…just wanted to say that there will be a lot of text & the majority of pictures are more towards the middle and end of the post, so please bear with…
Even before we got engaged or before I met James- I knew what kind of wedding dress I would have.
Mermaid/ fishtail style, lacy back and buttons on the back. Very much figure hugging. So shopping for my wedding dress would be easy-peasy, right?
Well, I can’t say it was difficult.
Where did I start with buying my wedding dress?
- I started with an idea of how much I want to spend on the dress, vail, shoes & alterations, I allowed £1,000. Bearing in mind I didn’t know how much dresses cost, because when you search for them online- rarely does a boutique have the prices.
- It is a good to have some idea what you want, but you need to be open minded and try different styles on to find the dress.
We got engaged on 1st December and by mid-December I had an appointment in a bridal boutique to try dresses on. I was completely honest with the lady who owns it and said that I want to try dresses on to see what suits me and also to find out the cost of them. I had a notebook with different styles I liked (from bridal magazines) to give her an idea what I was after. She was very lovely and explained how it works with ordering dresses in, how long it takes, alterations and everything else that goes with it. I did say what my budget was and she was very good with sticking with it and telling me the cost of the dress before I tried them on.
The very first wedding dress I tried on was a silk ballgown with pockets, which I couldn’t care less about- why do you need a wedding dress with pockets? You are getting married not going to an Instagram convention. Anyway… The neckline was fairly low and since I do not have much bust it wasn’t looking right and I didn’t like silk as a material. It felt more like a fancy nightgown. But I did like the silhouette of the dress.
One of the next dresses I tried on was a mermaid style dress, the detailing on the dress was beautiful- lace with buttons and so pretty, but it was the most uncomfortable piece of clothing I have ever worn. I could only move my legs below the knee, which meant I was walking very funnily, I had to keep sucking things in and I was like- No, this is not the dress for me.
Last dress I tried on was a ballgown style as well, which had a blush underskirt and it looked very pretty, but I knew I wanted an ivory dress and it could be ordered in ivory. It was over my total budget, so I took it away with me to think about it.
I tried vails, capes and tiaras on with every dress, as they complete the look.
A week later I went to another boutique, I had an appointment booked, the lady was about half an hour late- which I didn’t like. I had to fill in a form giving details about the wedding (which I didn’t have any, just that it will be in 2020) and what my budget was, but when I was finally taken through to where the dresses were- none of them had price tags on and the lady running the appointment never once mentioned prices on the dresses I was trying on. So when I did find one I liked, over the coming weeks I considered buying it, the cost was £1,400 + everything else on top and something just didn’t feel right about this one.
The boutique itself was beautiful, 2 story building- the ground floor had receptions and the other room was a massive shop floor with hundreds of dresses hanging, very nicely furnished; it looked very lush.
Over Christmas I was focusing on finding our venue, but I did book for us to go to the National Wedding show in the NEC, Birmingham. I kind of knew there would be loads of people with dresses, so was thinking I might find a good bargain there.
We had booked an appointment to go see our venue for Saturday in January and the city nearby has a Wed2B shop and I asked my made of honour if she would like to come with me, after the appointment to try on some dresses.
Thursday morning, before the busy venue & dress shopping weekend, my friend from work sent a screenshot saying 50% off Sample Sale in our local bridal shop Harveys of Ramsey. I knew there was a bridal shop in town, but last time I’d driven past it I saw there was work being done, so thought the shop had closed.
I emailed the shop to see if they were open late Thursday night and booked an appointment- I asked my friend from work to come with me, I didn’t want to go on my own, as it is very overwhelming and it is good to have someone there with you.
As I got to the shop I was waiting outside for my friend and did a bit of window shopping and saw a beautiful gown in the window and thought I’d like to try that on.
When I got in the shop, both owners (Michelle & Danielle) started talking to me. In the email I sent to them that morning I just said: I was after a ballgown, the girls thought I was after a prom dress. The girls asked me: so you are looking for a ballgown? And I replied yes, for a wedding. They asked: oh, whose wedding? Me- mine. And they were: oh, wedding dress ballgown. (now writing it- it doesn’t sound as funny as it was at the time)
I said straight away that I would like to try the dress on that was in the window.
