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…first comes preparation & planning.

The last few weeks seen me enter the wedding dress club in an emotionally intense and exciting way, and oh what a finale!

In a five part series of posts, I will cover my personal wedding dress shopping experiences in Perth and what I learned along the way.

Today’s post is all about research and preparation before you go dress hunting.

At the end of the day, you can do little, lots or no research and planning before you go shopping, but it will help you tremendously if you are prepared and in the know.

What style of Dress?

This is a big question for Brides and one that’s not easily answered in my opinion without going and trying on wedding dresses.  What I originally thought I wanted in a dress; soft, floaty and romantic in a sheath style was frankly quite opposite to what I looked good in.  What I also didn’t really consider was how my dress would impact the style and feel of my wedding.

Do what feels right for you in researching dresses and styles, if you want to look at lots and create a scrapbook of pictures so be it, if you’re more like me and you look a little bit in magazines but want to leave it until you go shopping, that’s okay too.

Go Shopping Early!

  • 10-12 months before the day is ideal since some shops require 6 months to order the dress and another few months for fittings, this is because the dress will be custom made.
  • Once your dress arrives, it will be altered several times – until it’s the perfect fit.  Your last fitting should be about 3 weeks before the big day.
  • If you have less than six months, don’t panic.  Start shopping as soon as possible and try to be flexible with your choices.  You may find you are limited to choosing ‘off the rack’ which in some cases may mean you could order one in with rush order fees or purchase the gown as is and have it altered to fit – particularly with samples sales.  Couture may be an option where the dress is made locally.   Brides by Design and Anastasia Collections are both shops in Perth that could meet a min. 2-3 month time fame but ring and speak to them first.  There is still plenty of choice but you likely won’t be able to order from new collections in store for the following year.

Top Tip: Avoid shopping on weekends and evenings if possible

Take a day off work and visit a few shops, you are guaranteed to get more of the salesperson’s time and attention, in my first shop I spent nearly 2 hours and found a close competitor to my dream dress.  I would highly recommend doing it this way; I visited a few shops during the week to narrow down my choices and then took my support team out on a Saturday when they were availble to look at my favourite dresses.

Finding and making Appointments with Retailers and Designers

  • Ask your married girlfriends where they bought their dresses and where you’ve visited as a bridesmaid, a good starting point.
  • Locally produced magazines, like Perth Bride are a great way to identify local designers and bridal retailers and their websites.
  • Visit bridal retailer’s and designer’s websites, this will give you an idea of the kind of brands, dresses and styles they stock and can help determine if they have what you’re looking for.  This is particularly helpful if you’ve been to one or two stores already and have a better idea what style dresses suit you and your tastes.
  • Some stores require and most prefer appointments so check well ahead of the day.
  • Allow plenty of time between appointments and make a day of it, make time to stop for a mid morning or afternoon coffee and lunch.
  • Appointments are generally 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the store.  If you visit during the week you may have up to 2 hours with a dedicated attendant.
  • Consider your budget and whether a retailer or designer have dresses that suit your price range, some designers may be out of your price range for couture, but their ready to wear range may suit your budget, so ring and speak to them first.
  • Have a good think about the style of dress you want to wear.  This will really help on the day.  Look through magazines and find some pictures which reflect the styles you like.  For me, although the style wasn’t quite a match to my dream dress, I was after a romantic feel and I still found that, just in a different style.

Top tip: What are Designer Days?

Designer days are where a designer visits a bridal store with a range from their new collection for the following year and a select amount of appointments are available for trying the dresses.  Brides who have a minimum 8-12 months before their wedding day could consider these, but some may require a min. 12 months for ordering and fitting.

Shopping Day arrives!

  • Remember to wear appropriate underwear, I chose a pair of conservative high cut skin colour briefs and a matching strapless, seam free skin coloured bra from Berlei.  In some cases you may need to remove your bra to try on the dress but it’s not essential, do what feels comfortable for you and the store attendants will make you feel comfortable, just remember they’ve done this again and again.  In most shops you will have to walk out from the dressing room to see yourself in the mirrors – and of course to parade your dress for your support team.
  • If you already have your shoes, bring them with you or bring a pair of heels similar height to what you may wear, some stores don’t provide shoes, but most have little stools to stand on so it’s not essential.
  • If you are hitting the stores hard (like I did!) then print out a running schedule of your day including store names, addresses, contact numbers and notes.  I even added some simple driving directions between some stores which made it easier on the day.
  • You are not allowed to take photos of the gowns, so bring pen and paper and note the brand, style name, price and colour/material as a reference.  Professional shops will give you this information.
  • Book a luncheon venue if you have enough time for this, I allocated 1.5 hours for lunch and we enjoyed a toast and leisurely lunch at The Queens Hotel.  It was fabulous and kept us from tiring out.
  • Leave your expectations at home and try on lots of different dresses when you first start looking and you will soon discover what you like.
  • Ask your Bridesmaids and fellow dress shoppers to be brutally honest.  They need to tell you what looks bad, good, best and the one!
  • Be honest about your budget with the salesperson, you don’t want to fall in love with a dress you can’t afford.
  • Check how much the deposit is.  This varies from store to store, some may want 50% and payments at fittings right through to 100% full payment of the dress upfront.

Top Tip: Be aware of potential unknown costs

Be aware of potential unknown costs such as postage/rush order charges, fittings and alterations and customisation – including sizes.  Always ask what the quoted/tag price includes and excludes.

Bride on a Budget Tips

  • Wedding magazines can be expensive at up to $15 each, so you could ask recently wed friends for their wedding magazines or visit your local library and do some dress research and photocopying.
  • Lose the embellishments on your dress. Choosing a classic dress without embellishments may lower the price tag significantly, or consider how you could make a simple dress special by adding a jewelled brooch or a beautiful handmade waist sash.
  • Avoid gowns with metres and metres of taffeta, organza and lace, this adds to the cost.  Simple lace for example could be around $450 a metre.
  • Avoid or minimise custom alterations.  Check if alterations are included in the cost of the dress, sometimes they are not.
  • Sales in winter and summer could allow you to buy a designer dress at an affordable price.  Most winter sales are finished by the end of July, so check with stores early and make an appointment.  Sales offers massive savings of up to 80%, but remember to factor in dry cleaning and alterations.  If it’s not on sale but it’s a sample they are willing to sell, negotiate for 15-30% off.

Top Tip: You may be able to rent a dress for the day

Your Something Borrowed could be your wedding dress if you find something you love, here are a few options;

I hope the above helps you feel prepared and ready for your wedding dress adventures xx

Read about my first day of wedding dress shopping and my second day wedding dress shopping.