The wedding dress is likely to be the most costly part of your trousseau. As the centrepiece of the bridal party, it should probably be the first item that you choose for your wedding as it can influence the style and colours of your bridesmaids, menswear, tiara and flowers.
So where do you start?
Many brides are totally confused by the amazing variety of styles of wedding dresses now available. A popular place to start looking for the current trends is through the many bridal publications which hit the newsagent shelves either monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly. These magazines are filled with excellent photographs from many designers, giving you a good feel of what might be on offer.
Manufacturers and designers advertise in some of the publications, some of the time, so there will always be other dresses to see in different magazines each month. And you still will not see everything that is available, so still be prepared to visit the shops!
If you see a particular dress that you would like to see ‘in the flesh’, the manufacturer will be able to give you the contact details for a retailer of their designs in your area. However, do note that the stockist is only likely to hold a selection of their designs, as few are large enough or exclusive enough to dedicate themselves to keeping the full range of one particularly company.
New designs in the bridal industry tend to emerge in two seasons. New ranges are usually promoted within the trade in March and September, and allowing for ordering and delivery times to the retailers, this often means that the public see the new season’s range from June onwards and December onwards respectively. There are now just too many designs appearing for any one retailer to hold a full range.
Suppliers are often very cautious of over-burdening the market with their designs and are very selective of their retail outlets. You are unlikely to find a retailer in one street, stocking the same labels as a retailer in a neighbouring street.
Wedding fairs have become increasingly popular over the last fifteen years as a place for retailers to promote their services. Usually held in hotels, they are aimed at local brides wishing to view a range of wedding services including bridal retailers, photographers, menswear, florists etc. Unless a fashion show has been specially advertised, do not expect to see more than two or three bridal retailers at these events. Even with a fashion show, the focus is usually on a small number of retailers (the retailers themselves would not attend if they felt there was likely to be too much competition!) Wedding fairs, though, are a good starting point for generating ideas for your own wedding. They often attract local small businesses and often present ‘good value’ services.
Retailers and Designers
Seeing a photograph of a dress that you like cannot substitute for trying on a dress for yourself. Spending too long looking at pictures of that ‘dream dress’ can be a real let down when you actually come to try on that style. Start trying on dresses with a fairly open mind and then rule out particular features when you have actually seen yourself in the mirror. That is, do not be totally determined to have a dress with a red bodice until you have seen yourself in that style.
Retailers and designers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from chain stores to exclusively designed and made-to-measure services. The vast majority of bridal retailers are, however, independent retailers with one shop, often situated out of town, so it is worth consulting your local advertising media to find out what is near you. As buying a wedding dress is a rare purchase, it could well be that you have not even noticed a local bridal shop even though it is under your nose!
Larger companies will probably give you more choice, but smaller companies are likely to give you a more individual service. Do take advantage of those who offer appointments. This might feel like too much commitment to you when starting out looking, but appointments give an opportunity for personal attention and advice with less chance of interruptions. And you will need assistance when trying on a wedding dress! You are likely to have lots of questions about sizing and fitting and delivery etc and the help of a specialist is invaluable. Another advantage of a smaller retailer is that you are more likely to get the service of someone who really knows what they are talking about as opposed to getting the ‘Saturday girl’!
Approaching a bridal designer may be the way forward for you if you have a reasonably clear idea of what your perfect dress will look like. Your designer will be able to transfer you thoughts to paper before making up the dress in the fabric of your choice. This is not for the feint-hearted though! You must be confident in the vision that emerges from the sketches and confident with your designer, or this could be money ill-advisedly spent, with little opportunity for opting out!