If you fall into the category of a non-traditional / alternative bride, you might have your heart set on something a little bit different for your attire. Or, perhaps you’re dreaming of the big white dress but bridal boutiques seem altogether frightening. This month, our fashion for the alternative bride focus comes to a close by bringing together everything you need to know to help you find the wedding dress and accessories that are right for you.

THE DRESS

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Wedding dress shopping tips to make finding the one a breeze

For tons of brides embarking on planning on wedding, finding the dress is the most exciting part. However, for many, this will be the first time they’ve done this, and unsurprisingly, it isn’t quite as simple as picking a dress for a night out.

If you class yourself as somewhat of an alternative bride, don’t be put off by bridal boutiques. There are some amazing ones out there and it’s all about choosing which ones you visit a little more carefully! If you don’t fancy a classic big white meringue of a dress, avoid shops which only offer this. Check out boutiques which take pride in offering a wide range of dresses, with the alternative bride in mind.

So what else do you need to know? Here’s our tips to nail finding that perfect wedding dress…

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Before you begin…

  • Do a little dreaming – Consider your venue and what style of dress might be appropriate. For instance, you can probably rule out a heavy, long-sleeved ballgown if you’re getting married on a beach in the Caribbean.
  • Consider your shape and personal style – If your style usually veers on retro, a fitted modern number probably isn’t for you. Begin to let your imagination run wild. Think about things like neckline, length, train and sleeves to see if anything comes to mind.
  • Get pinning – If you haven’t used Pinterest up until now, you’re about to get well acquainted. Indulge in a few hours of research, pinning styles which capture your attention. Remember to keep your board secret or risk your friends snooping.
  • Determine your budget – Be mindful of what you can afford. The average cost of a wedding dress from a bridal boutique is £1300. Some boutiques offer sample sales or ‘off-the-peg’ options so check these out too.

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Timing is everything

  • Give yourself time –  While it’s true that some brides fall in love with the very first dress they try on, this sadly isn’t the case for everyone. So the sooner you begin your search, the better.
  • Most bridal shops say it takes six months for your dress to arrive so keep this in mind. If you need it sooner than this, you may be charged more. Or, you’ll need to look at other options such as off-the-peg.
  • Don’t forget that your dress may need altered – As well as fit, some brides have elements added or removed such as sleeves. Again, this takes time so factor this in.
  • Consider a range of options – As well as bridal boutiques, there’s high street stores, online and charity shops. Check out our round-up of alternative places to shop for your dress here.
  • Plan your appointments – Many busy boutiques have a few week’s waiting time so book well in advance.

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Organising appointments

  • Seek out shops which reflect your personal style – As mentioned, if a shop specialises in a type of dress you quite frankly hate, don’t go there. Some shops may be traditional, others fashion forward or vintage so go with those which you think you’ll like.
  • Seek out designers – If you find a particular designer whose style you like, book appointments with stores that carry a wide range of their dresses.
  • Express your needs – If your dress simply must have sleeves, be a certain length or shape, check that a boutique has various dresses which meet your requirements or you risk turning up and not wanting to try anything on.
  • Bring a few people – No entourage is necessary. Too many opinions can cause feels of overwhelm. Bring just a few people whose opinions you respect.
  • Don’t bring kids – Quite simply, you don’t need that stress. Bridal boutique are no place for them. The shop assistants won’t thank you either.

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Attending appointments

  • Wear appropriate underwear – A strapless bra and nude pants are a must.
  • Keep your hair up – Even if you don’t usually wear it up, this will help you see the neckline more clearly.
  • Keep make-up to a minimum – And no fake tan either. You probably wouldn’t be happy trying on a dress that’s covered in tan or make-up so practice what you preach.
  • Try on accessories – Even if you don’t plan to purchase them from the shop, try on a veil, shoes and jewellery to help create an overall vision for how you might look on the day.
  • Ask if you can take photos – The answer will probably be no but it’s worth a try. On the off-chance that they’re dead on and allow photos, take plenty. It’s the best way to compare dresses.

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During the appointment

  • Try what you can buy – Don’t be tempted to try on a dress that you can’t afford. This will save you much heartache in the long-run.
  • Before you get stated, tell the assistant which styles you like. It’s better to start with what you already have in your mind, rather than getting caught up in layers and layers of tulle that you hate.
  • Don’t get hung up on designer labels – Again, stay within your budget. Choose a dress which you love and which you can afford.
  • Order a realistic size – While some brides will try to slim down for their wedding (which we definitely don’t think is necessary), order the dress in your current size. It’s much easier to take in a dress that’s too big than try to alter one which is too small.
  • Be patient – Be prepared that you may need to visit a few stores before you find the dress that’s right for you.
  • When you do find ‘the one’, try on a couple more – Just in case, because you never know! A sure way to tell if you’ve found the right one is whether you keep comparing every other dress to it. If nothing else matches up to it, it’s the one for you.
  • Order it – And when you’ve made your mind up, call off the search and place your order.
  • Store it away – When it arrives, leave it somewhere out of sight where you can’t readily access it. If you keep trying it on, chances are, by the time the wedding comes around, you’ll be bored looking at it.

