HOW TO: score your dream dress at a discounted price at bridal trunk shows

Book yourself a coveted slot at one of these events and you could have first-pick of the new collections, bag a bargain and cop some freebies!

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Long-sleeved Bellagio crêpe gown (style 791) by Martina Liana, £1,899, available from Eleganza Sposa

If you’re planning your big day, you’ll quickly learn that, with weddings, it’s all about the sooner the better. So what would you say if we told you that you could get your hands on your favourite designer’s latest gown before it even hits the shops? You can – in the wonderful world of the wedding dress trunk show.

Not only do these fabulous events feature brand new designs and, in some cases, give you the opportunity to meet the actual designer, they also usually offer fantastic discounts as well. So what exactly is a trunk show – and how can you score an invite?

Trunk shows date back a very long way – all the way to the early 1800s, in fact, when travelling salesmen would trek from town to town with steamer trunks filled with merchandise. Some would carry house­hold goods but others would have the latest designer fashions. Not surprisingly, they attracted enormous crowds, desperate to see the latest styles, and they became unmissable events.

“A bridal trunk show happens when the designer lets us borrow their sample collection (either the full collection or part of it) for a weekend,” explains Susan Lightbody of Opus Couture. “If we can’t get the full collection, we will handpick styles that we don’t have in store so we can offer a larger selection of gowns.”

Zella wedding dress, £1,930, and Weatherstaff overskirt by Watters, £340, Anne Priscilla Bridal Deep V-necked embellished gown (style 16-101) by Berta, £POA, Opus Atelier
From left: Zella wedding dress, £1,930, and Weatherstaff overskirt by Watters, £340, available from Anne Priscilla Bridal; Deep V-necked embellished gown (style 16-101) by Berta, £POA, available from Opus Atelier

Trunk shows follow the fashion seasons, so when designers start showcasing their new collections, it’s worth seeking out the dresses online to pick your favourites in time for their boutique visit. “We try to have at least one show per season,” Hannah Muckersie of Eleganza Sposa tells us. “These usually happen in July and November. Our most exclusive events will be for one day or one weekend only!”

Knowing the date of a trunk show well in advance really works in your favour. “We like to book our trunk shows six months to a year ahead of time once we have seen the new collections,” says Susan. “We book our favourite dresses so our brides can have an exclusive first look before they hit the shops.”

Get your name down for an appointment or you may regret it several months down the line. Our regular bridal events listings will help keep you in the loop. “We also advise brides to follow us on social media and visit our website, where we post about upcoming events,” continues Susan.

As well as their preview potential, trunk shows give you access to some great  promotional discounts. “We usually offer a 10% discount on a gown purchased from the trunk show’s designer,” says Susan. Discounts often extend into accessories and bridesmaid dresses, so keep an eye out for further dates. “At our bridesmaid events, for example, we offer three gowns for the price of two,” continues Susan.

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From left: Zeta gown by Eliza Jane Howell, £1,785, Anne Priscilla Bridal; Deco-inspired gown with crystal-encrusted bodice (style W185) by True Bride, £1,450, Sophia Grace Couture

Anne Priscilla Bridal offers similar savings at its trunk shows. “At trunk shows and designer days we offer a maximum 10% discount as an incentive and often other benefits in conjunction with designers,” says Helen Walker. Some of these benefits are exceptional, she adds: “For example: a complimentary made-to-measure with Stewart Parvin (normally £350+) or a free piece of Alan Hannah jewellery to accessorise one of the designer’s gowns.”

If you find a dress you’re madly in love with at a trunk show, don’t let it slip through your fingers as it means you’re turning down the discount too. “It isn’t usually possible to benefit from any special offers once the trunk show weekend is over,” explains Helen. “The dresses that are available at these events are highly sought after, so the store will usually have a limit of two to three days for holding them. Therefore, if you decide to come back several days or weeks later, we simply may not have the dress any longer.”

Buying at a trunk show does inevitably add pressure, but it can also be a thrilling experience. “Don’t be scared of choosing your dress at a trunk show or a designer day. Embrace the excitement,” says Helen. “Often brides are worried about following their instincts, so they spend weeks agonising over a dress they’re already madly in love with.” So what are you waiting for? Go seek out that trunk show treasure now!