When people ask me what the most important part of my wedding is, I think the majority are expecting me to say the dress – but to me, it is one of the lesser significant parts of the day.
I know to some girls, the dress is one of the best reasons about getting married, and I totally get that – it is probably the most important things you’ll ever wear and you’ll look like a complete angel, but to me, it is something I’m not too fussed about and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on.
One of the things that people said to me as soon as we got engaged was that getting the dress should be one of the first things I do as it determines a lot about the rest of the day – the flowers, the bridesmaid’s dresses and the less important groomsmen suits (I kid, I kid…)
And once I started looking on Pinterest, I got an idea of what I wanted so the only thing left to do was to start looking. I started asking a few friends who have been married where they would recommend and I did some research about these places online. I did find that because my budget wasn’t huge, a lot of the places I was looking at had starting prices which were a bit more than I was hoping to pay, but I thought the best thing to find something I liked and suited me would be to try some on in real life.
In all honesty, my experience of finding the ‘perfect’ dress has been varied – I’m a bit of a rubbish bride really because this whole process hasn’t been the fairytale that everyone made it out to be. I had in my head that the whole thing would be just like you see on TV – glasses on champagne on arrival, all your bridesmaids and the tears flowing, but in reality, it’s a lot of standing round in just your knickers whilst a stranger dresses you (except the tears – my Mums a blubberer!)
I couldn’t rattle any wedding dress designers off without really having to think about it and I didn’t have something in mind that I’ve been dreaming of since I was a little girl but saying that, it has been fun trying on all these beautiful designs and I’ve got a better understanding of what suits me and what doesn’t.
I’ve decided to share my experiences with you for any brides to be out there, or anyone who is just curious about the whole process and to shed some light on the whole process.
1. The Sample Sale
One of my married friends tagged me in a post on Facebook at the start of the year to say that a local shop was having a sample sale that Saturday, so I booked myself an appointment straight away. My only thought when I heard the word sample sale was the scene in Friends when Rachel is found blowing the whistle – but it wasn’t like that at all!
We (me and my Mum) arrived about 10 minutes before my appointment on a very cold and rainy afternoon in January, and were seated and told about how the sale worked – there was only one of each dress and once it was gone it was gone – you couldn’t reserve anything or get it altered at the shop (which is a service they usually offer if you were to buy a full price one) so you basically had to pick one and take it away on the day.
I chose four dresses and a couple of separates and the owner of the shop came with me into the changing rooms. At first, I was a little apprehensive to just strip off in front of a stranger, but I realised that they see hundreds of women a month and there was nothing to be embarrassed about.
I tried on the ones I wouldn’t have usually picked first and showed my Mum (which is when the tears started) but none of the dresses felt right. I did find one that stood out the most, but I felt that the only reason I was close to buying it was because it was in the sale, so I refrained and we left empty handed – looking back though I am so happy I didn’t make the rash decision because I definitely would have changed my mind.
2. The Outlet
I went to a bridal outlet on a Saturday afternoon with my Mum and my Nan, and it was manic. Firstly it took them a good 10 minutes to open the door to me and another lady who were stood outside in the freezing temperatures so I knew it was going to be busy once we were in.
The outlet was split by size and type of dress, and because I knew roughly what I wanted by this point, I thought it would be easy to find, but it was crazy in there. You were given 5 tags and were allowed to put them on any dresses you wanted to try on: If the dress already had a tag on, you were still allowed to leave yours, but the girl who got in there first would have the preference.
There were 14 brides all in at the same time, and a two-hour wait for the changing rooms so we didn’t stay long. Unfortunately, none of the dresses was what I was looking for either as they were a little too poofy for me.
3. The Bridal Boutique
This boutique shop was by far my favourite. It was one I used to live around the corner from, and I’ve only ever heard really good things about it, so I felt I was in for a treat – I’ve also heard that girls from all over the country travel here to find their dresses, so I knew it had to be good.
There were completely different styles to what I’d tried on before, and some that were ‘build your own’ which was a concept I completely loved – you start with a basic white dress and can add layers of silk, sleeves, over the top bodices, belts, lace – all sorts, which means that every dress is completely different.
Although the dresses were a little out of my price range, my Mum encouraged me to go to see if I did find anything and also to try something new. This shop also had some great accessories in, and it has definitely given me some inspiration for my hair and veil.
4. High Street
When I was a bridesmaid last year for one of my close friends, we spent a lot of time searching the high street and online for our dresses before we found them on ASOS. With that in mind, I thought I would have a go looking for a wedding dress, and I found three that I liked.
They all came within the week, and there was one that was a clear favourite. I showed my friends from work and they all agreed that it was the nicest of the three but when I showed my Mum she noticed that the zip wasn’t sown in right and unfortunately it was the only one.
I ended up sending all three back, but I’m really glad I had that experience because it’s shown me that there are really lovely styles for a fraction of the price online, and the best thing is that you can buy them and send them back if they’re not right.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my experience so far, and I really hope it’s given you some insight if you are a bride to be or just wanted to know more about the different avenues of finding the perfect dress – fingers crossed!