Wedding Dress Shopping

The Ultimate Guide!

As a bride-to-be, wedding dress shopping to choose your perfect wedding dress can be one of the most exhilarating yet overwhelming decisions to make. It’s more than just a process – it’s at the very heart of your wedding journey. This comprehensive guide aims to take you through everything you need to know when shopping for the perfect wedding dress.


Congratulations on your engagement! As you embark on the exciting journey of planning your wedding, one of the most significant and memorable aspects will be choosing your perfect wedding dress. Wedding dress shopping is a unique and personal experience that every bride deserves to enjoy and cherish.

This ultimate guide to wedding dress shopping has been carefully crafted to provide you with all the essential information, tips, and advice you need to navigate this process with confidence and ease. From understanding your bridal style and body shape to setting a realistic budget and making the most of your bridal appointments, we’ll cover every aspect of finding your dream dress.

Whether you’ve been dreaming of your wedding dress since childhood or are unsure where to begin, this comprehensive guide will be your go-to resource. We’ll explore the different styles, fabrics, and colours available, as well as the importance of customisation, tailoring, and accessorising to create a look that is uniquely you.

By the end of this guide, you’ll be well-equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary to make your wedding dress shopping experience a success. So, let’s dive in and start the journey towards finding the perfect dress for your special day!

When to Shop for Your Wedding Dress

The timing of your wedding dress shopping is crucial to ensure a stress-free experience and to allow sufficient time for alterations and customisations. Here’s what you need to know:

Understand the Timeline

Most bridal boutiques recommend starting your dress search at least 6 to 9 months before your wedding date. This allows ample time for your chosen dress to be made and for any necessary alterations. Some designers may require even more time, especially for intricate or customised designs.

Consider Off-the-Peg Options

If you’re working with a shorter timeline or want to spend less, consider off-the-peg dresses that are available for immediate purchase. However, keep in mind that these dresses are limited to in-stock sizes and styles, and may require more extensive alterations to achieve the perfect fit.

Our off-the-peg collection can be found in our wedding dress sale gallery. It is available year-round and is where you’ll find some incredible bargain designer wedding dresses.

Plan According to Your Decision-Making Style

Are you someone who makes decisions quickly, or do you need time to consider all your options? If you tend to be indecisive, start your dress shopping early to avoid last-minute pressure. Give yourself enough time to visit multiple boutiques, try on various styles, and make an informed decision without rushing.

Remember, the earlier you start shopping, the more choices you’ll have and the less stressed you’ll be. It’s never too early to start browsing and gathering inspiration for your perfect wedding dress. If you start early, be prepared to find the one and commit though, if you are not ready to commit then what until you are. Many brides buy the first dress they tried on.

Understanding Your Bridal Style

Before diving into the vast world of wedding dresses, it’s crucial to identify your personal style and consider how it aligns with various wedding dress designs. Bridal styles span a wide spectrum, from traditional and classic to bohemian and unconventional, with countless options in between.

Creating an Inspiration Board

To help define your bridal style, start by browsing online and gathering images that resonate with you. Pinterest is an excellent platform for this purpose, allowing you to create a visual collection of dresses, details, and overall aesthetics that appeal to you. As you curate your inspiration board, patterns and preferences will emerge, providing a clearer picture of your dream wedding dress.

Considering Wedding Details

Your wedding details, such as the formality of the event, the venue, and the season, can significantly influence your dress style. A formal, black-tie affair may call for a sophisticated, floor-length gown, while a casual beach wedding may lend itself to a lighter, more relaxed silhouette. Keep these factors in mind as you explore different dress options.

Accounting for Body Changes

If you’re embarking on a weight loss journey or undergoing body changes through training, it’s essential to discuss your goals with bridal consultants. Experience tells us that nine out of ten brides either maintain their shape or gain a little weight before their wedding day. Be kind to yourself and avoid setting unrealistic expectations.

For brides who are pregnant or planning to be, openly communicate with your bridal consultant about your situation. They can guide you towards dress styles and shapes that accommodate your changing body, ensuring that you feel comfortable and beautiful on your special day.

Budgeting for Your Dress

Setting a realistic budget for your wedding dress is crucial. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of trying on gorgeous gowns, but it’s important to stay grounded and keep your overall wedding budget in mind.

Factors to Consider

When determining your dress budget, consider the following:

  1. The Dress Itself: Wedding dresses can vary greatly in price, from a few hundred pounds to several thousand. Have a clear idea of what you’re willing to spend.
  2. Alterations: Most dresses will require some alterations to achieve the perfect fit. For alterations by an experienced professional bridal seamstress, expect to pay from £200 to £400.
  3. Customisations: If you’re planning on adding any bespoke elements to your dress, such as extra beading or a unique neckline, this will add to the cost.
  4. Accessories: Don’t forget to budget for your veil, shoes, jewellery, and any other accessories you’ll want to complete your bridal look.

