About to start shopping for your wedding dress? Here’s what you need to know before you hit the boutiques in Scotland

Ring? Check. Venue? Check. Now you just need something to wear! Natasha Radmehr finds out all there is to know about one of life’s most memorable shopping trips

Essense of Australia wedding dress from Kudos Bridal Boutiques in Edinburgh
Tulle gown with off-the-shoulder puff sleeves by Essense of Australia (style D3442), £1,799, Kudos Bridal Boutiques (Edinburgh)

Even if you’re not the kind of gal who started a wedding scrapbook while still in nappies, you’ve probably thought about your hypothetical wedding dress before now. It’s hard not to. Whether a fleeting notion while idly scrolling through photos of a celeb’s big day on Insta, or a chat with pals over drinks at a friend’s wedding, we’ve all pondered, however briefly, what we might wear to walk down the aisle. Jumpsuit, ballgown, feather-trimmed cape… who doesn’t enjoy a game of imaginary dress-up?

Explore your options

Already created a Pinterest board dedicated to your wedding style? Nice work – you’re on the right path. It’s helpful to start by curating a moodboard of looks you love, because although you may feel that your taste is eclectic, once you see it laid out you might notice a common thread connecting all the designs you’ve earmarked. Perhaps you like clean silhouettes, you’re drawn to romantic lace, or sleeves are a must-have detail. Take note of any designers who keep cropping up, because then you can check to see if they’re stocked by a Scottish boutique.

If you’re the kind of woman who’s willing to travel to the ends of the earth to track down the dress of her dreams (true story: one of my friends went all the way to Minsk), location might not matter. But in most cases, it’s a good idea to look at the websites and social media feeds of Scottish bridal boutiques to see what they stock. “Every store will have different designers and looks, so you want to pick the one that best suits you,” explains Amy King, owner of Amy King Bridal and Beauty in Kirkcaldy.

Some boutiques will be the exclusive Scottish stockist of certain designers, or the only stockist within their region, so bear that in mind when deciding where to go.

Lauren McKinnon from West Kilbride’s Opus Couture says it’s also worthwhile at this stage deciding on a ballpark budget and sussing out what to expect to pay for the designers you’ve got your eye on. “That way, your expectations are clear, and there are no unpleasant surprises when it comes to the cost of a gown,” she explains.

Recent research from Bridebook suggests the average cost of a wedding dress in the UK is £1,193, but some designers command a far higher price tag. Factor in alterations too, which can cost in the region of £200 to £400.

Wedding dresses from Kudos Bridal Boutiques in Edinburgh
Left: Lace trumpet gown with sheer back by Essense of Australia (style D3339), £1,499, Kudos Bridal Boutiques (Edinburgh); Right: Romantic lace V-neck gown by Essense of Australia (style D3358), £1,599, Kudos Bridal Boutiques (Edinburgh)

Book your appointment

If you’re usually a last-minute Larry, consider making an exception for your wedding dress. “Most gowns take around four to five months to arrive, and alterations require two months, so already that’s a large amount of time,” warns Louise Kelly from Kudos Bridal Boutique in Edinburgh.

“We recommend starting the journey to find your dress at least a year ahead of the wedding. We have new-season styles filtering into the shop all the time and our dresses are suitable for weddings all year round, so don’t worry about waiting for ‘winter styles’ to arrive – they’re here and ready for you to try!”

Generally speaking, most boutiques offer private appointments that last between one and two hours. “We allow customers to look through our collections and choose from around five to six gowns,” say the team at Kavelle Couture in Edinburgh. “We will of course give our specialist advice and may pick out a couple of styles for you to try, too. We are very busy at the weekends, so if you want a slightly quieter time, make an appointment for during the week.”

Got a few boutiques on your radar? Limit your visits to two or three in one day; it’s surprisingly tiring work trying on wedding dresses and fielding the opinions of pals. Speaking of which, it’s best to keep your posse on the small side. Only bring those you trust to be honest with you, and don’t feel guilty if you’d actually prefer to go on your own. I know people who did a solo trip first then brought their friends along on a second visit once they were close to making a decision. They didn’t regret it.

Wedding dresses by Rebecca Ingram and Modeca at Amy King Bridal and Beauty
Left: Flora criss-cross ruched princess gown by Rebecca Ingram, £POA, Amy King Bridal and Beauty; Right: Omaya floral lace gown by Le Papillon by Modeca, £POA, Amy King Bridal and Beauty

Be prepared

Remember when you go shopping that you’ll be wriggling in and out of dresses all day, so wear suitable undies. “It’s always best to wear nude, no-VPL underwear and a strapless bra if possible,” advises Amy King of Amy King Bridal. “We tell our brides that they don’t need to bring shoes as the dresses are long – you get a better idea of how a dress looks by standing on a box.”

