Once that engagement ring is on your finger, it can be all too tempting to dive head-first into tulle and satin. But before you do, you’ll need our top wedding dress shopping tips, courtesy of our bridal insiders

Like most of you newly engaged ladies, I’ve not shopped for a wedding dress before.(Granted, I don’t have the shiny all-access pass on my left ring finger that makes it socially acceptable either…) But, on your behalf, I got in touch with the lovely people behind five different bridal boutiques to ask about everything I’d want to know if I was actually on the hunt for a gown.

Finding the elusive ‘one’ can be a challenge, but whether it’s the first gown you try on or the 27th, one thing I do know is that you should not be shopping until you’re dropping. This should be fun! So, trust those in the know and come to your appointment prepared, and nothing will stop you making the right decision. You got this, gal!

Annie tie-front reversible jumpsuit by Rewritten, £POA, Melle Cloche

Consider the theme and location of your wedding

One of the very first things I remember from watching Say Yes to the Dress was the look of shock-horror on the consultants’ faces if a bride came in for a dress with anything less than three months until her date with destiny. Good things take time, you see, and so do wedding dresses – at least, those not off the rack.

But do you need to have already decided on loads of things – like the time of year, the venue and the theme of your big day – before you start dress shopping? As I’d suspected, there was agreement throughout the boutiques that while having those details ironed out isn’t essential, knowing where you’ll marry certainly can help with making decisions.

Michelle Scott, manager of Kudos Bridal Boutique Edinburgh, points out that having a beach wedding abroad is an example of when fabric weight will be a key consideration. “A chiffon or mousseline gown will be easier and lighter to wear than satin or tulle,” she says.

Even if you’re staying put in bonnie Scotland, a castle, she suggests, “can be the perfect background for a ‘princessy’ dress or extravagant ballgown”, while a wedding in a chic contemporary city hotel, on the other hand, “might call for elegant, sleek shapes or fashion-forward detail”.

Left: Lulu bridal separates with high-waisted wide-leg trousers by Rewritten, £POA, Melle Cloche, Right: Mares bow detail A-line wedding dress by Rosa Clará Couture, £2,980 with detachable train or £2,720 without, Kudos Bridal Boutique Edinburgh

Research wedding dress styles, shapes and silhouettes online

What about the dress itself, I ask; is it helpful to bring inspiration photos or browse online beforehand? Lauren Murray, social media manager at Ayrshire’s Opus Couture, has no doubts: “Absolutely!” she says. “Look for images you like and find themes and details that you’re drawn to.” Whether that simply means a love of clean lines or a more specific draw to backless dresses, these are great things to tell your consultant.

Lauren’s top tip is to try not to get too fixated on one particular dress: “Lots of designers show us their new collections before they’re available to purchase, while places like Pinterest often have dresses that are no longer in production.” So keep that mind open and be prepared to try on a few things that you imagine won’t be for you – dresses can look so different once they’re on.

Do I need to know wedding dress lingo and terminology?

Don’t worry about all the bridal-specific terminology either, says Kudos Edinburgh’s Michelle. “We don’t expect you to be familiar with the special vocabulary of the bridal world, although you may have spent so much time researching online that you’re already an expert!”

It’s worth noting that designers may use different terms while actually referring to the same thing. Michelle says a common query they get asked at Kudos is about the difference between a ‘mermaid’ and a ‘fishtail’ gown. Turns out there’s none – they’re essentially the same!

Left: Preston corset-style mermaid dress with detachable sleeves by WONA, £POA, Opus Couture, Right: A glimpse of one of Opus Couture’s beautifully decorated store windows

Decide your wedding dress budget

Now, before you find yourself surrounded by a flurry of gorgeous ivory gowns, it’s a good idea to know how much you’re willing, and financially able, to spend – especially if this needs to be discussed with your partner or a family member.

Be wary of trying on anything that’s above your budget, warns Opus Couture’s Lauren. “That’s because ‘just for fun’ sounds like a great idea, until you fall in love with it!” Plus, don’t forget, there are accessories to fund too, from your veil to your shoes.

How much will you be expected to pay on the big ‘say yes’ day? According to our consultants, most boutiques will ask for a 50% deposit, with the remaining balance payable when the dress arrives. The additional alteration fees are due once the work is completed, which will be roughly two to four weeks prior to your wedding.

When should I start wedding dress shopping?

In an ideal world you’d buy your dress roughly ten months to a year before your wedding day, says Lisa Bell, who co-owns Glasgow-based Melle Cloche with her sister Jac. “Lots of brides book appointments just to ‘try on’ – and then face a dilemma when they fall in love with a dress but feel it’s too early to commit,” she says.

“I always think it’s best to start your gown shopping when you feel mentally prepared that today could be the day you find your dress.” If this magically lines up with the release of new season styles, even better.

