I’ve had this post in my drafts since August 2016 when I went shopping and have been awaiting the final pictures from the big day to do a recap of my wedding dress shopping experience. I’m going into everything here, listing the exact style, shop, experience and even the cost. I’ve patiently been awaiting my wedding photos from our photographer to have the best pictures of the dress!
When did I shop?
I strategically picked when I was going to shop for my dress. I wanted to leave myself enough time to online browse and have an idea of what I thought I might want and like. I didn’t want to go too early – I’ve bought dresses for friend’s weddings months and months before and decided a week before I didn’t like them any more and bought another. Unsurprisingly I didn’t want to do that on what is likely to be the most expensive dress purchase of my life.
I wanted to leave it the optimum time that once it was ordered it would be too late for me to change my mind and continue looking, but I left myself a little buffer of time in case I couldn’t find anything in the shops that I was searching in initially. For reference, I ordered my dress in August, and it arrived in March – around 2 and a half months prior to the wedding.
Where did I shop?
Very early on in our engagement myself and Ben went to a local wedding fayre. We walked past dozens of dress shop stands that day and hundreds of dresses – it wasn’t until we got towards the end of the fayre that one dress stopped me in my tracks hanging on a mannequin (I told Ben I was taking a look at the shoes next to it, but I’m not 100% convinced he believed me as he initially said, I like the dress you were looking at – before I mentioned shoes), I took note of the dress shop mentally and messaged them on Facebook immediately before we’d even left the car park, asking what the dress was/how long they’d have it in for etc. From online shopping, I discovered that this store stocked other brands I was interested in as well, so naturally I knew I’d be going to that shop (Blush Bridal Boutique, located in Bourne, Lincolnshire).
I also was recommended another store by a few other friends and people I knew who was getting married, called Annie Laurie Bridal (located just outside Stamford, Lincolnshire), they stocked a different selection of brands that I also liked – primarily Maggie Sottero was who I was interested in seeing gowns from there.
I booked appointments at both on the same day, as I didn’t want to leave it too long between maybe seeing two dresses that I liked in both shops and ending up having to keep going back and forth between the two while I tried to remember what I potentially liked about one dress over the other. We visited Annie Laurie in the morning, with a lunch break to reflect between visiting Blush Bridal in the afternoon.
I went shopping with just my Mum and Sister, I didn’t want too many people there to a) know about the dress and b) be completely overwhelmed by opinions. I wanted Ben’s sister to also be there as my bridesmaid, however, being a hairdresser means that she is mostly kept busy on Saturday’s and aligning the schedules didn’t work. However, when we went bridesmaid dress shopping we ended up back in the same shop, and I showed her the dress and the sales assistant told me to re-try on the dress again so she could see, so she did actually get to see it – as well as a joint fitting in my actual dress later on. The only other person I showed the dress to was the photographer, my Dad didn’t even know a detail about the dress until I had it on, and it had been sat in his house for a week!
How I picked
After purchasing my dress I went home and asked Ben to tell me what type of dress he thought I would have picked (without confirming anything of course). He said my dress would be lace, with straps or sleeves, probably bling scattered through it, and it would probably be quite fitted, and not big. If I was describing my dress pre-shopping, I would have described the exact same thing, he hit the nail on the head, except for he didn’t. Everything he said was what I wanted, and that dress that drew me in in the shop would pretty much have matched that exact description, but they just didn’t suit me. I tried on countless versions on of the same, kind of dress looking for the one which would be the one that fit.
I knew I wanted something that was quite classic, but I wanted it to have a modern edge and flair – something which I think represents my personality of liking things that are a bit different, but also something I wouldn’t look back on in two years and be crikey, that’s already past it.
I was very open in my first appointment, I said the things I thought I wanted, sleeves/straps, sparkle, detail, lace. I was always quite unsure of what silhouette I wanted, but I knew I didn’t want a mermaid cut, I knew it wouldn’t suit my figure, and I’ve seen friends wear them and they look like they can barely move in them. But in the same breath said that I was very open to trying everything, and if there was something they thought would suit me, I asked them to please feel free to suggest it.
Shop 1 – Annie Laurie Bridal
In the first shop I went into was the store which didn’t have the dress I specifically wanted to try. I tried on things that were similar and as my first experience of trying things on I also asked the sales assistant to just keep suggesting different styles, as like I said I was really open to suggestions. We went from being in very ornate dresses at the start to the most simple dresses at the end and I fell for a dress which was very similar to what I bought.
The crossover sweetheart bodice was really flattering on my frame and I felt less frumpy without straps. The higher cut flared empire cut dress with a biggish skirt flattered my figure the best. The styles were very very similar, and unfortunately whilst I’ve tried I can’t remember the brand or dress that almost had me (and I stupidly threw away the card the sales assistant wrote it on!). The cross overs unlike on the one I bought were larger and came in just one piece wrapping from both the left and the right, instead of the several smaller ones on my own dress (I hope that makes sense!).
If I’m being honest we ended up going to the second shop in the afternoon as a formality to try on that Justin Alexander dress and get it out of my head as I’d been thinking about it for almost six months, but I already had plans of calling back the shop to place the order at the end of the day. Between the two appointments, we all went for lunch together in Stamford and we were all under the same impression that I’d found it.
