The 7 Dos and Don’ts Of Buying A Wedding Dress Online

how to buy your wedding dress online

There’s something undeniably magical about going to a fancy bridal boutique, sipping champagne and trying on beautiful, exquisitely made, designer wedding dresses. But for a lot of brides – who can’t or don’t want to – the mere idea of dropping £3000 on a dream dress is completely out of the question!

I think it’s good to have options and so instead of just blindly writing about it, I actually wanted try it out for myself. I ordered two dresses from Adorona.com, based in Shanghai, who sell made-to-measure and customisable dresses online.

There are a number of things you should consider if you plan to buy your wedding dress online, either second-hand (from somewhere like eBay), from an independent designer on Etsy, or via a website that makes and sells wedding and prom dresses from China.

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1. Do check the fabric

First and foremost you should check the fabric of the dress you like, and if at all possible, ask for swatches to be sent to you before you place an order. Sometimes clothing can look really beautiful online, but when you see it in the flesh you realise why it was so cheap! Using lower quality fabrics is one of the most common ways that online retailers keep their costs down.

I’m not going to lie, the fabrics used on the two dresses I ordered were in no way comparable to something you might see in a bridal boutique. However, I was pleasantly surprised. They were a lot nicer than I thought they might be, especially for the price. Most importantly though, the dresses were exceptionally well made. The fabric was thick and the stitching in all the right places. There were no threads hanging off, or unfinished edges, and the embellishments were of a high quality. The dresses were also both super comfortable to wear.

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2. Do send accurate measurements

Ideally you don’t want to be ordering your dress off a simple size guide. I personally NEVER trust them! I don’t know about you, but I can be a size S in one shop (J Crew – hello vanity sizing!) and a XL in the next (American Apparel you are not my favourite).

The best case scenario is that the place you’re ordering your dress from will ask for your measurements and then make a gown to fit you. This is what Adorona did, and both dresses turned out perfect. Ask which measurements they need and have someone to help you do it. Then check and double check that you’ve got them right!

I get it, no-one REALLY likes to measure themselves, but this is not the time for bending the truth. Don’t stand there sucking in your tummy or wearing a padded bra. You want the dress to be comfortable. Be honest about your size. I promise, you’ll look and feel a million times more beautiful in a dress that actually fits.

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3. Don’t ignore your usual style

You might be in love with a certain wedding dress trend, but just because its a wedding gown doesn’t mean you should ignore your body shape or deviate from your usual style.

Have a look inside your wardrobe and pull out some of your favourite pieces. What do they have in common in terms of fabric, shape, colour and length? If you wear a certain style a lot, it’s probably because you feel good in it! This should be the basis for your wedding dress too.

I wear a lot of 50s shapes and maxi dresses so these were the starting points when I came to pick my dresses. I went for white, over ivory, for the short dress because the colour suits my complexion more, and a pinky purple for the long gown because it’s a shade I wear a lot.

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4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

There should be a very open dialogue between you and the place you’re buying your dress, especially if you’re designing something custom. Don’t ever feel like you’re asking too many questions or annoying your designer. Good communication will lead to the best dress and will mean there are no nasty surprises when it arrives!

There are no stupid questions. You’ve probably never ordered a wedding dress before, so you need all the facts. If the person on the other end of the phone or email makes you feel like you’re being a pest, then quite frankly they don’t deserve your business!

5. Do leave plenty of time for delivery

A lot of us have got very used to next day delivery culture, but when it comes to ordering a wedding dress this just isn’t going to happen! If your dress is being custom made or shipped from abroad, this is especially important. Check delivery times with the retailer and add on a little extra too. You do not want to be stressing that it won’t arrive in time for the wedding. My dresses were custom made and shipped from abroad and they took around six weeks to arrive.

Remember about customs too. Depending on your home country, or the value of the dress, your dress may get delayed by the process and you might have to pay a charge to receive it. Make sure you include extra time and budget just in case this happens.

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6. Do save some budget for alternations

I lucked out on my dresses. By sending over accurate measurements my two gowns fit like a dream and I didn’t need any alterations, but this might not be the case for you. Whatever your budget, it’s really worthwhile having some set aside for incidentals, or just in case it’s not quite perfect when it arrives.

