You Know It's The One

30th January 2015

You’ve found the man of your dreams, now it’s time to find the dress of your dreams. But is it as easy as it sounds?

Claire Moulds shares her story and offers ten top tips…

We all know how it’s ‘supposed’ to be. How the ‘right’ dress will elicit tears of joy from everyone present, how you will instinctively ‘know’ when you’ve found ‘the one’. But what if you don’t?

Having booked the church and the reception venue, read up on the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ in all my wedding magazines and listened to the advice of family and friends, I went to my first dress appointment with great hopes.

Cue the first meltdown…

While I had gone with a, relatively, open mind, as advised, I was certain of two things. Firstly, I categorically did not want a strapless dress. However, after two hours trying on a wide variety of styles it became clear that they actually really suit me. This discovery threw me completely and I’m not alone. I know several brides who had envisaged a sleek, simple design only to find that the dresses that they loved most (and that suited them best) were those with elaborate detailing and show-stopping features.

Secondly, I didn’t want something overly fussy. It quickly became clear though that bows, beading, sequins and frills were very much the order of the season and that it was almost impossible to find something simple.

There followed several months of looking and visits to ten different boutiques and two wedding fairs. I was officially beginning to panic. Even my fiancé was worried. I generally found one dress that I liked in each store, the lack of an ‘OMG’ moment made me doubt that any of them were ‘the one’. And your wedding outfit is definitely one purchase that you don’t want to be accompanying with the words “it’ll do…”

Unlike celebrities who are used to rocking different looks on the red carpet time after time, we mortals get one shot with the amazing dress, the killer heels, the hair and make-up artist on hand – and the pressure is immense. Everyone knows that one of the main memories people take away from a wedding is the bride’s outfit. “What was she wearing?” is always the first question.

It was only when I started looking into the possibility of having a dress made for me that I began to crystallise what I truly wanted. I’d always pictured something in the vein of Grace Kelly and the quandary of the strapless issue was soon resolved with the idea of a little lace shrug that could then be removed for the evening celebrations.

Cue the second meltdown…

While it finally felt as though I was making progress, the bottom half of the dress was proving tricky. A duchesse satin skirt with a train was one option, a silk organza skirt with no train was another. Like many brides-to-be it had never crossed my mind not to have a train but the more I looked at myself in the mirror, the more it seemed too old for me. In contrast, the trainless organza option made me twirl giddily around the showroom – and in the end the organza won out. It’s how it makes you feel that counts. The addition of a cathedral veil offset the lack of the train, balancing everything out beautifully.

Result.

Or was it?

Even then, facing myself in the mirror, I still didn’t have that heart-thumping moment of recognition. I was 99% sure it was ‘the one’ but there was still an element of doubt and it wasn’t until the big day itself that I finally knew I’d made the right choice. A girl I met on honeymoon echoed my experience by saying ‘I liked my dress from the start, but it took me a while to fall in love with it.’

So, what can you take from my experience? We all have it instilled in us that there is ‘one’ right wedding dress out there for us and that not only will we know it when we see it, but our friends and family will know it when they see us in it. This simply isn’t true! What matters is that you find a dress that reflects you and that you feel yourself in. It might not be what you set out to find or what your mother has always pictured you in but if what you see in the mirror makes you smile then that’s ample reason to say ‘this one’, rather than waiting for a ‘feeling’ that might never come.

Finally, one thing you can be assured of is that, on the day itself, you will feel a million dollars in your chosen outfit. The glow you’ll have as a radiant bride, head over heels in love with her groom (and her dress), will add that extra ‘je ne sais quoi’ to your appearance…

Hunting your dream dress: Claire’s top ten pieces of advice…

1. Start looking for your dress as early as possible both to allow time for it to be ordered and altered and to give yourself vital breathing room so you don’t feel pressured to make a hasty decision

2. Go prepared! To get the best idea of how a dress will sit on the day take a well-fitting, neutral bra and heels. If you plan to wear your grandmother’s veil or a necklace that your fiancé has bought for you, take these along too. Equally, be a courteous customer and arrive on time – boutiques operate an appointment system specifically so they can devote their full attention to you – and preferably without fake tan, which can permanently stain a dress.

3. At your first appointment try on as many different styles as possible, even if you think you know what you want. Make a mental note of what you do and don’t like about each design so you can begin to build a picture of your ideal dress.

4. Be true to yourself. If you favour simple styling in your everyday life don’t feel you have to go for a statement dress just because it’s your big day.
5. If you start to get confused take a step back from the process and think about what has struck a chord with you and build on that. However small – be it a neckline or a beading detail – it’s something that you are confident about and takes you one step closer to finding perfection.

6. Don’t be afraid to go to appointments on your own. Family and friends can be useful sounding boards but you, and only you, have the final say.
7. Take your time. You need to sit, stand, walk and even ‘boogie’ in your dress to be sure it’s right for you so spend time moving around the showroom and look at your dress from every angle. If possible view it in both natural and artificial light to see how the colour changes. Don’t feel pressured to make a decision there and then if you’re not 100% sure.

8. Think how your wedding photos will look in twenty years’ time. Is the dress too ‘of the moment’? It shouldn’t be the determining factor but it is worth considering so that your photos don’t quickly appear dated. There’s a reason that some iconic dresses are considered ‘timeless’.

9. If you’re really struggling it’s worth asking the one person whose opinion really matters – the groom. I’m not suggesting you should show him (perish the thought…) but I asked mine what sort of dress he envisaged me wearing and, while it didn’t clarify all the aspects of the design, it did reassure me that I’d be wearing something along the lines that he was expecting, and would love. After all, you don’t want your future husband to wonder who the stranger is standing at the top of the aisle as the dress doesn’t reflect any aspect of your usual style.

10. As your dress will determine, amongst other things, your choice of accessories and flowers, take plenty of photos – both of it, and you in it – that you can then take to show suppliers. Ask the boutique owner for a fabric sample too so that you can hold it against possible shoes or bridesmaids’ dresses in other stores.

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