After getting engaged in April I thought I had months to find a wedding dress. I quickly learnt that some bridal shops require 10-11 months to make your dress up and import it from Europe or the States or whatever it may be. Other places, like Bride & Co, aren’t so bad – they need 4 – 5 months to get your dress to you. Either way, I couldn’t day-dream on Pinterest for the next 6 months about potential designs and then start looking for a dress – this basically had to happen now.

In the past two weeks I have been laced and zipped up into countless dresses, and let me tell you: it’s quite a process. I was quite annoyed about having to give up large chunks of my free time to drive from boutique to boutique when I could be on the couch watching movies instead.

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But then I gave myself a reality check and reminded myself that

a) I’m engaged to the love of my life
b) I’m shopping for a beautiful dress that I’ll walk down the aisle and be married in
c) I get to do this with my mom. My loving, caring, wonderful mom. Not all girls are so lucky, and I don’t want to take that for granted.

And so I decided to stop being annoyed about it and enjoy the experience. This is the one and only time in my life that I’ll be able to splash out and buy a gorgeous white dress and have this experience with my mom and Tyler.

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But all of the recent visits to bridal shops have taught me one or two things… Dun dun dun…

THINGS THEY DON’T TELL YOU ABOUT SHOPPING FOR A WEDDING DRESS
(I think I’m quite qualified to talk on this topic now)

1. Leave your dignity behind

If you thought this was going to be a glamorous experience about choosing a dress off the rack, stepping alone into a changing room and putting it on, and then coming out to show off the dress, you are wrong. You will be stripped down to your underwear, bosom exposed, and attended to by store assistants so beautiful that they could be unicorns. You may feel revolted by your imperfect body with all its flaws during these moments.  P.S. make sure you wear nice underwear. And also, make sure you don’t put them on inside out like I did….

2. If your budget is R10,000, tell them your budget is R6,000. 

Because goodness knows that they will bring out dresses that cost way more than your budget, make you try them on and fall in love with them, only to reveal to you afterwards that they in fact cost R5,000 more than you can afford. The struggle is real.

3. Don’t judge a book by its cover

There will be dresses that are stunning on the hanger and hideous once you try them on, and dresses that look mediocre on a hanger but drop-dead gorgeous when you put them on. There really is no telling. Once you’ve tried on a couple of silhouettes, you’ll soon be able to see the style of dress that’s best for your body shape.

4. Lace-up dresses are the best thing since sliced bread

A corset will improve the way just about anyone looks in a dress. I tried on several zip-up dresses before trying on corsets, and they were all “meh”. The first time I was laced in to a dress I immediately noticed a huge difference – they just fit so much better. With a corset you can pull tighter where it needs to be tightened, and let out where it needs to be loosened. The boddess of the dress will mould perfectly to your shape. I’m basically now of the opinion that a corset will fit any girl better than a zip-up dress ever will.

5. You’ll probably need to wear a hooped under-skirt

I never understood the point of these contraptions, until one of the ladies at a boutique showed me the difference. She had me try on a dress without wearing a hooped under-skirt and made me walk in it. My legs were drowning in all the layers of fabric that I could barely keep upright. Then she put the under-skirt on and I understood: The hoops push the layers of the skirt away from your legs so you have a clear path underneath all of that to move your feet without tripping over everything. Like magic!

6. Most bridal shops won’t let you take pictures of the dresses

This drives me absolutely insane. The boutiques seem to be of the opinion that we’re all demon spawn who want to take pictures of their dresses, steal their designs and have your own dress-maker replicate their work of art. Look, I’m sure that maybe some people do this – it’s possibly cheaper to get a dress maker to make it? I’m not really sure.

Anyway, I have a huge problem with this. After you’ve tried on 25 dresses in a day, you forget what each dress looked like and more importantly you forget how it looked on your body. They are all white dresses. They are all lacey. They all have the neckline you’ve chosen. It’s impossible to remember what each one looked like. There’s no time to try them all on three times!

All I want is to be able to take a picture of each dress I try on, and then sit down on the couch and swipe left on my phone to have a quick re-cap of the last seven hours of dress fittings so I can see which one really looked best and stood out for me. Wouldn’t that be great? Being able to compare two dresses with the swipe of a finger, rather than having to spend 10 minutes getting laced up into each one and then trying to burn the image into your brain before trying on the next one? Seriously, I wanted to pull my hair out.

7. If you’re not feeling a dress, don’t bother with it.
Even if your mom and shop assistants are whooptie-dooing about it. If it’s not for you, it’s not for you. You’re the one who has to wear the thing for like 14 hours and feel like a princess.

8. Renting a dress can cost almost as much as buying a brand new one.

All of the dresses I’ve enquired about renting cost maybe R2,000 more to buy. If I’m going to be spending that much money in the first place, I’d rather just pay the extra R2,000 to own the dress out-right with the option to sell afterwards, rather than blow all that money on something that I only get to enjoy for a couple of hours. I guess this doesn’t apply in all cases – one of my friends rented her dress for R6,000, and the buying price was R30,000.

You also can’t really do alterations to a rented dress so it can be limiting in that way, unless you’re lucky enough to find a rental dress that fits you like a glove and has nothing on it that you’d like to change or add.

9. Choosing ‘THE DRESS’ is impossibly hard. 

But at the end of the day, there will be that one dress you try on and you simply have to have it. You will just know. You’ll hear dolphins clapping and see unicorns dancing around you. I’m pleased to report that I had this brilliant moment two weeks ago, and today I went back to the store and ordered my wedding dress! Now just the very long wait for them to make the dress and ship it over from Europe…

 So ladies, now it’s your turn. Present and past brides – do you have any wisdom to add?

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