We should really do a survey. I wonder how many moments, hours, or days it takes after the delight of being proposed to, before you start dreaming of and googling your perfect wedding dress. It would be fascinating to know how long some ladies manage to resist thinking about it. I’m sure many of us have thought about it before we’ve even gotten engaged, or before we were even in a steady relationship! Although we don’t necessarily like to admit it of course.
Obviously there are plenty of other things to decide, like the venue and the menu, or plan, like the travel arrangements from church to reception, or make, like the invitations and favours. But none of these, however thrilling they are and however much they capture the imagination, will compare to the experience of choosing your wedding dress. Before any of my friends had ever gotten engaged, I knew that I would expect a few of us to go together to purchase the wedding dress, whoever’s wedding it would be. I knew that I’d expect to have some bubbly in the boutique. But there were many things I didn’t know, and as I went recently with my best friend, to whom I am maid of honour, it was quite an experience and an education!
Before we had booked in to any dress boutiques my friend, aka the Bride, had been to some wedding dress fayres, to see some sale dresses. So she had some understanding of the different shapes, fastenings, colours, necklines and prices that she was looking for.
She had learned, which was a revelation to both of us (don’t laugh), that you don’t just buy a wedding dress that day and take it home with you! You can try on various sized dresses, but even if there is one that fits you, they order it in for you. It is your very own, made to measure, beautiful dress. The dresses that are in boutiques are just for trying on! When you find a sale rail either in a boutique or at one of these fayres, they’re often the poor dresses that have been tried on umpteen times by brides, who fall in love with them, but then leave these dresses lonely on the hanger and order a shiny new version.
Due to this tradition there are two extremely important things to remember!
1) Wedding dresses take a long time to produce, so it is of utmost importance to order yours well in advance. My friend is getting married on 28th June, and looking at dresses in mid-February is making the professionals in the industry somewhat incredulous! 4 months is not long enough between ordering your dress and needing it to have arrived, and have any alterations finished, all ready for the big day.
2) You may not be able to try on all the dresses that you love. If the zipper dresses are only on the hanger in a size 10, and you are a size 16, it may well not be possible to see realistically how the style suits your figure (as it would be possible to with a lace up back). Bear this in mind, and try to determine which style suits you first, even if you need to try on dresses that you don’t especially like the decoration of. It may be necessary to order and put a deposit down on a dress which you have not successfully tried on! But by knowing your preferred style, and finding it with your perfect decoration, should be enough to go on to order the dress in your measurements.
Our Day of Wedding Dress Fun!
Our bride, Vivien, another bridesmaid Vicki, and myself were booked in to 3 boutiques one eagerly anticipated Saturday. This is how our day went!
For Vicki and me this was our introduction to wedding dress shopping, both having never been before. Viv had been to the fayre previously and knew roughly what shape, or two, she was interested in. There were a number of dresses which she wasn’t able to try on as they were too small for her, so we waded through the racks, all picking out styles and materials and fastenings which we loved – all for Viv and the boutique assistant to tell us that those dresses weren’t practical as they were zipper or buttons and not in Viv’s size.
We honed our selection skills, and between us we found an initial four dresses for Viv to try on. Our assistant shuffled Viv in to a small curtained off corner of the room, whilst Vicki and I sat in the middle on a couch, with other brides’ friends and mothers. I was horrified to see that the assistant had to help Viv in to and out of the dresses, but that shows how little I was prepared for the expedition. I was also tremendously disappointed to note that we weren’t offered any bubbly, nor even a coffee having run in to the shop out of the wind and rain. I persuaded myself that must just be in movies. Oh well.
We weren’t especially keen on any of the dresses, but after seeing the different styles we made a group decision that one style looked absolutely stunning on Viv whilst others were slightly less flattering, so not a wasted trip. The assistant had been a little pushy, and didn’t offer any veils or shoes etc. to help with the overall image, but we just assumed this was reality.
This was until we reached shop 2. Something very different happened here. We had to ring a buzzer to be welcomed in to the shop. The building in itself was gorgeous, with beams, huge heavy doors, high ceilings, and an overall feeling of grandeur. The walls lining the staircase were filled with huge canvases of beautiful weddings, very inspiring and exciting.
Once we arrived upstairs there was so much room! There were rails of dresses decorating the edges of the room and one along the centre. There were vintage chaise lounges dotted around, a couple of solid oak display cabinets showcasing exquisite tiaras and couture wedding shoes. They seemed to have thought of everything, and the whole experience was integrated seamlessly.
The owner was one of those women that you’re immediately drawn to! Very modern and very glamorous. You imagine those ’50 and fabulous’ cards were written about her. She showed us around and treated us like princesses, offering us the pink bubbly our hearts desired! She in turn had her own assistant, who would carry the selected dresses off to a private dressing area so that the owner could stay with Viv. Once they went to try on the dresses, the owner couldn’t be more helpful, bringing veils, shoes, panels to make different dresses fit better, and advice on what alterations and amendments were possible. It was such a special hour and a half, full of laughs, and emotion. Needless to say, Vicki and I desperately wanted Viv to choose a dress from this shop. You just trusted the owner explicitly that even with the short time frame – she would make sure everything was not just ok, but perfect in time for the big day. A beautiful dress was shortlisted, just in time for us to head on and check out any other options.
We drove an additional 30 minutes for the next appointment, only to be told upon arrival ‘oh, you’re date is quite soon isn’t it? You’ll only be able to choose a dress from the sale rail or one off the rack that’s already your size.’ Viv had told her the wedding date when she booked the appointment! And there was one dress in the shop that may have been suitable. Viv diligently tried it on but it wasn’t great, just like the service. Needless to say we were less than impressed, especially after the joy from the previous shop!
After the absolute let down of the third shop we went in to, we felt a bit deflated! Viv had previously seen one other dress that she liked, so before she could commit to the dress from shop 2 she wanted us to see this other contender.
We went on our way home via this 4th shop. The owner seemed to be in the middle of moving premises, but allowed us to have a look at the dress. It was quite unique and different to anything we’d seen elsewhere. There wasn’t time for Viv to try on the dress though, so how could we decide?! The owner advised that she’d be at a wedding fayre in the following week, so we planned to go to the wedding fayre and for Viv to try the dress on there. So that was it, Wednesday was to be decision time (as we didn’t have any more time to spare)!
Along we went. After the catwalk show, Viv approached the owner and we went behind the stage to try the dress on. I got a funny feeling from this woman, and from her family who were all around to help out. I’m sure I heard her husband mutter something derogatory when we walked past him to go and try the dress on. But, all was forgotten once Viv had the dress on, as, unfortunately I thought, this dress just had that j ne sais qua that you’re dreaming of in a wedding dress. We were both upset to not have decided on the dress from Shop 2 as the experience was really so delightful, but there you have it.
Now here we are, early March, and Viv has had her fitting and paid a deposit for her dress. Unfortunately, after opting for the gorgeous dress from shop 4, there have been a number of issues. The fitting appointment got messed up, the price of the dress seemed to have shot up by £200 despite Viv having the original price on a quote from the owner, and the owner had retracted offers of free shoes (which she advertises come with each wedding dress). The wedding isn’t for another 3 ½ months, but having put £500 deposit down, it feels like it is too late to order another dress. Fingers crossed that the dress will arrive on time and the owner of the boutique will be professional enough to make any alterations in good time and with a pleasant attitude.
At the end of the day, I’m certain Viv will look wonderful. And I’m also certain which type of dress shop owner I’ll be buying my own wedding dress from when the day comes.