The Curious World of Wedding Dress Order Times

6a0120a65f64b9970c01a3fcc071bd970b 600wi

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.

Miss Bush Bridal Wear Surrey

Photography credit Alexa Loy
Bride Katie wears Suzanne Neville from Miss Bush Bridal. See the full wedding here.

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.

Miss Bush Bridal Wear Surrey

Photography Credit Catherine Mead, styling by Kate Taylor, gown by Maggie Sottero from Miss Bush Bridal
See the full 'Boudicca Bride' styled shoot here.

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 romanticscouples 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.

Miss Bush Bridal Wear, Wedding Dress Shop Surrey

Photography Credit Catherine Mead, styling by Kate Taylor, gown by Jenny Packham from Miss Bush Bridal
See the full 'Boudicca Bride' styled shoot here.

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.

Miss Bush Bridal Wear, Wedding Dress Shop Surrey

Photography Credit Catherine Mead, styling by Kate Taylor, gown by Maggie Sottero from Miss Bush Bridal
See the full 'Boudicca Bride' styled shoot here.

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!

Miss Bush Bridal Wear, Wedding Dress Shop Surrey

Photography Credit Catherine Mead, styling by Kate Taylor, gown by Jesús Peiró from Miss Bush Bridal
See the full 'Boudicca Bride' styled shoot here.

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.

Miss Bush Bridal Wear, Wedding Dress Shop Surrey

Photography Credit Catherine Mead, styling by Kate Taylor, gown by Jenny Packham from Miss Bush Bridal
See the full 'Boudicca Bride' styled shoot here.

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.

Miss Bush Bridal Wear, Wedding Dress Shop Surrey

Photography credit Rik Pennington
Bride Liz wears Jesús Peiró from Miss Bush Bridal. See the full wedding here.

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+

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.

21 thoughts on “The Curious World of Wedding Dress Order Times

  1. I think this is a good post, but I do get exasperated with the way those in the wedding industry talk about budgets for dresses, and what’s a “normal” budget or not. £400 might seem “teeny-tiny” to you, but for some women that is a great deal of money to spend on an outfit they’re only going to wear once. I’m glad you gave advice for this type of budget, and there were some very helpful and sensible points, but it’s not necessary to point out how “teeny-tiny” it is when that’s what a lot of people can afford.

  2. Thank you. This was really interesting as I am planning a wedding in 5 months. After seeing some of my married friends slightly aghast at the time frame for getting a dress I now understand why! I had already made up my mind that I would get my dress on the high street as I didn’t feel comfortable spending a huge amount on something I would only wear once. I totally agree with Emily £400 may be “teeny tiny” when you are used to working in the wedding industry with brides who have a budget large enough to spend £1000+ but not everyone can or even wishes to spend such an amount. As you said there are some great high street shops with some beautiful dresses at more affordable prices.

  3. That being said, I’m glad you at least acknowledged & gave advice for that particular price bracket, as it’s not often discussed!

  4. Hi Emily & Rochelle
    Thanks for your feedback. I guess I am used to hearing the budgets that my brides give me. Handmade,silk dresses made with excellent provenance whether in the UK or overseas are almost impossible to source for an independant retailer for less than £1000.
    A reputable High Street brand or buying a sample is the perfect choice for a small budget as you can shop with a clear conscience. I believe very firmly in fair wages & ethical sourcing. Moreover I believe in valuing women’s skills. The industry is still largely women, their design, pattern cutting & craft should not be sold short.
    No one is obliged to buy a wedding dress. If one if is beyond your budget then simply do not buy it. However, they are fairly priced for the luxurious fabrics & opulence they deliver.
    Emma x

