So you’re looking for The One. The wedding dress that’s been in your dreams ever since you were a little girl. A frock that’s going to make you look your most beautiful ever and make your fiancé gasp when he first sees you in it.

With all that pressure, it’s not surprising that you might feel a little bit nervous before you embark on wedding dress shopping. Also, you’re likely to be investing quite a bit of your wedding budget on ‘The Dress’ and so you want to know you’re getting it right.


We’ve all heard horror stories of brides buying dresses online that never turned up and shops going out of business before the all-important gown was delivered. That’s something we never want any of our Wedding Ideas brides to experience, so we’ve put together a checklist we’d advise you study before you set out on the dress hunt.

If it’s too good to be true…

We’re not fans of shopping online (unless you go to a very reputable company like Kitty & Dulcie). Okay, we understand that you want to save money and that there may be some amazing bargains on eBay but you won’t really know what you’re getting until it arrives. An eBay dress could turn up with rips, mends or cigarette burns that you haven’t been told about.

Continue reading below…


A dress you buy from an online boutique that’s an amazing price may be shoddily made and in a cheap and nasty fabric. Finally, your wedding dress needs to fit you perfectly and that’s not going to happen with an online dress – even standard sizes may come up oddly. You have been warned.

Take your best friend, your mother, your auntie or your sister with you when you go wedding dress shopping but don’t take them all! They’ll have different opinions (which you’ll find confusing) and being surrounded by a gaggle of companions will up the stress factor. Just take one or two trusted members of your family, or friends.


If you’re allowed, take some pictures on your phone of you in the dress in case you want to think about things afterwards. Always check with the boutique before doing this though – many will not allow it because of the risk of fakes being produced.

Don’t have a fixed idea of what you want when you start out wedding dress shopping (although you should have a fairly fixed budget!). Keep an open mind, listen to what the salesperson suggests and try on some frocks you never thought you’d wear. You could be surprised.

Also an experienced assistant will be able to pick out your good points and show you the right style of frock to flatter you best.


Wedding planner Alison Tinlin of Plans & Presents agrees: “Do keep your mind open to trying new things – you might just find something you love that wasn’t what you thought you would like. Don’t worry about the size. Wedding dress sizing can be totally different to what you’d expect. It’s about the FIT and your normal high street size can differ from gown size.”

Make it fun!

Have fun! Don’t get upset if you don’t immediately find the gown of your dreams. If you think about it, this is one time in your life when you’re going to be the centre of attention and get some expert advice. So take your time and enjoy it all. It’s a bit like before you met your husband-to-be – you’ve just got to be confident that the right one is out there waiting for you.

Before you hit the shops, why not put together a Pinterest board of your dream dresses? You can then see which designers you like (and their price range) and discover the stockists. Have a look at our Pinterest wedding gown board to get started.


Another thing to remember is that you should wear nice underwear! You’re going to be standing in your bra and pants for quite a lot of the time so invest in something new if necessary. We think nude colours work best with a bridal gown.

Decide what your wedding dress budget is beforehand and stick to it. Okay, we understand that you may get carried away but there are some beautiful wedding dresses out there that won’t require a mortgage. In any case, it’s easy to cut back in other areas should you need a few more pennies to fund the dress of your dreams.


Remember that if you’re buying a designer gown from a bridal shop, you’ll probably need to allow about 6 months for it to be fitted properly and made for you. If you’re getting married out of season, in winter, then it may be less but bridal shops are really busy at peak times of year (after Valentine’s Day, for example) so make sure you go wedding dress shopping in plenty of time.

Think about your venue and the time of year. If you’re having a destination wedding then don’t choose a gown in a heavy fabric. If you’re marrying in the depths of winter then you can go for rich, luxurious materials like velvet. In the summer you can go for something lighter.

How to pay for your dress

So what about paying for your wedding dress. What’s safest? We asked money expert Sarah Pennells, founder of finance website for women, for her advice…

“If your wedding dress costs more than £100 (and less than £30,000!), you should either pay the full amount or the deposit by credit card,” she advises.

“The reason is that if it’s faulty, doesn’t arrive or the shop providing it goes bust, you can make a claim against your bank or credit card company for a refund. It’s a good idea to try and sort out any problems with the shop first, but if they don’t respond, contact your card company. One thing to watch out for, if you pay for your wedding dress using a second card on someone else’s account, such as your partner or mum’s – it’s the person whose name is on the account who has to make the claim.”


“It’s a bit of a grey area as to whether you’d qualify for a refund, but it’s worth a try. If you pay by debit card or the item costs less than £100 and there’s a problem you can ask your bank to do a ‘chargeback’, which is essentially a reversal of the payment.  It’s not covered by law in the same way, but it’s worth knowing about. Whatever you do, don’t pay by bank transfer. It’s the same as handing over cash.”