How To Go Wedding Dress Shopping ~ A Checklist For All Brides…

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This afternoon, I'm handing over the blogging reigns to Emma Meek, the legendary (she is you know) Managing Director behind the brilliant Miss Bush Bridal boutique in Surrey.  I've worked with Emma and have a huge admiration for her knowledge of bridal wear.  Her expertise has been amassed over a 20 year career and she has a brilliant eye for design and most certainly knows her stuff when it comes to the key elements that require attention when looking for you perfect wedding dress: quality, cut and fit.  She also stocks some of the best/my very favourite designers, including Rosa Clara, Jenny Packham, Jesus Peiro, Stephanie Allin and Ugo Zaldi.

Today, Emma shares her advice on how best to approach the task of shopping for your wedding dress and lists her top tips to take into account.  Over to you Emma

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I had a distressed call from one of my future brides that has ordered this dress, Suzanne Neville's Harmony, for her wedding next year. Bride X was almost inconsolable as she had Google Image searched a picture of this dress as there is no official Suzanne Neville photo of it. The search resulted in a disturbing image of a bride in the same dress but it didn't suit her and was ill fitting. The bride in question had also accessorised it badly and Bride X was panicking in case that was what she would look like. To me this is a cautionary tale from the age of social media, and why I try to protect image distribution…

Love My Dress Wedding Blog – Photography Copyright (c) 2011, Mark Hoadley


1.  Buy a dress from a shop that will be frank and will let you know if a dress suits you or not

2.  Make sure that the shop you are buying from has excellent technical knowedge and a back up fitting service

3. It's all about the fit – dresses from the most famous designers will be a costly fail if they don't fit correctly

4. Bad pictures are just that – endless searching the internet for images will throw out images of brides whose styling you don't love in a dress you do

5. Trust your own eyes and your own judgement

6. Don't take bad camera phone pictures of yourself in a dress – if you can't remember it clearly, go back to the shop and try it on again

7. If you can't remember a dress – is it memorable enough?

8.  Don't judge a dress by it's marketing – the better the pictures the bigger the marketing budget the more expensive the dress(Pronovias/Rosa Clara)

9. Don't let grumpy skinny models put you off a dress you love (ie, Jenny Packham)

10. Dress images are targeted at their biggest regional market (Maggie Sottero for the US)


It is for a combination of these reasons I prefer customers not to take pictures in the shop. I am met very often with outright rudeness and hostility when I ask people to refrain from taking photos. I am not trying to hide anything, conceal a dress's name or designer or lock you into buying a frock from Miss Bush. I am simply trying to preserve the bride's mental image and feelings that she had for a dress and to prevent her from taking away a poor quality image of a possibly incorrectly fitting shop sample. It will not comfort the bride, it does nothing for the brands that I stock and the possibility of bad images being shared on Google Images to deter brides from brilliant gowns I find disturbing.

I would be thrilled to welcome any brides with their 'proper' photographer at Miss Bush to conduct a 'Pretty Woman' style photo shoot! Amazingly cool images could be captured, kept for posterity or sent to absent family members! It would be fun to do a pre wedding shoot with your best friends and your chosen photographer – like an engagement shoot just for girls. The pictures would be amazing – and that, at the end of the day, is the lasting reminder of your day. Choose your dress with love and your photographer likewise.

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Big thanks to Emma from Miss Bush Bridal for sharing this post today.  Now here are a couple of questions for you:-

  Have you ever been asked not to photograph a dress in a wedding shop and did this put you off?

♥  Would you rather buy a beautiful designer dress that doesn't quite fit you right, or a bespoke dress by an unknown designer that is tailor made to fit you perfectly? {assuming both dresses are the same price.}

  Do you have any tips of your own that we could add to the list above and share with readers?

  What have your wedding dress shopping experiences been like so far [or if you are married now, what were they like?}.  Good, bad, fun or frustrating?

Emma and I look forward to receiving your comments and questions 🙂

For further information, please visit the Miss Bush website.  You can also follow Emma's often hilarious tweets on Twitter, and Miss Bush Bridal also have a Facebook page.

You can also participate in more discussion posts here.

Much love all,

Annabel xXx

Emma Marshall

Emma Marshall View all Emma's articles

Emma Marshall is MD of one of the UKs oldest and most respected British bridal boutiques, Miss Bush. Emma has supported and championed independent design, ethical sourcing and has lead the way in revolutionising experiential bridal shopping. Married in her late 40s, advocate for fit over size, Emma is a passionate campaigner and writer, bringing strong opinions to both the bridal trade and consumer.

24 thoughts on “How To Go Wedding Dress Shopping ~ A Checklist For All Brides…

  1. ‘choose your dress with love and your photographer likewise’ – couldn’t have said it better!
    Nicely written piece, and I think point 1 is the most key. You need an objective set of eyes on your choice of dress; I think we’ve all made horrendous fashion choices in the past, based on liking something on the rack and not realising that it doesn’t suit us when we put it on!

