Feb 7, 2024


How do I Choose the Perfect Wedding Dress?

Ida Irvine

A Stress-Free Approach to Finding Your Wedding Gown

Congratulations bride to be! You’ve officially entered into wedding planning mode, and one of the most important (and most exciting) things on your to-do, is probably choosing your ideal wedding dress! I understand that this can be a bit of an overwhelming experience, but with some thoughtful prepping and consideration, I’m sure you will find a gown that will make you look and feel like a vision on your wedding day! Let’s get into the process of finding that perfect gown.

A beautiful bride getting ready, wearing a wedding dress.

Set A Budget for Your Wedding Dress

Step one is a no-brainer in my opinion. Before you start trying on dresses, you have to know how much you are willing to spend. This will help you narrow down the options and shop within your means – I think this is where you have to decide what exactly you are willing to splurge on. Dresses in South Africa vary so much on price (depending on the brand, designer, fabric, level of detail, customisation, etc). You can expect to pay anywhere from R10 000 – R30 000 for a decent quality, off-the-rack wedding gown. However, prices can of course go much higher for designer dresses or custom made gowns where the costs can range from R40 000 to over R100 000. Keep in mind that in some cases, you might have to account for additional costs, such as alterations, accessories and undergarments when you budget for your dress.

Do Your Research

Now knowing what you are willing to spend, you can start pinning your ideas! This part is fun, and you’ve probably started with your dress-board even before you’ve met your future husband (I know I did). Look at different styles online and in magazines to figure out what you like, but also be open to perhaps altering the style a little once you start trying on dresses. I learned the hard way that the model in the photo had the right body shape for that dress that I loved… Me on the other hand, not so much.

A beautiful bride sitting in a field, wearing a wedding dress.

Start Shopping Early!

You HAVE to start looking for your dress at least 9 months before your wedding date. Remember that if you’ve ordered a dress online, or if you’re having one made (even if you purchased one off the rack), you have to allow time for adjustments and alterations. I’ve seen too many weddings where the dress was ready a day (and in some cases a few hours) before the wedding. Trust me – this kind of stress on your wedding day can potentially ruin the day for you, not to mention it’s completely unnecessary.

Know Your Venue

Consider the location of where your wedding will be held, and keep your wedding theme in mind. Perhaps you’re getting married on the beach – I’m not sure if a multi-layered, heavy, princess gown will work for this setting. I’ve also had the pleasure of photographing an elopement where we had to climb a mountain! Having a super tight, mermaid style dress laced with tight lace and buttons? Not the best idea here either. However a super fancy, ballroom style wedding will just be complete with a princess style wedding gown!

A beautiful bride getting ready, wearing a princess style wedding dress.

Pick the Right Silhouette

You have to understand your body type and what styles flatter it most. This goes along with keeping an open mind about the dress you choose – don’t be afraid to try on different silhouettes to see what looks best! You might be surprised at the results. Also remember that sometimes a dress may not look as impressive on the hanger, but absolutely stunning once you’ve tried it on! Be open to suggestions from the bridal consultant when you go out for fittings.

Consider the Season

The season in which you decide to get married obviously influences the fabric and style of your dress. Personally I LOVE winter weddings because of the beautiful winter gowns that are available! Long sleeves, white faux fur? If I ever got married again, I would seriously consider doing it in the winter. It goes without saying that light, breathable and airy fabrics (such as chiffon, organza, tulle, lace, cotton blends or silk – chiffon being my favourite because of how flowy it is) are perfect for summer or spring weddings, while you’ll want to opt for heavier, more luxurious fabrics that hold warmth and give a sense of opulence during the winter. Common winter fabrics include satin, velvet (eep!), brocade, heavy silk (mikado or dupioni), crepe and wool blends. The wool blends aren’t that common, but for a unique wedding dress, a wool blend can be stylish while simultaneously keeping you nice and warm.

A beautiful bride standing in a field, wearing a long sleeve, plain, elegant wedding dress.

Comfort Matters

You have to keep in mind that you will be wearing this dress for hours, unless you’re planning on changing into something more comfortable and movable for the reception. If not, though, make sure that you can move around comfortably and that it fits properly – nothing is more annoying than having to pull and adjust things constantly throughout the day.

Think About the Details

There is a myriad of options to choose from when it comes to the details on your dress – lace, pearls, beading and embellishments – all of these options can add a special touch to your dress. You can decide which details you like, regardless of the trends! Another thing to keep in mind when thinking about the details, is trying your dress in different shades. Bright white to ivory – these different shades can have different effects on your skin tone, believe it or not. Perhaps you don’t even want to opt for a white (or ivory) dress at all! No one is stopping you form wearing a pink or blue dress on your wedding day – you do you!

Torso of a bride displaying detail on her off-shoulder wedding dress.

Limit Your Entourage

Going out to fit a few dresses can be an exciting and fun activity! However, something to keep in mind, is that too many opinions can be confusing and deflating. Consider only bringing one or two people along whose opinions you truly value and trust. It can still be a fun, intimate outing with fewer people by your side.

Plan Your Alterations

It might be a good thing to find out about the alteration process, the cost and the timeline. Something to keep in mind, is that your body may change slightly before the big day, so plan your final fitting relatively close to the wedding (but please not a day before or the day of).

Capture the Complete Look

Try your gown on with all your accessories – your veil, shoes, jewellery, etc. to get the total impression of how everything will come together on your wedding. This is also good to hype yourself up a little. I can guarantee you will be brimming with excitement at this stage!

A beautiful bride being helped to get dressed by her bridesmaids, wearing a beautiful bohemian style gown.

Trust Your Instincts and Remember the Big Picture

While it’s always good to listen to advice, remember that it’s your day and your dress. Don’t get pressured by the latest trends or other peoples’ opinions to settle for something that you aren’t a thousand percent happy with. Trust your gut and go with what feels right for YOU.

And remember that the dress is just one part of your special day. Choose one that makes you happy and represents who you are!

Happy dress shopping beautiful human!

AS A BONUS – A few of the Boutiques I’ve Worked with (for South African and Namibian Weddings):

The Wedding Boutique SA

Robyn Roberts Bridal Boutique

Cobus Möller Couture

Vanilla Confetti Bridal Couture

Mac Duggal

Grace Loves Lace

Essense Of Australia

A beautiful bride posing in an off-shoulder wedding dress.

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