As regular and long term readers will know, we're not just about sharing beautiful and inspirational wedding imagery, we're also keen to support our readers by demystifying the wedding planning process for them. Today, one of the most well regarded bridal boutique owners (20 years in the business, Conde Naste 'best of show' award winner at Brides The Show last year)is stepping forward to bring you up to date on the issue of wedding dress order times and why they should matter to you, especially if you are planning a wedding within the next five months. Emma Meek is owner of Miss Bush Bridal in Surrey – she usually has all the answers, insights and insider industry knowledge when it comes to bridal wear.
You may have already come across an aghast bridal shop owner if you’ve been shopping for a wedding dress with a short lead-time. You may have already encountered the eye rolling, the colour-drained cheeks and the distinct ticking off that you should have thought about this whole ‘wedding dress thing’ a lot sooner.
Well, now’s the time to work out what exactly you can expect if your wedding is within the next five months and why that horrified shop assistant might be making your life harder than need be. Let us examine the facts and distinguish them from the fiction, establish the difference between exhortation and extortion. Or, to put it another way, offer a gentle reminder that made-to-order dresses need notice instead of fostering fabricated anxiety in order to pressurise you to close a sale.
The basic facts of the designers and dress manufacturers Miss Bush work with are as follows:
- Standard delivery time from paying deposit to dress arriving in the shop = 12-16 weeks
- Sensible margin for alterations = 6-8 weeks prior to the wedding date
- Combine the two longer lead times & you get to a reasonable 24 weeks in total.
That’s not to say that dresses can't be ordered quicker and, yes please, we would love as much notice as possible. I can work with 12-18 months very happily, so don’t believe the hype that it’s too early to shop for a wedding dress.
For the purpose of this article, however, let’s assume your wedding is less than 5 months from ordering to wearing. Why might that be?
Pregnancy – Necessity is no longer an issue, but brides quite often want to be married before giving birth. Similarly, a pre-planned wedding with an unplanned pregnancy can sometimes mean getting married a few short months after giving birth.
Emigrating or moving back to the UK.
Health – Either the bride or a family member may be getting over surgery or illness before a wedding, or you might be factoring in planned treatments.
Venue availability – Cancellation at your favourite wedding venue meaning sudden availability or a popular venue being able to offer reasonably priced low season deals.
Incurable romantics – couples who just can’t wait or don’t want to wait to get married.
Clueless – Some brides simply are not aware of order times. Normally the sanest brides (those that haven't had secret Pinterest wedding boards while single) or those utterly surprised by Cupid fall into this category.
So now that we know why you might be getting married in a hurry, let’s take a look at what you can achieve in your relatively brief planning window. This most important thing to bear in mind is that the timescales for dress orders will vary wildly and depend largely on logistics and budget.
Amongst the designers we stock here at Miss Bush, Suzanne Neville & Jesus Peiro can make dresses in a very short turnaround time. This certainly won’t be an option for every bride but they can produce dresses in 3-4 weeks if necessary. This will be dependent on fabric availability and production capacity & you’d need to budget between £2000 and £5000.
You can still have all the made-to-measure, custom changes and bespoke service with this option. You’ll have a choice of colours and fabrics, a dress produced within the UK or Europe and you won’t have to pay any express delivery charges.
Similarly, if money is no option, you may be lucky and find that Jenny Packham have some spare stock of popular dresses and sizes that you can get hold of faster than their standard 16-week delivery. If you’re a 10 or 12 and want an ivory dress you may be lucky. A size 6 or 16 may not be so lucky.
If you’ve got a mid-range budget of £1000-£2000, you’ll find companies such as Maggie Sottero & JLM Couture offer a 12-16 week turnaround time. If you buy a dress from a US brand, you’re likely to encounter an additional delivery charge for a single dress. Maggie Sottero have some dresses classed as priority gowns. A faster 10-week turnaround is available on a select number of styles. This only applies to standard lengths but doesn’t incur an additional charge.
Please be aware, however, that having a dress arrive just 4 weeks before your wedding can be stressful. Even when brides assure me they are chillaxed to their very core, the tension is palpable. I have even made brides sign a disclaimer not to nag me or claim undue stress due to the anxiety of late deliveries due to late orders. Thanks to my impeccable professionalism I cannot say 'I told you so' even when we both know I did!
If the showroom sample fits and is in good condition we can sometimes sell the sample. Clearly this cannot be the case if it’s in poor condition, is too small or, selfishly, if I can't be without it. If I can't get a dress for a bride, I can't get a new dress for our shop either. It’s madness to be without a bestselling dress for 16 weeks.
If, however, you’re getting married in the next 5 months and you have no budget for a dress then do not lose heart! As with every aspect of wedding planning, though, level with me. I can't help or give you the best advice if I don't know the facts.
For a teeny-tiny budget (less than £400) forget about traditional wedding dress shops. The dresses on offer at this price will be tired samples of cheap dresses, or tatty designer dresses that really should have been recycled. Seeing what suits you in a shop that stocks the very best cuts and fabrics, is not the best use of your precious time and may ultimately make you feel rather deflated and, dare I say, disappointed with a cheaper option.
Instead, choose High Street, pre-loved or specialist re-sale shops. Find a dressmaker with impeccable credentials who works from home and can fit your dress to perfection. The internet option should be avoided – many substandard counterfeit sites exist offering much but delivering little, if anything.
Professional, service-led wedding dress shops will often have a range of sample dresses that are available immediately from £500-£1500. This may be more than you planned, but gives you the peace of mind that we have to adhere to the Sale of Goods Act and take pride in how our brides look. No grubby dresses needing an overhaul should be bought for a premium price.
You are getting married and that is a marvellous thing. The dress is important, but cool girls from rock chicks & rebels to our own grandparents, war brides and the rationing-restricted got married in whimsical frocks & capricious choices worn with insouciance at a moment’s notice.
Take a deep breath, set a budget and define yourself. What can you live with? What can't you live without? Anything is possible but it’s not always necessary.
Follow Love My Dress® on Google+