model posing in lace wedding dress and chapel length veil all by Paloma Blanca

Your wedding dress countdown

Finding your perfect dress is a big project. Here’s how to plan for it…

Timing ‐‐ how long do you need?

Rather like house‐hunting, dress‐buying is not something you can generally do casually. Even if you love the first dress you see, unless you are seriously busy or allergic to shopping you’ll want to look around further. Don’t hope to find the dress in one Saturday ‐‐ commit to several trips out.


Some future brides worry that if they don’t start looking the minute they get engaged, they won’t find The One in time. Others panic that if they find a dress too soon, they will later find another dress they prefer. In practice, these two scenarios rarely happen.

The main thing to remember is that unless you are particularly lucky, it will usually take three to five months for your dress to arrive once you have placed your order. So if you have enough time, start looking between six and 12 months in advance of the big day. According to a confetti survey, this is when more than 55 per cent of brides start looking.

Choose your shopping partner ‐‐ whose advice do you want?

It is rare, indeed almost unheard‐of, for a bride‐to‐be to go shopping for her dress alone. So make sure your ‘assistant’ is available on the day. Make sure you choose someone whose taste and honesty you trust ‐‐ not someone who means well but doesn’t fill you with fashion confidence.

Sizes and samples

The dress you try on in store is just a sample. Your dress will have to be ordered so don’t worry if the one you’re given is covered in make up and smudges! Sometimes however, stores do have sample sales ‐‐ and you may be able to pick up a bargain.

Going to fittings

Bring your shoes, headdress, veil, underwear and any other accessories to the first fitting. The second fitting should just be necessary to check everything was done properly. However, if you’re losing weight, it might need to be adjusted again.

If you’re intending to lose weight, its best to get to your target weight before your first fitting to avoid this. If you’re not happy with the results on your second fitting, schedule another. After all, the purpose of these sessions is to make sure the dress fits properly.

On your last fitting, bring someone with you so they will know how your gown does up. This will be invaluable for helping you get dressed on the day.

Dress timeline

12 months before the big day

  • Decide your budget and style and colour of gown.
  • Research designers and stockists.
  • Consult family and friends.

11 to eight months before

  • Make appointments to try on your favourite dresses.
  • Research the most appropriate accessories, underwear and shoes.
  • Keep a note of which dresses you like best, and the pros and cons of each.

Seven to five months before

  • Make the decision, order your gown and pay a deposit.
  • Once you have placed an order make sure you take a photo of yourself in the dress so you can remember how you look in it. Try on various accessories with your dress.
  • Make sure you take out wedding insurance in case of disaster!

Three weeks before

  • Pick up your dress. If the dress is not supplied with a cover, take a cotton duvet to cover it with.
  • Find a dry cleaner who specialises in cleaning wedding dresses. Arrange for it to be dropped off after the wedding (preferably while you are on honeymoon).

One week before

  • Try on your dress one last time. Resist the temptation to parade around the house in it unless you are absolutely sure there is no dust, sticky fingers or moulting cat to cause any accidents.

The day before

  • Remove the cover from your dress and hang up to air (somewhere it won’t pick up any smells!)
  • Check for creases ‐‐ you may need to steam it, depending on the material.


  • If you want to have your wedding dress dry‐cleaned after, it’s advisable to do so within a few weeks of the wedding. Some companies sell special boxes to preserve your dress so that it will remain in pristine condition for years.

From budget to future use (if any), here are the key things to consider when making a decision on your wedding dress.

Your wedding dress budget ‐‐ how much will you spend?

The average amount spent on a wedding dress is approaching £1000. A high street store off‐the‐peg dress, bought in the sales, can cost considerably less, and of course a couture dress will cost considerably more. Supermarket chains are even offering off‐the‐peg dresses for under £100.

Although some brides strike lucky and find the dress of their dreams at a reduced price, many more overspend the budget in this area. Whenever you set a budget, always factor in 10 per cent for overspends ‐‐ but then try and stick to this outer limit. Traditionally, the bride’s family pays for the wedding dress and for the bridesmaids’ dresses. Nowadays, however, more bridesmaids pay for their own, which gives them more say in what they wear. Whatever your arrangements, they need to be agreed in advance.

Will your wedding dress fit the theme?

The trend for weddings is for their overall design to become ever more coordinated and themed. Although it’s by no means a requirement, usually the style of the dress matches the style of the wedding. After all, if you’re a minimalist girl at heart, you’re likely to regret going for the pink Cinderella outfit when the rest of your wedding is stark black and white. Plus you’ll probably want the bridesmaids to wear similar styles of dress.

Should you hire a wedding dress?

Specialist hire shops offer an extensive range to suit all pockets. However, you’ll need to check all the details before making your booking. Will your chosen dress be available on the day, cleaned and ready to collect? Does the hire cost cover the entire 24‐hour period? Does the dress have to be cleaned before it is returned (very expensive)?

Religious requirements

Something to bear in mind ‐‐ some people may be offended if they turn up at, say, a wedding in a cathedral to see the bride in a short, off‐the‐shoulder number.

View our recommended UK retailers and stockists for wedding dresses

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