Finding the perfect wedding dress is a little like finding 'the one'. You 'know' as soon as you step into it; some brides describe the feeling as like you've 'come home'. A lucky few experience this with the very first dress they try on – but for the rest of us the journey takes a little longer. Here are our top tips on how to find your perfect wedding dress.
Decide on the ‘look’ you want
Think about what you want to look like on the day - do you want to be sexy, do you want to look like a princess?
"This is really helpful for you and for the person who's trying to help you find your dress. When people come in with no idea at all they can end up trying on completely contrasting dresses and just getting really confused," advises Gabriella Kuhns from Paperswan Bride in Christchurch.
Decide on your silhouette
Decide which parts of your body you want to embrace and which parts you'd like the fabric to skim over, suggests Lisa Dermott from Brides of Merivale, Christchurch.
"We have a lot of brides who might be heavier in the bottom and the thighs and some love to embrace their curves and will wear something figure-hugging, but other girls want to disguise those areas so they go for a full skirt or an A-line.
"Once you've decided on the silhouette you can then make decisions about the details like whether to have beading or lace. Remember, too, that you can be clever in your detail – you can draw attention away from a big bust, for example, by having beading at the waist instead."
You don't have to visit every bridal store
Most bridal shops will put all or most of their gowns on their website. Look online and if you don't like what you see, you know it's not going to be worth your while making an appointment to visit that store.
"If you've found something you like it can be helpful to step away and try on other dresses – and if you keep coming back to that one, then you know it's 'the one'," says Kuhns.
"But I've had brides come in who've been to every bridal shop in Christchurch and they're just really overwhelmed, and kind of over it."
Don’t let the venue dictate your style of dress
While it's useful to consider the venue, most dress styles can still work around the venue, Dermott advises.
"If you're having a beach wedding and love the idea of a train, you can still have a lightweight train flowing out the back that can be hooked up for the rest of your reception – you just wouldn't have a heavy train with lots of layers."
Similarly, if you have your heart set on a fully sequinned dress, don't let the fact that you're having a simple garden wedding put you off.
"Wear what you feel good in," says Kuhns.
Be open to suggestions
"Some girls come in and we know straight away what's going to be the perfect shape for them but they're very resistant to looking at other options. When they do finally try on what we've suggested, just to shut us up, they say 'oh, now I see what you mean'," Dermott says.
"Have your own ideas, but be open to suggestions.
"If you've gone to a reputable store with trained consultants they will have an eye for what's going to be most flattering on you."
Lots of brides rule out strapless dresses because they worry they won't stay up. Dermott says she's often told 'I can't wear strapless because I have a big bust'.
"It has nothing to do with the size of your bust. It's about fitting you nicely at the waistline and having it tailored to fit you properly." (Meaning it does stay up.)
Don’t buy your dress directly off the internet
"You just need to Google 'bought wedding dress on internet' and you'll see the horror stories, warns Christchurch wedding planner Emma Newman.
Keep your advisory panel small
"If you take 100 people to your dress fitting with you they'll all have a different opinion and only confuse you," says Newman.
Stick to your budget
There is nothing worse than trying on a dress and falling in love with it, only to discover that it's completely out of your price range. Both Kuhns and Dermott agree, they'd rather not take it off the rack for you than break your heart.