When to go shopping for your wedding dress?

by Silver Sixpence

For most of us we have never stepped foot in a bridal gown store before we start planning our wedding so it’s understandable that brides can be quite unsure about the appropriate timeline when it comes to starting to look for and ordering their wedding dress.

It is such an exciting time but sometimes also stressful and daunting which causes some brides to put off the inevitable dress shop, however as someone who sees the added stress that leaving the gown to the last minute can cause, I urge all brides to at least start looking into dress options as early as possible.

Silver Sixpence blush tea length wedding dress

WEDDING DRESS Silver Sixpence ~ PHOTOGRAPHY Honeysnaps Photography

When we go looking for any other regular dress the standard process is familiar to us all – we wander through stores and see what dresses we like, we thumb through the rack and select our size and go and try it on.  If we love it we take that very same dress that we’ve just tried on in our correct size and take it home.  When it comes to wedding dresses the process is nothing like this.

If you are looking at “buying off the rack” when it comes to wedding dresses, unless you are buying an ex sample dress which is sold as-is and often requires cleaning and minor repair work you aren’t actually buying off the rack.  What they mean by off the rack is that you are choosing a dress which is made to order in the same design as the one you have selected off the rack.  Due to the high cost of wedding dresses, bridal gown stores don’t carry a range of sizes of each design, they generally have just one sample in a representative size.  As there is only one sample of each dress it means they never sell that floor sample until the design is discontinued.

Silver Sixpence - Honeysnaps Photography

WEDDING DRESS Silver Sixpence ~ PHOTOGRAPHY Honeysnaps Photography

So once you’ve selected the dress and have tried it on you then place an order for that dress to be made up in a standard size that will best fit you.  As this dress is made to order and wedding dresses have a lot of work involved in them there is quite a long lead time for this process.

It’s not uncommon for the lead time from ordering a dress to collecting it in store to be four to six months.  Sometimes it can be less than this but often stores who allow this will slam a 25 percent rush order on top of the gown price, however if you are walking into a bridal gown store with less than six months to your wedding date I’ve sadly heard brides have been laughed at and told they can’t be help them.

Silver Sixpence Vintage Style Wedding Dress

WEDDING DRESS Silver Sixpence ~ PHOTOGRAPHY Honeysnaps Photography

Some bride choose to have a gown custom made through a dressmaker / bridal designer and although sometimes they can squeeze in more “last minute” gowns this comes down to availability.  Keep in mind that a dressmaker only has one pair of hands and if it’s peak season they may very well book up 9 to even 12 months in advance.  Even in off peak seasons if it’s a popular dressmaker they may book up over 6 months in advance.

So with all of that in mind I do recommend that brides start checking out dress ideas in stores or chatting with dressmakers around 9 months before the big day to avoid any unnecessary stress or disappointment and if the engagement is a shorter time then as soon as you’ve set the date it’s time to go shopping!


*This article was featured first in Vintage Bride magazine, Issue 7