How to Plan a Wedding: Choosing your Dress

Vivienne-Westwood-Wedding-_-Anna-Hardy-_196

Sashy rocked her Vivienne Westwood wedding dress, dare I say even more then SJP?

I think it’s safe to say that for most brides, finding that perfect dress is the first thing they think about when they get engaged. It certainly was for me – I was online and trawling through dress designer’s websites the day after Gareth asked me to marry him!

When I was looking, way back in 2007, I struggled to find anything that wasn’t white, long and strapless. In retrospect I probably wasn’t looking in the right places, after all I didn’t have Rock n Roll Bride to guide me (ha!) But seriously, I actually had no idea that there were other options besides going to a bridal boutique and just picking one out, oh how things have changed!

These days, even the most traditional of designers have caught up to the fact that many brides want more options. A lot of them now offer short styles, dresses with straps (who would have thought it would be such a revelation!) and oodles of colour, style and fabric options. In fact, now you’re spoiled for choice!

Basic wedding dress shapes

The style of dress you choose to wear will most likely be determined by which one suits your body shape best and what kind of wedding you’re having. If you’re planning a small backyard family gathering then a giant ball gown might look a bit ridiculous, although in saying that, if that’s what you want – go for it!

The world really is your oyster when finding a dress style you like, but these are the basic, and most common, wedding dress shape options:

A-line dresses are flattering to most body shapes. The top is fitted around the bust and flares out smoothly and gently as it goes down. There’s usually no break between the top and skirt sections of the dress.

Deanna_Mike_Calgary_Wedding_Honest_Organic_Candid_Photography_Blair_Marie_Photography-303

Dress by Nova Mia

Ball gown styles are corseted with a full skirt. There is usually a more distinctive break between the top and skirt of the dress (sometimes with a sash but most often just a seam). Ball gown dresses help to create an hourglass figure and look fabulous on girls with great boobs!

Grayson+Gareth624

Dress by Anne Barge

Empire line gowns have a high waist, just under the bust, and are perfect on petite girls, pregnant brides or anyone who wants to disguise their tummy.

love me do pregant bride

Dress by K’s Custom Gowns

Fishtail dresses are super sexy. They follow the shape of your curves and kick out at the bottom. They’re amazing if you want to emphasise your gorgeous figure and are probably the sexiest silhouette out there! Oh lala…

WendyAlexAssassynation-10335

Dress by  Wendy Benstead

Column style dresses are figure skimming and great for athletic figures or tall girls. Most 1920s inspired gowns come in this shape.

CandySnaps-JaneMike-66

Dress by Jenny Packham

Short dresses look great on pretty much anyone but particularly shorter girls who feel they’ll be swamped by a full-length gown. They’re often clumped together into one group, but these days there are almost as many style and shape options available as there are for their full length cousins.

tattooed wedding dress the couture company

Dress by The Couture Company

Tea length dresses skim the ankles while 1950s prom style dresses are generally knee length. If you’re feeling particularly daring you could even go for something shorter or tighter – who said brides have to be demure?!

ukrainian-wedding-blue-hair-bride29

Dress by Ekaterina Bondarenko

Here are a few bonus tips for finding your perfect wedding dress:

My first, and biggest, piece of advice would be to have an open mind. Many wedding dresses look very different on than they do on a hanger so try on as many styles as possible before you make any decisions.

If possible, try some dresses on in person, even if you think you’ll end up ordering one online. Wedding dresses often fit very differently to everyday dresses and some of the sizing can be a little bit odd (my wedding dress was a size 18 and I’m a UK dress size 12 – ER HELLO!?) I’ve written some more tips for surviving the bridal shop experience before so be sure to check that article out too!

If the price of a dress sounds too good to be true then it probably is. I’ve featured a few weddings before where the brides have bought their dresses online from warehouses in China. These gowns are often imitations of designer gowns and are made from cheaper fabrics and with less sophisticated techniques.  I’m not going to get into any kind of ethical debate about whether this is something you should do or not because, quite frankly, we’ve heard it all before, but I will say that you always get what you pay for.

