Mel will be marrying Mitch on Sunday 18 March 2018, in a Jewish wedding at Warren Weir at Luton Hoo, UK.
THREE FACTS: (1) Mel and Mitch met online on JDate (2) Their Jewish wedding will be classy and traditional with plenty of modern touches (3) Mel is a member of Smashing The Glass’s private Jewish & Jew-ish Brides Facebook Group. Not yet a member? Come join us here!
I recently ticked off one of the most stressful tasks so far… finding bridesmaid’s dresses! ✔ A couple of months prior, my mum also found her dress, and I said ‘Yes to the Dress’ earlier this year.
Now that I and the important ladies in my life have found a dress for the wedding, and having been to all the appointments, I have built a good insight into how to approach finding the perfect dress.
Wedding Dress Shopping
Looking for my dress was the thing I was probably most excited about when Mitch and I first got engaged. My plan was to wait until March to start looking (5 months after we got engaged). That would give me a solid year to find a dress and allow time for delivery and alterations. However, by January my impatience took hold and I started looking at shops to visit.
Finding a bridal store I wanted to book an appointment at was a lot harder than I thought. Not because I couldn’t find one I liked; but because there were so many to choose from!
Mitch and I went to a wedding a month after we got engaged and I loved the bride’s dress so I asked where she got it from. That was one appointment. Then after some research I found another store that had a huge range of dresses in all shapes and styles. Having never tried on a wedding dress before, I thought this place would be a good option. That was another appointment. Two appointments booked.
I was going to stop there, until I read a few blogs and articles, including Fran’s blog about finding her dress. Brides of Berkhamsted was consistently coming up as a recommended shop. So I thought I’d book an appointment there too.
So now I had three appointments booked, one on a Friday afternoon and two on a Saturday. My first appointment was at Brides of Berkhamsted. I was absolutely petrified; which Lucy, the shop owner, quickly noticed. But she was amazing. I had the whole shop to myself and felt no pressure at all. Having heard horror stories from other bride’s about an impersonal service, not being offered a drink (trying on dresses is thirsty work!), no access to a toilet, etc. I was preparing myself for a similar situation. But it was quite the opposite. I tried on about eight dresses and fell in love with the second dress I tried on.
I could have easily stopped my dress hunt there and then but I chose to go ahead with the other two appointments the following day. Having had such a perfect experience at Brides of Berkhamsted, the other stores I visited had a lot to live up to.
The first of the two appointments was horrendous. It was the complete opposite of my experience the previous day; no drink, unhelpful staff, and sharing a small space with at least six other brides. The next appointment was better than the first. But still no drink offered, no toilet to use and I had to share my appointment with another bride – there was only one mirror so we had to take it in turns which made me feel like I needed to rush a decision on whether I liked a dress or not.
My Top Tips for Wedding Dress Shopping
- Be selective who you take to your appointment
I only took my mum to my first appointments. At first I thought I would take my bridesmaids too, and maybe my future mother-in-law, but too many opinions can make it really difficult. My mum knows me better than anyone so her opinion was enough for me to begin with. Once I had decided on a dress, I then took my bridesmaids, future mother-in-law and my dad’s partner to see what they thought before I bought it.
- Decide on what silhouette you want first
There are so many different styles of dress; A-line, fishtail, ball gown, sheath, trumpet…how are you supposed to know what suits you best? Try on dresses in different styles to see what silhouette you like, then select dresses in that shape.
- Don’t try too many dresses on at once
Once you’ve found the silhouette you like, select around five dresses in that shape to try on. Keep the ones you like in the changing room with you and discard any you don’t like straight away. Once you’ve narrowed it down you can then try on your shortlist of dresses again. After trying on so many dresses my mind was scrambled and I couldn’t remember what dresses I liked and didn’t like.
- Don’t feel pressured to make a decision there and then
I can be so indecisive at times, particularly when it comes to making big decisions, such as choosing a dress to get married in! I tried on my dress four times on two separate occasions before saying a final ‘yes’. Choosing a dress is a big deal so there’s nothing wrong with sleeping on it before making a final decision if you feel the need. Any good bridal salon will give you the space you need to make a decision, not force you into a purchase.
