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A modern bride’s guide to wedding dress shopping

Feeling a little unsure where to begin when it comes to wedding dress shopping? Or perhaps you’re wondering whether buying online is too big a risk? Rachael Snowie, who is currently doing a degree in fashion management at Robert Gordon University, weighs up the most popular options…

“There is a variety of ways you can purchase your dream wedding dress; from high street, to buying online, visiting a boutique or going custom made. Everyone will have a method that suits them…and as with everything, there are pros and cons to each method!


“High street shopping can be one of the easiest ways to buy your dress. When in a city centre, there is a huge variety of stores where you browse. The popularity of high street shopping for wedding dresses has increased; so many stores now have separate ranges purely for bridal wear – Debenhams being one of the most popular! Also, they usually have a free returns policy. So, if you bought something and then decided it wasn’t for you, you could easily return it and look for something else.

“A disadvantage is that it will be harder to get something unique, as the majority of things on the high street are mass-made. If you want a one-of-a-kind dress, the high street isn’t for you!

“Another disadvantage of the high street is that your dress may not be as high-quality compared to from a boutique or custom made. Due to the high street’s fast fashion nature and mass market, the quality of fabric can be sacrificed to cut costs and make it faster and easier to reproduce. However, you can see the dresses while browsing and get a feel for their material.


“Online shopping can have some great benefits – if you are someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy shopping and the thought of standing in a bridal boutique or being measured makes you uncomfortable, then online could be the way to go. Online can also be a great place to find second hand wedding dresses, which can be a good way to ensure quality and to save money! However, online shopping always brings the risk of buying counterfeit or poor quality products that you are stuck with. This can usually be avoided by checking reviews and using reliable websites.

“A main disadvantage is that you cannot try your dress on before buying. This is why it’s important to check the company’s returns policy, to ensure you aren’t going to be stuck with something that isn’t right.

“When done carefully, buying online could really reduce some wedding stress – you don’t even need to leave your bed to buy your dress, and it’s delivered straight to your door!


“Shopping in a boutique can be as easy as the high street; in many places, where you have one bridal boutique, another won’t be far away! This means you could visit multiple stores in one day. A pro of boutique shopping is that they will have more attentive and professional service – they’ll be knowledgeable about their products, and will be able to help you with your search.

“Bridal boutiques also tend to stock from bridal retailers rather than from the high street; therefore, the quality of material will be higher and they may be more unique than dresses on the high street!  However, they often only have sample sizes.  Dresses may not zip all the way up, or need to be pinned to fit; you might need to use some imagination! It can be more expensive that high street, but with a little research and some enquiries, you should be able to find one that suits your budget.


“Finally, another option is having your dress custom made for you. Of course, the main positive with this is that it is made to measure; it will fit like a glove! It can also be a fantastic experience – brining your mum, bridesmaids’ etc. to fittings and sharing the experience can create wonderful memories. And, of course, you can get the exact dress you pictured in your head – your true dream wedding dress! High-quality fabric is pretty much ensured when going custom made; you get to see and feel the fabrics your dress will be made from, and can get to chose them yourself.

“The main con of this is the price – it is usually the most expensive option when it comes to wedding dress shopping. However, many dressmakers are able to adhere to various budgets, so discussing this before your first appointment will ensure that you don’t get a big shock when it comes to the price tag.

“All in all, each method of bridal shopping has both pros and cons – so just think about what suits you the best, and you should have no problem finding your perfect dress!”

Some great advice here! Did I ever tell you about the two wedding dresses I bought online before finally getting my dress custom-made? The first looked like I was wearing a tattie sack and the second was a total disaster (leftover fake tan stains are so not a good look!). If you’ve already been dress shopping, we’d love to know how you found the one! Christina x

Rachael Snowie is in her third year of a degree in fashion management at Robert Gordon University and is currently on an internship with Freja Designer Dressmaking.

Top photo by Charisse Kenion via Unsplash. Wedding photos by Elemental Photography, The Gibsons and Carley Buick Photography.