I see so many newly engaged women walk into the shop, some excited, some apprehensive, some know exactly what they want and have their wedding spreadsheet all set up, and some have no idea where to start.
I recently met the lovely Sarah (on a hen do no less!), aged 27 from London, who got engaged in April 2022. "I have no idea what I'm doing," she laughed as I started enquiring about whether she'd began any wedding prep, "I wish they taught wedding planning at school!"
Saying there is so much to sort when wedding planning is the understatement of the century, and dress shopping is just the beginning. Sarah had lots of questions that I'm sure lots of brides want to know so I thought I'd answer some of them below.
"When should I start wedding dress shopping?"
I get asked this a lot at wedding fairs! As a rule, we tend to advise 12-18 months beforehand. However, there isn't really a right answer here. The first dress we ever sold at Lily Francis Bridal was for a wedding two years later, but equally, I've had a dress made in 8 weeks before now. 12-18 months is comfortable to allow plenty of time as:
This gives you time to book appointments in multiple shops, as you may not find your dress in the first shop.
Delivery can take up to 20 weeks for some designers, and this could be even longer if a global pandemic hits (thanks Covid!)
Alterations with a seamstress can take longer than you think, depending on your dress design and if it's peak wedding season, but allow up to 10 weeks.
Off-the-peg dresses are an option if you don't have much time before the big day, so don't panic as you can take these home on the same day!
"Can you help me find a dress that suits my body shape?"
Of course I can - it's my job. But I'll tell you a secret, you probably already know. Choosing a wedding dress can be stressful, confusing and tiring for sure, but imagine you were shopping for a party dress. You'd have an idea of what you're looking for, what you're comfortable in and what your style is. Use that same logic. Don't overthink and stay true to yourself. If you're still struggling at your appointment, take advice with an open mind and try lots of styles. You might be surprised what you love.
"Will you have dresses in my size?"
Lily Francis Bridal offer made-to-measure gowns, meaning you won't be buying the one on the rail, but we'll get one made just for you. All our gowns can be made for sizes 4-32, but this doesn't mean we'll have all those sizes available. We can help you put a dress on and if it doesn't fit, give you an idea of how it will sit on your body, then order the dress in your size. If you're worried, ring before your appointment and discuss with your stylist ahead of time.
"How many people can I bring to my appointment, and who?"
Lily Francis Bridal can comfortably seat three guests, but this is different in each boutique. If you were wanting to bring more, please advise in advance so further seating can be arranged. HOWEVER. Make this decision carefully, because your opinion is the ONLY one that counts. Choosing your dress is the most personal choice you will make as a bride, so whose opinion do you truly value? Your guests are not the ones who should be choosing your gown, that is your job. The role of your guests is to fill you with confidence to be able to choose and then reaffirm that you chose the right one, reminding you that you are beautiful in them all!
"Will I find my wedding dress at my first appointment?"
Maybe. It's perfectly feasible to. I chose the very first dress I ever tried on and I knew. I tried two further dresses on to humour my mother-in-law, before telling the stylist that I wanted to stop as I knew. But that certainly isn't the case for everyone. Some brides need to visit 10 shops and do a spreadsheet before deciding, some just need to sleep on it, and some brides can confidently say yes in the spur of the moment. Go into your appointment with an open mind to finding "The One", but then do whatever feels right, because you have to be comfortable with your decision.
"What is the process for ordering a wedding dress?"
All dresses at Lily Francis Bridal are made-to-order. When you are ready to order a gown with us, we take your bust, waist and hip measurements and order a gown in your size. If your bust is a UK18, waist a UK16 and hips a UK18, we order a size UK18 gown, then the waist gets altered when it arrives. We will always order the biggest size so we can ensure every part of your body fits, and then dresses are altered to your measurements. We ask for a 50% deposit before ordering your gown, but once this is done, it can take up to 20 weeks for delivery. We provide a list of seamstresses in the local area that you can contact directly to book your alterations. Once your dress arrives in the boutique, you can come back to see and try your gown on. You are required to pay the remaining 50% and you can then take your dress home.
"Will my dress need altering?"
The likely answer is yes. The majority of brides need the length shortening, which can be a big job if there is a lace hem to unpick, or the straps altered at the shoulders so they don't fall down. After that, it is your decision on what you want the seamstress to do. It may be that you want the dress taking in at the waist to enhance your silhouette, or at the bust to ensure that bodice isn't moving when you're dancing around!
"Do you have matching accessories?"
Accessories are such a personal choice, and there are so many options. At Lily Francis Bridal, we have a great choice of veils you can try on with your gown that can be customised to match your dress. You can choose colour, length, trim and design to suit whatever you like. We also have a range of hair clips, tiaras, headbands and hair pins to match the theme and style of your wedding.
There are so many questions and unknowns for brides when they begin their dress shopping journey, but please ask those questions. We are meant to know, it's what we do. We're here to help you on this exciting journey!