The Quick Guide to Wedding Dress Shopping

Embarking on the search for the perfect bridal gown? First, check our handy tips for wedding dress shopping.

The Big Wedding Dress Search – equal parts exciting and daunting. For most of us this is the first and only time we’ll be looking for a wedding dress, and it’s not the same as picking out an outfit for work. Finding the perfect wedding dress can be quite a long process and isn’t always easy. So to help you avoid any bridal boutique faux pas, tears or embarrassment, and make the wedding dress shopping as fun and easy as possible, we put together this quick guide to bridal shopping with our top wedding dress shopping tips. It’s a few simple pointers, gleaned from the experience of many brides. Hope it helps.

Before you Start

  • Think about your day, and what kind of wedding dress is most appropriate – a beach wedding vs. formal ballroom reception, winter vs. summer, outdoor ceremony vs. restaurant dinner for 25 etc. Different styles of wedding mean different styles of dress
  • Think about your body shape and personal style – consider all your choices, the style and shape of the wedding dress, necklines, length, waistlines, trains, sleeves and so on…
  • Do some couch-side research – spend a few days/weeks looking at magazines and wedding blogs before venturing to the shops. Clip the styles you like, create a scrapbook and a clear picture will start to emerge (pinterest is brill for this too)
  • Be realistic – you may trim and buff up for the wedding day, but you’re not going to grow 6 inches or lose 2 stone (well it’s unlikely) – think about what suits you, not what looks fab on someone else
  • Set a budget – the average wedding dress from a bridal boutique costs €1500 but there are much cheaper ways to find a dream dress, and you can also blow the bank if you want to. Agree an amount with your husband-to-be and stick to it. (Also remember to budget for shoes, accessories, bridesmaids etc)


Give Yourself Enough Time

  • Start looking sooner rather than later. It’s never to early to start trying on dresses as it will give you an idea of what you like and what suits you
  • It can take up to 6 months for a dress to be made to order from a bridal boutique
  • Make sure you take alterations into consideration
  • Don’t buy too far in advance (more than a year) as styles change each season
  • Make sure you look into all the options, bridal boutiques, high-street shops, online, rental, sample sales,  second-hand and charity boutiques.


Trying it on

  • Most bridal shops are by appointment only – book in advance. Bear in mind that Saturdays are usually the busiest day of the week.
  • Check in advance if the shop charges a service fee for trying on dresses.
  • Organise to go to the appointments on your own, with your Mum or with one or two friends whose opinions you know you can trust. Don’t bring an entourage. You need to be able to hear yourself think, and follow your own instincts about which dress makes you look and feel great.
  • If you have kids, leave them at home (with a babysitter of course!), a bridal shop is not a place for children.

Heading to the Bridal Shops

  • Make sure to wear appropriate underwear as you will be helped in and out of dresses. Bring a good quality strapless bra.
  • Wear little or no make-up to protect the dresses and to give you the chance to see which shades are more flattering to your skin tone. No fake tan!
  • Bring along items you have already decided to wear – like a veil or piece of jewellery to make sure it ties in with the dress.
  • Bring along heels in a similar height to those you will wear on the day.
  • Check with the boutique beforehand about whether you can bring along a camera, most bridal shops don’t allow it. But if you can, do take snaps of the dresses  you like so you can look over later and compare them. If you can’t take photos keep a note of the dress name or number as well as the designer so you can look them up online and save them that way.


In the Bridal Boutique

  • Don’t get too caught up with designer labels. Choose the dress not the label, and stick to a price range that’s realistic for you and your budget.
  • Also decide on a size that is also realistic. If you have chosen to slim down before the big day, buy the dress at your size now, therefore the dress can be taken in, whereas if you put on weight it is more difficult to to release the dress (seamstress speak for “make it bigger”). A dress that is too small is far worse than a dress that is too big.
  • Don’t get discouraged, you may look at hundreds of dresses and try on dozens before you find The One.
  • Clip pictures from magazines or online of designer dresses which may be out of your price range and bring them with you when you shop, the boutiques and shops you visit  may be able to help you look for something similar. A lot of shops have styles that bear a resemblance to dresses by an expensive designer as a cheaper alternative for brides who have smaller budgets.
  • If you have found The One, shop around for the right price before you commit to buying, remember when you order your wedding dress it is a final sale.
  • Also when you have found your dream wedding dress, stop looking!
  • Put it away in your Mum’s house or somewhere safe. Don’t look at it. This eliminates the risk of temptation and doubt setting in.


  • Make sure to allow for alterations in both your budget and your time frame.
  • If you need to have your dress altered, make sure you do your research on the person or company you will be using, you don’t wan’t to risk it! Word of mouth and personal recommendations are best.
  • Some boutiques may be “all-inclusive”  so alterations may be included in the price of the dress.
  • At a bridal boutique where an alterations service is offered but not included in the price, it can be more expensive than an outside seamstress, but if a mistake is made by the in-house alterations service, the boutique is still responsible for it.
  • Always have a backup plan for your wedding dress, just in case.


Once you’ve found The One

  • Get a special wedding dress box.

Most importantly, have fun!

Enjoy yourself – shopping for your wedding dress should be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.