Very near the beginning of wedding dress shopping I was invited to a designer preview day at one of my local shops. I won’t say the name of the designer as I don’t want to give too much away, but we saw one dress that I fell in love with and it quickly became the benchmark that all other dresses had to measure up to. I first saw this dress in March, but because it was a collection preview, it wasn’t due into the shop until around September, so I had to wait a good few months before I could try it on again. I remember the day that I called the shop in late August to see if they had a date for when it would be in, only to find that they had already received it. I was like a kid on Christmas morning and obviously sounded so excited on the phone that the lady said I could come straight down and try it on! After leaving loads of frantic messages for my Mum, we both got down to the dress shop and again I obviously looked so excited that as soon as I burst through the shop door, the lady guessed who I was. A bit embarrassing, but never mind!
I still had a few shops that I wanted to visit before making a final decision and the next Saturday. The first shop that I went into had all the dresses lined up on each side of the room, with one dress pulled out, hanging up, facing me and yes ‐ you’ve guessed it, this was the same dress again ‐ if that’s not fate, I don’t know what is!
For some reason I didn’t feel ready to make a final decision about my dress, much to the amusement of Mum and all the assistants in the local shop in High Wycombe who were getting very used to seeing me standing in my dress umming and ahhing over it! Needless to say I am not renowned for my decision‐making capabilities. Anyway, eventually I felt totally happy and placed the order at the end of November ‐ I had set myself the target of ordering my dress before December and only just made it as I ordered it on 29 November!
So now the dress is sitting safely in the shop. I didn’t trust myself not to try it on all the time if it was at Mum and Dad’s house!
It’s taken me around a year to find and buy my wedding dress ‐ and now that I’ve bought it, I’m so excited.
The first time mum and I went to look at wedding dresses, we had no idea that most shops require you to make an appointment. So there we were, milling around in an incredibly busy wedding dress shop at peak trade time on a Saturday asking: “I was just wondering if I could try on some dresses please?”
Few of the assistants could hide their amazement and amusement that we were actually asking this without an appointment. To cut a long story short, we visited three dress shops that day and luckily the third shop didn’t require an appointment, so I was able to try on my first ever wedding dress (other than my mum’s, but I’ll come to that at a later date).
I was told to pick out a few dresses that I liked the look of to try on. I had a few ideas in mind of what I didn’t want, although I must admit that these changed drastically and my actual dress has quite a few things that were on this original list! I really didn’t know what I should be looking for in a wedding dress, but by this point in the day, if I’m totally honest, I was just so desperate to try a dress on, I think that I would have settled for a white bin bag. Mike, if you’re reading this, don’t panic ‐ my dress standards have since been raised somewhat!
This final shop had a changing area in the corner of the room which just had a curtain around it. I was determined that I was going to dress by myself so declined the offer of help from the assistant, but I had no idea how heavy and awkward it can be to get into a wedding dress. I must have looked like something out of a comedy sketch trying to get into the dress.
Shops often lend you a pair of shoes to try on with the dresses to give you a better idea of how it will look. I definitely needed to borrow a pair as there is no way I could have worn the black knee‐high boots that I had on. Unfortunately, the lady didn’t tell me that you need to put the shoes on before the dress ‐ by the time the dress was on, I couldn’t even find my feet, let alone put shoes on them!!
When I finally walked out from behind the curtain and looked in the mirror, I actually had quite a shock. I’m not generally one for dresses and skirts, but what felt most strange was the fact that I was standing there, in public, in a wedding dress. It felt like I was a child playing a dressing‐up, but all the same, I liked it! Mum apparently did too, because when I turned round to ask her what she thought, she already had the tissues out and a few tears were being shed! I was soon to discover that Mum + good wedding dress = tears ‐ so if a dress didn’t have Mum welling up, then it wouldn’t make the short list!
When I first started looking for dresses it was almost 18 months before the wedding. As with all fashion, new dresses are designed for each season, which inevitably means that some will be discontinued. If you are shopping more than a year in advance but you don’t want to order your dress until nearer the day, remember that some dresses you see may no longer be available when you come to buy. It’s best to ask the assistant if they know whether specific styles will be discontinued so that you avoid any disappointment.
One of the first dresses that I really liked was going to be discontinued. As I had already decided that I didn’t want to choose and buy my dress until nearer the end of 2003, I put this dress being discontinued down to fate and put it out of my mind. The fact that I could forget about it shows that this dress wasn’t ‘the one’ anyway! I half joked that I wanted to try on every dress in the country before I made a choice. Although I was only exaggerating, I think Mum might have started to take me seriously because of the number of places that we visited in the end! I just wanted to make totally sure that I was making the right choices for both which dress to buy and which shop to buy it from.
We were going to go up to London to ‘do the rounds’ but as I was planning to get the alterations done in the same shop where I bought my dress, I didn’t fancy traipsing up to London every time. With this in mind we went to a number of shops in the local area ‐ High Wycombe, Marlow, Slough, Oxford, Gerrards Cross, Aylesbury, Reading, Watford, Chesham… actually, now I start to list them it does seem quite a few. I must admit a few towns had more than one shop and I know I’ve left at least a couple of places off this list! Mike and Dad looked on with amusement as Mum and I spent endless weekends dress shopping. What to do on Saturday stopped being a question that even needed asking anymore!
As I’ve mentioned before, to start off with I was really put off by the assistants helping me to change but I quickly became used to it and soon expected it. Shopping for a wedding dress is a unique, and usually fun, experience. Most shops do their best to ensure that you feel happy and comfortable and usually the service is really good. Unfortunately though, as with everything, there are a few places that are really bad, either for service, attitude, being snooty or just generally useless.
I won’t name names but I have a few funny shopping stories to tell. Some shops require you to ring a doorbell before they will let you enter, but we had never come across one like this. So on one occasion Mum and I went to walk into ‘shop X’ not realising the door was locked. I walked straight into it and make such a loud noise that they must have thought they were being raided! Mum and I went into fits of giggles, so by the time the door was opened the (fairly elderly) lady must have thought that we were a couple of lunatics!
Once we’d finally got in, another even older lady couldn’t find the note of the appointment that I had made a few days earlier. They were obviously very strict about appointments, because we weren’t allowed to start looking at dresses until they had found it ‐ even though there wasn’t another soul in the shop. Eventually they found my appointment ‐ on the right date, but about two months out! When I finally looked at the dresses, there were none that I really liked much, but after all the hassle of getting in and the fact that we were now locked in again, we couldn’t even make a run for it! All the lady wanted to do was moan about how heavy the dresses were and how tired she was! After I’d tried about four on, she said she thought that was quite enough for today! Needless to say we never returned.
I also managed to book an appointment for what later turned out to be the hottest day ever recorded. As I’m sure you can imagine, not a good day to be putting wedding dresses on and off! There was a fan behind the curtain where I was getting changed and all the time the ladies were asking if I needed a hand. I said no as all I wanted to do was stand in front of the fan to cool off! That was probably the quickest wedding dress try on in history. I really feel for girls who actually got married that day!
Read Gill’s diary next month to see how her wedding planning is going and to pick up some handy tips along the way.