There is no question that a copy from China will never be of the same quality as the expensive designer gown that it’s been based on, but if your budget is tight and you want to go down this route then who is anyone else to tell you not to? My advice would be to order well in advance as it may take a while to arrive. Plus, if you don’t like it when it comes you really don’t want to have a last minute panic and scramble to find a replacement!

However there are so many other ways to get more affordable wedding dresses. You could buy second-hand from somewhere like sellmyweddingdress.com, stillwhite.co.uk and preownedweddingdresses.com or of course there’s good old fashioned eBay! Many bigger charity shops have wedding dress sections too and Oxfam and Barnardos even have whole stores dedicated to them!

Getting a dress made for you isn’t as expensive as you might assume. A good designer will work with you on fabric choices and styles to keep within your budget so don’t be afraid to investigate this route. Some of my favourite independent dress designers are Jo from The Couture Company and Louise from Oh My Honey. You could also consider independent designers on Etsy who are often less expensive than designers with bricks and mortar shops. One of my favourite Etsy sellers of all time is Ouma. Her wedding dresses are out of this world gorgeous!

Off-the-rack dresses are gaining more and more popularity with budget-savvy brides. Many high street stores like Coast, Debenhams and Monsoon now do a wedding dress line, and designers like Vivien of Holloway and Minna stock dresses that are not only affordable but look gorgeous on retro and boho brides.

I’d now love to hear about your wedding dress story. What style and designer have you gone for? Are you going down the secondhand route to save money or getting one made for you? Tell me EVERYTHING!

This is part six of a ten part series on how to plan a weddingIf you missed the previous articles, be sure to check those out now too. 

Next week we’ll be discussing food, drink and picking your wedding cake. YUM!

Supporting Cast

20 comments

  1. My wedding dress came from Unique Vintage (http://www.unique-vintage.com/). The dress shipped from California in perfect condition, ridiculously quickly, and the whole thing (dress, crinoline and shipping) was less than $200. I’m absolutely in love with my dress!!!

    It’s actually quite simple, white cotton eyelet, but I didn’t want anything too frilly and fussy and this dress was just “ME”!

    It’s actually this one –> http://www.unique-vintage.com/best-seller-unique-vintage-white-cotton-eyelet-flirty-halter-swing-dress-p-7861.html

    With a huge royal blue crinoline, ridiculous blue heels, and a cute little fascinator from Chinatown in Toronto!

  2. Shauna

    Our wedding was in 2006…and what I would choose now is completely different that what I chose then, but I picked a bridesmaid dress that had a white option. Look like a simple A-line bridal gown without the regular price tag :)

  3. Cara-Leigh

    Such a good post! I’ve really struggled with finding something I’ love, or if I do the price range is just out of the question. So I’ve decided to ‘lace’ crochet mine, in an edwardian inspired pattern. I must be mad but I have two years to finish it!

  4. It helps as well if you have a very good salesperson knowing her biz inside out! I had an idea of a dress and could picture me soo well in it. When I went to the shop, the lady looked me up and down, took measurements and listened to what I told her. When I described how I wanted my dress to look like she only said “we will see, just trust me”. She got me 9 dresses in total and asked me to try on the one she thinks would suit me best first…. what can I say: the one she choose was THE one. I went with it, it felt and looked perfect. Tried on my choice too but – looked not well on me at all as I thought ;)
    What I mean is: be open minded – what you have in mind might look totally different when you try it on!

  5. Martyna

    A great budget friendly option is to look for a prom/evening dress instead – you can choose from a wide variety of styles and colours, even white/ivory/champagne colours – and without the expensive wedding tag!

  6. Sarah Secker

    I found my dress by chance in a charity shop in Tutbury in a Halloween display. Tried it on and it fitted perfectly. Beautiful beaded 80′s bodice, matt/flat bright white and stunning train. Couldn’t be happier, especially with the £35 price tag. More money left for shoes!

