When we talk about wedding dress shopping, one of the most common questions we get is, “When should I start wedding dress shopping?”. Your wedding dress shopping timeline depends on a few things, from where you’re buying your dress or the kind of dress you’re buying, to how soon you’re getting married, so here, we’re going to cover all bases and answer the question of when to start shopping for your wedding dress.
When Should I Start Wedding Dress Shopping? – The Short Answer
You don’t need to be wearing a certain dress to get married, in truth, you can walk into a shop today and buy a white dress (or any kind of dress!), and get married in it tomorrow. That said, if you want to have as many options open to you as possible, and the full, ‘classic wedding dress shopping experience’ without feeling rushed into a decision, you should start wedding dress shopping at least 9 months before your wedding, with a view to ordering the dress at least six months out. That will give you time for research, making appointments, making a final decision, manufacturing, shipping and alterations. This should also allow time for any potential manufacturing or delivery delays, but it’s best to ask your boutique about this, just to be safe.
When Should I Start Wedding Dress Shopping? – The Long Answer
Custom or Made-To-Order Dresses
A custom wedding dress (designed specifically for you or adapted to your requirements) or a made-to-order dress (you try a sample on in the boutique and they order one in your size) are the most common kinds of wedding dress. These tend to require a three to six-month lead time (even longer for some designers). This is because many wedding dresses are hand-finished, they often need to be shipped from overseas, and you need to allow time for alterations. Pair that with factoring in waiting for boutique appointments, or trying on lots of dresses before you find ‘The One’, and it’s advised you start shopping seven to 10 months out from your big day. Many boutiques can make a rush order, but this will come at an additional fee.
Sample Wedding Dresses or Off-the-Rack
If you’re getting married in a few months, a sample wedding dress or off-the-rack style is probably your best option as you can buy them and take them home on the same day. Always ask a boutique if they have any sample or off-the-rack styles, keep an eye out for sample sales, or check out your favourite brands or designers to see if they have any stock available. You’ll likely still want to make alterations though, so it’s wise to leave at least a month or six weeks to get those done. Read our post on how to shop sample sales like a pro!
Like an off-the-rack wedding dress, vintage dresses can be bought on the same day, but there are a couple of crucial differences. Finding the right vintage dress – one you love and that fits you – can take a long time, so starting your search early gives you the best chance of not having to settle. Secondly, alterations for a vintage wedding dress are best done by a specialist, so it’s worth allowing time to find the right person! Read our guide to wedding dress alterations here for all you need to know.
High Street Dresses or Shopping Online
High street wedding dresses have become increasingly popular in recent years, and are a good option for brides who are short on time or on a tight budget. That said, it’s important to keep in mind that many of these collections only come out at certain times a year, have limited stock and sell out quickly. If a brand you love launch a wedding collection, you need to pounce! Most dedicated high street bridal collections are released from March to June, though some launch in September. It’s good to remember, you can always purchase a regular dress at the last minute and style it out for your big day too. If you’re shopping online, we recommend ordering the same dress in a couple of sizes to avoid extended back and forth, and make sure you leave plenty of time for shipping.
Wedding Dress Shopping Timeline Tips
- Don’t panic if you feel like you’ve left it too late to buy your wedding dress, there’s an option for everyone, and boutiques and retailers will do everything they can to help you.
- Always let a boutique know your wedding date when you’re making your appointment, so they can let you know straight away if they’ll be able to work within your timeline.
- Remember that some boutiques have a waitlist for weekend appointments, so if you have your heart set on a certain store, make your appointment as early as possible.
- Try wedding dress shopping mid-week if you can, you’ll have your pick of appointments, and a little more time in-store to make a final decision.
- Don’t wait to go wedding dress shopping until you’ve hit your ‘goal weight’. One, you look gorgeous already! Two, you could leave it too late to find the perfect dress. And three, dresses can always be altered for weight fluctuations down the line. Four, you look gorgeous already!!!
- If you’re buying a dress with a tight turnaround, department stores and online boutiques are a great place to look for designer buys that are high quality without the lead time – these are not strictly wedding dresses, but they might still fit the bill.
- Don’t forget to factor in the extras, finding the right shoes and underwear can take time too! Read our underwear checklist here!
- Alterations often take longer than you think, so it’s always better to err on the side of caution and leave plenty of time.
- Wait until you’ve booked your venue and decided on the look and feel of your wedding before you go shopping, as these will dictate the dress you choose.
- Many brides worry about shopping ‘too early’ and then falling out of love with their dress or seeing something different they like more – once you’ve bought your dress, put it out of sight (leave it with the boutique or in someone else’s house if you need to!) and don’t look at any other dresses!
Get more essential advice for wedding dress shopping here!