Wedding dress shopping tips

You know when you meet someone for the first time, and it’s like you’ve known them for an age? I had a feeling it would be like that with Donna.  When Craig mentioned he had to visit Invercargill, and wondered if I fancied a road trip, I said “As long as I can finally meet Donna!” After months of emails and a brief introduction at a wedding show, the opportunity for a catchup was too good to let past. My poor husband agreed (he gets dragged onto a few wedding-blog related detours!) and so that’s how I got to pick Donna’s brain for some tips on wedding dress shopping.

wedding dress shopping tips with brides by donna rae

What’s so different about wedding dress shopping vs shopping for a normal dress?

There was a couple of reasons I knew Donna’s advice on finding a wedding dress would be invaluable. The first one was their popular sample sale coming up on 25 February 2017! Most gowns are only $500, so it’s well worth a trip in, to see if the dress of your dreams is waiting for you at a discounted price.

If you don’t find your dream dress at the sample sale – perhaps you’d rather win one?! Brides by Donna Rae and Venus Gowns are giving away a Venus gown, valued up to $3,000!  Enter online at the Brides by Donna Rae website, and make sure you’re at the draw – held at The Hideaway 201 Bridal Expo on the 23rd of April (more information here).

And finally… don’t think you’re getting started too early on the hunt for your wedding dress. I don’t like stressing people out by trying to worry you with deadlines by when you “should” get stuff sorted. But you need to order your dress by the end of August for it to arrive before Christmas.  If you don’t stress about the dress now, you’ll be stressing about it a ton come early next year.

Timeline for ordering in wedding dresses (it can take awhile)

To understand why shopping for a wedding dress is different, you need to understand a bit of what goes on behind the scenes. It’s not like when you rock into Max, try on a dress and then ask the nice lady if they have a bigger size in the back. Bridal shops don’t have a massive storeroom of wedding dresses that they can just grab for you.  Instead, you try on sample dresses, then their professional seamstresses measure you and order the right size in for you. The wedding dress then arrives from the designers. This means you can’t rock up a couple of weeks before your wedding to buy a dress (unless the store is selling some of their sample dresses – like the sale Brides by Donna Rae is having on 25 Feb!).

So like with many things wedding-related, you need to be organised and shop for your wedding dress well in advance. For Brides by Donna Rae customers, dress orders need to be in by the end of August for them to arrive before Christmas.

stunning wedding dress southland

Allowing time for alterations

On top of waiting for the dress to be made and arrive, most wedding dresses will need to be altered.  When you order a wedding dress, you get it in a standard size. For example: if the seamstress measures you and you’re a 10 in the bust and a 12 in the hip, they’ll order a 12, so that your wedding dress can be altered down at the bust. This differs from if you’re getting a custom made wedding dress.  In this instance, the dressmaker will make the wedding dress to your exact measurements, so you wouldn’t have an alterations process (if you do…it’s not exactly custom made is it?!).

Allowing this extra time for your dress alterations means even if you’re getting married in February or March, you will want to get onto ordering your wedding dress in the middle of the year, so it’s arriving before Christmas (or soon afterwards).

You might think you know what wedding dress you want…

The other reason I knew this would be a helpful article is from my own wedding dress shopping experience. Being an uber-organised bride, I scoured wedding magazines and the internet for my wedding dress. When I went to try some wedding dresses on, I went in with my heart set on this beautiful gold/champagne art deco gown with a low satin back and mermaid train. I tried some amazing dresses, with a couple of hot contenders, but I saved “the” particular dress till last.

I slipped it on, managed to zip it up myself and – I. looked. terrible. The colour made me look ill, the way it hugged my figure made me look massive… and the charming low back… well there was no way I could wear a bra (and I really need to wear a bra!). I really wish I could find the photos because my description does not do the dress justice. It was beautiful, but it looked terrible on me. My friends were excited to see this amazing dress I’d been raving about – and I didn’t even want to come out of the dressing room!

I guess my point here is that you don’t necessarily know if something’s going to suit you until you try it on, and it’s one of the many reasons I think buying your wedding dress online is a bad idea.  If I’d bought my dream wedding dress online, I would’ve been bitterly disappointed (and that’s before considering the quality and ethical considerations in buying from these stores).

I get that buying at a store can be daunting and a bit more expensive, but you’re not
just paying the extra towards a dress; you’re paying for the experience of the bridal consultants, an assurance of quality, and the effort that’s gone into the design of the dress.