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Advice for alterations

  • Keep these in mind – Remember, you’ll need to factor in both cost and time for alterations.
  • Choose carefully – Research is key. Go for someone with a killer reputation. Many bridal boutiques have a dressmaker who they work closely with. Alternatively, go with someone who comes highly recommended by family and friends.
  • Bring your accessories – Make sure you bring the shoes you’ll be wearing so that the dressmaker can assess the length of your dress. Wearing the correct underwear is important too.
  • Earlier this month, we interviewed dressmaker extraordinaire, Lorraine McGonigle. Get her advice here.

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Killer advice for buying your wedding dress online

If the bridal boutique option just doesn’t cut it for you, that’s okay! More and more brides are meeting their bridal fashion requirements by taking to the internet, and purchasing their dream dress online, which is welcoming news for the alternative bride.

We’ve all heard the horror stories of shopping online so before you begin, here are our top tips to do so safely.

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Stick to reputable shops

If you’ve heard of it, it’s probably okay! For instance, stick to websites such as Etsy, Net-a-Porter, ASOS etc, and steer clear of websites in China that you’ve never heard of.

Know your measurements

While you’re probably very away of your clothing size, you may not be clued in on your actual measurements. You’ll need your bust, waist and hip measurements, as many shops state these in the descriptions. These are key in helping you determine whether a dress will fit you correctly or not.

Know your fabrics

If you’re purchasing your dress from a bridal boutique, you probably won’t get too hung up on fabric types but it’s a whole other story when buying online. Knowing what fabric has been used for your dress will help give you an insight into things like its shape, how it flows and fits and its quality. Plus, some fabrics have stretch in them, while others are very stiff with no give.

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Check out the store’s policies

The security of knowing that a dress can be returned if it doesn’t fit or look right will offer reassurance of shopping online. Plus, don’t forget to check where it’s being shipped from, how long it will take and the delivery cost. Make sure it’s sent via recorded delivery too so you can stalk track its progress.

Read descriptions

T-H-O-R-O-U-G-H-L-Y! Read them again and again! Pay attention to fabrics used, the fit, dimensions, keywords and how it’s lined. If there’s a video, watch it over and over again to get an idea of how the dress moves.

Act quickly!

A desirable dress at a good price online isn’t going to hang around long. So if you want it, be prepared to act FAST!

THE SHOES

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For many brides, shopping for shoes is just as exciting as the dress. This is particularly true if your dress is short or of a silhouette where guests are likely to get a glimpse of them.

Before you buy, here’s everything you need to know about choosing your wedding day shoes…

The dos and don’ts of choosing your wedding shoes

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Don’t buy your shoes before your dress

Even if you find the wedding shoes of your dreams, don’t be tempted to buy them before you choose your dress. Your wedding shoes should complement your dress in every way so style, colour and finishing touches are key. The length of your dress plays a big part too. If it’s shorter, your shoes can really enhance your overall look, whether that be through colour or a touch of sparkle. If it’s longer, their main purpose is comfort and how much they match may be less important.

After you bag your dress, snap up your shoes as you’ll need these for fittings to ensure the length of your dress is perfect.

Do shop around

Whether you decide to buy your shoes from a store or online, shop around. Many large websites such as ASOS, House of Fraser and Net-a-Porter have extensive selections, which will probably take you a few hours to get through. If you know what features you definitely want your shoes to have (such as open toe, colour or heel height), use these to filter your search, making things a little easier.

Don’t go for style over comfort

While we’re all for an amazing pair of shoes, don’t compromise on comfort. If you fall for a pair of shoes, only to discover you can’t walk in them or they hurt, pass on them. Remember, you’ll be wearing these all day, walking about as you meet guests, standing for photos and finally, pulling shapes on the dance floor. Never has comfort been more important!

Do know your venue

Don’t forget to consider what surface you’ll be on all day. If you’re planning on going to a beach for photos post-ceremony, a change of shoes might be appropriate or risk your heels sinking in the sand. Plus, some venues with hardwood floors have a ban on stilettos or require guests to wear plastic covers on their heels.

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Don’t be afraid of colours

Believe it or not, bridal shoes don’t actually have to be white! What we love about the alternative bride is that she isn’t afraid to try something different and allow her shoes to be a style statement. Whether you choose to play it safe and go for metallic or go all out with a pop of colour, think outside of the white box. Plus, your shoes are a great way to tie together other elements. Go for blue for your ‘something blue’ or pull a colour, such as red from your bouquet to effortlessly tie everything together.

Do be consistent

Remember, you’re creating an overall look here, so your shoes should reflect the style of your dress. For example, a fifties style dress calls for cute retro shoes, reminiscent of a bygone era.

Don’t forget to wear them in

When you’re happy with your purchase, don’t forget to wear them in. Wear them around the house until you get used to their height and you’re happy with their fit.

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Best shoe shops for the alternative bride

If traditional wedding shoes just don’t cut it for you, look to something with a wow factor, thanks to our round-up of best shops for alternative wedding shoes.

Irregular Choice

Irregular choice

Renowned for its quirky, far from ordinary styles, Irregular Choice has long been a popular choice with brides who long to stand out from the crowd.

Rachel Simpson

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Bridging the gap between modernity and retro, the Rachel Simpson collection offers a wide range of styles and colours for every bridal scenario.

Charlotte Olympia

Charlotte

Add a touch of humour to your wedding day look with Charlotte Olympia’s unusual shoes. We love those with a pop of colour.

Melissa by Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne

Renowned for being comfortable, thanks to their gel insoles, Melissa by Vivienne Westwood are the perfect stylish yet practical wedding day shoe.

Charlotte Mills

Charlotte Mills

We love that the left shoe in Charlotte Mills’ bridal collection features a silver sixpence. That’s attention to detail for sure and something else ticked off your list.

Harriet Wilde

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Harriet Wilde is synonymous with unique design, luxurious embellishments, comfort and a high level of craftsmanship. These are shoes that you’ll definitely want to wear time and time again.

Sophia Webster

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Sophia has re-imagined a selection of seven of her signature shoe styles into must-have wedding day shoes. The details on the soles have won us over for sure.

THE ACCESSORIES

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Accessories you’ll need and where to get them

Accessories are the perfect way to pull your entire wedding day look together and reflect your true personal style. So what are you options? Here, we take a look at typical wedding day accessories. Go all out and shop them all, or keep it minimal… the choice is yours!

Veil

While the veil is distinctly traditional, it has seen vast revolution in recent years. From fun birdcages to full on dramatic cathedral length veils, there’s so much to choose from. Before you have fun trying them on, there’s a few things to consider.

First up, choose a veil in the same shade as your dress for a flawless look. Second, consider the style. If your dress is heavily embellished or full of detailing, stick to a more simplistic option to allow your dress to take centre stage. Likewise, if it’s more simplistic, you can amp up the drama with a full length veil. Keep the area of your dress in mind too. For example, a fifties tea length dress would look killer with a complementary flirty birdcage veil. It’s all about experimenting with various styles to see what works with your dress, rather than against it.

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Headpiece

Again, headpieces have really come into their own in recent years. From combs to crowns, headbands and tiaras, so much variety can be a little overwhelming. Choose something which reflects your own personal style and your dress. For instance, a flowing Grecian style dress would work beautifully with a forehead band, rather than something in your hair. Keep in mind how you are planning to wear your hair too as certain pieces work better with different hairstyles.

Floral crown

A popular choice for the alternative bride, or simply for those not fussed on bling, let nature inspire you and opt for a bespoke floral crown instead. We love the rise in the floral crown and with companies such as Sass & Halo offering glorious creations, long may this trend continue. Floral crowns work with a wide range of bridal styles, particular boho or retro inspired numbers. You’ll be able to work with your creator to bring together a headpiece which works with your dress and reflects the vision for your day.

Jewellery

Earrings, necklaces, rings and bracelets… oh my! Again, let your personal style guide you. If you’re not someone who usually wears jewellery, don’t make your wedding day your first time. Sometimes less is more. If your dress is packed full of detailing, keep your jewellery simple so as not to detract from it.

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Belt

If jewellery and headpieces just aren’t your thing, look to alternatives. Sometimes the addition of a simple belt is all a dress needs to really bring it to life. At your bridal appointment, your assistant will be able to offer various styles for you to try. Plus, there are endless options online too. Find one which enhances your dress and really adds the wow factor.

Cover ups

Particularly important if you’re getting married during the winter months, a cover up will prevent you from being your own something blue. From faux fur wraps, to cardigans, choose something which looks great with your dress. We’re loving the rise in bespoke bridal leather jackets, ideal for the bride with tons of edge.

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And so you have it! Our round-up of everything you need to know to help you find your wedding day look. Remember, it’s all about YOU! If a big white dress just isn’t for you, don’t do it. Don’t wear anything which you fear you’ll look back on in years to come and regret. If bridal boutiques aren’t your thing, take a walk off the beaten track and discover many hidden treasures out there for the alternative bride.

Good luck! 

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