Shop 2 – Blush Bridal Boutique
For some reason I felt instantly more at home in this shop, maybe because I felt less on edge as I’d already found “the one”. I picked out a range of dresses including a few which resembled what I’d just tried on in the morning. I ended up liking two dresses, I like the bodice of one, and another had a layered skirt very similar to the one I purchased – I couldn’t decide which I liked, and they were separate designers so there was none of that “we can match this one and that one”, that you often see on Say Yes To The Dress. The sales assistant asked me if I’d seen the one in the window, which I hadn’t as it had been thunder-storming and we had to run into the shop (and I had to be towel dried before I could try anything on it was that bad!) and she got the dress bought up from downstairs and I tried it on straight away, as soon as I saw myself in the mirror I thought it would be the one. The sales assistant said I was the first to try on the dress, and said “I don’t say this very often but, wow” (Don’t say it Stashy! – she thinks she was just trying to get the commission, but she cheated herself out of more expensive dresses if that’s the case haha).
I liked the bodice and the simple modern flair that the skirt had, I needed a bit of extra something in the form of a belt and that was really the hardest decision to make, I knew I didn’t want one that was small and didn’t wrap all the way round that looked more like a badge on the dress and ended up with the glitziest one possible. I had mine tacked onto the dress as whilst I liked the idea of a bow at the back, I found it was hiding the button detail on the back which I loved, I didn’t want it slipping through the day and thought it didn’t quite match up with the clean simple likes the dress had.
My sister and Mum wouldn’t tell me which they liked most, I think they both actually preferred a more traditional dress – before saying the one I had on was more me. The dress for reference is by Sweetheart Gowns (a sub brand of Justin Alexander) and in the style 6158. The dress I tried on was a very pale blush pink and I almost ordered that colour as it looked so nice against my skin tone (and made me look very tanned), but my Mum was having a mental breakdown at the thought of it, so Mum, if you’re reading I only chose the Ivory for you. When my dress arrived I was reassured by it also making me quite tanned looking, even in March.
Is The One A Thing?
When people say when you find the dress you know, I kind of half agree, half disagree with the statement, I could have ultimately picked from the other three dresses and been happy with them all, the one I had I was 100% happy with and had all the elements that I liked from various dresses, but there were several if that hadn’t existed I could have easily chosen between. I see and hear people all the time going away to think about it, and I didn’t need to – I knew that it was mine.
Was It Comfortable?
I did have worries about wearing a big old dress as to how much I was going to love wearing it after 11 hours, I had people telling me on the day ‘wear it as long as you can bear it’ but truth is, I had never planned to change – so the only other thing I had on me was some PJs and a casual dress to wear home. It was actually very comfortable to wear – It was a very warm day – in the mid twenties, the day we got married, and I did not skimp on the dancing either so naturally I got quite warm with our reception in a barn which didn’t have the best ventilation. However, at no point did I think this is uncomfortable.
One thing that wasn’t apparent in the shop from short wears of no more than 20-30 minutes was that I needed to wear a bra or have some extra support built in. I was eager not to wear one, it fit perfectly without, but with G cup boobs after about an hour the dress did collapse a little on the bottom of the cups from the weight. It wasn’t until I was signing the register and our photographer really had to give me the eye to say, you need to adjust yourself. I therefore did have to keep hoisting myself up for the rest of the day, and it’s something I think wasn’t helped by the warmth of the day as the gel edging around the sweetheart neckline designed to give some grip was just slipping on me.
So what does a dress (and all the other stuff) actually cost?
I’ve never seen anyone talk about the cost of their wedding dress, but do you know what, when I was online window shopping I couldn’t find anyone talk about the cost of their dress/suppliers giving details and it was really hard for me to know what I needed to budget. So fuck it, I’ll break the Taboo and hopefully, this will help somebody.
In the months leading up to dress shopping, I was doing a lot of freelance work and decided that I was going to treat myself to what ever dress I wanted. I ended up with quite a lot of money saved up (which I didn’t want to spend all on the dress), but I was planning on giving myself a budget of £2,000. My friends who had all got married thought I was crazy and that this was a too much, but I really didn’t know the cost of the dresses and brands online I liked the look of, so I was blissfully unaware whether this would be enough money, or nowhere near enough, I had more in the bank prepared in case I spilled over.
Not once whilst I was shopping was I asked what my budget was (like they do on say Yes to the Dress), and I tried to keep my eye off the price tags, the first shop had no prices on, whilst the second did. I wanted to try and pick the dress based on me loving it rather than being price orientated, if I’d found a dress over budget, I would have found a way to make it work (as long as we weren’t going ridiculously over). It turned out my £2,000 budget was enough to buy me about 90% of the dresses in either of the shops that I went to.
Whilst I bought my dress in the second shop which had prices on, I hadn’t seen the price of my dress as it was taken from the Mannequin in the window – it was only when I’d decided that this was the dress, and the sales assistant had left the room to pop the Prosecco, I asked my sister to help me find out how much it was – and whether I was going to have a dilemma or not. Drumroll please…. £800. Yep, way under budget. The additional things were the belt, which seemed really expensive in comparison – and the sales assistant told me I’d picked the most expensive one in the shop at just short of £200 – FOR A BELT – crikey. My veil (also most expensive in the shop) was £120.
I will say that because my dress had no embellishment and no lace it was instantly cheaper and compared to the other dress I originally saw from Justin Alexander was £1675. From what I noticed heavily laced dresses seem to begin around the £1000 upwards mark.
The dress I saw in the first shop that I was so close to buying was £1,100 starting price without accessories so I did end up saving £300 on a similar dress and ended up with one that I preferred.
I hope you enjoyed reading a bit more about Finding My Wedding Dress, and if you’re dress shopping yourself hopefully it might help you! I don’t have any more planned wedding posts other than maybe just a photo post from the day, if there is anything else you want to know let me know in the comments!
Photos in this post are by my photographer, Charlotte Maddison/Magic Moments Photography.
Thanks Char for doing an amazing job again if you’re reading!