Where to buy a wedding dress
Brides have a range of options about where they buy their wedding dress and each option has its own advantages and disadvantages. The options range from the traditional local wedding dress shop / bridal wear retailer through to buying online.
Before deciding which option to go for in terms of where to buy their wedding dress, brides may also find it helpful to read our article on the steps in buying a wedding dress. Some of the options below provide a full service that will help brides through all of the steps in the process of buying a wedding dress. Other options below provide help for only one or some of the steps.
Brides should also be very aware of an issue which is becoming a major problem in the industry – counterfeit dresses. This has become such a serious issue that bridal wear designers and retailers have set up a website www.bridesaware.co.uk to warn brides about counterfeit wedding dresses.
Independent Bridal Wear Retailers
Most bridal wear retailers are independent owner-managed businesses with one store. These are the traditional local wedding dress shops found in most towns across the country. The retailers do not design their own wedding dresses but are stockists for a number of bridal wear designers. Most retailers stock dresses by 4 – 10 different designers and should be listed as an “authorised retailer” by each designer.
One of the main advantages of buying through a specialist bridal wear retailer is that most offer a full service from trying on different dresses through to alterations, cleaning and steaming. Brides can also benefit from the personal advice and expertise of the staff and their knowledge of the range of dresses by each designer.
As a result of providing a full service which is labour intensive – for example, having one or more sales assistants completely focused on each bride during a two hour appointment – one of the disadvantages is that bridal wear retailers can be more expensive than other options which provide little or no service.
Designer / Retailers
Designer / Retailers are companies that design, manufacture and sell their own wedding dresses. As a result they usually have one or a chain of retail stores which sell dresses by that designer only and so the name of the designer and name of the store are usually the same. Other designer / retailers stock their own range of dresses as well as ranges from other designers. As most designer / retailers offer a full service, the advantages and disadvantages are similar to the independent bridal wear retailers.
Most designer / retailers offer a full service from trying on different dresses through to alterations, cleaning and steaming. Brides can also benefit from the personal advice and expertise of the staff and their knowledge of the range of dresses by the designer.
Again, as a result of providing a full service which is labour intensive, one of the disadvantages is that designer / retailers can be more expensive than other options which provide little or no service. As designer / retailers usually only stock their own dresses, brides can only try on dresses by one designer rather than a range of designers.
High Street stores
A number of high street ladies fashion chains also sell their own bridal range. These include BHS, Coast, Debenhams (Debut and Ben de Lisi), House of Fraser (Adrianna Papell and JS Collection), Monsoon and Phase Eight.
The main advantage of the high street stores is that prices are generally below the specialist bridal wear retailers and designer / retailers.
The main disadvantage is that as a general fashion store, they are less likely to provide the specialist wedding dress expertise and full service offering found in the bridal wear retailers and designer / retailers.
Some charity shops occasionally sell second hand wedding dresses while others have set up specialist bridal wear stores. The dresses sold in charity shops are not always second hand as bridal wear designers and retailers sometimes donate older shop stock in order to free up space for the latest collections.
The main advantage of buying through a charity shop is that the prices are noticeably lower. Where the charity has specialist bridal wear stores, they may also provide more expertise and service than a general high street fashion store.
The disadvantages are that the only dresses available are those in the store – brides cannot find a dress they like and then order it in their size, as they can do with the bridal wear retailers , designer / retailers and high street stores. As the dresses are second hand or donated new, they tend not to be from the latest collections.
There is a lot of controversy in the bridal wear industry regarding online retailers. While some brides have good experiences buying their wedding dress online, there have also been lots of horror stories! As designers sell through authorised retailers or their own designer / retailer stores, brides are not getting the exact same designer dress cheaper online. Instead they are getting a dress by a different online manufacturer or retailer or, in the worst case, a counterfeit version of a designer dress.
The main advantage of buying a wedding dress online is that the price can be significantly cheaper than any of the other options above.
The disadvantages include the risk of ending up in a horror story from counterfeit dresses, differences between the dress in the photo on the website and what actually arrives, hidden costs and dresses simply not delivered at all.
In the end, brides will need to decide what matters most to them personally and what level of risk they are prepared to take when choosing where to buy their wedding dress.
As a sweeping generalisation, brides who have gone to the bridal wear retailer or designer / retailer store, tried dresses on, received expert advice from the staff, ordered the dress in their size, and had the dress fitted, altered, cleaned and steamed by the store, are more likely to end up with the wedding dress they want and which fits them and less likely to experience a horror story. However, as a result of receiving this full service, they may pay more for their dress.
Again, as a sweeping generalisation, brides who purchase their wedding dress online are likely to pay significantly less for their dress, but will have to arrange for any fitting, alterations, cleaning and steaming themselves and are taking a significantly greater risk that they could end up in a horror story just before their special day.