Sunday, July 14, 2013

307 Days: Finding My Wedding Dress

It seemed that finding the perfect wedding dress puts brides-to-be under a lot of pressure... and now I completely understand why!!

There is definitely a massive expectation about a bride’s dress. I don’t think that's specific to me but something that all brides must feel. Obviously top priority for me was finding a dress that I loved, looked nice in and felt great in. I only intend to get married once so the dress had to be perfect.  Then there was the added pressure of finding something that Jim would think I looked pretty in, something that made my mum cry and that my dad approved of, something my bridesmaids loved and something that would impress our guests on the day.

I knew that no matter what I turn up in my mum would think I was most beautiful bride ever (that’s her job as my mother and I love her for it).  My bridesmaids (Fiona & Jenny) had also been very supportive in the ideas of dresses I’d shown them.  They are both much more fashionable than I am and I trust them to be honest with me.

I visited several shops over the course of a year and during that time had picked a top 3.
The first dressed I'd really liked I'd tried in Logans, Cloughmills.  The ladies who I saw there were very helpful and were keen to try and find a style of dress that I liked best so that my dress shopping could be a bit more focused.  I'd retried this dress in a shop in Leicester and still really liked it, but wasn't convinced.

The second dress I really liked, I tried in Petticoat Lane Bridal, Hillsborough.  I couldn't fault the staff there, who worked so hard and gave so much great advice. I returned in June to try what I was convinced was my wedding dress with my mum and Fiona and they were very kind in letting me have a very last minute appointment to try the dress. We left the shop that morning and I was sure that as Fiona had seen this dress I just wanted to Jenny to see it then it'd be deposits, measurements etc.

That same weekend we had booked an appointment with another dress shop Forever Bridal in Belfast as they had lots of designers I hadn't tried before and a selection of different dresses by designers I had tried. As we waited on the sofa for the bride before me to finish, I was chatting with Fiona and mum about my lack of tears when trying on dresses.  Nothing had made either me or my mum well up at all.  I wondered was this a bad thing? But concluded that maybe I just wouldn't cry and that was fine.

The lovely ladies in Forever Bridal knew their stock so well, and after a very short chat with me selected some truly stunning dresses.  The one that caught my eye was the second dress I tried on. Even as I tried on the other gorgeous dresses, I couldn't take my eyes off it. I asked to try it on again at the end, and they clipped a veil into the back of my hair and left me with mum and Fiona. When they returned, as they chatted to mum I stood, looking in the mirrors and had a massive lump in my throat, before quickly announcing something like, 'I should probably take this off before I cry.' It all felt rather emotional and rather fast. Within a few minutes a deposit had been paid, measurements taken and a dress ordered. The staff were so helpful, not at all pushy and I definitely got the sense they wanted to help me find my perfect dress, not just any dress.  I'm sad Jenny wasn't able to join us that day, but I'm so excited for her and Fiona to see me in my dress in my size, and I predict a few celebratory cocktails that day!

Below I've made a few notes of thoughts I had or ideas I found helpful while looking for my wedding dress.  They might be useful to other brides-to-be who are currently hunting for their dress.

Setting a budget is important.  It’s sometimes hard to imagine what price a dress is and it would be heartbreaking to try your dream dress only to find it is outside your budget. Most shops will ask about your budget before you try any dresses but if not it might be worth asking them only to show you dresses within your price range.

Book appointments early
Early in our engagement I realised I was probably going to have to fly home to try dresses and have fittings etc. So I insisted mum and I tried dresses in mid-2012, before we had a date or a venue considered. Some shops weren’t very accommodating and said that I couldn’t have a Saturday appointment when my wedding was potentially so far in the future. I never tried to rebook with that shop.  Trying my first dress was bizarre and felt very grown-up, but it instantly gave me an idea of what I didn't want. The more I tried the more things I was able to narrow down what I was looking for.

Be open minded and ask for advice
As much as I love to dress up for parties and special occasions I can’t claim to understand how to dress for my body shape (which is long, with giant hands and a tiny head – never noticed? Have a look next time you see me! :)) and this is something that's extremely important when selecting a wedding dress so I was happy to take any advice offered. I was also really surprised when I tried on a particular gorgeous Jenny Packham dress I'd been lusting after online, only to find it didn't look quite how I'd hoped. 

Initially I was open to trying anything – wedding dresses are largely all gorgeous, even if the style wasn’t quite for me they are so beautifully designed and so much time has gone into making them so I was happy to swoosh around in as many as possible. 
The ladies who’ve helped me in all the shops I’ve visited have been amazing!! They know their dresses inside out and in most shops the dresses I liked the best were not ones I’d even considered trying, but ones they had suggested for my shape. Dresses also look completely different when on, than on the hanger. In most shops they also did a great job pinning me into to dresses which were a size or two too large. It gave me enough of an idea of the silhouette of the dress, but I know a dress in my size will look much nicer on me.

Consider your tastes and your shape
I didn’t think I wanted a dress with a fuller skirt, tending to like Grecian, floaty dresses more.  Anything asymmetric at the top, maybe with one shoulder seemed to catch my eye. I’ve never been a big fan of strapless dresses.  They never fit me and I stand hunched trying to make sure they don’t slip down. I also feel really over exposed and bare from the neckline of the dress up. After trying on a few dresses we decided that a sweet heart neckline was very flattering. It was amazing the difference a slight dip in the front made.

Consider Your Venue & theme ideas
I definitely found dress hunting easier once we knew where we’d be getting married.  The types of flowers and table decorations we liked did play a part in my dress selection. Considering where our photographs would be taken and how I would move around the venue on the day helped guide me. I knew what would and wouldn't match the wedding day we were planning 

Don’t Rush
For the first few months I was happy to try dresses and was in no rush to settle on a dress. Once we hit the ‘1 year to go’ mark, I got a bit panicky worrying that I’d maybe never find THE dress.  For anyone else currently in that situation, don’t worry... you will! I did!

Trust Your Choice
After I was measured and a deposit was paid I did have a slight panic. Not because I had any doubts about the actual dress but again the pressure of the decision scared me slightly. After chatting with my mum I realised that the dress I've chosen is perfect, and I love it and it was the very best decision.

The dress I have picked is unlike anything else I tried on but very much in my style. It felt like my dress, I felt like a bride and could just see myself holding Jim's hand at Riverdale on our wedding day in that dress.

I won't go into any more specific details as I do want it to be a surprise for everyone on the day.  I hope everyone likes it as much as I do! (Although to be honest I don't mind either way, because I love it!)


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