  5. Thank you so much for a well written and enlightening article. I am getting married in June. I certainly fell into the ‘clueless’ category prior to dress hunting. I had absolutely no idea of costs and turnaround times, and was in desperate need of info like this 8 months ago when I first started dress hunting. We are having a a laid back, DIY, outdoor, festival style tipi wedding in Cornwall, the entire budget will be under £5,000. I have to say that I was horrified by my dress shopping experience(in average bridal shops). They did not understand my style at all (and were mostly aghast when I said I’d be wearing it outside, and in flip-flops or flat Grecian sandals!) I felt uncomfortable and everything was clearly out of my budget. I have opted for a chiffon V neck wide strap gown (inspired by pictures I saw from a character from ‘Gossip Girl’ in a beautiful white dress). It cost a total of £160 online, and has been lovingly altered by my talented mum. It is very well made and great quality (my mum is a seamstress and expected to be disappointed with the quality, but she was extremely impressed).. So I guess I got lucky buying online (I am fully aware that friends have had horrible experiences of wasting money on cheap imitation sites). I would have been happy buying second hand, but nothing I liked came up in my budget (even second hand designer dresses sell for a lot of money!)
    Thanks again Love My Dress. You are a constant source of great advice and inspiration for a very clueless bride-to-be!
    Carly X

  6. As a Bridal shop owner this is a fantastic topic and very well written. I wish I could write as eloquently and put the facts across so well. Nearly all of my lovely brides so far this year have only had a 5 month turn around and Jesus Peiro have been amazing at helping get dresses on time and allowing me enough time for my seamstress to see them.
    I have also rush ordered a few gowns which have not incurred a ridiculous charge from Tara Keely and Essense of Australia as I dont believe in the shops that add money on to a rush order fee. The rush order is their to help the bride not to add even more cost and stress to an all ready stressful time. These poor girl have been going in to shops who look at them like they are the worst bride around just because they didn’t order a year in advance.
    This brilliant article shows you don’t have to panic you just have to go to the right people who will help and not flap.
    Madi x

  7. I wasn’t arguing that expensive dresses aren’t fairly priced, I can fully see why they cost as much as they do, and it’s totally ok if a bride wants to spend that much. My issue was more with the language you used – I just feel it’s maybe a bit unhelpful to describe £400 as “teeny-tiny” when, in this economy, for a lot of women that’s quite a lot of money, especially to spend on a dress. By all means spend £4000 if you have it and that’s what you want to do, but to spend £400 is equally valid.
    As I said, I appreciate that you gave advice on buying a dress on a smaller budget, as it’s largely ignored – it’s more a case of being careful with the language we use so as not to shame people who can’t/don’t want to spend very much.

  8. 400 is a teeny-tiny budget for a wedding dress. Get over yourself and stop getting so offended. Seriously I think this article can help bring brides perspective on budgets and timeframes, if you go into the majority of bridal shops with a 400 budget they aren’t going to even be able to help you.

  9. Dear Emily,
    The great thing about the wedding industry nowadays is that there is so much choice, whatever your budget! I agree that £400 is still a lot of money to spend on a dress. My sister company offer dresses all under the magic £400 and you don’t have to wait 6 months only 5 days! There are lots of dresses available now at a good price and the quality difference isn’t always huge.
    Good luck Emily and anyone else with your dress search and look far and wide!
    Best wishes

  10. No, exactly, bridal shops won’t be able to help someone with a £400 budget, which is why it’s good that this article gives some advice on other options. The only reason £400 seems “teeny-tiny” to some is because we’re immensely privileged to be able to spend more than that on a wedding dress, when a lot of people can’t. It’s all relative, for you that may well be teeny-tiny, but then not everyone is coming from a place of middle class privilege.

  11. Thank you so much Carly – it’s so reassuring to know that we’re providing useful and helpful as well as inspiring visual content, I really appreciate you taking the time to leave such a lovely comment xXx

  12. Thanks for your comment Madi! Much appreciated.
    This brilliant article shows you don’t have to panic you just have to go to the right people who will help and not flap.
    Perfectly put – thank you.

  13. Just to say thanks so much for sharing your thoughts Emily, I really do appreciate you having taken the time.
    I completely understand where you’re coming from too. I could only afford my £2.5k Jenny Packham dress because I had decided I was going to sell it afterwards to recoup some of the costs. I wish I hadn’t now but back then I didn’t have a choice.
    Just want you to know I do understand the point you are making.

  14. Hey, very nice write up. Must say that it provides a great info, especially to them who are looking for a budget friendly dress.

    bridal jewelry

Comments are closed.