The Ultimate Guide to Finding Your Dream Wedding Dress

By Maria Yeonhee Ji

Magically stumbling upon your dream wedding dress happens for a lucky few. However, for the majority of brides, it takes a lot of research and effort to find the perfect wedding dress. To help you skip the trials and tribulations and make the search a short and sweet endeavour, here is a guide on how to find your dream wedding dress. 

DECIDE ON YOUR WEDDING AESTHETIC 

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Image sourced from Trish Peng

Deciding on a wedding theme will help you narrow down the range of wedding dress options. Though there aren’t any hard and fast rules as to which kind of dress designs are appropriate for any particular wedding theme, having a clear idea about the overall aesthetic that you’re aiming for will help streamline your decision-making while you’re looking for the perfect dress. 

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Image by Grace & Jaden Photography

Another thing that will make the process of conceptualising your dream dress so much easier is having your wedding and reception venues confirmed/booked. Once you know the date (and therefore the season) and location, it’ll be much easier to rule in and rule out certain styles based on their suitability for the weather/mood of the place. 

COLLATE AN INSPIRATION BOARD

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Image sourced from Vinka Design

In the months leading up to wedding dress shopping, put together an inspiration board with images of your favourite wedding looks. 

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Image by Fluro Grey

Having some reference material - be it a Pinterest board, Instagram collection, or something else entirely - can come in handy when discussing your ideas with wedding dress consultants and/or designers.

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Image by Diana V Photographer

Photos will help you communicate your ideas to dress consultants and designers so that they can get an exact understanding of your style and your dream aesthetic. They’re also important if you don’t know the technical fashion terms to describe the dress elements you’re looking for.

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Image by The Kitcheners

Your inspiration board is also a great way of remembering the dress details in other people’s photographs that brought out your inner magpie - exquisitely patterned lace, stunning beadwork, veils that matched a dress perfectly, sleeve details… Not all specific details will feasibly work with every kind of dress, but having the inspirational images on hand to refer to when discussing your dream wedding dress will help the consultations run much more smoothly. 

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Image by Lynn Lewis Photography

And don’t forget to think about your dream dress from every angle including the back and side profile - your photographers will be taking shots from every imaginable angle on the day.

PLAN A DAY(S) OF TRYING ON DRESSES

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Image sourced from Hera Couture 

Plan a day to go wedding dress shopping with a select bunch of your most trusted friends and/or family. This can be a fun way to spend some time with your bridesmaids, but if they’re the kinds of people who won’t offer authentic feedback about whether a dress is actually flattering, then go with somebody who will be more honest.

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Image sourced from Trish Peng

You should book appointments at a few boutique retailers. Avoid overbooking yourself - you’re much more likely to get shopping fatigue and then you'll just start to hate everything that's put in front of you. Remember that if you make a booking in the off-season, you’re more likely to get time with the most experienced, senior bridal consultants.   

Make sure that you are wearing appropriate underwear when you go to try on wedding dresses. Ideally, you should wear a perfectly-fitting, nude, strapless bra so that you can try on a number of styles (including strapless dresses) and get the closest representation of what you’ll look like on the big day. Underwear bottoms should be minimalist and ideally be ones that don’t show panty lines when worn under a tight dress. Other things to remember to take: shoes (if you already know what heel height you want to wear, take a pair with you); and hair ties so that you can see what the dresses look like with an updo. 

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Image by Soul Sisters Photography

Before actually going to try on dresses, it’s a good idea to do some preparation and get your head around the basics of wedding dress terminology so that you can easily ask to try on different styles. Know your main silhouette types (A-line, ball gown, column/sheath, mermaid, trumpet, empire), necklines (bateau/boat, cowl, halter, high collar, illusion, jewel, off-the-shoulder, portrait, queen anne, sabrina, scoop, square, sweetheart, v-neck), and dress lengths (floor length, ballerina, cocktail/tea-length, high-low, knee length). For explanations on what these terms mean, read this quick glossary of need-to-know terms created by New Zealand bridal designer Vinka Design.

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Image sourced from Vinka Design


The final thing to remember about trying on dresses is to have fun! Ideally, you should be doing this without any time pressure or rush to find a dress at short notice - make it an enjoyable, relaxed experience with whomever is accompanying you. This will also help you to be open-minded about trying on styles that you never thought would be quite right for you. You may find that the right dress is something entirely different than what you had envisioned. 

ACCESSORISE AFTER (OR FACTOR THEM IN BEFORE YOU BUY)

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Image by Pablo Laguia Wedding Photographer. Dress by Hera Couture

If you have a particular accessory you’d like to wear on your wedding day - perhaps a family heirloom or a significant gift from your partner - then definitely take it with you when you try on wedding dresses. Certain necklines will be more complementary with statement pieces, so it’ll be helpful to have the accessories with you to help you compare dresses. Alternatively, if you’re not so set on a specific necklace or pair of earrings, finding the accessories after you’ve picked the dress is a much easier way of putting together your wedding look. 

DON’T FORGET DRESS LOGISTICS ON THE BIG DAY 

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Image by Sherwin Javier Photography

No matter how carefully you store your dress before and after the wedding, there’s no way to avoid the fact that you have to wear it on the day. And inevitably this means that this comes with the risk of damage to the dress - grass stains as you walk down the aisle in an outdoor wedding, drinks, sweat, makeup… Ways to minimise these risks include: planning an indoor ceremony or placing rugs/other lining over grass in the aisle; allocating somebody to look after the dress before and after you need it; or packing an emergency wedding kit that includes an absorbent material that you can use to blot any stains (avoid rubbing as this will damage the fabric). 

KNOW YOUR WEDDING GOWN CARE FUNDAMENTALS

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Image by Chromatica

Though both wedding dress dry cleaning and preservation require considerable expertise, there is a clear distinction between the two. 

You should aim to take your wedding dress to a specialist cleaner as soon as possible after your wedding to clean the garment and remove any stains - be it some spilt wine, foundation or lipstick left by a vigorous hugger, or even perspiration. Some stains may dry clear but over time will oxidise to leave unsightly marks, so getting them removed by a professional is a must if you want to keep your dress as a memento of your big day. If you can’t personally take the dress yourself to get it cleaned, ask a parent or bridesmaid to do it first thing the next day - the less time you give the stain to set, the more likely you are to get the stain out. 

A wedding preservationist is a professional who will analyse your garment and come up with a personalised treatment plan based on the textile(s), construction, and types of damage that have occurred. They will ensure that their treatments don’t cause any damage to the delicate fabrics that make up your dress and they will leave you with a garment that will last for years to come in a sealed, airtight box that you should keep in a cool and dry location. 
When it comes to finding the right dry cleaning and preservation service providers, do inquire about their policies about what happens should any accidental damage be caused in their treatment processes. Double check that you’ll get the full cost of the garment as well as the cleaning/preservation process itself. 

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