The Do’s and Don’ts of Wedding Dress Shopping

Shopping for your wedding dress is one of the most exciting parts of wedding planning. Can you picture how your wedding dress will look? Have you imagined it since you were a little girl? Maybe you’ve watched every episode of ‘Say Yes To The Dress’ or even started looking for your wedding dress before you got engaged? Or perhaps, like me, you thought you would never get married, so you never had wedding dress dreams.

While dreaming about your dress is a great starting point, the reality is that wedding dress shopping can be rather overwhelming. However this guide will help you prepare and stay calm on your quest to find the perfect dress.


Alessandra Rinaudo wedding dress on bride in Budapest bridal salon
Photo courtesy of Diora Salon Budapest



As the saying goes, fail to prepare and prepare to fail!

– Do your research by checking out bridal magazines.
– Sift through real brides on social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest.
– Create a Pinterest board with all your favourite looks.
– Watch bridal fashion shows online.
– Take screenshots of styles you would like to try.

Make notes of elements you like or don’t like. Go directly to the boutiques websites to look through their galleries, then call to check if they stock your favourite styles or designer gowns.


Wedding dress shopping notes on Ipad



Wedding dress shopping will be fun a experience but it can be very exhausting. It’s on another level to your usual high street shopping or mall visit. Imagine trying on 10 dresses per salon and multiplying that by each salon you visit? You are sure to get confused and forget how you really felt in your favourites. Limit yourself to one bridal store per day and make notes as soon as you can after your appointment, jotting down names or codes of your favourites. You may forget these things in the midst of trying on loads of dresses, so it’s always good to have a list of the wedding dress pros and cons to refer to as well as price and how it made you feel! Give yourself time to go home and really think about the choices you saw.


runaway bride RB230 wedding jumpsuit
Photo courtesy of Runaway Bride Ireland



Sometimes it is the unexpected one that will end up surprising you. If you are not sure about a certain silhouette, fabric or embellishment, try it on anyhow! This is necessary until you find the one that will create your desired statement. Even if you don’t have an idea of style, trial and error is all part of the process to discovering what dress will make you feel like a goddess. Whether it be a strapless sheath, a ball gown or a mermaid fit to show off your curves, be it dramatic or understated, you won’t know it’s the one until you try it.

‘How many wedding dresses should I try?’ you may ask! The answer to that is really up to you, but I believe as many as it takes to find the perfect one. Follow your gut instincts!


hayley paige wedding gowns on rail in wedding salon
Photo Ashlee Mintz courtesy of Jennifer’s Bridal



I’ve had brides ask me in the past ‘What do I wear to a wedding dress appointment?’ Firstly well fitting underwear is very important to make you feel good about yourself. To get the full effect of the dress, wear a good multiway bra or at least a strapless one and seamless, form fitting undies preferably skin toned. The correct undergarments can make the difference between a wedding dress fitting well and one fitting perfectly. It will also  let you focus on the details of the dress instead of your underwear showing through!

Try to wear comfortable, hassle-free clothing that’s free from awkward zips or buttons and easy to remove! 


RB1620 Runaway bride wedding dress with pearl beading
Photo courtesy of Runaway Bride Ireland



Try to have your wedding shoes purchased in advance, if not, bring a shoe with your preferred heel height. This is important for the seamstress so she can accurately pin the hem of the dress and show you how it will look once it will be altered to your desired length.


arabella blossom wedding shoes by harriet wilde
Photo courtesy of Harriet Wilde Shoes London



Another question I get asked by brides is ‘ Who to bring to a wedding dress appointment?’ If you are a confident shopper who always makes good decisions and you know your style, then by all means go alone. There is no harm or shame in it! You will end up saving time and possibly money by  not making decisions you regret later. Listening to the opinion of others can leave you feeling overwhelmed and unable to figure out what you want yourself!

You can always take your Mum and bridesmaids along to the first fitting or bring them back for a second try on before making the final decision. However if you are more comfortable having a second opinion then only bring somebody along that you trust, who knows your personal style and who’s opinion you value.


wedding dress with 3d lace flower cape mwlcarla
Photo courtesy of Ivy Road Photography



This may be one of the first major down payments you make for your wedding. Don’t shock your groom with the news that you have blown the majority of the budget on your gown. Have a budget and stick to it. If you try on dresses that you can’t afford you are just setting yourself up for failure. It’s possible you will end up loving the dress you can’t have!