Managing Your Budget

Once you’ve set your budget, stick to it. Be upfront with bridal boutiques about your price range so they can show you dresses that fit within it.

If you fall in love with a dress that’s over budget, consider these options:

  • Look for trunk shows or sample sales where you may find your dream dress at a discounted price.
  • Ask about payment plans. Many boutiques offer these to help make the dress more affordable.
  • Consider simplifying other aspects of your wedding to allocate more funds to your dress.

Remember, while your wedding dress is an important element of your big day, it’s not worth going into debt over. With some careful planning and prioritisation, you can find a dress you love that fits within your budget.

Identifying Your Body Shape

Understanding your body shape is a crucial factor in choosing the most flattering wedding dress style. Every bride is unique, and knowing which silhouettes best suit your figure can make the shopping process much easier and more enjoyable.

The most common body shapes are:

  1. Apple: Characterized by broader shoulders, a fuller bust, and a less defined waist.
  2. Pear: Defined by a smaller upper body and fuller hips and thighs.
  3. Hourglass: Characterized by a well-defined waist and equally balanced bust and hips.
  4. Rectangle: Defined by a straight, athletic build with less defined curves.

Dress Styles for Your Body Shape


  • A-line dresses that cinch at the waist and flow away from the body can create a flattering silhouette.
  • V-necklines elongate the torso and draw attention upwards.
  • Avoid clingy fabrics and opt for structured materials that provide support.


  • A-line and ballgown styles balance the proportions of the upper and lower body.
  • Off-the-shoulder and boat necklines can broaden the shoulders and create balance.
  • Avoid tight-fitting styles that cling to the hips and thighs.


  • Mermaid and sheath styles showcase curves beautifully.
  • Belted waists and wrapped bodices accentuate the waistline.
  • Avoid loose, shapeless styles that hide your natural curves.


  • Sheath dresses and fit-and-flare styles create the illusion of curves.
  • Sweetheart and scoop necklines add softness to the upper body.
  • Avoid boxy styles that hide your figure and opt for dresses with strategic ruching or draping.

Remember, these are general guidelines, and the most important thing is to choose a dress that makes you feel confident and beautiful. Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to try on styles outside of these recommendations – you might just be surprised by what looks stunning on you!

Choosing Your Wedding Dress Style

The style of your wedding dress is a key decision that will shape the overall look and feel of your bridal ensemble. There are numerous styles to choose from, each with its own unique charm and appeal.

Popular Wedding Dress Styles

  • A-line: Fitted at the bodice and flaring out from the waist to create an “A” shape, this style is universally flattering and suits most body types.
  • Ballgown: Characterised by a fitted bodice and a full, voluminous skirt, ballgowns are the epitome of fairy-tale romance and suit formal weddings.
  • Sheath: Sleek and form-fitting, sheath dresses skim the body’s natural contours and are ideal for brides who want a modern, minimalist look.
  • Mermaid: Fitted from the chest to the knee, then flaring out dramatically, mermaid dresses are sexy and dramatic, perfect for brides who want to make a bold statement.

Matching Style to Venue and Season

Your chosen wedding venue and the season of your wedding should also influence your dress style:

  • For a beach wedding, light, flowing fabrics like chiffon or organza are ideal, as are relaxed styles like sheaths or empire-waist dresses.
  • A formal church wedding may call for a more traditional style like a ballgown or A-line dress, perhaps with a train and more coverage.
  • In cooler seasons, long sleeves, heavier fabrics, and more coverage will keep you comfortable, while in summer, strapless styles, lighter fabrics, and shorter hemlines are more suitable.

Ultimately, the key is to choose a style that makes you feel confident, beautiful, and authentically yourself. Trust your instincts, and don’t be afraid to try styles outside your comfort zone – you may be surprised by what you fall in love with.

Fabrics and Colours

The fabric of your wedding dress plays a crucial role in determining its overall look, feel, and movement. Different fabrics drape differently on the body and can significantly affect the silhouette of the dress.

Some popular wedding dress fabrics include:

  • Silk: Luxurious, smooth, and with a beautiful sheen. Silk is a classic choice for wedding dresses.
  • Satin: Similar to silk, satin has a glossy finish and a smooth, sleek appearance.
  • Chiffon: Lightweight and flowy, chiffon is perfect for dresses with a soft, romantic look.
  • Lace: Delicate and intricate, lace adds a touch of elegance and femininity to any dress.
  • Tulle: Airy and lightweight, tulle is often used for skirts to create volume and fullness.
  • Mikado: similar to satin in weight and fell but with slightly more texture.
  • Crepe: beautifully soft with a little bit of give for comfort, often used for making beautiful fit and flare styles plain and with lace detail.

