Fit for a princess – guide to shopping for your dream gown

Getting the dress right is the key to a happy bride so let us help you find your perfect gown.

Words by Brittany Moodie

Eugenie gown by Naomi Neoh, £2450, stockists include Alison Kirk Bridal and Pan Pan Bridal

Eugenie gown by Naomi Neoh, £2450, stockists include Alison Kirk Bridal and Pan Pan Bridal


Shopping for a wedding gown is supposed to be a magical experience, but for many women it can turn out to be a painful, stressful and very time-consuming task. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Yes, choosing a dress is often considered the most significant decision a bride will make in her wedding preparations, so it’s bound to come with a bit of pressure, but there are ways to get to grips with the whole process that’ll make it more enjoyable, which in turn should ultimately lead to you finding your dream gown. Prepare for the most important shopping trip of your life…

Planning Makes Perfect

Speaking from personal experience, I know it’s all too tempting the moment you get engaged to rush out to your nearest bridal boutique and try on as many wedding gowns as you can. But spending some time preparing is a crucial first step to finding the right dress for you. Familiarise yourself with key bridal styles, trends and designers by browsing through a few glossies and taking in some inspiration online. This will allow you to create a scrapbook of your favourite images, something that you can take with you when you visit boutiques to give the staff an idea of what sort look you want – even if you do end up going for a completely different style!
“It’s so nice to work with every bride to see which style she initially thinks she’ll love and then help her to find the gown which she truly loves and suits her best,” says Catriona Bruce from Ivory Whites in Perth. “Choosing a gown that may be a surprise for your family and friends is quite fun to do, especially when it has surprised you as well.”

Style W896 by True Bride, £899, stockists include Kudos Couture. Foyers gown by Blue by Enzoani, £1219, stockists include Avorio Bridal, Ivory Whites and Kudos Couture. Faye gown by Sassi Holford, from £2395, stockists include Charlotte Grace. Style 1461 by Essense, POA, stockists include Eleganza Sposa and Kudos Couture.

Left to right: Style W896 by True Bride, £899, stockists include Kudos Couture. Foyers gown by Blue by Enzoani, £1219, stockists include Avorio Bridal, Ivory Whites and Kudos Couture. Faye gown by Sassi Holford, from £2395, stockists include Charlotte Grace. Style 1461 by Essense, POA, stockists include Eleganza Sposa and Kudos Couture.

Finding the Right Boutique

There are lots of bridal boutiques out there, so be selective about which ones you visit. Ask for recommendations from friends, family and colleagues who have already tied the knot. Call a selection of boutiques to discuss which designers they stock, what prices you can expect and which additional services they offer – an in-house alteration service could be just what you need in the run-up to your wedding. I recommend you restrict yourself to two or three boutiques – that should be enough to see a great range of dresses, but not so many it leaves you dazed and confused.
Don’t forget to book yourself in – most bridal shops work on an appointments-only basis to ensure that you get the consultant’s full attention in your quest for a dress. Appointments can be made by phone, email and even online. Don’t try to cram in more than one appointment per day, though – this is an experience that should be savoured, and if you’re more concerned about making your next appointment, you simply won’t enjoy it. Take your time and think about what you’re doing – you’ll make a far better decision.

Your First Visit

Before your first appointment at a bridal boutique give yourself a mini makeover. Paint nails, tame frizzy locks and invest in some nice shoes and lingerie (preferably strapless) so you can feel every bit the bride. Considering how you want to look and feel on your big day can make it easier to visualise yourself walking down the aisle and give you the confidence to complete your wedding look with your dream gown. If you already have a certain hairstyle or make-up look in mind for the wedding, try to capture this for your first visit.
Thinking ahead about other aspects of what you’ve got planned for your special day is also important for a stress-free shopping experience. As Michelle Scott from Kudos Couture says, “The venue you’ve chosen for your celebrations can have an influence on your choice of dress. An ancient Scottish castle may call for a more romantic, traditional gown, while a trendy hotel wedding might lead you towards a sleek and glamorous style. The most important thing, though, is to consider how each dress makes you feel – that’s what really matters on the day.”

Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth

This is one motto that ought to be taken to heart when deciding who should accompany you on your bridal appointment. As Anna Cirignaco from Glasgow-based Eleganza Sposa puts it: “The bride should have a close friend or family member to accompany her to the appointment. But sometimes the bride’s wants can be overshadowed by those of very opinionated loved ones, and even the most confident woman can become insecure when selecting a gown. For that reason, it’s really important that whoever she asks will actually help her to make her decision.”