We went upstairs- Harveys of Ramsey is set in an old medieval style building, right in the centre of Ramsey. Even before you walk in you are just in the awe of the beautiful window displays. When you walk in you are welcomed by a warm & homey feeling. On both floors you have lovely exposed beams, which add so much character to the boutique. The main wedding dress section is upstairs- big room with a fireplace and massive white mirror in the middle so you can see yourself from all angles. The cup of tea and biscuits follow soon after you reach the top step. I felt comfortable and relaxed.
Anyway…. I looked through the dresses in the ‘off the peg’ section and looked through the new dresses that are ordered in and pulled a selection out to try on.
The first dress I tried on was the dress from the window… and it fit perfectly. And I do mean PERFECTLY. It was not too big or too small, there was nothing that needed to be taken in. It didn’t need taking up to shorten (I am tall). It just fit. And I knew- this was the one.
When I walked out my friend knew as well, my face gave it away. It was comfortable, it suited me, the dress was me. I tried it on with different vails, tiaras, belts- until I found the perfect accessories.
The dress was by Benjamin Roberts, straight top, fitted to about my hips and then it flared out into full blown ballgown. The dress had many, many layers of silk, tulle & lace. The train was very long as well. The dress has these panels of lace going all the way down to the floor in the front, back and both sides and rest of the layer is tulle. It is very elegant, detail rich dress. My description of the dress doesn’t do it any justice, but I have added as many pictures as I can to show it off.
Harveys was so good & accommodating with storing my dress as well, as I bought the dress in Jan ’19 and we didn’t get married till March ’20, I had no space to story this beast of a dress at home and I didn’t want James to see it. I knew if I had the dress in the house, he couldn’t resist to peak at it.
I also ordered my vail at Harveys, which matched the dress perfectly. It was 2 tier with embroidery detailing around the edges. I couldn’t find the right tiara so I left that for later.
In the summer I showed the dress to my made of honour. Next time I saw it was when we had our hair trials and I wanted to be sure that the hairdo I was going for would go with my dress and would fit in with the look.
For my final fitting- I went in January ’20, Harveys is working with a seamstress, which makes it so much easier, gave me confidence that she would be good & know what she is doing. Even after Christmas I didn’t have to get anything adjusted in terms of the dress fitting me, we only did the following:
- added cups in the breast area so I wouldn’t have to wear a bra and to fill the shape in a bit.
- add bustles in to pull the train up, we thought one would be enough, but it wasn’t- we had the main one straight up the train middle, then a couple (one on each side) to pull as much of the tulle up, so it doesn’t flap like bingo-wings.
- repairs on the zip, that I broke on my first visit when I was putting the dress on (I have a big butt).
But that was all of the repairs/ extras I needed to do on the dress. I know this doesn’t happen often when your dress fits you this good and no major adjustments are needed.
I picked the dress up from Harveys Thursday morning (day before our wedding) and the girls had steam cleaned it for me so it was crease-less, but it is a big dress and I did have to fold the train up so it would fit in my car. I hung the dress up as soon as I got to Dunston Hall.
I’ll just do a quick summary on where I got my accessories from:
- Tiara- Ivory & Co- Rowena– I bought it at National Wedding Show at the NEC and I did get a show discount on it (it was more than I thought I would spend on a tiara, but it sat on my head perfectly & it is just beautiful).
- Shoes – Kurt Geiger Krisp White – I ordered these from the UK site, but they don’t have them anymore, so added the US site link. I did modify the shoes and added some bling to them. I knew which shoes I’d wear as I wear the same one (in nude and black) most days at work, so knew they are comfy and they fit my foot.
- Jewellery- I knew what kind of neckless and earrings I wanted, but they are not your every-day kind of jewellery, so I didn’t want to spend lots of money on them. I found the perfect set in Lovisa while Gemma (made of honour) and I were in Leeds on our annual Mr Buble weekend- I’ll leave this for another post. I can’t find the set on their website, but picture below.
- Garter- I ordered one from John Lewis, but Harveys of Ramsey also gave me one- which was super sweet. Again, JL doesn’t seem to have mine on-line anymore.