When choosing your fabric, consider the season and venue of your wedding. Heavier fabrics like silk and satin are better suited for cooler weather or formal indoor settings, while lighter fabrics like chiffon and tulle are ideal for warm weather or outdoor weddings.

Colour is another important consideration. While white and ivory are traditional choices, modern brides are increasingly opting for non-traditional colours like blush, champagne, and even pale blue. The colour of your dress can also be influenced by your skin tone, the theme of your wedding, and your personal style.

Some points to keep in mind when choosing your dress colour:

  • Ivory and off-white shades can be more flattering on some skin tones than pure white.
  • Champagne and blush tones add warmth and can complement a variety of skin tones.
  • Bold colours like red or black can make a dramatic statement, but may not suit everyone’s style or wedding theme.

Ultimately, the key is to choose a fabric and colour that make you feel confident, comfortable, and beautiful on your special day.

Go Wedding Dress Shopping!

Shopping for your wedding dress is an exciting and memorable experience. To ensure you make the most of it, it’s essential to plan ahead. Research boutiques in advance and make appointments to guarantee dedicated time with bridal consultants. While high street shops offer off-the-peg dresses, boutiques provide a more personal and specialised service.

Boutique vs. High Street

Boutiques, such as Gowns & Garters, offer a luxurious and intimate setting for your bridal appointment. Their experienced consultants provide expert advice, guiding you through the vast array of styles, fabrics, and customisation options. They take the time to understand your vision and help you find the perfect dress to match. Crucially, boutiques also offer professional storage and alteration services to ensure your dress remains pristine and fits flawlessly.

In contrast, high street shops offer a more informal shopping experience with limited personal attention. While dresses may be cheaper, the service and expertise cannot compare to that of a dedicated bridal boutique.

Preparing for Your Appointment

To make your boutique experience comfortable and enjoyable, consider these preparation tips:

  • If you don’t normally wear dresses, let your bridal consultant know. They know how to make you feel at ease and will help you to find a style that you feel comfortable with and that suits you perfectly.
  • Avoid wearing fake tan and heavy make-up, as these can easily stain the delicate fabrics of the sample dresses.
  • Wear comfortable, easy-to-change underwear and bring a strapless bra if you have one.
  • Consider your hair and how you might want to style it on the day to get a better overall picture.
  • bring shoes with you if you are thinking about what you might want to wear with your dress and you may be more comfortable in them.

Remember, this is your time to enjoy the experience of finding your dream wedding dress. Trust in the expertise of your bridal boutique, and don’t be afraid to try styles outside of your comfort zone – you might just find ‘the one’ where you least expect it!

Your Bridal Appointment

The bridal appointment is an exciting milestone in your wedding dress shopping journey. This is your opportunity to try on a variety of wedding dresses in a dedicated bridal boutique, with the guidance and expertise of a professional bridal consultant.

What to Expect

During your appointment, which typically lasts around 1-2 hours, you’ll have the undivided attention of your bridal consultant. They will discuss your wedding plans, personal style, and any ideas you have for your dream dress. Based on this consultation, they’ll select a range of dresses for you to try on. You may also be asked to pre-select a few ahead of the appointment to get the ball rolling. Be really honest with the boutique about what you like and don’t like, they don’t want you to waste your appointment trying on the wrong things, and they will be able to help suggest things that may work well for you based on what they see you in initially.

Don’t be surprised if your consultant suggests styles that you hadn’t initially considered. Their expertise often leads to brides falling in love with a dress they wouldn’t have chosen themselves.

The Appointment Process

As you try on each dress, your consultant may help you into it and clip it to give you a better idea of how it will look when tailored to your size. They’ll also guide you on how to walk, sit, and move in the dress.

Take your time in each gown, exploring how it makes you feel. Don’t rush to judgment – sometimes a dress can be a grower. If it’s not for you, explain clearly what you do or don’t like, so your consultant can refine their selections.

Remember, this is all about you and finding the dress that makes you feel your most beautiful, confident self. Trust your instincts, take lots of photos for reference, and enjoy this special part of your wedding planning experience.

Customisation and Tailoring

Most wedding dresses can be customised to some degree to create a unique look that perfectly suits your style and enhances your best features and may make you feel more comfortable. Common customisations include:

  • Adding sleeves or straps
  • Changing the neckline or back style
  • Adding or removing lace, beading or embroidery
  • Combining elements from different dresses

Discuss your customisation ideas with the bridal boutique to understand what’s possible with your chosen dress. Keep in mind that extensive customisations may increase the cost and lead time.

