As I’m only planning on ever buying one wedding dress, and it’s supposed to be the most important dress I will ever buy, I decided to make a weekend of it. After a couple of months of flipping through bridal magazines, I felt like I had an idea of what I wanted, so my mum and I booked an overnight stay at Raymond Blanc’s incredible Le Manoir (which you can read more about by clicking here) and headed to Oxford on a very snowy weekend last month, armed with a strict budget set out by my groom-to-be and a clear idea of what I wanted, style-wise and designer-wise, in mind.
Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons was the perfect place to stay while on the hunt for the all-important dress
But all of that went out of the window once we arrived for our appointment at The Bridal Box. “What sort of thing are you looking for?” asked the lovely owner, after she’d given us some glossy look books and made us cups of tea. “Umm…,” I replied, my mind suddenly blank. And this, despite the fact I feel like I’ve done nothing but look at wedding dresses for weeks on end!
The truth is, when you’re faced with so many big white dresses in an abundance of different styles, where do you even begin? Do you want lace? Satin? Sparkle? A full-on meringue? A train? Strapless? Sleeves? Fish tail? It’s so overwhelming!
Here we are on our dress-hunting minibreak!
Not as overwhelming as the first time you actually try one on, though. I’ve been engaged for a few months now, but I was still unprepared for looking… well, for looking so much like a bride. I didn’t even look like me! It took me a good ten minutes to get over it and actually work out if I liked the first dress or not.
I did. In fact, I liked them all. We’d chosen a selection of about 12 in the end – mainly from the designer I thought I wanted, but with a few others thrown in for good measure, too. And lots of different styles. And yes – I liked them all. Which wasn’t very helpful, to be honest. How on earth do you make a decision? I was worried I’d never have that ‘moment’ that everyone keeps banging on about.
Wedding dresses galore from baby doll to fishtail to Cinderella…
But I did. After about two hours of trying on dresses (when, I think, my mum might have been losing the will to live – neither of us enjoy clothes shopping at the best of times and this was a long old slog) I had the ‘this is The One’ moment. I couldn’t stop smiling, I didn’t want to take it off. I almost felt like the dress chose me, the feeling that it was my wedding dress was so strong! And it was definitely not the sort of dress I thought I’d end up wanting.
We went away and slept on it, of course. It’s not the sort of purchase you want to rush into. But the dress was all we could talk about that night, and by the next morning I knew that no matter how many I tried on from then on in, nothing would quite match up.
So I went back, tried it on again (you can never be too sure!), paid a hefty deposit and that was that. Another box ticked!
Obviously I can’t write much about my wedding dress – this is top secret information. So instead, I’ve put together a few tips for fellow brides to be who haven’t started the dress hunt yet…
The suite we were staying in – the beautiful Orangerie
Tips when looking for wedding dresses:
1) Wear nice underwear! When you try on bridal dresses the shop assistants help you in and out of the gowns – which I didn’t know until a friend who was a bride last summer warned me. I’m glad she did…! A nude colour is best, and try to make sure your bra has removeable straps.
2) Be super-organised. I thought I was totally on the case – there’s still a good nine months left until the wedding, after all – but I was informed that actually, I was cutting it a little fine. Wedding dresses take a good six months to be ordered, made, and shipped back to the bridal shop – and then you need extra fittings on top of that. So look early!
3) Take someone whose opinion you trust – and who is willing to tell you when something looks awful on you. I must admit I was tempted to go wedding dress shopping with my mum, my sister and all my bridesmaids (more about them in another post to come), and sip champagne while everyone cooed over how gorgeous the dresses look. But I think that only happens in Hollywood! Or to people who have the exact same taste as everyone else they know. In reality, everyone has a different opinion, you end up feeling totally stressed, and it’s hard to get a feel for what you actually think yourself. My mum is my harshest critic and I trust her to tell me when I look rubbish – and likewise, when I look good.
4) Book an appointment. Most bridal boutiques will need you to phone ahead and reserve a time to try on their dresses. Some will even charge you a fee.
5) Keep an open mind. I’ve lost track of how many people have told me they ended up choosing a wedding dress that was nothing like what they were expecting. And I have now joined their ranks! Choose a few ‘wildcard’ options – you never know, one of them might end up being ‘The One’.
6) Ask the owner of the shop if you’re allowed to take photos. Most won’t let you (because you could then take a photo of a designer dress to a dressmaker and have it copied) but if you politely suggest you take a few snaps that you’ll delete before leaving the premises, you might just twist their arm. It’s helpful to scroll back through the different looks because, in my experience, you’ve forgotten what the last one was like the minute you put on the next.