What are the options if you’ve left yourself short on time to shop for a wedding dress?

Whilst we would always advocate giving yourself around a year when you are looking for a wedding dress, shopping at short-notice is possible if you know where to go and what to ask. Rosie Patrick finds out about rush-cuts and pre-loved, cancellation and ex-sample gowns

There could be a multitude of reasons why you might need a gown swiftly: maybe your designer went bust, or you took a risk buying online, or maybe you’ve simply gone off what you bought months and months ago. Your first step? Don’t despair or assume nothing can be done. Phone your local boutique.

Two wedding dresses by Bianco Evento from Innate Bridals in Dundee
Right: Serena romantic ballgown with tulle skirt, lace bodice and cap sleeves by Bianco Evento, £635; Left: Vivienne classic A-line gown with chiffon skirt and flattering V-neck by Bianco Evento, £685, both Innate Bridals

Off-the-peg samples and cancellations

“It’s certainly possible to get a gown at short notice in many places, and it’s something we specialise in here at Innate Bridals in Dundee – we love working with a last-minute bride!” smiles Keira.

“All our sample and cancellation dresses are ready to go on the day and we also have an in-store seamstress, so there is no need to try and sort that out elsewhere. And, with all the accessories you could ever want, we have everything you need for a quick turnaround.”

Two wedding dresses from Bridal Reloved Glasgow
Two pre-loved dresses from Bridal Reloved Glasgow

Pre-loved gowns

Another store familiar with this situation is Bridal Reloved Glasgow in Coatbridge. In fact, given its rails are bursting with pre-owned gowns, it’s built for it. “We have more than 50 dresses available same-day, and there’s new stock arriving all the time,” says owner Clare McCabe. “We just ask that you book an appointment, so we can ensure all our Covid safety measures are in place.”

Affordability is definitely a bonus with an ex-sample, pre-loved or cancellation gown. “All our dresses are from top designers and are at most half the original RRP,” says Clare. “One of my favourite designers is Benjamin Roberts. His dresses are beautiful and the sizing is really good – the gowns tend to fit true to high-street sizes, with little needed in the way of alterations. We’re here to save our brides money without compromising on style.”

Two wedding dresses by Morilee from Dream Brides in Irvine
Left: Alessia gown with frosted embroidery, feminine V-neckline and detachable chandelier back (style 5863) by Morilee, £1,450; Right: Amber gown with frosted Alençon lace appliqué and Larissa satin fit-and-flare silhouette (style 5874) by Morilee, £1,350, both Dream Brides

Ask about quick deliveries, rush cuts and ex-sample dresses

“Contact us if you’re short on time,” urges Kirsty Grant of Dream Brides in Irvine. “We have a lovely selection of quick-delivery dresses from Morilee, in sought-after silhouettes and with reliable delivery times, as well as rush-cut options from nearly all of our designers. There’s also the off-the-peg section – and the best part is that these gowns are always greatly reduced, so you’d be grabbing yourself a bargain.” 

“There is normally a standard charge for a rush cut (AKA express turnaround), depending on the designer,” Kirsty says. “Expect to pay an extra £75 to £150. It’s worth noting that plenty of bridesmaid designers also offer rush cuts – at Dream Brides, we stock styles from Dessy and Morilee with quick delivery options.”

“If you have a gown made to order using a designer’s express service to save time, you will be charged up to 20% extra,” notes Michelle Scott at Kudos Bridal Boutiques in Edinburgh.

Models wearing Essense of Australia wedding dresses from Kudos Bridal Boutique in Edinburgh
Left: Casual chiffon gown with French tulle bodice and peek-a-boo detailing (style D2371) by Essense of Australia, original price £1,499, sale price £699 (available in size 10); Right: Pearl mikado gown with elegant cap sleeves (style D2274) by Essense of Australia, original price £1,199, sale price £799 (available in size 12), both Kudos Bridal Boutiques (Edinburgh)

Ask your boutique about designers with stock held in warehouse

“If there isn’t time to have a dress made to order (eight weeks minimum, but normally at least 12), look for one the designer already has in stock in their warehouse. That way, you still get a brand-new dress, usually in a best-selling style. Essense of Australia has quite a sophisticated online portal, for instance, which allows us to check its inventory and production pipeline in real time,” reveals Michelle at Kudos Bridal. “Some designers, but not all, hold a limited amount in the most common sizes.”

Be flexible with your appointment – and realistic about your dreams

“The shortest turnaround we ever achieved was three days, which included fittings and alterations!” says Michelle. “You should ring up to book an urgent appointment and be as flexible as possible with the date – we almost always have slots available on weekdays, whereas weekends get booked up well in advance.”

“Be realistic about the potentially more limited choice. You can’t be too picky – you’re unlikely to find your perfect gown in exactly the right size,” she warns. “Be prepared to consider dresses that are too big, as these can be altered to fit.”

And if you’re still feeling hemmed in by time constraints, remember: alterations can put you back in the driver’s seat, creativity-wise. “The tweaks that can be made to a gown are endless,” Keira assures us. “We’re not about to settle just because it’s short notice!”