  2. I think not being able to take a picture has put me off in the past, only because I’ve tried that many dresses on so far that it’s hard to remember them all. Most shops have let us take a quick snap of the dresses we liked, that way I could print them out and shortlist them in my bridal scrap book. They have been a god send because every time I think about one of the dresses I can look at it and see what it’s like on, against my skin tone and hair colour etc. But in all fairness the dress I am now thinking about buying is from one of the shops I wasn’t allowed to take pics in! So I guess it works both ways.
    I’m finding it really stressful to make a wedding dress choice. I unfortunately fell in love with a Marchesa number similar to Nicole Ritchie’s wedding dress that I will never be able to afford and have since been putting off ordering a dress. Too much pressure! Kelly Star do one similar to the Marchesa one for a fraction of the price so I will probably go back and try that one on. It was stunning when I first tried it. It’s very fairy like, but I love that kind of thing. I am now battling with myself as I don’t want to look like a big gypsy wedding but I love fairytale frocks. I mean corsets and tulle, not fairy lights and gigantic tiaras haha.
    Over all wedding dress shopping has not been as fun as I thought it would be. I think my bridesmaids are fed up of watching me try dresses on now so I feel a bit guilty. Also I have exhausted all the shops in the area and nearby cities. I’ve got 18 months yet so maybe I’ll have a light bulb moment haha.
    Good luck shopping brides! xxx

  3. I’d just like to say that I am guilty of the ‘crap picture on my phone photo’. Once I had paid the deposit and the dress was mine as it were, I was allowed to take a photo. So excited old me got my friend to take a quick snap.
    Now, the sample dress I had on was too big. The lighting in the shop is not camera friendly, and I look like a posing idiot with hair that had been freshly rained on.
    In essence, I hate that photo. Everytime I look at it I have a MAHOOSIVE wobble and am terrified that I’m going to look crap. I don’t look at it anymore, but have kept it purely to show hairdressers etc in the future. I wish I’d never taken it as when I catch a glimpse of it, I suddenly am overcome with waves of nausea and dread that I cannot look nice in it, and that I dont do the dress justice.
    So I agree, 100%. If you can’t take a decent photo, don’t bother. Amen for rose-tinted memories!

  4. Definitely a made to measure dress by an ‘unknown’! One of my friends just made a booking at Miss Bush and we can’t wait to go looking there – we know the service will be amazing 🙂

  5. The idea of putting yourself through a ‘pretty woman’ style photoshoot while trying to decide on a dress to buy sounds like an absolute nightmare to me – there is enough pressure and stress around deciding on dresses without having to actually smile at the same time!
    I went dress shopping recently and it actually didn’t occur to me to take any photos, I guess I am trusting my instinct of how each dress made me feel. Having said that I find the idea that only a ‘proper’ photographer might be allowed to take photos of you in a dress pretty offputting – I think if I had asked to take photos and been told that I’d have been very put off a shop; either allow photos or don’t but discriminating on the basis of whether someone can afford to pay a professional photographer to accompany them doesn’t sit well with me.

  6. I agree with Justme. Banning amateur photos in order to protect the bride’s feelings seems to me to be a little patronising – I think it is best to let people make up their own minds and take photos if they chose

  7. I wasn’t allowed to take photos in any of the shops I went to – but I didn’t want to anyway. I totally agree with this piece that it’s about how you feel. If you can’t remember it then it’s better to go try it on again than look at a picture. My mum did take a short video of me in it once we’d bought it which I do like as although the dress is too big and my hair a mess I look really happy but I don’t think I’d want to look at it all the time – the picture in my head is enough. (I have an official picture for hairdressers etc).
    Although I’ve never really understood the not allowing photos, if my mum hadn’t been able to come I’d have been really upset that I wouldn’t have had the chance to show her.

  8. I gripe about the studios where I come from (Singapore) not allowing you to take photos. I have serious issues with that here because of all the times I go dress shopping with girlfriends, the studios only do not allow photos if you haven’t decided on whether you want to sign on a package with them, they will only gladly let you take photos only after you’ve signed a hefty packaged deal with them.

