How do you choose your wedding dress? It’s arguably the most important outfit you’ll ever wear, but it’s a question that can plunge many brides-to-be into a lace-trimmed panic. Sure, it should be the dream shopping trip. However, in reality, it's a complete minefield, and with so many options, it can become a difficult task. We’re often asked for tips on hunting out the perfect bridal look, but to be honest, it's not all that easy—every girl has a different experience, but we can learn from it all.
In order to guide any slightly frantic brides-to-be out there, we quizzed a selection of our style-conscious friends and colleagues on how they found their dress—or The One, as we like to affectionately call it. Let their insights, mistakes and triumphs lead you in the right direction, from the method for building your own dress from scratch to buying off-the-peg and being happy with that! Keep scrolling for tips and tricks on how to find your perfect wedding dress.
"Have a plan, and book in some appointments."
— Alex Stedman, Founder of The Frugality
“I initially didn’t want to do the whole book-an-appointment thing and sit around with a crowd cooing over me whilst I tried 100 dresses on. It just wasn’t my style. A few friends told me to go to Browns Bride because it was such an experience and the dresses there were amazing.
“But it was £30 for an appointment, which I refused to pay. So when my mum and sister and mother-in-law all met with me to try on dresses, they were like, ‘What’s the plan?’ And I realised I didn’t have one. We were just wandering around department stores, and nothing was screaming out at me. My mum asked why we weren’t going to Browns, and when I told her, she said, ‘Oh, stop being so cheap—it’s £30!’ Then she called up and got us in.
“Within an hour, we were laughing, sipping champagne and trying on the most incredible meringue Carolina Herrera dresses (just to see). And I ended up finding my dress, a more affordable off-the-peg dress from Delphine Manivet (it was short, long-sleeve and suited my relaxed style), and the staff were wonderful and even told me to come back on another night where they were holding a trunk show with discount and free alterations; £30 was never better spent (and it was deductible against the dress anyway).”
Who says floor-sweeping is a must? Shop a similar style to Alex’s with this short-and-sweet dress from Temperley.
"Make decisions, and do your research."
— Elinor Block, Assistant Editor, Who What Wear UK
“I felt under immense pressure to get really excited about going dress shopping, but to be honest, I just got a little deflated. It’s not that I don’t love shopping (I do—I mean, I really do), but I’m always clear about what my own personal style is, and that doesn’t really tally with a traditional wedding dress.
“Thing is, loads of wedding dresses are pretty much the opposite of what I like. I detest the word ‘bling,’ and the moment I get within 10 feet of an item of clothing with a bit of glitter on it, I run a mile (not that I can; it’s probably already stuck to me). So this was my dilemma.
“However, being a digital native, I spend a lot of time online, and not just for my job. I’ll happily scroll through Instagram, Pinterest and blogs of an evening while watching TV, which is how I happened upon the wedding blogging community. On one particular site, Love My Dress, I discovered a small boutique brand called Belle & Bunty.
“They specialised in pretty dresses that didn’t cost a fortune and that also did the clean, simple shapes I was looking for. I made my decision on the spot, and I spent about £500 in all for a dress that two years later people still tell me how lovely it was.”
Want something long-sleeve? Try this one from Roland Mouret.
"Get a spray tan a few days before trying on dresses."
— Alexandra Lunt, Stylist
“When we first got engaged, we were in Miami, and I had bought some magazines for the flight. The day after we got engaged, I was flicking through Vogue Paris and came across the designer Rime Arodaky and her Anja dress. I instantly fell in love with it!
“When it came to actually getting down to looking for a dress, I booked lots of high-end famous designer appointments in London (Alberta Ferretti, Vera Wang, Lanvin, Browns Bride—the big ones!), and even though trying on some of these amazing creations was so much fun, everything was a bit fussy for me. However, a really good tip is before you try on any wedding dresses, get a spray tan a few days before (so it doesn’t transfer onto the samples!). If you get one before you try the dresses on, it will make you feel much better about how you look!
