When should I start looking for my wedding dress?



Okay, let’s be honest here. Since you decided that they were the ‘one’ for you and before they even put a ring on it, I bet you have thought about what your wedding dress will be like, at least once haven’t you? Now that you are engaged you can’t wait to try on dresses, and it’s going to be so much fun! But wait, the timeline from saying yes I will marry you to yes this is my dress vary so much from bride to bride. Before you even book your first appointment read on for some advice on things to consider.

How did you announce your engagement?

How did you announce your engagement?

So before you fire off that email or call the boutique have you got your venue booked, or even a date set, do you know how much you want to spend? When you go to book, don’t be surprised if you get asked these questions, as they are really relevant when it comes to finding a dress. I often get enquires from brides who know they are getting married next year sometime, but don’t know when or where. I always explain that season, location and style of wedding can really affect your choice of gown, a pure silk slip dress, probably wont be suitable for castle wedding in the Scottish Highlands in January, but it would be perfect for a beach wedding in the Bahamas. If you are still debating on a garden marquee, a French chateau or a secluded beach somewhere, now is not the right time to start looking and you will become frustrated, confused and disheartened. Without knowing when and where you are getting married, it makes buying a wedding dress very difficult, so I always suggest waiting until the date is fixed and the venue is booked.


We also need to talk about the dress budget. You can get wedding dresses that start at £99 online and on the high street, but expect to pay anything from £750 to £8000 for a dress from an independent boutique. At Willoughby & Wolf our contemporary designer wedding dresses range in price from £1300 right up to £6000, and every dress in the boutique has it’s price clearly displayed. 


Okay you say, I have the date set, my venue is booked, and I know how much I want to spend. When should I go dress shopping then? Well if time allows, the ideal time is about 9-12 months before your wedding day. This means that you can try dresses on in the season that you are getting married, but before those appointments are made, a top piece of advice is if you haven’t already, is to start a Pinterest Board. Using the online scrapbook allows you to make boards with lots of inspirational elements for your wedding, including your dress and how you want to look on your wedding day.  By searching and pinning dresses you can start looking at designers that you like and whether they are in your budget. You can then narrow your search down to boutiques that stock your favourite designers. This will also help stop you and your bridal party getting ‘White Out’ because you have no focus and visit boutique after boutique trying on dress after dress because they don’t stock what you want.

An additional tip is, don’t be afraid to whip out your Pinterest board and show it to your bridal consultant. I love a Pinterest board and when brides share theirs I get a real feel for what look they are trying to achieve.

Pinterest is a great source of ideas to help you plan your wedding

Pinterest is a great source of ideas to help you plan your wedding

Contemporary wedding dress

Okay 9 – 12 months before my wedding seems like such a long time, are you sure? Yes, the truth of the matter is that wedding dresses can take up to 6 months to be made and you also need to allow another 2 months for alterations. Lead times vary dramatically from designer to designer and then throw in other factors like time of year, customisation options and intricacy of design and the time soon adds up. I know that this seems like a really strange concept, where online shopping and warehouse bridal stores offer high pressure selling with offer ends in 3 hours, if you don’t buy it now it may be gone when you comeback, combined with instant satisfaction of next day delivery or buy today and take it home with you. In today’s instant want it now climate waiting 6 days feels like a lifetime let alone 6 months.

At Willoughby & Wolf our entire wedding dress collection is made to order, this is not to be confused with bespoke. Made to order means that there are not hundreds of dresses made in each size, just waiting to be shipped to stores. Made to order is so much more environmentally friendly, as it means less waste and designers can order just the quantities that they need, and you can also customise your dress.


But I want to lose weight first so I look better when trying on gowns? Firstly, we know that you want to look your very best on your wedding day, but remember your loved one didn’t say ‘Let’s get married, but can you lose a few pounds for the day’. The truth about weight loss is this, to drop a dress size you need to drop 15lbs, and whether you drop from a size 16 to a size 10 your body shape will not change you will always be a pear, or inverted triangle just slimmer. If you leave it till you have lost the weight, you may lose the gown that you have your heart on.

I know that you want to look your best and for some being measured when we are not looking our best for such an important purchase is our idea of hell, but at Willoughby & Wolf we focus on fit and style not size. We pride our selves on our fitting and styling service and will always make you feel comfortable and advise you on when to order. In fact once you have chosen your gown and paid the deposit, we can defer measurements until closer to the wedding.

Bohemian bride, in camper van wearing Katya Katya
Jesus Peiro Bride

But wait, I have only just got engaged and we are getting married in 6 months, does this mean that I have to buy off the rack? No of course it doesn’t. You may get an okay, not a problem but we need to order quickly, but we do have some designers that can deliver in very short timescales, there may be an additional charge of between 10 and 20% but just like lead times, all designers are different.

So get your venue booked, create your Pinterest board, and get your gang together. Just like your venue, research your dress and boutiques and be choosy about which you visit, ensuring that you visit those that match your style and budget to give you the best chance of success and saying ‘yes to the dress’. If you want luxury paired with exceptional service, then look no further than Willoughby & Wolf.