  9. I’ve really hated going dress shopping. I can’t make trivial decisions to save my life and just really disliked traipsing round different shops with my mum and sister getting more and more fed up… Also, as I’ve been looking in Asian shops (I’m of Indian descent marrying a Caucasian guy) and all the pieces are made to measure, there has been a strict “no photography allowed” policy in every single shop I’ve been to – I suppose it’s to stop people being able to get something similar made more cheaply elsewhere or abroad. I think this is fair enough but it has made everything much more difficult as I looked at so many dresses/outfits that they all blurred into one big ball of sparkly fabric! I think asking a bride-to-be to pay to bring a photographer along tho is outrageous!!! After all the expense of a wedding, who on earth is going to be able to pay a photographer to do this on top?
    I’ve actually ended up ordering something that was not in my original plans – instead of a traditional Indian 2 piece outfit, I’ve gone for a dress (similar to a white wedding gown but deep red) with Indian embroidery. It’s a bit fairytale-ish (Sam above would love it!) and I must say I’m still not entirely sure I’ve made the right decision but I was just so fed up and frustrated that I wanted to get it over and done with. I guess I’ll see what it’s really like when it arrives in January and i REALLY hope I like it but seeing as I’ve paid so much for it, I’m stuck with it anyway!!

  10. I’ve had a mare with my dress and I am at the point where I am more excited about my bridesmaids dresses than my own! This is not great as my dress is a super expensive made to measure by a well know British designer.
    The service has not been great- I still don’t have my dress and I am getting married at the beginning of Feb. I dread having to deal with the designer and it’s all just become a huge hassle and a drag. I almost went with a local dressmaker who was LOVELY but I was a bit worried about going with someone who was so small- this was a big big mistake and I am paying for it now.
    Brides, do not assume someone with a name and prices to match will be the best option. For me, this has not worked out and I dread anything to do with my dress, it is casting a shadow over my wedding and is just all round rubbish!
    Phew, rant over. xx

  11. This is my second comment (which is a first, I don’t think I’ve ever commented on a post twice before!)I think it’s understandable that many boutique owners don’t want ‘amateur’ photographers – and it’s not to make life difficult for the bride, but to protect their livelihood. Sure, most girls who take photos AREN’T going to leave that store with their photos and either a, look for it cheaper somewhere else or b, take their series of shots to a dressmaker/send them to a knock-off outfit in Asia, but some do. If you own a bridal store it’s normally a labour of love, and you wouldn’t go into it to make quick money or to put off potential customers with rules and regulations. I didn’t take photos of my frock (didn’t even ask as didn’t want them on the camera/computer that I shared with my now husband) but I did make the mistake of looking at other brides wearing it on the Maggie Sottero website and seeing each of them describe it as a dress that was ‘made for the beach’ even though I was having a formal Cathedral ceremony. So for those girls who want to go to Miss Bush and have photos ‘pretty woman style’ then great. For those who don’t, it was just an idea, and wouldn’t necessarily have to be an outrageous expense, especially if the photographer was local and had an engagement/trash the dress as part of their package. I quite like the idea of a photographer meeting the bride to be at the boutique, taking some shots and then meeting the fiance outside, and perhaps taking some shots of him waiting! A quirky engagement shoot plus some ‘journey to wedding dress’ shots for the bride for later after the big day has passed. I found after our wedding that my mother-in-law wanted one of me on my own that showed the detail of the dress and there weren’t really any that were just right, due to me holding up my bouquet or turning away or veil drape or whatever. Instead of covertly trying to take photos or getting annoyed with owners who won’t let you use a camera phone, speak to the assistant rationally. Explain that you want to take photos for whatever reason (relative abroad or whatever) and hopefully you can come to an arrangement with them. I’m sure that, say, if you were desperate to see the back of your dress in a photo that you could take one and then delete it after you’d looked at it. But I would never rule out a boutique that might contain ‘the one’ just because they had a policy on taking photos… Wow sorry for mammoth comment, it’s just that this struck a chord.

  12. Many many thanks for all your comments and feedback – it is incredibly kind of you all to take the time to reply. It is fascinating to hear this kind of feedback because it allows me to develop ideas and ways to help brides choose their dress without it becoming an ordeal and not being, or seeming to be, obstructive about photos in the shop.
    I really wrote the piece to stop brides haveing total wobbles about their dress after seeing bad photos or snatched camera shots – very much like Laura C described.
    I am a little worried that Justme is not smiling during wedding dress appointments! I think taking the pressure off and not over shopping can help.
    Please be absolutely clear Julie I don’t ban amateur photos at all – I’m just trying to stop brides leaving the shops with bad photos of themselves. It really is not amazing for your confidence. If a photo is essential – for example if you have key relative or bridesmaid abroad – just triple check the photo you have taken is flattering!
    Sabina and Justme – I was thinking about brides bringing their official photographer if they offer an engagement shoot within their package. I wouldn’t suggest taking a photographer with you all the time – just maybe to the shortlist dresses.
    All dresses are usually catalogued by designers and manufacturers online so details should be easy to pick up – I still don’t see any value of having a poor image of a dress that doesn’t fit.
    Heather – I’m really sorry to hear about your shopping experience. I hope the wearing of the dress will be amazing nevertheless. I know it is really difficult to complain politely but firmly when you are so involved emotionally with such an important purchase. Perhaps get a friend or colleague to do so on your behalf. I have received complaints in my shop – I personally would rather hear them first hand than see it in print in a forum or review. I can then take steps to recompense as necessary. Once I got a stinging review that our changing rooms weren’t private enough – I bought in the builders and changed them.
    Gemma – thanks for both your comments – the second one was exactly what I had in mind!
    Brides to be – if you feel like you are battling a shop then it is not the place to buy for sure.
    Thank you all for replying – sorry it has taken me until the evening – having a shop means all my posts are nocturnal!
    Emma Meek – Miss Bush Bridalwear xxx