In addition to the price of the gown you should also calculate the cost of alterations. These are considerably more than your average day dress due the delicacy and detail of wedding dresses. Enquire with the seamstress once you know what alterations are required and ask for an estimate for alteration costs.




Accessories can change everything! Maybe you need just a little embellished belt to finish the look. If you feel right in the dress but feel there is something missing ask your bridal consultant for a veil to try on. A veil can really seal the deal and it can be quite an emotional moment.

Give your shopping companion the task of keeping an eye out for accessories. They can snap some photos of prospective pieces so you can look back and choose from them once you have found your dress. It will save you time and energy rather than going around the bridal stores again looking specifically for a veil, tiara etc. and leave focused on finding your wedding dress!


made with love bridal rosey veil and v-cut wedding dress
Photo Courtesy of Made With Love Bridal



Move around as much as you can in the dress. Walk around and keep it on for as long as your appointment allows. A dress that may seem light at first may seem rather heavy and awkward after wearing it for a length of time. If there are sleeves, then raise your arms. Try sitting in the dress and if kneeling is a requirement for your ceremony, then go ahead and do it if the shop assistant allows. More than likely you will need to be able to dance freely in it too, so consider moves that will be in your first dance as bride and groom. You want to ease through your first dance especially and not be worried about tripping up or it catching your heel in your dress.

Also consider the season you are getting married in! Will your dress have you break out in a sweat? Or will you end up covering up the most beautiful details of your dress with a coat or cape due to chilling temperatures.

You have to feel stunning not just walking down the aisle and posing for photos but also moving around in it, dancing and wearing it continuously for possibly 12 hours or more.


Bride wearing Scottie dress at Made with love bridal
Photo courtesy of Made With Love Bridal



Don’t let the bridal consultant, sales assistant or any of your entourage pressure you into making a decision. If it’s the tenth salon you have visited then your girlfriends may just be wishing you to finally make a decision. A sales assistant may be trying to persuade you into a dress so that she can make her monthly sales quota. Listen to your gut feelings, not someone else’s opinion. You have to feel completely happy with your decision. Unless you are planning a change of dress at your wedding, you will be in it all day. Maybe it will take trying on a few more dresses to convince that it is the one or not.



Remembering the exact shade of your wedding dress will be difficult as it can be 6 months or more between the time of your first wedding dress appointment and your first fitting. Even if you take a photo it won’t reveal the true shade as the bridal store lighting will affect it. The only true way of remembering it is with a fabric swatch! 

If you are planning on getting accessories like a veil then it’s a good idea to have a sample of your dress fabric to match up the colours. Likewise when shopping for your bridesmaids dresses and your partners attire, a fabric swatch on hand will ensure their clothing colour compliments yours.


Jaton couture wedding gown with decorative lace appliqué bodice
Photo courtesy of Ivy Road Photography



Unless you are on a flying visit abroad to a boutique, there is no need to make a rush decision about your dress. Even if you do, they should be able to accommodate you through the phone, by answering any queries you may have and accepting the deposit with your credit cards details. It’s always best to sleep on it for at least one night. If you are still in love with the dress the next day, call the salon and give them all the details they need.

If you can’t find your dress, don’t panic! Take a break from the search if you aren’t under any major time constraints! You know how they say ”you’ll find ‘the one’ (husband/wife) when you stop looking!’, well the same can be said for your wedding dress! Focus on some other wedding details for a while and you may just find your dress when you least expect it!


Wedding dress shopping, bridal try on, wedding dress store



Finally, try to approach the process in a relaxed manner, avoid being stressed out, hungry or overtired. These issues can really affect your mood and hinder the choice you make. Enjoy this epic, once in a lifetime shopping experience!


Wedding dress shopping list:

  • DO your research in advance
  • DON’T make more than one appointment per day
  • DO try on multiple styles
  • DON’T wear the wrong underwear
  • DO try to bring your wedding shoes
  • DON’T Bring a big entourage
  • DO have a budget in mind
  • DON’T forget about accessories
  • DO test the dress for comfort and flexibility
  • DON’T give into pressure
  • DO get a sample of fabric
  • DON’T rush your decision
  • DO relax and enjoy the process

Now you are all set with your list of wedding dress shopping do’s and don’ts.



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