I was so laid-back about choosing my wedding dress that it was my sister who finally prodded me into action and suggested it was probably time I started looking for my wedding dress. I’d already decided that I didn’t want to spend a fortune on a dress that I would only wear once and that the money could be put to better use elsewhere. So just under a year before the big day, I headed to Cardiff with my two bridesmaids to start the dreaded task of dress hunting. I’d made an appointment online with Debenhams to go and view their bridal range, and because my sister thought it would be a good idea, I’d also arranged an appointment at Allison Jayne (a South Wales bridal shop) just so I could compare and contrast. In my mind this appointment was just a formality, but it came before the department store viewing and so we walked through the doors into a beautiful, shiny shop with rows and rows of gorgeous white dresses.
I knew that I wanted a fitted dress without too much bling, so our bridal assistant Jules gathered a selection that she thought may be suitable and I began the process of stepping in and out of the beautiful gowns. To begin with the shape and styles weren’t quite right but Jules was so patient and helpful, bringing over other dresses to try, and styling them with veils and shoes so I could see the full picture. Everything changed when I tried on a beautiful, sleek dress which was plain in the front but had gorgeous lace detail on the back, and a long train - it felt so elegant! I fell in love until I saw the price tag - given that I was planning on buying my dress off the rack, this was way out of budget! Our time was running out and we had to go, but we were having so much fun - Jules had made the whole experience really enjoyable and there was still more to try on!
We left, promising we would return if our next appointment proved to be unsuccessful, though at this point I was still hoping I would find the dress of my dreams at a much lower price. Unfortunately the whole experience was disappointing - from the changing room being really hot and airless, to a disinterested sales assistant, to dresses that didn't fit and just looked very ‘ordinary’ compared to the beautiful gowns I’d been wearing in Allison Jayne. In the space of an hour my mindset had undergone a complete U-turn and I now knew that I wanted to wear a dress that would make me feel special and glamorous. I think we lasted about half an hour in the department store, if that, and soon found ourselves back in the bridal shop. That experience highlighted how important the whole process of choosing your dress is - from a beautifully styled shop, to complimentary tea and coffee and a lovely assistant; it made me feel valued as a customer and I thoroughly enjoyed being pampered!
The challenge now was to find a dress that was similar to the one I’d fallen in love with but that didn’t have the hefty price tag. Jules had found a dress that was just within my price range and was a very similar style to the previous item - I tried it on and that was it, I’d found THE dress, Evangelina by Maggie Sottero. After being sceptical about the ‘when you know, you know’ mentality it hit me right in the gut and there was no turning back! I felt like the best version of myself and loved every single bit of the dress. I didn’t make the final decision there and then but went back a few days later to try it on again just to make sure, but nothing had changed and I signed on the dotted line.
I had been dreading the job of finding a wedding dress - there is so much emphasis placed on what the bride is wearing and it can create a real sense of pressure when it comes to making a decision. In an effort to make the experience as stress-free as possible, my advice to future brides would be:
Know what your spending limit is before you go because it can be so easy to throw caution to the wind once you're surrounded by all the glitz and glamour; it is definitely worth spending money on a dress that makes you feel special, and you will enjoy every moment, but it is still something you’ll only wear once!
Choose something that you feel completely comfortable and relaxed when wearing; you will be in it all day and you don't want it to be a distraction because you can’t sit down or walk properly
If there is any bit of doubt in your mind, it’s probably not the one
Once you have found ‘the one’, stop looking! It can be so tempting to keep browsing online, making just one more appointment, but there will always be more to look at and you will drive yourself crazy
A bridal shop with staff that go the extra mile to make sure you enjoy the whole experience is so important; you are making a big purchase and will need to go back and for for fittings, so you want to be treated properly.
Happy dress hunting! I hope you're able to find a dress that makes you glow and will give you memories to treasure forever.
photography by hannahmia.com