY IMPORTANT…..never ever try on a dress that is above your budget (especially if you have a very tight budget and don’t have room to play around). Chances are you will fall in love with it but will not be able to afford it and then will not be able to find a dress within your budget that you love as much. The problem here is whichever dress you then decide on will feel like you had to settle for second best and no bride want a second-best dress on her special day.
3. What to wear
We spoke about the best lingerie a bit earlier but you are not going to go dress shopping wearing only lingerie.....you need to consider what to wear carefully as you will be getting undressed and dressed several time during the day and you will want something that is easy to get in and out off.
You can wear a simple (pull-on/pull-off) dress or perhaps just a jean and t-shirt, if you are a bit more self-conscious you can wear some tights or leggings - they will not affect the way the dress looks and you will not have to stand around in your g-sting.
Lastly, it is best to wear flats - and even better if you can easily just slide them on and off. If you are planning to wear heels at the wedding just pack a pair in that you can use during the fitting, but don’t schlep from store to store in them - this will just tire you out.
4. When to shop
Weekends tend to be the most popular time to dress shop so boutiques tend to be booked out several weekends in advance, if you don’t have a lot of time or you are simply just eager to get started look at making an appointment on a weekday morning.
5. Buy a dress that fits
It is always best to get a dress that fits at the time you buy it - do not get a dress that is a couple of sizes smaller because you are planning to lose weight before your big day. Things don’t always go as planned and you might not lose as much as you want and then you are stuck with a dress that is too small. Keep in mind that it is a lot easier (and cheaper) to take a gown in than to try and make a too-small dress bigger.
6. Be clear on the details
When you order your gown, make sure everyone is on the same page regarding what you want - and if required get it in writing. You don’t want to end up with the wrong size, colour or style dress.
7. Once you have bought your dress
STOP LOOKING....when you have your dress (especially of you get it several months in advance) you should make a point not to look at - and never try on - other dresses. This can confuse you and even make you second guess your original choice, and chances are good that you cannot get a refund.
If you feel that you have found THE dress but you still have a long time before the wedding, we recommend you take some photos of yourself in it and then sleep on it. Make a note of the boutique and the dress name and also make sure they will be able to supply that specific dress in a couple of months. This way if you do come across a dress that you love more you are free to get it; and if not - you know exactly where to get the perfect dress.
8. Designer dress or not?
There is nothing wrong with getting the designer dress of your dreams, but unless you run in the right circles chances are that none of your guests will have a clue (or even care) that your dress is designer. So, unless you specifically have you heart set on it, you can get the perfect dress for cheaper elsewhere.
9. Second hand
Second hand does go hand-in-hand with cheaper - but it does not necessarily mean cheap-looking. This option is perfect for those who are on a tight budget or a short time line - there are boutiques that have beautiful pre-owned gowns that you can buy or even rent. On the other hand, perhaps you want to keep it in the family and alter your mothers wedding dress, either way you need to keep an open mind and go with the option that works best for you.
10. Speak up
This is your day and your dress, it is always good to get other people’s opinions and advice but ultimately it is your choice and if you aren’t comfortable with a dress, or you feel something isn’t right, don’t be afraid to speak up. Just because the consultant, or your mother or bridesmaids think it is perfect, does not mean you should.
Buying a suit sounds like a simple task, after all it’s just a pair of trousers, a shirt and a jacket - easy!! But in reality it can actually be a bit more complicated than that.
Where to Start
The grooms are usually not so excited to go suit shopping as the bride are about dress shopping; but it is not something that should be left to the last minute. You will be very lucky if you walk into a shop and find a suit that fits you perfectly, chances are good that the suit will have to be altered and this can take several weeks - depending on the amount of alterations required. On the other hand, if you want a suit made it can take up to several months - so depending on what you want you just need to make sure you arrange it with time to spare.
A good place to start is by having a look on Pinterest and in magazines for some inspiration, keeping in mind that this is the most important suit you will ever wear so it may pay off to keep an open mind regarding different shapes, styles and colours - even if this means you need to move away from your usual style. Once you have an idea what you want you need to do some research on suit boutiques to find out if they can offer you what you need - if you want a suit made, going to a shop that only does alterations will not be the best idea.
Important to remember is to take the wedding theme and colour scheme into consideration when choosing your suit - if you are having an outdoor summer wedding, a tuxedo may be a bit too formal, or incorporating pastel colours when the colour scheme is autumn may not go down so well. You also need to consider the season as well, this will go hand-in-hand with the fabric you choose - for example going with 100% wool might not me the best option in the middle of summer.
It does not matter what you decide to wear, if it does not fit well, it will not look good - and it is very important to look your best on your wedding day. The best way to ensure this is to consult with an expert and get your measurements done professionally - grooms tend to skip this part and, more often than not, end up spending more on alterations that the initial measurement would have been. Once you know your measurements it will make the whole process a lot quicker and easier.
It’s important not to rush the process of getting your suit - when on, it should feel snug but not tight, you should be able to comfortably walk, stand and sit down. If it does not fit properly you can experiment with different sizes and styles until you find something that feels perfect.
Lastly you need to feel confident and comfortable in the suit you choose. Just like a bride should never buy a wedding dress she does not feel her absolute best in, neither should you settle for anything less.
There are a couple of options you can go with here from hiring, buying of the shelf or having a suit made from scratch.
Hiring a suit is usually best for those who have a tight budget, it is a great option to keep the costs down - which can give you some room to play around with the accessories so you can jazz up the suit. On the other hand, hiring a suit is also a great option for grooms who want to go for something totally different from what they would normally wear - without ending up with a suit in their cupboard that they are unlikely to ever wear again.
Buying a suit of the shelf may sound boring but what you need to do is to focus on the colour and fabric. From there it can be altered to make sure it fits you perfectly. You can then take it to the next level with the accessories by adding a top hat, pocket watch or a splash of colour here and there. This option will still be able to give you the right suit for a fair price, and it also gives you the option of using a suit you already have and just having it altered.
Lastly the bespoke suit - this option will be more expensive. The suit is made from scratch using paper patterns cut specifically for you and this makes it truly unique. This option is perfect for you if the fit and style of the suit is important to you and you have that little bit extra to spend. Just keep in mind that having your suit made from scratch will take longer - up to several months - so you need to make sure you arrange this with enough time to spare.
When you look at your budget you have set yourself for the suit you need to keep in mind that it includes not just the suit, but also the shoes and any other accessories you might need or want. So it is important that you know exactly how the pricing works, the price of the suit may not include basic extras like alterations or modifications. You also need to confirm if there are any additional costs like storage fees or consultation/fitting fees.
Along with this you need to make sure you are aware of the basics; like what percentage deposit is required and what their cancellation/refund policy is - not that you are planning to cancel but it is always better to be prepared. Some boutiques might offer you a payment plan - which can give you the room to go for the suit that is a bit above your budget.