Choosing a wedding dress

Where to start

Your wedding day is an incredibly special day for you, your other half and any guests attending. But sometimes, you can feel swept along with the motions of planning your big day rather than in charge. Wedding planning has become such a big industry that sometimes the focus can stray away from the stars of the show: the brides, their dresses and their partners. We are in favour of bringing the bride (and her dress) back into the spotlight and making your wedding feel more about you.

In British tradition, the wedding dress has symbolised affluence, purity, femininity and lifelong loyalty. As our culture has developed and diversified, the colours and forms used to convey this have changed and today your dress can represent whatever you want it to. While the freedom and plethora of options available for brides to choose from is wonderful, this can make choosing a dress overwhelming.

As with many daunting tasks or projects, the best way to approach finding your dress is to work backwards. Once you’ve set the date for your ceremony, you can work out when you need to begin shopping for your wedding dress, giving yourself a workable timeline. All bridal shops differ in how they approach the sales and fittings process but we advise clients to aim to choose their dress at least 6-8 months before the wedding. Lots of our brides order Andrea Hawkes dresses a year in advance but we can also work to shorter lead times as we produce in the UK.

Choosing your dress – book your first appointment

The process of finding your dress begins with an initial appointment, followed by the dress fittings to ensure you’ll have the perfect fit when you walk down the aisle. Bear in mind that some bridal shops charge for these initial appointments (Andrea Hawkes do not). It’s good to have a conversation with designers over the phone, email or in person before your initial appointment. This way your designers find out more about your wedding day, style and any ideas you may have for your dress. This also helps to make you, the bride-to-be, feel at ease as well as enabling us designers and boutique managers to begin thinking of ideas and styles to try when you come for your first appointment.

Wedding dress shopping – Your first appointment

When a bride comes in for her first appointment, many boutiques offer tea, coffee and prosecco  during an initial sit down with the bride (plus any of her guests). This is to get to know them more and to discuss all of their ideas. The boutique staff can then begin to form ideas based on your body shape, type of wedding and personal style.

Depending on the bride, they will either look through the dresses together with you, picking some of your choices and also their recommendations. If a bride wants the designer to guide the appointment, they should be more than happy to choose styles and start to build an idea for you. The dress shop team can then help you to try these styles on, pinning and adjusting the fit of their samples to your shape.

What to bring to your initial appointment

Most good shops will have shoes in store to try on with the dresses, so don’t worry about carrying around a pair of heels with you. It’s also advised to wear nude seamless underwear if you have any. Photos and mood boards such as Pinterest boards, plus images of the wedding venue are also really helpful for the wedding dress professionals.

Should you bring guests? Absolutely, if you would like to. We like to suggest keeping guests to friends and family who you know will be helpful, honest and will understand your personal style and taste.

How many dresses should I try?

There is not a set number of dresses to try in the appointment – sometimes we find the perfect idea straight away and other times our brides want to explore more options. With this in mind, we recommend agreeing on an appointment length before you go into the shop. Our appointments are for 1.5 hours to allow you enough time to discuss various options and try on different styles.

At the end of trying on dresses, you will hopefully have found a style or design that you love. If you would like to go ahead with the order, the shop will probably then proceed with a deposit, any paperwork and go through the next steps.

If you do not find the perfect dress at your first appointment, do not panic! If the bride is not ready to commit to a dress we would book them in for a second viewing after they have had time to re-think. This is always a lovely idea if a bride is deciding between two dresses. Some breathing space helps clear the mind so you can make a final decision. We also find that a lot of our brides would like to come back with their mum, friend or bridesmaid for a second opinion, which we always welcome as a second pair of eyes can be really beneficial.

We would recommend visiting no more than 1-3 shops or designers. Make sure you do your research on the designers or shops prior to booking an appointment so that you can choose the ones that feel right for you. We would usually see a bride 1 or 2 times before they choose their dress.

The second appointment

Again, a good bridal boutique will offer a second appointment as this provides the opportunity to have another catch-up and see how the bride is feeling about their favourite options. We would then retry the favourite choices to whittle down the options more, so that you get closer to picking your perfect dress. Focusing the whole appointment on these dresses really helps as it is all about refining your choice more.

By the end of the second appointment, you will have usually made a decision on a dress or  style and would have proceeded to putting down a deposit and arranging any paperwork. From this point onwards we would then go into the fitting stage.

When should you have your first wedding dress fitting?

We will be covering this in a separate post but we recommend approximately 4-5 fittings for made to measure dresses. For standard sized dresses that need altering we have a local alterations company we recommend – they would suggest 2-3 fittings. For made to measure we start approx 5-6 months prior to the wedding date. For standard size dresses our recommended alteration company would need roughly 2 months before the wedding.

Visit shops as soon as you are ready. We like to have an order placed roughly 6-8 months before the wedding or 8-12 months for made to measure. This allows a nice amount of time to schedule a relaxed fitting plan and order fabrics. However, we can also accommodate for shorter lead times as we make in the UK.

Before your first fitting

It is great if you can bring the shoes and undergarments that you intend to wear to your fittings. So if you have not bought these, it’s best to make them your next purchase. A particular bra or heel can determine how a dress fits and hangs, as well as how you hold yourself. Similarly, if you are planning to wear any jewellery or other accessories such as hair pieces or over layers, bring these along too. This way you can perfect every element of your dress with your designer.

Andrea Hawkes created her line of bridal wear for women looking for dresses that bring simplicity, elegance and detail, but not fuss, to the bridal party. Being flexible with design changes means we work with the client to build on what they love, mixing and adjusting anything that may not be 100% right. For example – raising necklines, lowering backs or adding sleeves.

We love being creative and working with each client to curate a finished look because we believe that each dress should suit the individual bride. As we make everything ourselves, we are able to help each bride to find a dress that suits them.



From wedding dress ideas & inspiration to how-to guides and expert know-how. You'll find everything you need in the run up to your big day and beyond on our bridal blog!

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