Megan Carberry of Kudos Bridal Boutique Dunfermline reveals that these are launched twice a year – generally around March and around October and November. That’s worth keeping in mind if you’re worried about ‘missing out’ on anything new.

As I’m sure you can imagine, weekend appointments fill up quickly, so if you have a particular date in mind, make sure to book a few weeks in advance. Or, if you’re able to, a midweek slot is a great option for a quieter, more intimate experience.

Left: Doritte fit-and-flare wedding dress by Maggie Sottero, £POA, Kudos Bridal Boutique Dunfermline, Right: Alis lace V-neck with long sleeves and front slit by Adriana Alier, £POA, Kudos Bridal Boutique Dunfermline

Booking your wedding gown shopping appointments

With so many wonderful boutiques out there, how do you go about narrowing down the choice? Megan at Kudos Dunfermline suggests using social media to do some research before committing to a consultation.

Ask yourself the following questions, she says: “Does a particular boutique stand out to me? Is there a specific designer that I’m being drawn towards? Take a look at the designers stocked at the boutiques you’d like to visit to make sure the styles of gowns available fit the looks you have in mind. Research is key!”

If your intention is to visit multiple boutiques, Lisa at Melle Cloche issues a gentle reminder not to ‘overbook’. You’ll just end up feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, she warns, and likely even experience the dreaded ‘dress fatigue’ – yikes! One appointment in the morning followed by one in the afternoon, with a break for lunch (and perhaps even a cocktail), is more than enough for anyone, she reckons.

Should I eat before trying on wedding dresses?

Speaking of lunch, please remember breakfast too! We ladies all know that body-shape fluctuations are real – they happen, and it can be really hard not to feel self-conscious sometimes. But trying on wedding dresses, as Megan at Kudos Dunfermline puts it, is “mentally and physically draining”, and it’s so important to make sure you’re well fuelled pre-appointment to avoid any bloodsugar drops in the fitting room.

“Bloating is normal,” she points out. “If it’s something you’re conscious of, you don’t want to be choosing a dress where you need to worry about this on the day. In fact, it might be better to be bloated when you’re trying things on – if a dress is ‘the one’, it’ll feel amazing regardless!”

What should I bring to go wedding dress shopping?

On the day of your appointment, you’ll want to make the most of the time you have in the boutique. That means bringing with you everything you think you’ll need to feel comfortable and ready to make a decision – from the right friends to the right underwear.

The general consensus from the experts is to bring no more than three people with you to each booking. Chloe, manager and senior stylist at Reflections Bridal in Kelso, says, “It is such a privilege to be asked to help someone choose her wedding dress, so pick your team carefully!”

“Trying on an over-budget dress ‘just for fun’ sounds like a great idea – until you fall in love with it”

Can I go wedding dress shopping alone?

Chloe goes on to share that Reflections Bridal actually has a bunch of brides now keeping their dresses a secret from even their bridesmaids, for even more magical reveals on the day!

Melle Cloche’s Lisa agrees on the solo shopping: “It’s absolutely fine to pick your dress alone. Having a lot of attention and bringing groups of people with opinions isn’t for everyone. We do, however, always raise a glass of fizz with the bride when she finds her dress – no one likes to drink alone and we’re always happy to oblige!”

Left: Sexy satin A-line wedding dress with spaghetti straps (style 7830) by Stella York, £POA, Reflections Bridal, Right: Romantic A-line lace appliqué and tulle gown (style 7832) by Stella York, £POA, Reflections Bridal

What to wear to your wedding dress fitting

So it’s up to you whether you bring company, but what’s not up for debate is bringing the right undergarments. Lauren from Opus Couture recommends wearing nude, seamless underwear to your appointment, and a nude bra if you have one. “To be honest,” she says, “bras get whipped off pretty quickly as most wedding dresses have built-in support, so a bra isn’t necessary.”

It’s worth checking in advance about shoes, as standard procedure varies between the boutiques. While some provide heels and allow you to bring your own (anything from Converse to cowboy boots), others ask you to skip the heels and instead provide a plinth (a small platform) for you to step up onto.

Can I wear makeup and fake tan wedding dress shopping?

Great care is taken to protect each dress so every bride-to-be has an equally lovely experience in the gown. So while the teams appreciate you’ll want to look your best at your appointment, keep the makeup to a minimum and don’t wear fake tan.

Chloe at Reflections Bridal says don’t worry about your hairstyle too much either: “You may be popping dresses over your head when trying them on so it’s important to remember this, especially if making a special effort with your hair!”

After roughly 90 minutes and six to eight dresses, Kudos Edinburgh’s Michelle hopes the appointment ends not only with the bride finding her perfect dress, but with a memory she’ll always treasure.

In the world of weddings, there’s not much that can top that celebratory ‘Yes!’ moment – other than perhaps the first ‘Yes!’ that got you trying on dresses to begin with… but it sure is a close second.

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