“While I couldn’t find anything in those shops, I then remembered the Anja dress that I’d found one day into being engaged! I tracked down the London stockist—The Mews, a tiny little mews house in Notting Hill on a tucked away cobbled street. I tried the dress on with my cousin in my lunch break, and it was instant—I just knew it was The One. I felt comfortable, it was different and I loved it! The team was so helpful, and it felt really exclusive and special.”
"See your dress as an extension of clothes you already love."
— Pandora Sykes, Journalist, Consultant and Co-Host of The High Low
“I didn’t have quite the same process as most girls—I didn’t wander around bridal stores with a glass of champagne. I literally met Alice Temperley, she kindly agreed to make my dress, and that was it! In terms of what I wanted, I’m a real perfectionist; I get hooked on specific details.
“I wanted a few things I was certain of: a high back, sheer chest, gathered wrists and a backless element. I made a very chaotic moodboard—pictures of both Nicole Richie and Valentino Couture jostled together! Temperley managed to make sense of it for me, and then they pulled off a serious coup by making it into two dresses.
“My advice to other brides would be to see your wedding dress as an extension of the clothes you already love. I have a blouse from Macgraw, which is very similar to elements of the top half of my wedding dress. Think about what you feel comfortable wearing; your body type. My dress was incredibly light, with no poufiness or train, because that’s a silhouette I feel confident in.”
If you’re keen to get a dress similar to Pandora’s, Temperley London has plenty of alternative lace dresses—book an appointment to see more.
"Don't restrict yourself to actual wedding dresses."
— Hannah Almassi, Editorial Director, Who What Wear UK
“The thought of searching for the ‘perfect’ gown felt daunting and really unappealing. As someone who knows the rails inside out, I knew the choice would be overwhelming, but it’s even more so when you’ve never dreamt of what you’d wear—yes, that’s me too.
“So I decided to leave things to fate and ignore the pressure and traditions. Locating my dress, therefore, happened by surprise: Strolling through Harvey Nichols on a work appointment, I spied a non-bridal designer dress I’d been lusting after all season, regardless of the forthcoming nuptials. Without even thinking about it, I tried it on quickly and—oops—fell in love (and out of favour with my credit card).
“It’s the kind of dress that feels as comfortable as it is a statement, and in my opinion—after seeing many brides feel awkward or literally unable to move on their wedding days—that’s most important.”
"DIY your dress."
— Jessica Bedford, Digital Editor and Founder of Dressr
“All the horror stories you hear about wedding-dress shopping are true. I visited four boutiques where I was squished and squashed into poufy dresses and told not to be silly when I suggested having arms bulging over a tight corset wasn’t ideal.
“I was close to giving up when I came across Charlie Brear’s showroom just round the corner from my office in Fitzrovia. The minute I stepped inside, I was transported into a wedding wonderland with twinkling fairy lights, drapey curtains and luxe chaise lounges. It’s such a relaxed and welcoming vibe that the stresses of potentially not finding The One melted away.
“Hannah, my stylist for the appointment, was amazing. She listened to what I wanted, made a few suggestions, and then left me in the showroom to have a browse alone. I had the head space to decide exactly what I wanted without feeling guilty and made such a change from having meringue gowns forced down my throat.
“What’s really special about Charlie Brear is that you can essentially build your own dress. I started by flipping through a rail of under dresses in a variety of styles and shapes. There was everything from slinky slips to structured pieces to buttoned-up floor-sweepers. Then I moved onto the skirts section filled with chiffon and feathers and sparkles.
“I picked out a floor-length white lace overlay, and Hannah suggested a few underdresses that would work well with it. Did I want sleeves? Sure! I tried long ones and short, delicate cap ones. And a belt? There were blush satin sashes and twinkling diamanté bands catering to any bride’s whim. Within five minutes, I’d DIY’d my dream dress into real life.
“It was exactly what I wanted, and I couldn’t believe it had been so easy and pain-free. Even better, I had a thorough google when I got home, and I couldn’t find a single picture of the same concoction. And that feeling of uniqueness is priceless.”
Not quite what you're looking for? The high street has some incredible wedding-dress options right now.
Opening Image: Eloy Muñoz
This post was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.