  7. I’m making my dress. I’ve only been sewing for a year, and have owned a sewing machine for only two months, but it’s going to be the only way I get to wear a dress which I like without having to deal with the expense of buying one. Plus the idea of trying loads on with a stranger (pushy sales assistant) really puts me off.

    It’s going to be knee length, made with duchess satin and most importantly, unique to me. :)

  8. Grace, I’m making my own dress too, for exactly the same reasons. I never even considered buying one. Mine is also knee-length, in a linen blend that I can wear again for years without anyone knowing it’s my wedding dress except my lovely proto-husband.

  9. Lisa

    I actually got mine over the internet from one of those dress making places in China, and I was really happy with it.
    However I did go to a dress shop first to try different styles on, as I agree that dresses look so different when you try them on, and I ended up liking a style which I didn’t expect – I thought I knew exactly what I wanted but I didn’t like it when I tried it on!
    I did order my dress well in advance incase there were any issues when it arrived. I had confidence in the seller I used though as my friend had ordered her dress from the same place a couple of years before (Milly Bridal) and was really pleased with the quality level, but I think this can probably vary from place to place so if you’re considering this option then make sure you thoroughly research their feedback!
    I couldn’t afford to pay shop prices so for me it was a good option and meant I got the dress I wanted for £300 instead of £1,300!

  10. SashaCat

    I bought my dress from a china warehouse.
    My advice it you want to too:
    - try the silhouettes in a store first
    - feel the fabrics in a store first
    - order online (mine was $300 incl shipping and custome size)
    - order a custom size to CORRECT measurements
    - get a lace up back (easier to adjust)
    - manage your expectations by reading the description of the dress – don’t just look at the photo.
    - pick a simple design – less can go wrong and you can alter it later.

    When mine arrived it was amazing. I ordered 1cm bigger than I am and it was 1cm too big (exactly as I ordered it). It looked more like the written description than the photo as the photo wasn’t very close up. Fabrics feels the same as in store. Quality and strong seamstressing. I love it.

  11. I made my own too! I am ALLLL about short dressses (and sleeves!) and I’ve been sewing forever so I always knew that’s what I’d be doing. we still did the rounds of bridal shops to try things on though, it was fun!

  12. Lani Lennon

    Hi Kat!
    I’ve been engaged for 2.5 years (the wedding is next year) and still looking for the ultimate wedding dress.
    I’ve trawled through etsy and online boutiques here in Australia.
    I’m looking for something with a little bit of colour and that’s not your typical long dress.
    I love oh my honey – Do you have any more suggestions?

    Thanks,
    Lani

  13. The image given in this page is really helpful and interesting. The wedding is the most beautiful moment in everyone’s life.The wedding dress is very important at this moment. Thanks for sharing this to the readers.

  14. I got married two years ago and my turquoise and amethyst tea length dress was a collaboration with a local designer of evening dresses. We chose the fabric together, laughed through several fittings and the end result was really beautiful. I’d definitely recommend a bespoke approach as my dress was unique and still cheaper than any I saw off the rack. Even better, I am now working with a really talented seamstress who is repurposing the dress into a quilt!

  15. Emma R

    I’m having my dress made by a designer who made a dress for one of your featured wedding (thank you!!!). Its head and shoulders above anything else I went to try on and I know its 100% MY dress!! No one else will have the same dress ever :) the whole process of designing the dress, picking the materials and now the whole making/fitting process has been SO much fun!!

  16. Arianna

    I’m surprised you didn’t list something like “your dress doesn’t have to be a WEDDING one” as a tip: I think that’s a great and undervalued one! Like every “wedding” thing, wedding dresses cost a lot more than “regular” ones, but they are not necessarily better, above all when you’re looking for something not-so-traditional :)

  17. Thanks so much for the mention Kat, we Love your blog and have had so SO many awesome brides come to us via your kickass Blog xxxx

  18. Beth

    One of the best ideas my friend gave me was to find a preloved wedding dress, and I did, saved some money and never looked back! I got it from using http://www.secondhandweddingdresses.com and I am thrilled with the dress I found there. If you are looking to save some money on your dress, this would be the best option for you without sacrificing quality!!

Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *