Monday, 29 May 2017

Top 5 Tips For Surviving Bridesmaid Dress Shopping.

All the beautiful pictures popping up on Facebook over the last few weeks can only mean one thing. Wedding season is well and truly under way. It almost makes me miss working. Almost.
Over my 10 years in retail, I've dressed brides, bridesmaids, mothers of both bride and groom, as well as countless wedding guests. It has given me a great insight to the workings of the wedding party, so I thought I'd share a few tips for shopping for bridesmaids dresses.

My sisters and Mam wore Coast dresses for my wedding.
(As did Shane's Mam, sister, and about 50% of our guests)
Mam accidentally found her dress while we were shopping
for the girls and they changed their minds and exchanged
their dresses 3 weeks before the wedding. 

I'd always suggest shopping high street for dresses. They're a fraction of the price, and in a lot of cases are actually better quality, more flattering and fashion forward than the bridal store option. I'm quite biased towards Coast! But there are tons of places, Monsoon, House of Fraser, John Lewis, Debenhams, Phase Eight, Ted Baker, even F&F at Tesco!! TwoBirds is also an excellent option, so many way to wear the dresses and so many colours to choose from. You'd be hard pushed to not please everyone.

But with so many options available it is very easy to get overwhelmed, so here are my Top 5 Tips For Surviving Bridesmaid Dress Shopping.

1. Book an appointment

Coast by Appointment
Like having your own private
personal shopper and dressing room
If you're shopping at a bridal boutique, you may not get in without an appointment, but equally if you're going high street. Most retailers who carry bridesmaids dresses will offer an appointment service. You'll have a dedicated member of staff who can give you their 100% attention for however long it takes to find your perfect outfit. The bigger stores will also have special fitting rooms and even provide some Perosecco to sip on.
Whatever you do though, don't swan into a busy shop at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon with your Mam, three bridesmaids and a flower girl, take over every available fitting room, insist you're 'just browsing', then get pissed when there isn't a staff member available to spend an hour pulling stock and cleaning up for you.

Similar colours in different dresses that
flatter everyones figure is a beautiful
option if you have a large bridal party

2. Do some research

I'm not saying walk into a shop with your heart set on an exact colour, material and style. Definitely don't do that, not unless you're willing to have dresses made specially and pay the premium to boot. But have some sort of a idea of what you like. And what your bridesmaids like too. Do you want them all matching/ similar/ completely different? Is there anything you hate and absolutely don't want? I've had may a bride say she's open to anything, only to then dismiss every dress I've pulled because it's strapless/ the straps are too detailed, or too high cut, the skirt is too full, the colour is not bright enough. Give your sales assistant some guidance and it will save time for everyone.

3. Decide who's paying for what

A smaller budget in no way means
sacrificing style.
If you know what you're working with
from the start, it's easier to find the
perfect dresses at the right price.
Before you shop. And have that conversation with your bridesmaids before you start shopping, but especially before you get to the till. I can't tell you how many times I've been stood across from all sorts of arguments over who is and isn't paying for the outfits. MOTBs fighting to get their credit card in first, or a bride shying away as soon as the dresses are bagged up, only for the mortified bridesmaids to try scramble together their cash.
I'm not saying there is any hard and fast rules for who pays, but from my experience, the cost of the dresses, at least, comes from the wedding budget, with a few brides asking (and in some cases BMs insisting) that shoes for example be paid for by each individual.
Remember as well, that being a bridesmaid is a big expense, and some people might feel uncomfortable shopping and not knowing if they can afford what you want them to wear.

While we're on the topic of money, have an idea of your budget before you shop. Dresses can range from £50-£500 a piece, so know what you're comfortable with before you fall in love with something WAY out of your price range. If you are asking your bridesmaids to pay for the dresses, respect their budget.
Sales assistants are also used to working with budgets, so will be able to help find everything you need, for close to what you want to spend.

With bridal parties getting bigger,
4-6 is now the average in UK and Ireland
it's no wounder brides are opting for
different styles and colours.
These dresses are all 'Allure Maxi'
from Coast, but look beautiful
in six different colours.
(I also love how the neck line
mimics the bridal gown)
4. Have an open mind

Chances are, when dressing more than one adult woman, you're going to be dealing with different body shapes, sizes, tastes etc. Rather than forcing everyone into the same dress, to start with I'd recommend each girl picking two/three dresses she likes in her size and everyone try on one dress each at a time. This way you can eliminate definite 'nos' straight away without having to pull every dress in every size from the shop floor, and stressing everyone out by trying on more dresses than is necessary.
When you've found your top 2/3, get them in everyone's' size then see them all together.
Listen to what your bridesmaids like/dislike about dresses, and respect them enough to accept if they're not comfortable in something. It can get particularly disheartening, if one girl is a completely different shape to everyone else, or is struggling with their confidence. Remember why you chose your bridesmaids, they are your nearest and dearest friends, treat them as such!

5.Be Decisive

Monsoon have some fabulous 'mini-me'
dresses for your junior bridesmaids.
I know it can feel like a huge decision to make, but dragging it out longer than is necessary will just add more stress to your planning. Be prepared to have the bulk of the outfit bought in one outing. Spend a few hours in the morning trying on, then go for a coffee or a bite to eat and mull it over. But make sure you go back and get your dresses. Leaving the shopping center empty handed is very disheartening, and the thought of having to get everyone together again is a nightmare, especially when 99% of the time, bridal parties came back and went with the dress they decided on in the first place.

I could go on forever, but think I'll stick to this for now. I'd love to hear how your bridesmaid shopping experience was, and feel free to ask me any questions!!