  13. Thank you all so much for taking the time to comment today – I really very much appreciate it.
    Your feedback is so helpful to boutique owners like Emma/Miss Bush Bridal, as well as being equally helpful to other Brides to be who are on a dress hunting mission!
    Heather, I am sure your wedding dress will come together fine – it is amazing what can be pulled together so close to your big day, but you make a really valid point about smaller/independent designers – Brides take heed!
    Thank you so much again all,
    Annabel xXx

  14. Hi,
    I absolutely LOVED dress shopping! If I hadn’t known for sure that the dress I have picked was “the one” then I would happily have gone on for months…but that probably wouldn’t have done wonders for my decision making! The shop assistant where I have bought my dress was fantastic…telling me the truth when I didn’t suit certain styles (lace I was gutted but it just doesn’t look right on me at all!) I really apprechiated her honesty and felt she was looking out for me rather than only thinking of the sale.
    At the time though my Mum did take some photos of me and printed them for me to look at…which I have done many many times! And thats when the dress wobbles started. I have scrutinised every detail and have questioned everything about it. I even called the shop and spoke to the lovely designer who made me feel better. Now I don’t look at them because I know I have made the right choice and I am just being silly.
    The one thing about the photos though is the look on my face…I have never seen myself look so happy and excited…exactly how I am sure I will feel on my wedding day!

  15. Really useful advice – I’ll be saving it on my phone to re-read before I start my shopping in January! Although I’ve already found a dress I adore, I’m just hoping I’ll feel the same way when I try it on!

  16. I can vouch for the fact that Miss Bush Bridal made me feel like a princess. She was totally frank and honest with me and chose dresses that I otherwise would not have chosen. To those brides who aren’t sure about what they want, or even if you think you have a fixed idea about what you want, find a shop like Miss Bush Bridal (if she isn’t near you) to help you open up and explore the options. (I wasn’t enjoying my experience up until last Friday, let me tell you!)

  17. Living day to day as a control freak isn’t really that hard. It’s pretty simple to control what you eat, where you go and what you do. You can boss around your boyfriend to do what you want rather easily. Or he’ll ignore you, you forget what you told him and you all live happily ever after anyway.

  18. This is such an interesting subject, many brides maybe put off by not being able to take a picture whilst trying on their princess dress, but actually its true I remember looking back at pictures on my phone confused thinking it looked great on but then unsure – lighting definately makes a difference, it would be brilliant if bridal shops had their dresses on their website and you could add your face to the dress 🙂

  19. Emma, I think your reasons for not wanting brides-to-be to take photos of the dresses they’re trying on in your shop are excellent. When I was trying wedding dresses on, strangely I took photos of most of them and the one that I had my heart set on from the start was the one that I definitely did not want a photo of. I didn’t want to over examine the photo and get sick and bored of the dress before the big day. I regularly looked at the other photos and picked flaws in the way each and every one of them looked on me.
    I love your idea of the Pretty Woman shoot with a professional photographer – absolutely fantastic idea!

  20. I’ve got to say, I am absolutely dreading the search for a wedding dress. First off, I’m a curvy girl so dread the idea of going and trying on dresses makes me balk. Secondly, after several months of looking on the internet, I am largely put off by the prices. My budget, at the most is going to be a couple of hundred quid so when I see lots of websites with starting prices of 2 or 3 times that amount I wonder if I should even bother?!
    Finally, and probably most importantly, I’m not the most traditional girl, nor am I a very girly girl. I don’t wear dresses often and I suspect I would do a Carrie in Sex and the City and come out in hives if I tried on a ‘traditional’ white wedding gown.
    And with my Mum living overseas so probably not going to be able to come with me when searching for the dress, I feel completely overwhelmed by the whole idea! I suspect this is one of those things I’m going to be putting off for a little while yet.

  21. It’s nice to hear the other side of the argument however I was openly encouraged to take photographs and I am so pleased I had the opportunity. I tried on a Jenny Packham dress (Nerine) and instantly fell in love, the pictures simply confirmed how I felt, it felt and looked amazing. I now have those images to help me style my day, find the right hair and make up for the dress. I have also been able to include my Mum in the dress shopping experience, she doesn’t live close by so has really loved receiving pictures via email. Taking pictures has been a great help.

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