- New- dress
- Borrowed- my best friends clutch bag from her wedding a year ago
- Old- white beaded broach that I got given by my friends nan years & years ago (I clipped it on the clutch strap)
- Blue- ‘I Do’ decal sticker on my shoes
- and Six Pence in my shoe
My Top 10 Tips for Wedding Dress shopping:
Definitely have a figure in your mind how much you want to spend, but account also for vail (if you are having one), shoes, tiara or any other hair piece, underwear, jewellery and alterations. It will soon add up, my original budget was £1,000 and I did go over slightly.
Be Open Minded
I always thought that people made it up when they said that they ended up with a completely different dress to what what they originally thought, but I did exactly the same thing. Always try on all different styles of dresses to see what suits you best and don’t discount a style or a dress, just because it doesn’t fit your original idea.
Have an entourage
I don’t mean take your whole family with you, but have at least 1 person with you, as this is a very overwhelming experience. You might come across shops that will try and pressure you into ordering and buying the dress there and then. You want people with you that are supportive, but will give you an honest opinion on how you look in a dress or if that suits you. For my first appointment I took my mum with me, second one I took James sister with me and the third-and final- I had my friend with me.
If you are bringing your bridal party with you- you can make a whole day out of it, have breakfast or brunch before visiting the shop. Take pictures (if boutique allows) and have fun. Don’t make it too regimented.
Bring Your Shoes
Even if you don’t have the exact shoes you would wear, bring a pair that will be roughly the same height as you would wear on the day to see how the dress looks with the height you will be. All bridal shops have shoes for brides to wear while trying on dresses, I just don’t like wearing shoes that other people have, so I brought my own shoes to all of my appointments.
Have an Idea
You don’t have to have everything planned out, but just a rough idea how your wedding will look- rustic, glamorous, elegant, vintage, beachy or whatever other feel you’re going for. I didn’t have a theme in mind, but I knew I wanted an Ivory dress, with some detailing, not too much bling, full length and with buttons on the back. The overall theme for our wedding came from my wedding dress- elegant with a pop of colour.
Have the Right Feel
To have the right feeling about your dress is a must, you shouldn’t settle for something that doesn’t feel 100%. Same goes with the bridal boutique as well- you will be working very closely with the shop, so you need to be comfortable speaking to them and they need to be able to see your vision as well and be supportive- as you are the bride.
The Chair Test
I didn’t know about this untill Michelle & Danielle asked me to sit in a chair with my dress on- to make sure I was able to sit down. As much as you will be walking, standing & dancing, you will be sitting down for your meal, talking to your guests and having a break. So make sure you can sit down and get up comfortably in your dress.
If you are ordering the dress in, check the lead time for it and make sure you have plenty of time between the dress arriving and your big day. I believe it is advised that you should have at least 1-2 months to allow for any alterations and any unexpected delays.
If you are planning to go on a weight loss journey before the wedding, consider that when ordering the dress. If you are planning to drop 2-3 sizes, you will need a lot more alterations and some might be harder to do due to the dress design. I thought I would lose weight, I tried the whole time, but my weight just stayed the same till about the beginning/ mid January when the stress really started to appear and my appetite was decreasing. I still fit fine in the dress- it was easier to do up on the day.
Don’t Rush It
Try and not get frustrated if you didn’t find your dress in the first shop you went in. Have a google and see what other shops you have nearby, search for them on Instagram and give them a cheeky wedding-dress stalk and see what kind of dresses they sell. Don’t get discouraged if their website doesn’t show the dress you are after (rarely do shops showcase their full stock on their website). Take your time. If you do have a wedding show nearby- worth a visit and see if you can meet some suppliers. Majority of wedding shows will have a catwalk show with all bridal boutiques that have stands there showcasing their gowns.
I really hope that my experience and pointers will help you find your dress!
I would like to say massive thank you to all my suppliers who made me look the best I could have ever hoped for. I could not have asked to work with better, nicer and genuine people, I have been extremely lucky to have been able to find the best people in the industry to help me on my journey to ‘I Do’ day.
There will be a follow on post for hair, make-up, bridesmaids dresses and all the decor, getting ready & how the day went.
As always- leave a comment with your experiences, suggestions for next posts or other brides to be, hit that follow button and come visit My Country Life on all socials: