When so much meaning is ascribed to a single piece of clothing, choosing your dream wedding dress is a hugely daunting prospect.
But what if there was a foolproof step-by-step guide you could follow before you set off on your quest for the perfect gown? Well, luckily for you, there is!
Jade Beer, former editor of Conde Nast Brides and author of The Almost Wife, has shared a definitive list of things she believes every bride needs to know before buying a wedding dress. Happy shopping!
1. It doesn’t have to be white
Soft washes of blush, pale green, sky blue and lilac, as well as delicate metallics and even bolder shades of red, are readily available in main bridal collections now. Try them on. See what works and what doesn’t. Maybe you do still want the dress to be a shade of white, but you’ll bring colour through in the details – a sash, shoulder streamers or the embroidery. If you’re considering incorporating colour, then look to designers and labels such as Jenny Packham, Claire Pettibone, Hayley Paige and Needle & Thread.
2. It doesn’t have to be a dress
Bridal jumpsuits, softly tailored trouser suits and separates all offer a really chic alternative and will allow you to re-wear your look multiple times after the big day – if that’s your hope.
So many designers have wised up to the fact that modern brides don’t necessarily want a strapless ballgown – or, at least, they don’t think they do at the beginning of dress shopping – and have responded with collections full of pieces that are interchangeable and work together so you can build up your look as you go.
Changing the sleeves of a top to increase the re-wear value; switching the overlay of a skirt so it feels more ready-to-wear or simply adding special touches such as a beautiful rose-gold leather belt are all great ideas that will elevate plainer pieces to big-day-worthy status. Look to designers like Kate Halfpenny, Charlie Brear and Savannah Miller.
3. Ask yourself how many different looks you want
Are you intending to opt for one incredible outfit that will take you through the whole wedding day from ceremony to reception and after-party? Or, like many brides now, do you want to change for each different part of the day?
It’s worth working this out early on, as it will obviously dictate how your budget is going to be carved up. You may decide that simple accessory changes are enough to move you from the official bit to the fun bit of the day. But the costs can quickly escalate, so I would suggest looking at the budget and breaking it down early, remembering that a veil and lingerie can add a significant chunk.
4. Never, ever skimp on alterations
There is simply no point investing heavily (whatever that sum of money might be for you) in the dress of your dreams and then not have it fit you perfectly on the day. If you are buying off the peg, this is especially important as the dress – unlike with the made-to-measure, bespoke or couture options – has not been made with your specific body shape in mind. It will have been designed and made with a standard size in mind – and whose body fits precisely into that mould?
Dress measurements only need to be marginally out for the gown to ruche awkwardly, pinch where it shouldn’t or not fall in the way it’s intended to. Quality bridal boutiques will have their own highly-skilled seamstresses, or at least have a team of trusted people they can recommend to you. Use them – and make sure you factor in this cost from the beginning.
5. Your look doesn’t have to start with the wedding dress
Maybe for you it will be the Elie Saab peplum jumpsuit you’re intending to wear to your rehearsal dinner that you see as your big fashion moment. Or the Self Portrait chiffon maxi dress you’re planning for the hen night. Maybe it’s all that Temperley London and Heidi Klein you’re going to binge buy for the honeymoon.
There is the potential for your ‘wedding wardrobe’ to expand across many different elements and looks so that the wedding dress itself might not be the one central focus for your budget. Maybe your big-day vision starts with that incredible pair of crystal Aquazzura sandals? Or the Victoria Beckham pale blue calf-leather clutch? Whatever it is, embrace it!