Ask the experts
Most bridal departments, independent boutiques and even luxury brands offer expert consultation services with no obligation to buy. These may help you significantly and counterpoint common knowledge. Lanie List, owner of the Lovely boutique, for example, says, asked about how short is too short when it comes to wedding dresses: “The fingertip rule applies: When you put your hands at your side, your skirt should come to where your fingertips land. But it all depends on where and how you’re getting married, and who is at your wedding. At the end of the day, though, it’s just a dress, and we let people know that. It’s not going to be the only defining thing in your wedding. That’s maybe ironic for a bridal shop to say, but it actually helps the brides make their final decisions.”
You may initially need to lay down a refundable deposit, but this approach gives you access to individuals experienced with issues you’d never have considered like the most forgiving patterns, how fabric moves when you’re dancing… even how you’ll eat and go to the loo in that spectacular creation.
Take the chance to explain your needs and want, then mine the staff for information, try on as many different styles as possible even if you’d never choose them yourself, take pictures, and use the opportunity to learn what does and doesn’t work for you. Seek advice on anything and everything dress-related, but don’t be talked into any commitment at this stage, especially since there is never just one perfect dress, as List points out: “I hate that term: the one. My advice is to not focus on finding the one. Because there might not be just one; there might be three that look great on you.” Finally, take a friend or take notes. There’s nothing worse than forgetting it all five minutes later.
Hit the shops
Now you’re in the know, your hunt can start in earnest. Remember, you can feel like a million dollars without spending it – no-one will know unless you leave the price tag on display. If you’re keen on vintage styles and don’t mind buying second-hand, charity shops are an excellent and very affordable option.
The high street has really upped its game lately in terms of both quality and variety. By all means check out the formal wear, but remember, by shopping outside the designated ‘bridal department’ you can net major savings. It can still be a wedding dress even if it’s not sold as one. Seek out styles, colors and fabrics that accurately emulate those you loved in the bridal boutiques. Designs with volume generally look more expensive, as does judicious detailing and well-applied beading.
Does it have to be all white on the night?
Although white is undeniably classic, you’ll get more bang for your buck if you’re willing to stretch to off-whites and pastels, or even go brighter. Formal styles in white always suggest ‘wedding’, meaning stores can up prices with that consumer expectation in mind. But where more budget-friendly dresses are concerned, white can actually look cheaper than a sophisticated pale dove grey or Champagne gold – and softer tones can often be far more flattering and forgiving. Anne Heathen even maintains a Pinterest site exclusively dedicated to non-white wedding dresses.
Sample some shows and sales
Check out local magazines for details of wedding fairs and fashion shows. Larger sample sales in hotels are a bit of a free-for-all but if you go along with sharp elbows and an open mind you may well find something to suit. TJMaxx and other discount retailers offer a broad range of formal wear usually past-season items sold at heavily discounted prices.
DIY – or get someone to do it for you
Canvas friends and family, social networks and local fashion colleges to find out whether anyone could design and create you a dress. Brief your seamstress well, share images and fabric swatches, and the bespoke route could well get you the unique dress of your dreams.
Dreams for hire
Unless you plan to pass on your dress as an heirloom, or want one as a sentimental souvenir, hiring your outfit makes a lot of sense. Storage and cleaning can be a post-wedding pain, and a one-off hire fee means you’re more likely to be able to afford a designer gown to make you feel like a real fairy tale bride. If taking this option, do ensure you’re fully aware of any hidden costs, penalty fees and conditions of hire.
Save your pennies
To help your dreams along, you might have to give up some of the things you love. Whether your savings are building in a basic bank account or high interest account, to help it grow, give up some of your more costly expenses for a while. Grow out your hair and natural color, give up the manicures, ditch the gym and start jogging, minimize your dining out and cinema visits. Remember, you have to follow a budget-strategy only for a little while and it’ll make your dream dress all the more attainable. You could also ask your nearest and dearest for donations towards the cost of your dress in lieu of gifts or a bridal shower, giving you a bigger budget to play with.
Reporting from Swindon, William Masters has established himself as an in-demand journalist for topics of international issues and personal finance. Masters spends most of his time in London, searching for trending topics and enjoying a good cup of black coffee
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