- It’s ok if you don’t cry
Hours of watching Say Yes to the Dress gave me distorted view of dress shopping and made me believe that only when you and your entourage cry will you truly know you’ve found the dress. I am a very emotional person and cry at anything. But I didn’t cry. Neither did my mum. But I still got that feeling which was enough.
- Wear comfortable underwear
I had no idea what I was supposed to wear to my appointments. Nor did I know what underwear I would wear on the wedding day. So I opted for everyday underwear and a strapless bra, which was absolutely fine.
- Take shoes with you if possible
It didn’t even cross my mind to take heels with me to my first appointment. Luckily the shops I visited had a selection of shoes which I could wear but something to bear in mind when you go to try on dresses.
Mother-of-the-Bride Dress Shopping
Apart from her own wedding, and my brother’s Bar Mitzvah 16 years ago, my mum has never really needed to get all dressed up. She’s been to various events, but none where all eyes would be on her.
That made it quite difficult to know to where to go to find her a dress. Unlike shopping for bridal and bridesmaid’s dresses, there doesn’t seem to be much out there that recommends shops for Mother of the Bride.
So I started doing my own research, Googling a range of things; ‘mother of the bride dresses’, ‘evening dresses’, ‘occasion dresses’. After a while, a search found a shop called Mary’s of Enfield. The name sounded familiar. I remembered Lucy from Brides of Berkhamsted said her mum bought her Mother of the Bride dress from there. I suggested it to my mum and off we went.
Like shopping for my dress, my mum didn’t want lots of opinions. So it was just the two of us. We arrived at the shop and at first I thought we were in the wrong place. It was a lovely shop, but I could only see ‘regular’ day-to-day clothing. We told the assistant we were looking for a Mother of the Bride dress and she sent us up a flight of stairs. At the top, we were welcomed with what was basically a bridal store but for MoB’s.
I helped my mum choose a selection of floor length dresses to try on. Strangely enough, she fell in love with the second dress she tried on in the first shop we visited; like mother like daughter!
An hour and a half later I left with a very happy mum. She had found her dress!
My Top Tips for Mother-of-the-Bride Dress Shopping
- Find a specialist shop
If possible, go to a shop that specialises in occasion dresses. Like in bridal stores, the staff know what they’re talking about and are really helpful. You could easily find a dress in a high street store or online, but the service you get from a specialist shop makes the experience much easier and more enjoyable.
- Be honest
Like when finding your dress, you would want your entourage to be honest with you and tell you what suits you and what doesn’t; after all, isn’t that what they’re there for? You should do the same with your mum. Like a bride, she will want to feel amazing. I was completely honest with my mum and I know she has found a dress that she feels and looks amazing in.
- Enjoy it
As you will know from finding your own dress, it isn’t always easy and may require a few visits and a number of dresses. Try to enjoy the experience. I’m not always the easiest person when it comes to shopping for other people but I really embraced the occasion as I won’t have the chance again to find a Mother of the Bride dress for my mum.
- Make sure the dress compliments your color scheme
If you have a colour scheme for the wedding, you wouldn’t want your mum’s dress to clash; or at least I know I wouldn’t. You also may not want the same colour (or at least shade of colour) as your bridesmaid’s dresses. My mum and I discussed colours beforehand and what colours she should avoid if possible.
Bridesmaid Dress Shopping
Now that my mum and I had both found our dresses, and with 5 months to go until the wedding, the time had come to take my three bridesmaids shopping to find their dress.
The first challenge was to find a date when we were all free. Not easy. The second challenge was to decide where we would go first. In the two months leading up to the date, I created a list of various shops. Most of which were in the vicinity of Oxford Street, which is where we had earmarked to go on the basis that there were a lot of shops we could visit.
I was quite clear what I wanted; all the girls in the same colour. That was it. As we all know, everyone is different in terms of their style, taste and body shape. I have three bridesmaids and I didn’t want them to feel forced to wear exactly the same dress if it wasn’t to their taste. For that reason I made the decision to let the girls choose their own dress in my chosen colour.