As a side note, Androna offer a customisation service on many of their dresses, which meant they were able to alter the neckline on the short, white one for me. The original design had a very high neck, which wouldn’t have suited my shape. I was amazed to discover that they offered this at no extra charge.

7. Do make a simple dress your own

As you can see, I accessorised my dresses to make them more ‘me’. I think you should do this whatever wedding dress you’re wearing, its all part of the fun!

Another thing worth noting is that, usually, the simpler the dress (aka the less work it takes to make it) the more affordable it will be. The two dresses I ordered were at opposite ends of the pricing spectrum because I wanted to see how they compared. The white one was $152.99 and the purple one, over $1000. When they arrived, I actually much preferred the cheaper one because I could add my own twist to it with colourful accessories and fun shoes!

I hope this article proves that when it comes to buying a wedding dress it really isn’t about how much you spend, and that there are plenty of options out there for brides on a budget. I’ve always been a firm believer that what really matters is how an item makes you feel. It could cost you £3000, or just £30, but if it fits you well and suits your style, then you’ll always end up feeling like a million dollars.

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Supporting Cast

41 comments

  1. Andrea Hill

    On the questions section, can you add not to presume anything and to remind the designer of important things too please? I presumed that my dress was empire line from the pictures I’d seen, but I was wrong. This was a massive deal as I’d also told her there was a big possibility I could be pregnant and showing at the time of the wedding (we knew when we were planning to start trying) and if she could accommodate for that. I didn’t check or remind her and the dress wouldn’t go near me by the wedding. I ended up with a £20 stretchy dress from a high street sale, and I’ve got a £1800 black wedding dress in my wardrobe that I may never ever wear!

  2. I ordered my wedding dress from China off ebay and unfortunately it just didn’t come. I chose a seller with over 300 positive reviews and was devastated when it didn’t arrive.

    Two months before the wedding I ended up having to buy something from the High Street, my stress levels were sky high and I was so upset that my dream dress became a nightmare.

    I would recommend giving yourself enough time that if it doesn’t arrive, you still have time to buy something else.

    x

  3. I purchased my 50s-style dress online from Honeypie Boutique – the company is based and managed in the UK but the dresses are made in China (I think…somewhere abroad anyway!). This was perfect for me as I didn’t have to worry about communicating directly with a designer in China; someone in the UK who already has an established relationship with the Chinese staff did all that for me. Customer service and fabric swatches were all dealt with from the UK too. My dress cost less than £160 including delivery (which took about 8 weeks) and I couldn’t have been happier with it! It was so well made, and suited and fitted me perfectly – I actually preferred it to a similar dress I tried on at a wedding fair that cost over £1500! One tip I would add when buying a dress online is to go for a lace-up back rather than a zip – if you do happen to get your measurements slightly wrong, or put on/lose weight then a zip closure will need to be professionally adjusted, whereas with a lace up back you can simply tighten or slacken the back!

  4. Excellent advice Kat! My favourite is when you say “If you wear a certain style a lot, it’s probably because you feel good in it! This should be the basis for your wedding dress too” I see so many brides choosing styles that are ‘in’ right now or that their Mum thinks ‘will suit their body type’, but really on their wedding day every bride should look like themselves, only at their most beautiful!

  5. claire palmer

    I bought my dress from ebay. It is a genuine Ian Stuart, never worn, ex sample bought from a store that was changing suppliers.
    It is immaculate, and cost £750 instead of £2750…there is NO WAY I could have afforded the full price, but this way i have my dream dress.
    I would say if you know what you want, look for a sample!!

  6. Victoria

    I bought my dress from Honeypie Boutique and can definitely recommend. Dress was excellent quality and delivered within the time frame promised with good communication.
    I did do as much research as possible by looking for reviews on forums and websites similar to this.

  7. CharliRed

    This is such a reassuring blog post and perfectly timed – I literally, days ago, pressed ‘purchase’ on my custom-made wedding dress from an Etsy store. It was something that I had agonised about for a long time and I am pleased that I plucked up the courage to go for it, but I am still at the very start of the journey so fingers crossed! I had my measurements taken professionally and I have definitely budgeted for alterations. I hope that I have left plenty of time (wedding is in April). I tried on similar dresses in bridal stores so that I felt confident that the style suited me, but I loved the fact that I could add extra features to really make it mine (yes, covered buttons going all the way down the train, I’m talking about you :)…)
    The store that I decided on has excellent reviews and I have been thrilled with the level (and speed) of our correspondence back and forth so far. She also has a gallery of photos of her real brides, as well as the pictures on the mannequins.
    I really love how your two dresses turned out and you look stunning – here’s hoping that I have a similarly successful experience!!

  8. Aluka

    I think the first thing I did after I got engaged was to search for a dress. I knew two things: 1) I didn’t want the typical wedding dress (we call them “cake dresses” in my country, big and puffy), and 2) my budget was very, very small. I obsessed for many months looking for the PERFFECT dress online, mainly in the US because that´s closer to my country, Costa Rica, than the UK or China. I could have rented the dress, but it would have been traditional dress anyhow.
    I finally found one in Nordstrom, an Isaac Mizrahi, tea-length dress in ivory. A little over my budget. Anyway, I looked for it in eBay and found it, new with tags at a way-lower price. The first time I attempted to purchase it, I saw pictures taken by the seller, which of course look more realistic than the ones at a catalog in an online store. I was dissapointed with the shine factor of the fabric and didn’t purchase it. I spent another week obsessing with the dress and looking for another one, but I couldn´t get it out of my head. So I bought it, well, I bid on it and got it… for $40!!!! (real retail price was $170). Luckily I sized down and it fits me perfectly, although I was nervous about that factor. The fabric is amazing, actually, and it looks very high-end. Buying a dress online without a proper fit can be risky, but you can find a little gem!!

  9. Kirra

    One other thing I’d say to include is to beware of customs duty payable on delivery if buying online from places like the USA. I bought my dress from BHLDN in their sale and was hoping it would be the one but knew I could return it if not as it was off the rack rather than custom made. The dress cost just over £700 and when it arrived we had to pay £277 in customs duty!!!! With our wedding only having a £5K budget that was a huge shock and meant that if I had to return it we would have lost quite a bit of moolah. Luckily it was good enough that I kept it, but in all honesty if there hadn’t been the customs duty I probably would have returned it and kept looking for my dream dress. We decided to just go with it and it all worked out ok but this isn’t something that gets mentioned and can really catch brides out… I wish someone had told me!
    Xx

  10. angelina

    I bought my dress from an online company inspirationbridal.co.uk they are based in manchester. Im really happy with it they did a fantastic job and made it the way i wanted. Al for under 400euro. Fits perfectly 🙂

  11. See, I’m worried about my dress. I bought it in a sample sale at a lovely bridal shop reduced from £1,100 to £350. It’s a bit big and will need alterations that I’ve no idea will even be possible! After doing a bit of research online I’ve found it on a few foreign sites reduced from 600 to 200 (all made to measure) and feel gutted! I’ve managed to convince myself my dress looks
    Cheap now – and I’m sure I wouldn’t have thought that before but I’ve ruined myself! It seems some bridal stores use the foreign suppliers… Hmm!

    …. Tell me if it looks cheap? Panicker! 😉

  12. Poppy Rock-it

    I saw my dress on the sale rail of a bridal shop, the rails of white puffy things freaked me out and I tried on a sale one for a laugh, in a style I would never have thought I would like, but it is SO all about how it makes you feel, I feel like da bomb in it, and when we get around to the wedding I can’t wait to show it to everyone!

  13. Angela ruthven

    I’ve just received my custom made dress from China and for the price it’s amazing. Nothing I could have ever afforded from a bridal shop.

    Kat, where is your belt from? I want!

  14. Dear Kate, Thanks for your recommendation, Adorona will pay more attentions to your suggestions, and improve fabric quality as nice as a bridal boutique. It’s Adorona’s goal to design beautiful dress with affordable price.

    Davie from Adorona

  15. Hi, guys I am Isaac from South Africa, I want to order a wedding dress online, but I’m really not sure or affraid to do so as it will be my first time to buy online,how genuine is this online shopping from other country?. I want ot buy her the from Ebay company. Please guys I need help.