What to Expect

It’s the day of your appointment – and after all that preparation, you’ll no doubt be dying to try on some beautiful gowns. So what can you expect? Well, during your appointment, you should get one-to-one attention from the consultant, who’ll start off by asking you a few questions about your likes and dislikes to get a rough idea of your preferences. The consultant will help you pick a selection of dresses to try on, as well as a few accessories to complement each look. Not all sample dresses will be your size, so the consultant will pin them into place to give you an idea of what each one would look like. It’s important to give as much feedback as possible when selecting and trying on dresses, since keeping the consultant informed will give them the information they need to suggest appropriate styles you may not have considered.

Left to right: Paradise gown by Suzanne Neville, POA, stockists include Eleganza Sposa. Thea gown by Ritva Westenius, from £2750, stockists include Charlotte Grace and Lamesley Bridal. Elodie gown by Charlotte Balbier, £1400, stockists include Apple Blossom Time and Kudos Couture. Mirra gown by La Sposa, POA, stockists include Pan Pan Bridal.

Left to right: Paradise gown by Suzanne Neville, POA, stockists include Eleganza Sposa. Thea gown by Ritva Westenius, from £2750, stockists include Charlotte Grace and Lamesley Bridal. Elodie gown by Charlotte Balbier, £1400, stockists include Apple Blossom Time and Kudos Couture. Mirra gown by La Sposa, POA, stockists include Pan Pan Bridal.

That’s The One!

For some women, the ideal dress is waiting for them in the very first shop they visit. For others, though, it’s a much longer quest, sometimes taking months. Rest assured, however, that the perfect gown for you is out there somewhere. So what happens once you’ve made your choice? To place your order, the consultant will take your measurements. Each bridal designer has their very own size chart (which differs from high-street sizing) that your measurements will correspond to. Don’t forget that fabrics, colours and optional extras will also need to be decided on before your order is placed.
All the paperwork is then signed and you’ll have to pay a non-refundable deposit to secure the order. This deposit will usually be no more than 50% of the price of the dress, with the remaining balance due when the dress is delivered. Wedding dresses take around three months to make and deliver, and you could be waiting as long as five months during busy periods. Ask your consultant about delivery times before you confirm your order, especially if your date is fast approaching and there’s any possibility the dress won’t be finished on time. The best advice, of course, is to order early. But if time isn’t on your side, all is not lost: many designers can provide an express service or ‘rush cut’, though this will sometimes incur an extra cost. Alternatively, sample dresses available in store can be purchased and altered to your specifications.

The Wait is Over

You will get a chance to inspect the dress and try it on before you settle the final balance. Don’t forget about alterations too, which are payable once the changes have been made. The price of alterations varies from boutique to boutique but be sure to factor in this hidden cost to your budget.
Now all that’s left to do is count down to your big day, where you’ll be able to say ‘I will’ safe in the knowledge that you look and feel fabulous!

Five steps to heaven

Finding your ideal wedding dress isn’t always easy – there are so many different designers offering many beautiful styles to inspire (and confuse!) you along the way. Follow the steps outlined below to make your shopping trip a complete success, with stylish, gorgeous and romantic results guaranteed

Anise gown by Ian Stuart Bride, POA, stockists include Avorio Bridal and Eleganza Sposa

Anise gown by Ian Stuart Bride, POA, stockists include Avorio Bridal and Eleganza Sposa

1. Think ahead
Think about the mood you want to create on your wedding day, as this will help you choose your dress. Consider the venue, the theme and the time of year you’re planning to get married in, as all of these factors will influence which styles are most suitable. And the more organised you are, the more relaxed you will feel during your search.

2. Don’t bust the bank
Few brides have the luxury of planning a wedding on an unlimited budget, so when it comes to shopping for wedding dresses, it is important to stay within your means. Tell the consultant what your budget is – she will then only show you dresses you can afford. Being budget-savvy here means your won’t have to compromise elsewhere – is it worth having the most beautiful dress in the world if it means you have to cut your guest list in half?

3. Be Open-Minded
While brides are encouraged to come to their appointments with an idea of the styles, trends and designers they admire, they should also remain open-minded about which dresses to try on. Take the consultant’s suggestions and consider styles that are not on your radar – they might just surprise you.

4. Trust your instincts
It’s you who’s going to be wearing this dress, not your mother, your sister or your best friend, so listen to their advice but have confidence in your own judgement too. Go with what feels right.

5. Enjoy!
Choosing a wedding dress is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in the whole planning process, but it is all too easy to forget just how much fun the whole thing should be. If you’re not enjoying the experience, it will fast become a chore, so leave the stress out on the street as you enter the magical world of the bridal boutique – and you’ll have memories to treasure for ever.