How to Buy a Wedding Dress – Our Beginner’s Guide to Bridal Wear

Buying a wedding dress is unlike any other shopping experience. Just the way it should be! Every bride deserves her perfect wedding dress. That’s why we’re here. But when you’re getting started on how to choose the wedding dress of your dreams, there are a lot of bridal wear terms you might not be familiar with.

It can all get a bit daunting.

What is a wedding dress trunk show, anyway? Is it the same as a sample sale? What do you mean you don’t know your tulle from your taffeta?? Somebody help!

With so many styles, fabrics and other bridal industry terms to contend with, we’ve come up with this go-to guide to demystify the whole wedding dress-buying process.  

Got a question about finding your ideal wedding dress? Just ask. We’re here to help.

What are the different styles of wedding dress?

Designer wedding dresses come in all sorts of different cuts and silhouettes. We’ve put together a special guide to wedding dress styles that goes through all the important ones you can expect to see in store, along with some of our favourite examples.

Got a specific style or silhouette in mind? Just click the link in the A-Z list below and you’ll get straight to it. Magic.

A-line wedding dresses

Ball gown wedding dresses

Bias cut wedding dresses

Column wedding dresses

Empire wedding dresses

Fishtail wedding dresses

Fit and flare wedding dresses

Halter neck wedding dresses

Low back wedding dresses

Strapless wedding dresses

V-neck wedding dresses

Wedding dresses with sleeves

How can I choose the right wedding dress for my body type?

The truth is that you’ll find so many different opinions out there about the best wedding dress for your body shape. But the only surefire way of figuring it out is to try, try, try the different shapes of gown on in the company of people who know their stuff (that’s us!).

Remember that every bride is unique. You could be the exception to whatever rules you’ve read or heard about. What you like in photos or lookbooks when you’re researching and what suits you best in reality might end up being two completely different things.

And that’s not a bad thing.

So it’s best to go into your bridal appointment with an open mind, because while the dress you’ve had your eye on online or on Pinterest or Instagram might not look as perfect as you’d hoped once it’s on, chances are we have an alternative (or two) that will fit the bill even better!

Which wedding dress fabric is the best for me?

Designer bridal wear uses so many unfamiliar terms that learning about wedding dress fabrics can feel a bit like a vocab test from school days!

Here’s our quick cheat-sheet for the different ways designers use softer and/or more structured fabrics to create each unique wedding dress.

What wedding dress sizes are available in-store?

Designer wedding dress boutiques work differently to your usual high street shop. Typically we’ll only have one of each wedding dress in stock in the boutique – this is known as our ‘sample’.

For the most part, our sample wedding dresses are in sizes 10 or 12. But it’s important to know that if you’re not one of these dress sizes, we have plenty of creative tricks up our sleeves that mean you’ll still be able to see what the dress would look like on you in your size.

If all is well, we can then order the dress in your size direct from the designer.

If you’re a size 18 or above, it’s always worth getting in touch with us before your appointment. This is just so we can get some of those creative workarounds set up and ready to go – that way we’re making full use of the time you have in your appointment.

What should I wear to my bridal appointment?

Never fear: we’ve got you covered. Here’s our quickfire guide to what to wear to your first bridal appointment, including tips on the right underwear, the right makeup and the right shoes.

Who should I bring with me to my bridal appointment?

Have a read of our guide to putting together the ultimate #BrideSquad. That way you’ll be sure to get the most out of your bridal appointment entourage when you visit the boutique.

Ready to get started?

What questions should I ask at my bridal appointment?

Stepping into a wedding dress boutique isn’t an everyday thing, so don’t fret if you feel overloaded with questions or things you’re not sure about. No question is too silly!

To help you get started, we’ve put together a handy list of questions to ask when you’re out wedding dress shopping.

How does ordering a wedding dress work?

Once you’ve found the one, we have 4 standard ways of ordering your wedding dress, plus a couple of other options that tie in with designer events here at the boutique.

The 4 standard ordering options are:

1. Made to Order

We order your wedding dress in a standard size direct from the designer. You pay a 50% deposit upfront, and then settle the balance when you pick the dress up.

2. Made to Measure

We take some select measurements so that the designer can tailor the dress even more to fit your body shape. Then it’s the same deal as with made-to-order: 50% deposit, 50% balance on pick-up.

3. Off the Peg

You take away the sample dress we have on the rails and make a nifty saving on the RRP. You can either pay the full amount there and then and the dress is yours, or leave a £50 deposit to hold the dress for up to 2 weeks while you have a think.

