Wedding Dresses
Article thanks to Lauren Sargeant Bride Online Columnist

Wedding Dress FAQs

(Courtesy notordinaryfashion.tumblr.com)

There are so many wedding dress options. How can I choose just one?

When you’re in the earliest stages of searching for the perfect wedding dress, all of the options can become very overwhelming. Try to compartmentalise your preferences by finding pictures of silhouettes, trains, hemlines, sleeves, waistlines, necklines and veils that you like and then approach bridal shops with those elements in mind. In all likelihood, you will probably find a dress which is made up of most, if not all, of these elements. Approaching bridal shops with an idea of what you want will be far less stressful than trying on a million dresses and hoping to find “the one”. For an absolutely fab article on how to shop for your wedding dress (and more deail on how to define what you're looking for), read this article. 

When should I start looking for a wedding dress?

It’s never too early to start looking. Most wedding experts recommend beginning to shop for your wedding dress 9-12 months before the big day. This allows time for you to find the perfect dress, order it, wait for it to arrive in the store, and have it altered if necessary.

What is the difference between a bespoke dress and an off-the-rack dress?

An off-the-rack dress is a designer dress which is purchased from a bridal shop whereas a bespoke dress is a dress designed and made specifically for you according to your preferences and measurements. An off-the-rack dress can be altered to fit your measurements, much like a custom made dress, but a bespoke dress is a one-of-a-kind.

Do I need to make an appointment before going to a bridal store?

Some boutiques, and even chain stores, require you to make an appointment so that they can best attend to your needs. Even if a particular store doesn’t require an appointment, it’s a good idea to make one anyway because a customer with an appointment will always be prioritised. On the other hand, bridal warehouses don’t require an appointment and you can usually browse for as long as you’d like.

What should I take to a bridal consultation?

Some bridal stores have a waiting list of up to four weeks and the consultation is only one or two hours long so it’s important to take as much inspiration as possible to ensure that you don’t need to make a second or third appointment. Take in photos of dresses, or dress elements, that you like and see if the shop has something similar. Also take in any accessories you are planning to wear on the day, to make sure that they won’t clash with the dress. Finally, bring along a friend or family member, whose sense of style you trust, for a second opinion.

I’ve heard that many salespeople in bridal shops work from commission and are likely to try to convince me to purchase an expensive dress, even if it isn’t the best style for me. Is this true and how can I avoid this?

Unfortunately, this is true of some bridal stores but there are measures you can take to avoid being taken advantage of. The most important thing to do is research. Ask your friends and family for referrals to bridal stores and look for online reviews of each store you’re planning to visit. It’s also important to be up front about your budget the moment you walk in the door and, if you find a dress that you like, shop around at other stores to see if you can find the same dress at a lower price.

When should I place my order for an off the rack dress?

After finding the perfect dress, the bridal store may need to order it in your size. Often, dresses are shipped from overseas and can take several weeks to arrive in the store once ordered. In addition to this, it sometimes takes six weeks or more to complete alterations to have the dress perfectly fitted to your body. Therefore, it’s best to order an off the rack dress 3-6 months in advance.

When should I place my order for a custom designed dress?

It is recommended that you order your designer dress approximately 9-12 months in advance. This is because it can take 5-9 months for the gown to be produced and then you will need to go in for fittings and alterations too.

How much of the budget should I spend on my dress?

Most wedding planning experts agree that approximately 10% of the wedding budget should be reserved for the bride and groom’s outfits. This includes alterations, undergarments, shoes and jewellery. The dress will cost far more than the groom’s tuxedo but don’t forget to include his outfit in this part of the budget. If you overspend on your dress, you will need to cut back in other areas.

How much should I expect to pay as a deposit?

Most bridal stores require a 50-60% non-refundable deposit so choose wisely and don’t rush into making a decision without shopping around first. You will be kicking yourself if you fork out a large percentage of your budget on a deposit only to find a better dress in a shop window the following day.

Are alterations included in the dress price?

This varies from store to store. Some stores include unlimited alterations in the price; others cap them at a certain amount; and others still require you to pay for alterations separately. You may find that it is more affordable to have a dressmaker alter the dress for you after purchasing it off the rack.

