“When should I start shopping for my wedding dress?” A question we’re often asked by brides-to-be and answered here by our Founder & Head Stylist, Hayley Hoyle drawing upon her 13+ years’ experience in the industry.
Whether anxious or eager to begin your dream dress search, you may well be pondering when exactly is the best time to purchase your wedding gown?
And the answer? Well, strictly speaking, there is no definitive answer. Shop too early, and you could risk questioning your purchase or having your head turned further down the line. But start the search too late, and you might reduce your options whilst piling on unnecessary pressure.
However, what I have learned over the years is that if a bride-to-be feels emotionally and financially ready to purchase a gown, then that signals the time to book a bridal boutique appointment.
Of course, the dreaming and dress inspiration gathering can start from the moment that ring is placed on your finger, but the physical shopping should be prompted by feeling comfortable to commit to a dress. This is often driven by having set a budget, secured a date and booked a venue; all key factors in the decision-making stage of the process.
Then there are production lead times to consider, with many wedding dresses – including all those stocked at our Harrogate bridal boutique – made to order at the designer atelier for each individual bride. It must then be shipped to the bridal boutique and professionally altered by a seamstress to ensure the perfect fit and undergo any bespoke alterations.
As such, we do have an ideal wedding dress shopping timeline that we suggest to our brides and that I’m sharing here, which gives leeway for all the above and should result in a relaxed and enjoyable experience. This includes when and how to begin your bridal gown search and the typical boutique touch-points along the way.
If, however, you’re on a tighter deadline than the one outlined below. Do. Not. Panic. For I’m also sharing details of alternative, speedier solutions that mean you can still walk the aisle in a dress you adore!
Wedding Dress Shopping Timeline: 12 to 18 months
Budget Setting & Dress Inspiration
The less fun part of planning a wedding is the number crunching. But having a rough idea of your bridal dress budget before you start visiting boutiques is wise to avoid falling for a gown that’s out of range.
Then, you can move on to the enjoyable part of gathering wedding gown inspiration. Wedding magazines, blogs and platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram are all great resources, but with the breadth of inspo available, I always warn brides not to fall down a rabbit hole at this point. Instead, it’s a case of balance. Absorbing the wonderful online inspiration – looking at necklines, dress shapes, detailing, fabrics – whilst remembering to bring it back to you as an individual – your style, what you like and what makes you feel like, well, you! As professional bridal stylists, we can then assist you with finding the dress that will fit your finely tuned bridal vision, and that will be 100 percent you!
Research Bridal Boutiques
Buying your wedding dress should not be about a transaction, but about connection and experience. As such, I always advise looking for a bridal boutique you feel aligned with, from the designs they stock to the service they deliver. To discover if a boutique is a good match, look at its website and social media accounts. Do you resonate with their ethos, like the sound of the experience and team, are you attracted to their designers and dress styles, do they have in-house seamstresses who can make custom alterations?
Brides-to-be can often get hung-up thinking the wedding dress search is some long, arduous task that must be spread out over numerous months and involve multiple boutiques. However, if you find a boutique you feel an affinity to, and that has a good amount of designers and dress choices, chances are you’ll find your dream dress with ease, enjoy the process, and only involve one boutique.
Attend Bridal Consultation
Once you’ve found a bridal boutique that ticks your boxes and booked an appointment, it’s dress trying on time!
Here at the Harrogate Wedding Lounge, the experience for our brides starts before they’ve even stepped foot in the boutique. That’s because, after the first enquiry, we remain in touch via Whatsapp, helping them with dress shopping prep, answering any questions, sending dress images and generally getting to know them and their style preferences.
Not only does this make them feel super at ease when they do come to visit, but we’re not starting from scratch at the consultation, so we can have already picked out some dresses we think will appeal as a starting point.
My advice during initial consultations would be to trust your bridal stylist. Our team know our designers and dress styles inside out and have experience styling women of every shape and body size. They see how the dresses look, move and feel and will be able to advise on the styles that fit your vision, preferences and physical requirements.
Our personal and attentive approach, combined with our incredible collection of designers, means that, for lots of our brides, The Harrogate Wedding Lounge is the only boutique they visit during their dress search.
Wedding Dress Shopping Timeline: 9-12 Months
Purchase The Dress
Committing to a wedding dress is a big decision, so it helps to have a little thinking time and revisit a boutique to try on your favourite styles. But, when there is a clear front runner that gives you all the feels, have the confidence to say “yes”.
Thoughts like, ‘but what if there’s a better dress out there,’ might crop up, but most designers only release one bridal collection a year, so it’s not like mainstream fashion where new ‘seasonal’ pieces are constantly dropping.
You’ll be picking from the latest dresses designed with upcoming trends in mind, and stringing out the search might only lead to heartache when a gown you love is discontinued.
A key benefit of the collections we stock is that many are made here in the UK, giving us the flexibility to work with the bride and designer on a bespoke design. So, if you’ve fallen for a strappy dress but would prefer your arms to be covered, we can add sleeves or want a dramatic ballgown but to show off your legs also, then we can adjust to create a high-low hem. Custom alterations are an option for our international dress designs, too, thanks to the exceptional skills of our in-house sewing team.
Wedding Dress Shopping Timeline: 4 to 6 months
Shop Wedding Accessories
With your dress decided on, you can shop for your wedding accessories. These finishing touches can make a big difference to the overall look and provide a way for brides to give more of a nod to their personal style.
Our bridal stylists are fabulous at helping brides achieve their big-day vision by experimenting with various accessories. To assist, we offer exclusive one-hour styling appointments Monday to Friday free of charge.
Our thoughtful picked accessory range from luxury designers includes veils, belts, hair accessories and jewellery, with some items available to purchase and takeaway on the day and others made to order within four to six weeks.
Wedding Dress Shopping Timeline: 2 to 3 Months
Bridal Alteration Appointments
Your made-to-order dress will usually arrive at your boutique three months before your wedding to allow time for the all-important fittings. Most brides typically require two to three appointments to achieve the perfect fit.
At our Harrogate bridal boutique, we package the price of fittings and custom alterations, so no unexpected costs are incurred, even if extra fitting appointments are required.
Wedding Dress Shopping Timeline: Two Weeks
Final Fitting & Dress Collection
Prepare for (happy!) tears as you try on your perfectly tailored gown for the final time before it’s professionally steamed and beautifully packed up. Then it’s time to take it away with you and store it safely, ready for the big day, knowing that you have a gown that you look and feel your very best in!
Once the celebrations have taken place, we always love welcoming our brides back to the boutique to share their wedding images and, likely, drop off their well-partied-in dress for cleaning.
We can arrange the expert dry cleaning and boxing of the most delicate dresses, and our seamstresses can undertake any necessary repairs, too, so your dream dress (and special memories) can be perfectly preserved.
As mentioned, if you’re on a tighter shopping timescale, we can still provide options to help you find your dream dress in super quick time.
Some of our British designers can turn around dress designs in as little as four weeks, but this will incur an additional ‘rush fee’. Having experienced in-house seamstresses means we can work to shorter time-frames on the fittings and alterations too.
Finally, in addition to The Harrogate Wedding Lounge, we have our nearby outlet bridal boutique selling off-the-peg ex-sample dresses, which can be purchased and taken away on the day.
Ready to start your wedding dress shopping experience with us? Book your bridal styling appointment with one of our expert team today or if you have a dress-search-related question, email us at email@example.com.