Wedding dress shopping tips

With my explanation of why wedding dress shopping is a bit different aside… Here’s what you came for – wedding dress shopping tips from Donna at Brides by Donna Rae:

Bring along a couple of people you can trust

The more of an entourage you bring along for wedding dress shopping, the more opinions, thoughts and coordination = the more stress. You don’t need an audience. Bring along your Mum or a trusted relative and a trusted friend. Bossy and opinionated friends should probably sit this out – the most important thing the support crew can do is be guided by the bride’s body language in a wedding dress. Everyone’s taste is different, and an honest opinion is necessary. But you can’t pick a dress you feel frumpy in because your Mum liked it the best.

Keep an open mind

Many brides turn up (like I did!) with a phone full of Pinterest dreams and ideas. Unfortunately many of the wedding dresses are modelled by perfectly proportioned models with a different body shape to you. Keep an open mind about the styles you want to try. Trust your bridal consultant to help you explore different silhouettes. Try on as many dresses as you need, but don’t overload yourself with too many options- that can make the decision even harder!

Finding the wedding dress of your dreams

At most bridal stores, including Brides by Donna Rae, you need to book your visit ahead. This is so you can have a bridal consultant looking after you and pulling dresses off the racks, helping you get in and out of them, and most importantly – someone who can help match the bride to the perfect dress. They do this by figuring out which silohette is the most flattering to your body shape. Once you’ve pinned down the silohette that compliments your figure the best, they will then work on figuring out the dress with the fabric and pretty bits that’ll make you say YES! to the dress :).

beautiful wedding dress invercargill

What to wear to try on wedding dresses

Since visiting the bridal store is not a spur of the moment thing, it gives you some time to suss out what you’re wearing that day. Of course you don’t need to dress up! But wearing a skin coloured strapless bra and skin or light coloured underwear is a hot tip. You will get a better idea of how you’d look in the wedding dresses if you’re not being distracted by bra straps or a dark shadow of black knickers below a white satin dress.

Don’t worry about bringing along heels (unless you already have your wedding shoes). Brides by Donna Rae has a platform and heels, so you are all sorted there. Another don’t that’s important to consider – spray tans. You don’t need to panic that a spray tan won’t match the dress – if it matches your usual skin tone, it will match your spray tan.  You don’t want to damage these beautiful white gowns and you’ll feel self conscious about rubbing tan on them too!

Expect alterations

As I explained earlier, Donna pointed out that your dress may require alterations. Brides by Donna Rae has a bridal alterations specialist that exclusively works on their brides. Your wedding dress is probably the most elaborately constructed piece of clothing you’ll own. It’s important that whoever alters your wedding dress knows what they’re doing!

How do you feel?

This harks back to what I mentioned earlier, about your Mum and bridesmaids watching your body language. It’s not about how you look in a wedding dress. They will all (mostly) make you look incredible. That’s what they do! The most important this is “do you feel comfortable” – and “do you feel confident”? If you feel a little self conscious (because you’re wearing a blooming-massive white dress!) then that’s ok. But if you are a bit shy about your tummy (we all are) then maybe another dress might be a better option. You want to feel comfortable, confident – and like you!

Organise a wedding dress fitting

Hopefully Donna’s tips above have motivated you to stop procrastinating on getting your dress. Don’t fall into the trap of wanting to wait “till I’ve lost weight”, or avoiding a fitting due to self-consciousness.  We all feel a bit of angst about doing something new! Get in touch with Brides by Donna Rae to book a consult. Her team is going to have a busy few weeks!

P.S. If you’re from Otago, Brides by Donna Rae offers $150 off your wedding dress. This is to help contribute to your road trip expenses! Request a wedding planning to-do list here and I’ll pop a voucher in when I post it out. Southland brides don’t miss out, being gifted with a Bridal Package worth over $2,000 from various local businesses when they purchase their dress.

8 thoughts on “Wedding dress shopping tips

  1. I am head over heels for it! You looked so beautiful on your big day!! <3 <3 <3 These are great tips for those who are hunting for their most important dress now 🙂 I had mine custom made (by a friend/wedding dress designer, so the price tag was fab!). I had a delicate lace running across the whole dress and you definitely have to be careful and gentle with that, especially during a photoshoot. Don't even get me started on comfy shoes for the wedding day! I don't get it when girls wear sky-high heels – one of my friends did and was whining all day instead of loving every minute of such a special event. Gotta be sensible 🙂
    Once again, massive congratulations to you both! You are a lovely couple

  2. I tried on a dress I thought would be horrible and fell madly in love with it. Of course it was way over my budget so I found a 2nd hand one online and shipped it over. I used preownedweddingdresses.com and had a great experience with it all.

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