I’m on a tight budget and can’t afford a new dress. What can I do?

Many bridal warehouses have plenty of affordable dresses to choose from. If you can’t find anything that you like which is within your price range, you could always look into purchasing a second hand dress or a dress from an online store. Be wary when doing so though. It’s important to purchase a size which is large enough to be altered, if necessary. Another option would be to wear your mother’s (or another family member’s) dress and have a dressmaker alter it to the size and style that you are after. There are, of course, limitations to this option as even the most talented of dressmakers aren’t magicians. Hiring a wedding dress could be another option but you may not be able to have it altered to size.

What details should I watch out for when I go for my first dress fitting?

How the material falls and where the hemline reaches is a very important factor in how you will look on the day. Puckering or bulging in the fabric will need to be adjusted as will any loose beads or stitching. Something else to keep in mind is how the waistline and bust area feel. Make sure that you can sit and dance comfortably. Remember, you won’t just be wearing this dress as you walk down the aisle – you will be in it during photo shoots and most probably the duration of the reception so you want to be as comfortable as possible.

How can I incorporate the “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” into my outfit?

Most brides don’t have a problem with including “something new” into their outfit as most of it will have been purchased specifically for this day. You could incorporate the “something old” element by wearing a vintage dress or piece of jewellery. “Something borrowed” could be your mother’s dress or a hairpin from your grandmother. Many women wear “something blue” as an undergarment or as the insole of their shoes. What most brides don’t realise is that the old rhyme also stated that a bride should put “a penny in her shoe” so if you’re a real stickler for tradition, you mustn’t forget that part. For a more in depth article on this exact topic, check out this cute little article. 

I’m planning to lose some weight before the wedding. Should I order a smaller size?

No! Absolutely not! Aside from the ugly truth that you may not manage to lose the weight in time, you need to consider the fact that if you do lose it, it is impossible to predict which areas of your body you will shed the weight from. This is why it makes so much more sense to order a dress in the size that fits you now and then have alterations made later once you are slimmer.

Does my dress HAVE to be white?

Until Queen Victoria donned a white gown, brides wore whatever colour they liked. If you want to wear a different colour, there is nothing stopping you (except perhaps your nagging mother).

I’m a bit heavy bottomed. What style of dress would draw attention away from this problem area?

It sounds like you are a pear shape. Pear shaped brides often have success with A-lines or ball gowns as they tend to hide their wide hips and bottom but you should try to find a gown with a detailed bodice which will draw attention up towards your tiny waist and clavicle area. Another option is to wear a gown with an off-the-shoulder neckline as it will balance out the width of your bottom half.

I’m quite short and I would like to appear taller on my wedding day. Is there a way that I can achieve this?

Short sleeved or sleeveless dresses coupled with long gloves will give the appearance of longer arms and thus, a taller body. A high neckline will also elongate your body.

I have an apple-shaped body and want to cover up my tummy and bust area without looking frumpy. What dress style would suit me best?

There are plenty of dress options available and the neckline plays a large role in flattering your figure without emphasising your bust and tummy area. A V-neck or a high neckline which features a key hole yoke is perfect for apple body types. Choose a silhouette with simple lines and flowy material which skims your figure rather than clinging to your problem areas. Depending on the formality of your wedding, you might like to wear a dress with a shorter hemline as, being an apple, you probably have killer legs that are worth showing off!

Should the groom see the bride in her dress before the wedding?

There is an old English superstition stating that it is bad luck for the groom to see his bride in her dress before the wedding. Whether you believe this or not, we think that it is a nice tradition to follow and that the look of surprise and awe on the groom’s face is priceless as his bride walks down the aisle. If you’re not particularly fussed about the groom seeing you for the first time in front of your guests, however, this means that you can utilize more of your day. Many brides, for example, take their time getting ready, attend their ceremony, and then have most of their photos taken before joining their guests at their reception (though this can often take up to several hours). If you aren’t particularly bothered by your fiancé seeing you before the ceremony, you could arrange to have your photo shoot before the ceremony, travel straight to your reception venue, and enjoy the rest of your day along with your guests!

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