Our Guide to Finding the Perfect Wedding Dress

Take our advice, and you’ll be slipping on the bridal gown of your dreams, stress-free!

The wedding dress shopping experience is (hopefully), a once-in-a-lifetime event that, for most brides, is a thrilling part of the big day journey. But those thrills can be equalled by a fair amount of trepidation. After all, it’s not everyday you get to shop for a bridal gown, and for many of us, this is the first time we’ve entered such a boutique as a future bride. Therefore, it can be hard to know what to expect, and how best to go about finding the perfect wedding dress.

We’re fortunate enough to have connections with many wonderful bridal shops across the Cotswolds. All of whom put so much love into finding the perfect wedding dress for their brides. We’ve seen first hand how their talented stylists immediately put nervous brides at ease, taking them under their wing and guiding them through the process. It’s a joy to see.

How to Find the Perfect Wedding Dress

To help you find your perfect wedding dress that little easier, and calm any pre-appointment verves, we thought we’d create a little shopping guide. Using the knowledge and experience of our Cotswolds bridal shops, we’ve put together industry sourced tips and advice that should make the whole journey as fun, and successful as possible.

Our Guide to Finding the Perfect Wedding Dress bride with bouquet

Give Yourself Time

The whole wedding dress buying journey takes longer than brides often think. These days we’re so used to fast fashion, and getting things delivered to our doorsteps in a matter of hours. Meaning, it can be difficult to comprehend that a wedding dress, from first order to last alterations, can take roughly 6 months to be ready.

Ideally, you should start looking for the perfect wedding dress around 9 months before the big day. That way you’ll allow yourself plenty of time to visit a few shops, and you won’t be putting any unnecessary pressure on yourself, the boutique, or the designer to speed things up.

Not everyone has the luxury of time however, and of course, there are ways to get a bridal gown quicker. Sample sales, rush deliveries and off-the-peg gowns are all options. LJ Bridal, for example, have a huge range of high-end, ex-sample designer wedding dresses that you can take home the very same day.

Prepare Before Your First Appointment

There are a few preparations you should make before setting foot inside a wedding dress shop. Things that can make or break your experience, especially the very first appointment.


We’re going to get the boring one out-of-the-way first! You must set a firm budget before beginning your search for the perfect wedding dress. Discuss it with your partner, and factor the cost of your gown in with the complete wedding budget. Don’t think that you can go wild because it’s your big day, and this is your gown! Consider your wedding dress like every other supplier you’re hiring.

Your wedding dress budget will be one of the first things your bridal stylist will ask you for at your appointment, if not, when booking it. Therefore, it’s important to know from the outset. Otherwise, you’re going to put yourself in an awkward position further down the line.

The amount you can afford to spend on a wedding dress will also affect the type of shop you will likely visit.

lj bridal cotswolds wedding shops
Photo from LJ Bridal in the Cotswolds

Do Some Research

If you’re into it, browsing wedding dresses online is fun. It’s good to see what kind of styles are out there, get a gauge of prices and even consider what type of wedding dress shape would suit you best. But, don’t go crazy.

Setting up a private Pinterest board and filling it with styles and shapes you like is a wise move. As it will help your stylist understand what you like straight away. However, it’s very unwise to make up your mind on what style/shape/fabric/designer you want before even stepping foot in a bridal shop.

Annabel Sarah Bridal told us that so many of their brides come into their boutique with firm ideas of what they want, and leave with an entirely different look. If you do too much research before your appointment, all you’ll do is cloud your mind, and make it harder for the stylist to suggest gowns for you.

Just get an idea of what’s out there, and let your chosen bridal shop do the rest.

What Kind of Wedding are You Having?

Before you visit your first bridal boutique, you should already know when, and where your wedding will be. Along with its general style. All of these factors will influence what constitutes the ‘perfect wedding dress’ for you.

