How to choose your perfect wedding dress

Everything you need to know, before you set foot in a bridal shop!

It’s a day when all eyes will be on you, so you want to get it right. But how do you go about finding your dream wedding dress when there’s so much choice?

“There are four main factors to think about when starting your search, says Russell Blackburn from Blackburn Bridal in south London.“How much you want to spend, the season you’re marrying in, your body shape, and the style of the wedding you’re planning.”

Once you consider these, Russell explains, you’ll be able to narrow down your options to help you find The One.

Body shape
Even if you’re planning to tone up or lose weight before the big day, chances are your body shape isn’t going to undergo any dramatic changes, so work with what you’ve got. The great thing about wedding dresses is they can be tailored to your body and with great underwear and clever corseting you can create a fantastic silhouette, whatever your size.


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“Corsets are flattering for heavier busts and great for pulling in tummies,” says Russell.  “And what most brides want is a dress that gives support and a defined waistline. The unstructured, floaty styles work best for smaller busts and brides up to a size 14, as they will cling to the body.”


The budget
How much you have to spend is a key factor in buying a wedding dress. A made-to-measure dress will cost more than a standard size dress that is then tweaked to fit you, simply because of the work involved.

“Even in this economic climate, the majority of brides I see will say that the dress is the ultimate wedding purchase,” says Russell. “They’d rather cut back on other aspects of the wedding, like having fewer guests, than compromise on their dress.”

Whatever your budget, do your research on boutiques and the price range of dresses they stock before you visit – it’ll save you time and avoid any awkwardness later if you arrive for an appointment only to find there’s only one style within your budget.

“For smaller budgets, don’t forget to check out the high street,” says Russell. “Try Monsoon and House of Fraser as well as looking in magazines and local press for details of bridal sample sales, as you could pick up a bargain.”

Wedding style

Whether you’ve got your heart set on a vintage tea party for your reception, or you’ll be marrying in a register office followed by a meal at the local pub; the style of day will naturally dictate the style of dress. A full length gown with cathedral veil would look out of place in some venues, but a fifties prom style might not work in a traditional church wedding setting either.

“There are now so many more venues available for civil ceremonies that the rules on what you should wear have relaxed,” says Russell. For a Catholic wedding you may want to cover your shoulders, but a veil could do the job if you really want a strapless dress. “It’s about being respectful, but the rules aren’t set in stone,” explains Russell. And for civil ceremonies?  “More brides are searching for less formal, less full dresses without so many layers,” he says.

“A modern take on an evening dress has become popular, thanks to designers like Jenny Packham and Claire Pettibone. But brides are also looking at more diverse styles such as Vintage, Boho, and Fifties prom dresses.” The main thing to remember is, you need to feel like ‘you’ on your big day, so go with a style that feels comfortable and suits your silhouette.

The temperature
If you’re marrying abroad or in the height of summer, then you won’t want layers of tulle weighing you down. Plus, a huge meringue will fill your suitcase, leaving little room for your honeymoon essentials! So a destination or summer wedding will need a dress that won’t overheat you.

“Destination weddings have really changed in the last 10 years,” says Russell. “Back then, you’d still be in a big dress on the beach, just the same as if you were in an indoor venue in the UK. But the rise in popularity (and affordability) of weddings abroad means that fashions have changed and now brides want to go barefoot with soft chiffon un-formed dresses that suit the more informal setting.”

Start your search

Once you’ve considered all the points above, you’re ready to go dress shopping! So look through wedding magazines and online for dresses you like, and are within your budget, and then check for a local stockist.

“Tell the designer or dress shop staff about the kind of wedding you’re having, and the look you want to achieve,” advises Russell. “Some brides like someone else to take control and ‘style’ them; others like to pick the dresses themselves.”

So talk to the staff and be open to their suggestions even if you have a clear idea of what you want – trying on a different style might surprise you, or it could simply confirm that your original choice was definitely the best!

Finding 'The One
'
“There’s a lot of pressure on a bride to find the perfect dress, and the search can feel quite intimidating, but even a bride with a figure that suits most styles tends to find one dress that’s the strongest contender,” says Russell. “So once we’ve established a bride’s silhouette to work out what will suit her, I know when a dress is going to look amazing on her. But often when she realises she’s found ‘The One’, her persona changes too; I get a real sense of how wonderful she feels in it, which is lovely to see, and a really rewarding part of my job.”

So now you’ve got all the tools you need to help narrow down your wedding dress choices. But don’t forget that your big day look doesn’t end with the dress: there’s also underwear; hair accessories; jewellery; a veil; and a wrap or shrug if it’s likely to be cold. Oh yes, and your groom, bridesmaids and mum will need something to wear too...