7 Things To Know Before You Start Wedding Dress Hunting


With all of the decision-making involved in planning a wedding, some tasks will be more emotional than others.

One of the most significant decisions you’ll make? Choosing your wedding dress!

Your wedding day is one of the most memorable days of your entire life, and an occasion that you want to look and feel your absolute best. Hunting for the perfect wedding dress is a rite of passage for every bride – but it can often feel a little daunting without any prior experience.

There are a few misconceptions to be aware of when it comes to finding “The One”. From understanding timelines to costs involved and even your mindset, it’s important to prepare for dress hunting in advance to avoid stress or disappointment.

So if you’re about to start your search for the perfect gown, keep reading for 7 things you should know before you begin your journey!

Photography by Chymo & More

Understand Your Timeline

Understanding your timeline is absolutely crucial when it comes to a stress-free dress hunting experience. Starting your search too early can leave you open to changing your mind closer to the big day – but not allowing yourself enough time can mean some serious last minute panic!

Once you’ve chosen your wedding date, start thinking about how much time will be involved to source your dream dress. A good rule of thumb is to begin your dress search at the 6-month mark for store-bought gowns, or 9-12 months for anything custom-made.

Remember, not only do you need to shop for “The One’, but you’ll need to consider things like shipping and alterations, too. Although some boutiques may have ready-to-wear gowns, many stores only offer samples and will arrange for your actual dress to be delivered. This process can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 4 months depending on your chosen gown.

If you have a particular boutique or designer in mind, it’s best to contact them in advance to ask about any specific timing guidelines you’ll need to follow. You might also want to consider using an online task manager to set yourself reminders for these deadlines and keep you on track!

Photography by Ben Adams

Set a Budget

How much are you actually able to spend on your dream dress? Before you set foot in any bridal stores, creating a budget for your wedding dress should be a top priority.

Setting a practical budget aside for your gown will make it much easier to narrow down your options from the very beginning. After creating your overall wedding budget and figuring out your spending priorities, you can then determine how much money can realistically be allocated to your dress.

The costs involved in purchasing a wedding dress will really depend on the designer you choose and the materials used. Keep in mind that the average spend for a wedding dress in Australia is around $2500 for store-bought gowns. For custom-made gowns, or gowns made with luxurious materials like silk or French lace, you can expect to pay upwards of $5000.

However, if you’re working towards a stricter budget, don’t fret! You can often snap up some great discounted gowns by hitting up your local sample sales, or perhaps even consider purchasing a pre-loved gown online.

Don’t forget to think about any other elements involved in your wedding attire, such as jewellery, shoes and other bridal accessories. You might want to consider creating a budget for your complete “wedding day look” to give yourself some wiggle room. This way, if you do splurge a little on your dress, you can choose a more affordable shoe style or minimise your accessories.

You should also have an upfront conversation with your dress designer or bridal boutique regarding additional costs to expect for alterations. Dress alterations can add up quickly, so knowing all of these costs in advance is key to avoid blowing out your budget.

And once you’ve created your wedding dress budget – stick to it! Don’t even think about approaching any designers or boutiques that you already know will be too expensive. This will only lead to disappointment, so make sure you shop within your means and understand your limits.

Define Your Wedding Style & Vision

Defining your overall wedding style and vision is another important step in your dress hunting journey.

Have you considered how you actually want your big day to look and feel? Whether it’s a barefoot bohemian celebration or an elegant black tie event, these elements will all need to be taken into consideration when it comes to choosing the right dress.

For example, if you’re planning a beach wedding in the heart of summer, will you really be comfortable in a traditional long-sleeved gown or would you prefer something more lightweight and relaxed? Or, if your heart is set on a glamorous reception with stunning details, you might want to consider something custom or couture.

Your wedding dress should be a reflection of your own unique personality, and it’s likely that your overall wedding vision will reflect this, too. So take some time to define your wedding style first to help with choosing the perfect dress for your celebration.

Photography by Rebecca Yale Photography

Understand Your Body Type

We all know the feeling – something looks amazing on the mannequin, but completely different in the change room! Understanding your body shape and choosing a dress silhouette that flatters your figure will help you feel your very best on the big day.

Once you’ve determined your own individual body type, do some research on the different cuts, silhouettes and materials that will showcase your best features. For example, a mermaid style gown is perfect for hourglass figures, while a-line gowns look incredible on pear-shaped ladies.

Your skin tone is something else to consider when it comes to the actual colour of your gown. White and champagne dresses look best on skin with yellow undertones, while ivory can be more suited to fair skin.

Don’t be afraid to ask your dress designer or boutique assistant for their advice when it comes to the most flattering cuts for your figure. Chances are, they’ll have a wealth of knowledge and can use their expertise to point you in the right direction.

Preparing for Your Fitting

Once you’re ready to start booking bridal appointments, it’s important to prepare appropriately before each fitting for a stress-free experience.

On the day, make sure you’re wearing appropriate undergarments as these can completely change the look and feel of each gown. A nude strapless bra (fitted correctly) and nude underwear are generally recommended by most bridal boutiques, along with a pair of heels that reflect the size you’ll be wearing on the day.

If you have your heart set on a certain wedding hairstyle, it can also be helpful to loosely replicate this when trying on each gown to see how they work together. Keep your makeup natural and minimal – you don’t want to leave marks on any expensive gowns, but you should also feel polished enough to look and feel the part.

You can also call your bridal boutique in advance if there are any particular gowns you definitely want to try on. This will allow them to arrange for the right styles and sizes to be available for you at your appointment.

Photography by Onelove Photography

Consider Your Entourage

Wedding dress shopping is an extremely personal and emotion-fuelled experience. Having the right people by your side will help you feel relaxed and comfortable throughout the decision making process.

Think honestly about the people whose judgement you trust completely, whether that’s a family member or your chief bridesmaid. It’s best to keep your shopping entourage to a minimum, or you may end up feeling flustered and confused with so many different opinions! Consider shopping with just 2 or 3 of your nearest and dearest, rather than your entire bridal party.

If your chosen wedding dress has some complicated buttons or a corset, you might also want to consider having your maid of honour along to your final fitting. Your boutique assistant will be able to show them exactly how it needs to be done on the big day!

Have an Open Mind

It’s so important to have the right mindset before you begin your search for the perfect wedding dress. Having unrealistic expectations that the first dress you try on will be “The One” is the quickest way to end up feeling disappointed and discouraged!

Understand that everyone’s dress shopping experience is completely different. In reality, it might take a few shopping trips and several gowns before you find the right match. Having an open mind will really help to make your dress hunting journey a positive one.

Try not to get too emotionally attached to the idea of a certain dress or style before you begin your search. You might have your heart set on a particular gown that looked beautiful on Pinterest, only to discover it’s out of your budget or not as flattering in person.

So be open to new ideas, trust the guidance of your boutique assistant, and don’t be afraid to try on gowns in different styles, colours and materials. You might surprise yourself with something you would never have considered!

Photography via Moonlight Bridal

Trust Your Instincts & Have Fun

Wedding dress shopping is such a unique experience, and something you’ll only ever do once.

Understanding what to expect from the process is the best way to prepare for a positive dress hunting journey. From knowing your body type to setting a realistic budget, simply keep the above 7 tips in mind before you start your search.

And most importantly – trust your instincts and have fun. It might take a few gowns before you find “The One”, but when you do, it’s a moment you’ll remember forever!