A castle wedding in November calls for a very different look to a beach celebration in July.

bride having wedding dress buttoned up

Lay the Foundations for that Perfect Wedding Dress

Now you’ve prepared the facts, and have the research in mind. It’s time to prepare your body in the best way to find ‘the one’. And we don’t mean extreme dieting!

When shopping for bridal, it’s extremely useful to have on the underwear, or at least the type of underwear you expect to be wearing on the big day. Certain styles will alter the fit of a gown, especially shapewear. Whereas others are simply more visible when wearing particular fabrics, or cuts. But in general, by wearing your chosen bridal underwear, you’ll be getting a clearer feel of what your gown will actually look like on the day.

Another important thing to bring along, is the shoes you’re planning to wear on the day. You probably won’t have purchased them yet, and that’s normal, but you should know what height you want to wear. As the height of your heel will affect the whole look of a gown, making or breaking how you feel about it.

According to the talented shoe designer Diane Hassall, you should have purchased your bridal shoes in time for the first alterations. If not, your alterations team will not know exactly where your gown should end, length-wise. Meaning your dress could be too long, or too short when you finally slip on your bridal shoes.

Also, walk into your appointment with your hair and makeup done. It doesn’t have to match how you’ll look on the day, but you should feel put together, ready for a night out maybe. Do this, and you’ll find it so much easier to visualise yourself wearing that perfect wedding dress. But don’t apply fake tan!

bridal shoes with beading perfect for a wedding dress
Bridal Shoes by Diane Hassall

Trust Your Bridal Stylist

We said not to overdo your research, and that’s because your stylist should be entrusted to guide your experience. Wedding dress shops like Taffeta & Lace, for example, have been finding brides their perfect gown since 1985. So they know a thing or two about bridal! Trust in their judgement, keep an open-mind, and they might just surprise you.

Book Mid-week

If possible, book your appointment for a weekday. Obviously, most of us need to work during the week. But if you, and your entourage, can spare the time, you’ll certainly reap the rewards.

Not only will you get an appointment a lot quicker, (and possibly cheaper) but you’ll most likely have the shop to yourself. Which makes the whole experience a lot more relaxing for everyone, including your stylist. Plus, the bar will be empty when you rock up after to celebrate finding the perfect wedding dress!

Photo from Annabel Sarah Bridal

Forget About the Size

You will find that wedding dress sizing is different to the high street. And in fact your dream bridal gown could be one, maybe two sizes bigger than you’d normally wear. That’s ok! The size is literally just a guide. What matters is that the dress fits you like a glove, and makes you look, and most importantly feel, incredible. But that’ll only happen if you forget about the size.

Be realistic also about your size, and any diet you intend to go on before the big day. Any experienced wedding dress shop will be reluctant to order a gown two sizes smaller than the bride’s current measurement, how ever much a bride says she’ll lose weight. It is really hard to slim down significantly at the best of times. But factor in trying to plan a wedding at the same time, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster!

Order your gown according to the shape you are now. And if you do lose weight, it’s so much easier to take in a gown, than it is to make it bigger!

Listen to Your Heart

When standing in a wedding dress that your mum, sister and best mate are all telling you is perfect. It can be hard to make up your own mind, and actually say, this gown is not right for me. The lovely team at LV Couture Bridal truly understand this, and always encourage their brides to take a moment, and remember that this is ‘your dress’. The last thing they, or any bridal shop wants, is for their brides to walk away with a gown they’re not 100% in love with. That’s just heartbreaking!

If you don’t feel like the very best version of yourself when standing in a gown, it’s simply not ‘the one’.

Ready to find the perfect wedding dress?

We hope this post has inspired your search for the perfect wedding dress! Are you ready to book your appointment at one of the lovely wedding dress shops we have here in the Cotswolds?

We have a wide selection of wedding dress shops here at Cotswolds Wedding, all of whom have their own unique style and specialities. You can find out about each one of these suppliers via their personal profiles, and website links on our site.

Start your search for the perfect wedding dress shop in the Cotswolds today, by using our suppliers’ dropdown tab at the top of the page, or by following this link.

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