How to… choose your wedding dress

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that every bride is in want of her perfect wedding dress. The problem is, while many brides think they know what that is, the picture they have in their heads of how their ideal dress will look is not always how it works out in reality.

Take, for example, your faithful Shabby Chic Bride. Once upon a time, when I was a (very, very) little girl, my dream dress probably would have looked something like this (it lights up and everything):

Photo credit the Daily Mirror
Then I grew up and got engaged – and for the first few months of my search I was dead set on a ballerina-come-fifties style tea-length dress. In fact, my dream dress would have been this stunner from Candy Anthony:

But alas, as breathtakingly gorgeous as this style is, it just wasn’t me. Even though I didn’t try on this particular gown, every tea-length dress I tried on swamped my petite frame – and guess what? A large bust meant a strapless dress just wasn’t my friend.

So what’s the moral of the story?

Perhaps liken picking your dream dress to making the decision to spend the rest of your life with someone. And no, I’m not belittling the seriousness of your wedding vows, but more making the analogy with that initial experience of meeting your life partner. Most people who’ve found true love will tell you that it happened when they let go of a fantasy in their heads and became open to a real-life experience. It’s the same with your dress. How many women on Don’t Tell the Bride are positive they want one thing – and then try their groom’s choice only to fall in love with it?

So with that in mind, let go of all your expectations and follow this simple guide to choosing the right dress for you:

  • Trust your instincts. There are some fabrics and styles you’ll never, ever like. Regardless of whether they suit you or not. Be true to yourself and rule out what you DON’T like – that will make it much easier to find something that both flatters you and that you’ll adore.
  • Make a list of designers you like and whose dresses you’re attracted to – but cast the net as widely as you possibly can. Then book appointments with local boutiques that stock those collections.
  • Bring two trusted people. And by trusted, I mean trusted. That sour-faced friend who could barely muster up a “congratulations” when you got engaged? Don’t take her. The friend you love dearly but whose taste is completely at odds with yours? Not her either. Get my drift? No more than two people, by the way, or you’ll end up with a chorus of dissenting voices and it will only confuse you.
  • Set a budget – and only ask to see dresses within them. No point falling in love with a dress you really can’t afford.
  • A good sales person will let a combination of your instincts and their judgement guide you. On my first appointment I was walked around the shop and asked what I didn’t like – dresses were eliminated over several rounds on that basis until I had a short list to try on.
  • Consider your body type. Big chest? Don’t go for a high neck. Are you self conscious about your arms? Try sleeves or a bolero. Don’t just objectively consider how you will look, think about areas you feel most insecure about – it’s important that you’re not, for example, constantly trying to hide your tummy on the day or feeling embarrassed about showing your legs.
  • Trust your friends. If you’ve chosen them well, they’ll be honest and help you properly. If something doesn’t suit you, they’ll tell you.
  • Trust your reaction. When I first tried on THE dress, I felt like a fairy queen. I didn’t want to take it off. Ever. I looked over at my mum and future mother in law and they were both welling up. All the other girls in the shop did a little “aaah” gasp. Being a sensible lass I didn’t buy it straight away, but went off to a few other shops to try on dresses. It was depressing – like that feeling of going on dates with perfectly nice guys when you’re still in love with someone else. I had dreams about it. I knew I had to go back for it. When I saw it again, it was like being reunited with a pristine, white, floaty friend after too much time apart. It was emotional. And that’s how your dress should make you feel.
While your dream wedding dress may not be what you thought it was going to be, it’s out there – and it’s waiting for you! Happy shopping!

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