4. Outlet

This works exactly the same as off-the-peg, but for our outlet wedding dresses. These are dresses that have usually been discontinued by the designers, so we can offer them at a bargain price (sometimes as much as 80% off the RRP).

You just pay the price on the tag and you can walk away with your wedding dress wrapped and bagged in your arms, and a beaming ‘I got a bargain’ smile on your face!

The other two ways of ordering are through trunk shows and sample sales. What’s the difference, you ask? Here’s what:

Sample Sales

To allow us to keep our range of designer wedding dresses as up-to-date and on-trend as possible, we will occasionally have a ‘clearout’ style sale event to make room for our newer dresses.

Designer Days / Trunk Shows

A few times a year, each of our existing designers (or a totally new designer we like the look of) will send us a set of new sample wedding dresses from their latest collection. We’ll then have a weekend event where those new dresses are available for 2-3 days only, often with a designer discount on offer.

Doing it this way allows the designer to test the water and see how popular their new designs are with brides. And more importantly it gives you the chance to get first sight, first try and first buy of dresses you might not find anywhere else!

Just bear in mind that the samples belong to the designers (we send them back at the end of the event), so you can’t buy off-the-peg, only made-to-order.  

For details of our upcoming designer sample sales and trunk shows, keep an eye on our Style Guides blog or give us a follow on Instagram.

How many bridal appointments will I need?

Most of our brides take 2-3 appointments to go from newbie to new dress. For a made-to-order wedding dress, this usually means:

1. A first view appointment to pick out some dress options, try them on and narrow them down to one or two favourites.

2. A second view appointment to have another look at your favourite gowns in our fitting room mirrors and see if one of them gets your big-day heart fluttering that little bit faster.

3. A dress fitting appointment to try on your brand new designer gown once it’s arrived at the boutique – this might also be the time that you collect the dress from us to take it to its new home.

You may need more, or you may need less (even just the one!), but we’ll be on hand to guide you through everything and answer any questions you might have along the way.

How many times should I try on a wedding dress I like?

Every bride is different, so there’s no hard-and-fast rule on this one. But we’d always start by saying it’s definitely possible to psych yourself out by trying a wedding dress option on too many times.

Quite simply, if your gut is telling you something (whether it’s yes or no), go with it.

We’ve even had brides flipping coins in the boutique to help make the big decision. It really can make a difference, too: once that coin lands on the side of one option, you’ll know instantly whether you’re happy with your ‘heads’ choice or instead wished it had turned out ‘tails’.

That said, we understand it’s not always that easy. So we also encourage our brides-to-be to build in some thinking time after your appointment.

Have a wander round Pilsley village, get some fresh Derbyshire air and watch the local pheasants trundling about. Or go to the pub next door, just like Phil and Kirsty used to do with house-hunters on Location, Location, Location. A quick change of scene can be a huge help with wedding dress decision-making.

We talk more about this in our guide to getting the most out of your bridal appointment entourage, which you can find here.

How much should I expect to pay for my wedding dress?

The price of one of our made-to-order designer wedding dresses ranges from £1,200 to £3,000. To put this in perspective, the 2018 UK Wedding Report put the average amount spent on bridal wear and accessories at £1,537.

We also have our outlet wedding dresses, which start as low as £400 for a full wedding gown. Or if one of our dresses fits you to a T straight away, there’s our off-the-peg option, too.

How long will it take for my wedding dress to arrive?

This does vary from designer to designer, but it’s usually not as long as you’d think. A lot of bridal boutiques will tell you to make sure you order 9-12 months in advance, but to be honest this can be used as a bit of a naughty scare tactic to make a sale...

In our experience with our bridal designers, the standard turnaround time between us ordering a dress and it being ready for collection (and before any alterations) can be up to 6 months.

This is due to production lead-times and the long journeys your dress may have to make. For example, Eliza Jane Howell dresses are hand-beaded in India, so there’s some international transit to factor into the lead-time.

That said, our other designers – Rembo Styling, Charlie Brear, Jesus Peiro – can usually make and deliver a wedding dress in 12 weeks, and less if necessary.

If things are more last-minute for you, the excellent relationships we have with our designers means we’re well set to get rush or express orders through their production systems. This may incur a small fee, but we have in some cases managed to get a dress from order to boutique in 3-4 weeks.

Remember if your wedding date is fast approaching, there is always the option of our outlet wedding dresses, or buying one of our sample dresses off-the-peg. That way you’d be taking the dress away with you, and not have to worry about any potential delays on the designer’s side of things.

And that’s your lot! You are now a bona fide bride-to-be, and nothing can stand in your way.

So what’s stopping you, Miss Unstoppable?