I decided early on to the buy the dresses for my bridesmaids. However, weddings are expensive so I needed to set myself a budget. In an ideal world, we would go to a proper bridal shop that sells bridesmaids dresses. That way, I know all the dresses could be ordered in exactly the same colour, rather than struggle to find suitable dresses on the high street. Little did I know how expensive they could be. So I thought the high street would be the only option, hence the plan to go to Oxford Street.
Until I discovered David’s Bridal. Finally, somewhere that openly advertised the price of their dresses on their website! Not only were the dresses affordable, but there was an endless choice, and every dress could be made in exactly the same colour. I asked my girls if they were happy to go there – to which they said yes – and I booked an appointment.
It was slightly overwhelming seeing all the dresses on the rails; there were so many. Luckily I wasn’t the one having to choose so I left the girls to choose dresses they liked.
Our appointment was scheduled for an hour. Nearly 2 hours had passed and we were still there. Our consultant was great though and told us to take as long as we needed. A little over 2 hours after we arrived, 15+ dresses tried on (some more than once) and one colour change, we left with three dresses ordered and paid for and three happy bridesmaids. It was both the hardest and easiest task so far. Hardest because it was difficult to decide on which dresses to go for and hard for me to make my mind up on the colour (I had two color options), but easiest in the fact that we found three perfect dresses in the first and only shop we visited.
My Top Tips For Bridesmaid Dress Shopping
- Be clear what you want
You need to decide how much you would like to dictate what your bridesmaids wear. Do you want them all in the same dress? Different dresses in the same colour? Can they all just wear what they like? It seems the most traditional way of going about it is to have all the bridesmaids in the same dress. However, I wanted my bridesmaids to feel comfortable on the day and be able to express their own personality and style. I thought the best way of doing was to let them choose their own dress – if they all liked the same dress that was ok. But if they wanted different dresses that was ok too.
- Decide who will pay for the dresses
When I was first deciding on my approach, I read a lot about the ‘normal’ way of doing things. The general consensus was that if the bride wants the final say on the dresses, the bride should pay. If the bride gives bridesmaids free reign (maybe with some limitations, e.g. colour or style) then it is acceptable to ask the bridesmaids to pay for the dresses. From the beginning, I was always under the mind-set that I would like to pay for the dresses. A bit like my gift to them for accepting my ‘Bridesmaid proposal’ and being so special to me. In the end, my dad’s partner generously offered to buy the dresses. That meant my dress budget could go on other things for the girls, such as their hair. Whatever you decide, it’s important to be up front about it early on. The last thing you would want is to find dresses and then have a very awkward moment at the checkout when it comes to paying.
- Have a plan
Before going shopping, it’s best to plan where you would like to go; particularly if you are planning to visit high street shops that don’t need an appointment. As I mentioned, our initial plan was to go to Oxford Street, so I made a list of all the places we could visit and noted where they were so that we weren’t just aimlessly looking round.
- Be honest
As I mentioned earlier, you would want your entourage to be honest with you when looking for your wedding dress, so you should do the same for your bridesmaids. I was really honest with my girls, which I know (read: hope) they appreciated.
- Enjoy it
What girl doesn’t love a shopping trip with her best girls? Treat bridesmaid dress shopping like any other shopping trip and enjoy it. Take lots of pictures and make special memories.
So that’s the low-down on dress shopping from my perspective. Looking back now, despite the initial stress, the whole process was surprisingly straightforward. My mum, bridesmaids and I all found our perfect dress in the first shop we visited. Whether that was down to luck or good planning I can’t say for certain but I’m sure it isn’t always that straightforward.
In reality, I think the key to it all was to have a clear plan of what shops to visit, having an idea of the look/colour/style of dresses and, most importantly, enjoying the experience.
For me, it was so amazing to see my mum and my best friends get so excited about finding the perfect dress for my wedding. It just reinforced how lucky and blessed I feel to have these people in my life to share this special time with.
Click here to read all Mel’s planning posts to date.
Mel & Mitch’s Wedding Vendors booked so far:
Videographer – Denee Motion
Band – XS Showband
Photographer – Chiko Photography
Flowers – Alexandra’s Florist
Table decorations – Wedding Venue Decorators
Venue – Warren Weir
Bride’s dress – Brides of Berkhamsted
Bridesmaids – David’s Bridal
Mother of the Bride – Mary’s of Enfield