Tailoring is an essential part of ensuring your wedding dress fits like a glove. Even if you buy a dress in your usual size, it will likely require alterations for a perfect fit. Some bridal boutiques offer in-house tailoring services or can recommend trusted seamstresses.

Typical alterations include:

  • Taking in or letting out side seams for a snug fit
  • Adjusting the bust, waist and hips
  • Hemming the skirt to your desired length
  • Adding bustle loops or buttons to manage a long train

Schedule your first fitting 2-3 months before the wedding to allow time for multiple fittings and adjustments. Bring your bridal shoes and undergarments to fittings to ensure the proper length and fit.

Customising and tailoring your wedding dress elevates it from a beautiful gown to a one-of-a-kind creation that looks and feels like it was made just for you. Embrace the opportunity to put your personal touch on your dress and enjoy the process of perfecting the fit.


The accessories you choose can elevate your wedding dress to new heights, adding a touch of your personal style and creating a cohesive bridal look. However, it’s essential to strike the right balance to avoid overpowering your gown.


Your wedding dress neckline plays a crucial role in determining the type of necklace to wear. For example:

  • Sweetheart or strapless necklines pair well with chokers or shorter necklaces.
  • V-necklines elongate the neck, making them perfect for a pendant or a simple chain.
  • High necklines often look best without a neckpiece, drawing focus to the face.

When it comes to earrings, consider your hairstyle. If you’re wearing your hair up, statement earrings can add a stunning touch. For hair worn down, smaller studs or drops may be more suitable.

Veils and Headpieces

A veil or headpiece can add a traditional or romantic element to your bridal look. The length and style should complement your dress and overall style:

  • Birdcage veils suit vintage-inspired shorter dresses.
  • Cathedral veils add drama to ball gowns and formal dresses.
  • Floral crowns or headbands can beautifully accent boho or rustic gowns.


Your wedding shoes should be comfortable enough to wear all day, but they should also match the style of your dress:

  • Classic pumps are versatile and timeless.
  • Embellished or colourful shoes can add a pop of personality.
  • Flats or low heels are practical for outdoor weddings.

Remember, less is often more. Choose one or two statement accessories and keep the rest simple. Your accessories should enhance your natural beauty and complement your dress, not compete with it.

Storing and Maintaining Your Dress

Pre-Wedding Storage

Once you’ve found your dream dress, it’s crucial to store it properly to keep it in pristine condition for your big day. Some bridal boutiques will offer to store your dress for you until closer to the wedding date, there may be a charge to cover the insurance costs for this. If you decide to take your dress home, keep it in a breathable garment bag and hang it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, which can cause yellowing. If taking your gown away to store ensure that you have wedding insurance to cover it just in case, your home insurance may not cover it automatically due to value.

Wedding Day Preparation

On the day of your wedding, have your maid of honour or a trusted bridesmaid assist you with getting into your dress. Be sure to have a stain removal kit on hand for any last-minute emergencies. After the ceremony, bustle your train to prevent it from dragging on the ground and getting dirty during the reception.

Post-Wedding Cleaning

After the wedding, it’s essential to have your dress professionally cleaned as soon as possible. Many brides opt to have their dress cleaned and preserved by a specialist company. This process typically involves cleaning the dress, repairing any damage, and treating it with a protective chemical before storing it in an acid-free box. Some bridal boutiques offer cleaning services for after the wedding.

Long-Term Preservation

If you plan to keep your dress as a cherished memento or perhaps pass it down to future generations, proper preservation is key. Store your cleaned and preserved dress in a cool, dry place with a stable temperature. Avoid storing it in a basement or attic, as these areas often experience temperature and humidity fluctuations that can damage the fabric over time. With proper care and storage, your wedding dress can remain a beautiful keepsake for years to come.

Now, Let’s Go Wedding Dress Shopping!…

Wedding dress shopping is an exciting and deeply personal journey that every bride deserves to enjoy. By understanding your personal style, setting a realistic budget, and being open to trying different styles, you’re well on your way to finding the perfect dress.

Remember, the most important thing is that you feel beautiful, comfortable and confident in your chosen gown. Trust your instincts, and don’t be afraid to say yes to the dress that makes you feel like the best version of yourself.

Take the time to enjoy the process, from browsing inspiration to twirling in your dream dress at your fittings. Cherish these moments with your loved ones by your side, supporting you every step of the way.

Above all, remember that your wedding dress is just one element of your special day. At the heart of it all is the love you share with your partner and the lifetime of happiness you’re about to embark on together.

So take a deep breath, relax, and embrace this unforgettable chapter of your wedding journey. With this guide as your companion, you’re ready to find the dress of your dreams and step into your happily ever after with style and grace.