Bring an open mind with you, too. Your consultant will want to know all about your wedding plans and the styles you’ve already spotted, and they will also be able to pick out a few dresses for you to try that you’d never have considered.

“At the salon we have a range of high-end designer gowns and all our staff are fashion graduates, which means we have a wealth of knowledge throughout our team,” says Lauren McKinnon from Opus Couture. Trust their suggestions – you’d be surprised by how many brides fall for a dress they didn’t pick out themselves.

Most dresses will be available to try on in one size only, but your consultant will be able to work some magic to give you an idea of how it would look. And how you feel in it is just as important. “I always stress that you will be wearing the dress for a very long time, so you have to make sure you are comfortable walking, sitting and eating in it,” says Louise Kelly from Kudos Edinburgh.

How you feel extends beyond comfort, as Lauren from Opus Couture points out. “Home in on how you want to feel on your day,” she advises. “Sexy and sophisticated? Like a princess? Regal vibes?” You may want a dress that matches the style of your venue, too, although that’s by no means essential. What matters most is that it’s something you absolutely love.

Wedding dresses by Enzoani at Opus Couture
Left: Rosalie lace V-neck gown by Enzoani, £2,645, Opus Couture; Right: Reagan beaded gown with open back by Enzoani, £2,777, Opus Couture

Said yes to the dress?

Expect a fuss when you find the one: it’s the rules. “We offer complimentary bubbly and a goody bag full of little treats and discounts from local suppliers, and it’s a rite of passage to get a selfie with our ‘yes’ sign,” smiles Louise from Kudos Edinburgh.

You’ll then be measured up and will discuss with your consultant what size to order (pro tip: it’s a lot easier to make a big dress smaller than it is to upsize a too-small dress, so don’t set yourself an overly ambitious dress-size goal – it’s not worth it).

If there are any tweaks you’d like to make to the design, chat to your consultant to see if it’s possible. “At Opus all of our staff are trained in design and are able to advise on how to customise a gown,” confirms Lauren from Opus Couture. “Most customisations are possible, and we would have an open conversation with our bride on what we can change, the timeframe for doing so and the cost.”

Even if you’re changing nothing, you’ll still go through an alterations process so the dress fits you perfectly. This begins around two to three months before the wedding, with a final fitting a couple of weeks before the big day. Then, when you’re totally happy, you’ll be able to keep your dress in the boutique until a day or two before you get married. “You don’t want to worry about where to store your gown,” says Lauren. “It will be steamed and hung in our steam room and you can choose when you want to collect it.

After that, it’ll be time to play dress-up for real. I hope you savour every last minute of it.

On a tight budget?

It’s totally possible to score a designer dress for less. The majority of bridal boutiques will either hold a couple of sales a year to make way for new stock, or will have a year-round sample rail of dresses that can be purchased off the rack.

“We do have full-price gowns for around £1,000, but if you are looking to pay less than that, we usually offer two or three large sale events (typically in March and October), and we always have a sample rale with some options throughout the year,” says Amy King of Amy King Bridal.

At Kudos in Edinburgh, meanwhile, sale dresses start from £399. “Due to some Covid restrictions still being in place (and as you can imagine, sample sales can get a little wild!), we feel it is safer for our staff and brides not to have a sale day but to have a permanent sale rail available in store,” says Louise Kelly.

This isn’t just a purse-friendly option – it’s a time-saving one too. You’ll be able to take your dress home there and then, although you may still need to get it altered to ensure a seamless fit.

Wedding dresses by Kavelle Couture
Left: Lise strapless mermaid gown by Vera Wang Bride, £2,495, Kavelle Couture; Right: Ralston princess gown in embroidered tulle with long sleeves and tattoo-effect back by Pronovias, £4,395, Kavelle Couture

Shape of you

The team at Kavelle Couture in Edinburgh talk us through choosing a silhouette to suit your figure

Ballgown “A ballgown helps accentuate the waist and looks best on a pear-shaped body.”

A-line “Flattering for most shapes, this style can even elongate the body.”

Mermaid “With its close-fitting tapered skirt, this style can work beautifully on someone with an inverted-triangle body shape.”

Sheath/Trumpet “Form-fitting just below the hips, the skirt flares outwards and will flatter an hourglass figure.”

Empire “Due to its raised waistline and dress which flows outwards, this is most suitable for pear-shaped and rectangular bodies.”