  16. Anne

    Maybe most of us have heard tons of negative complaints about Chinese wedding dress, however to picking out the reputable manufacturer online is really hard. Beware when you can’t find the really address and original dress at their website, not wanna receive the terrible gown, you should be more patient. At last, recommend Jueshe UK (I had bought one evening dress, although their pics are really ugly LOL)

  17. Penny

    Thank you so much for this! I’m going dress shopping on Friday just to try styles on and then to look online for my dream dress. My Mum has been worried about buying online because of the material, but thanks to this I know what to look out for and to ask for samples.
    & Thanks to the people who have recommended sites. I much prefer recommendations than going on a whim!

  18. Rosanne

    Has anyone got ant experience in buying dresses from kitty and dulcie? I’ve fallen in love with their dresses but don’t want to end up with something that looks and feels cheap

  19. Joey

    My husband just ordered from adorona and I’m really hoping that it comes out the way we’re hoping for.

  20. Jaimee

    I ordered my gown from an Australian online bridal shop called LillyBridal.

    They were SO SO helpful and their prices were great, i paid about £500 and the gown arrived last week. I was so pleasantly surprised at how well made and the quality of the fabrics were. My gown looks stunning and they even allowed me to customise the back of my gown to include an illusion high lace back for no additional costs!!
    YAY SOOO HAPPY!

  21. This is the most most neutral most sensible advice for bride-to-be about wedding dresses online i have ever read.Before i bought my dress from China,i have heard so much terrible stories of china cheap bad dresses online.I have summarized they all paid no than 300 dollars for a designer replica dress.My college friend Jessica has bought a ball dress from Only love wedding dresses(Only Love Bridal Boutique)in 2013 about 460 dollars.The result is that her dress help her got so much praise,boutique one.So when i shopping for my wedding gown ,she recommended that shop to me.And before ordering i have taken one week to contact with the seller,because they have changed the website address.I will write my story and the dress after honeymoon.
    One sentence to say,be careful when you shopping online,do not expect expensive at cheap price,that’s a joke!

  22. Maggie

    I love your look, great choices! My mom saw a beautiful gown on lightinabox for $800 which she mentioned to me but I didn’t give it much thought(skeptical). She ended up purchasing the dress after the price was slashed to around $350, still turning a side eye because it was coming from China, I decided to look into the company’s reviews & ratings(😳)….Well the dress showed up and my mom, who is very picky, said it was beautiful! I finally saw the dress and was completely and pleasantly surprised 😀Beautiful & the material was nice & thick….Well I will see the end of the matter when the dress goes on😀Thanks for the great tips!

  23. Kristen Beebe

    Hi thanks for posting. You look great!

    I was thinking of getting my wedding dress at adorona and I was wondering if you know anything about their return policy? It says on their website they accept returns if you are not 100% satisfied but I’m wary to trust it since I’ve heard horror stories about many other similar sites where they refused to accept a return.

    Thanks!

  24. Great article. Nowadays, everyone prefer to buy wedding dresses online because online store offers a huge variety and style. Thanks for sharing such great post with us.

  25. Jeanette

    Hi! Great tips! I have searched on Aliexpress for 2 years and the review pictures is always crap. But 1 store has great dresses! When you order a princess ball gown weddingdress you actually GET a ballgown puffy dress and not A-line , and you do GET the 10 layers with tulle and satin, not 2-3.
    Their dresses are GORGEOUS! Their price are double the usual ebay/aliexpress price, but you get a dress you CAN wear and not some crappy dress.

    I use aliexpress app, so don’t have the link but the store is Amanda Novias Wedding Dress. (On aliexpress)

    Sincerly ,
    Jeanette
    Norway

  26. Hi KAT!

    WOW, what is that purle dress, please? 😀 Where did you buy it? I came here for tricks and tips when it comes to buying a bridal dress online (got it, thanks :)), but it looks so great, now I need to see it 🙂 thanks, L

  27. Louise

    I have seen several beautiful dresses on Light in the Box,at very reasonable prices but am skeptical about ordering. Would love to hear from anyone who has ordered from them and to hear their experience. I am on a very tight budget but want to find a unique dress… not Gown at a reasonable price. HELP and thanks.

  28. Tina

    Just ordered my dress online and sent in my measurements and even asked them to do a custom neckline, fingers crossed haha. Also I want to add, find a website that has reviews with pictures of real customers wearing their dress so you can see how it will look on someone more than a size zero model 😉

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