by Aileen Wilson director @Blush Boutique

As the first chords of music sound, a collective hush ripples across the waiting guests. You’ve seen it all before, the groom shifts anxiously, heads joggle for a first glimpse, smiles widen, perhaps a little tear discreetly dabbed, only this time they’re waiting for you.

There will, undoubtedly have been other occasions in your life when you had the opportunity to cause eyes to widen, smiles to broaden and breaths to stop, but none will have been as eagerly anticipated as that of your arrival in the most important dress of your life.

1. Dress Sense

Wedding dress shopping CAN be stressful

So we come to choosing the dress – where do you start? If you’re the type of girl who hasn’t worn a dress since the pink frou-frou number your mother forced you into on your fifth birthday, then this may cause you a little bit of concern, but if you trust your instincts and only take on board those opinions you value, when you find a dress you love you’ll know.

It’s usually a good idea to establish your own checklist; maybe write it all down if you think it will help. Just think like you’re buying a car, a house, maybe booking a special holiday – what would you do? What are your priorities?

2. Budget?

Establish a price range. If you long for a little red Porsche but, like the rest of us you have a little red Fiat Punto budget, save yourself the heartache.

This may well be your red carpet day but why waste your precious time trying on dresses that could blow your whole wedding budget in one fell swoop? And forget what the celebrities are wearing. How many of them do you think actually bought the dresses they wore to the Oscar’s or the BAFTAs?!

Also bear in mind it’s not just the cost of the dress… There’ll be shoes, veil, headpiece, lingerie etc and almost always dress alterations, to take into account.

3. Style?

You will of course already have booked the venue (before you start looking) because this will likely influence your dress choice – barn? Beach? Baronial hall? Are you having a church service?

Then there’s personal style and body shape to consider and just as important, your own personality; yes personality. Just think are you the sort of bride who’ll what to boogie, or do the tango around the dance floor, will you definitely want to do a rehearsed party piece? Think about how the dress will work with you and your wedding.

And then of course you will still want to look like you – albeit a stunningly gorgeous, beautiful, breath-taking you.

A little word on being breath-taking – less is definitely more on your wedding day (less cleavage more discretion?) It really is considered more appropriate to keep your ‘assets’ under wraps especially during the ceremony, even more so if you’re having a church service. Believe me, you’ll make your Dad and your Granny so happy and twenty years down the line, you’ll take out the photo album and you’ll be glad.

4. Where to Buy?

Just think like you’re buying that car again (no not the little red Porche). You’d never buy a car without trawling the internet, checking out designer or dealer websites or browsing through a few car magazines first (would you??). Likewise with a wedding dresses.

Choosing the bridal shop can be a bit daunting in itself and while personal recommendation can be useful, we all have different standards and expectations, so check out reviews and bridal forums for advice as well. And when you call to make your appointment ask about price range and designers they carry. If they stock names you don’t know, then check out the designers’ websites, do the homework.

All too often bridal shops come and go, so be warned, choose reputable and established businesses; but keep it to a minimum. Too many shops and you’re likely to feel overwhelmed and forget what you’ve already seen, you’ll be lost and confused in a sea of white dresses and possibly remember too late that gorgeous little dress you first fell in love with…

5. Buying Online vs Local Bridal Salons

With the introduction of the world wide web, the world is literally your shopping oyster.

Though a note of caution before parting with your hard earned cash; while there are hundreds (probably even thousands) of reputable bridal websites out there providing excellent service and value for money, be warned there are also some, which we in Northern Ireland would rightly call ‘chancers’, quoting designer names and styles at unbelievable price reductions.

So ask yourself: “Would I buy a fantastically reduced little red Porsche from this company?? Would I even buy a used car from them? Would I trust them with my wedding dress?” Remember if you think a bargain seems too good to be true, then the chances are you’re probably right. Of course it’s not just the problem of getting your money back if you’re not happy, where do you get another dress three weeks before the wedding? And as with all internet shopping, always make sure the website is what it says it is and always use a credit card to pay when buying online.


However, wedding dress shopping is definitely one area where the small business coms into its own, for personal service and attention to detail. In the right shop you’ll establish a relationship with the staff and share your wishes, concerns and ideas with them.

Remember most bridal salons have been in business for many years, they can provide advice on styles and fabrics, they will help select dresses for you to try on and make recommendations, based on your checklist ie. budget, venue and of course personal style and body shape. But you need to keep an open mind, don’t dismiss suggestions because you have a mental image of how you think you want to look – many dresses look completely different off the hanger.

And finally, never feel coerced into ordering, if you’re just not sure go away and think about it, it’ll save any tears later. Remember no reputable bridal salon will ever put pressure on you to order. What they will do is give you a realistic timeline for ordering, liaise with the designer re costs for rush orders where applicable and advise on likely timescales for alterations. Most importantly though, your bridal salon will want you to be happy, that’s their business!

6. Who to Bring With You?

Yes Yes To The Dress

Best to avoid bringing the WHOLE entourage…

Picture this, you ask your best friend to come with you to help choose the dress. You’ve asked her because she has a great sense of style, you trust her opinion and can rely on her honesty – perfect.

So then you feel guilty and invite your other friend, well you can’t leave her out, can you? Then there’s your Mum and sister(s), perhaps even Granny? Then your boyfriend (who now thinks it’s a girlie day out) texts you…… “my mum says what time are you picking her up???” Then his sister calls you….she’d love to come……that’s if you don’t mind……you don’t………do you??

Stop right there! You’ve now got a committee choosing your dress and every member has an agenda and an opinion they want to share.

Think carefully before inviting anyone – why do you want or need them with you, will they make a valuable contribution? o you trust or value their opinion? There will of course be people you must bring – but keep it to a minimum. Three is ideal, four at a stretch.


Once you've got your dress - stop

And, just like when you find the right person to marry, once you’ve found your dress, stop searching!! Because there’s always going to be another dress and another shop and no, it’s not simply to reassure yourself you’ve found the right one.

Don't confuse yourself by continuing to shop

Once you’ve found your dress, stop searching!!

So now you know; wedding dress shopping isn’t for wimps – so do the research, know your priorities and enjoy every minute.

Until next time…….byeeee..

Blush Buddies XX

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