Don’t Love My Dress

miss bush bride 1

Dear Annabel, I’m in the middle of a dilemma and it might make a helpful feature for anyone else suffering with the same. I’m getting married in August and found my dress in February at a wedding fair. However since then I’ve lost 2.5 stone and my dress is not what I would choose now for my new shape so I am facing the option of wearing a dress I don’t love or finding a new one 9 weeks before my wedding.    –Extract from a reader email, June 2014

Last week I received an email from a reader who had fallen out of love with her wedding dress – an extract from her email is quoted above, and as you can see, she  had only a few weeks to go until her wedding.  Keen to assist our troubled reader, I invited my colleague Emma Meek, Managing Director of Miss Bush Bridal to respond.  Emma has managed a bridal boutique for 20 years, supporting thousands of brides in the process.  She knows more than a thing or two about such wedding dress wobbles and has some very sensible advice for all who may be considering ‘I don’t love my dress!’.

Over to you Emma…

Emma Meek1

I often tell friends that I will be available for this social event or that party as long as there isn’t a ‘bridal emergency.’ Friends of mine that have worked in the NHS or Local Authorities have disaster training to cope with what happens if a train of plutonium derails, for example. My teenage boys, inspired by Sean of The Dead and a million gaming hours, plot their escape in case of Zombie apocalypse. Brides too can insure their wedding against disaster, financial failure and death by bunting.

A bridal emergency is not about radiation, monsters and fatal styling touches. It is not about life or death. It is, in the words of Bill Shankly, more important than that.

The wedding dress has such an iconic position in society that the V & A will exhibit them. The image of Miss Haversham sitting in her rotting silk and the ‘needs a good iron’ reaction to Princess Diana’s dress are powerful enduring images which, in truth, were fictional and fleeting. Delvigne versus Kardahsian? Was Olivia Palermo’s ‘dress’ a wedding dress at all? You spent what? Meringue or minimal? Four Weddings, Don’t Tell The Bride, Say Yes to the Dress. A modern bride must not only face the photographic legacy of weddings from the past, but an ever present and judgemental media, so vocal about other peoples’ dresses, she knows she will be judged in turn.

miss bush bride

Real bride Charlene who purchased her Jenny Packham gown from Miss Bush Bridal
See the full wedding here, Photography by Emma Case

I judge, just not on people’s taste and style. I am happy that Game of Thrones’ Goths, Steampunks and inked brides have found a spiritual home on Rock n Roll bride. I love that Rock My Wedding showcases pretty classics and that Annabel’s blog has become the destination for the dress obsessed. I judge on fit, quality and provenance; elements of your wedding dress that will endure long after your groom’s beard has gone.

A bridal emergency is a late night email or a plaintive tweet that says ‘I don’t love my dress.’ The weight of that statement, the practical and financial implications, the fact that many non brides-to-be or family members may not see the enormity of the emotional burden of this revelation, only adds to the distress.

What should you do if you find yourself in a similar predicament?

Firstly, own up. Say ‘I don’t like it, let alone love it.’ Take responsibility for the situation. Tell your partner, tell your family. Undoubtedly there will be an element of protest that you just need to see it again, but stand firm.

I would advise a bride to contact her boutique and level with them. Don’t try any stealth tactics. No ‘you forced me into the purchase,’ or ‘I didn’t know what the contract was’. You want to get your retailer on side? Be reasonable.

If I, as a retailer, ordered a dress with a supplier in February, depending on the make, I would expect delivery in June. It would be unlikely that I could prevent the dress being delivered, so it may be that it arrives and a bride is contractually obliged to pay for it. This is the point at which you cannot invoke your bride ‘get out of jail card’.

You are in a business transaction and you need to behave in a businesslike manner.

Firstly, establish whether the dress has been cut and/or made.

Inspirational bride with an amazing story_0074

Real bride Charlie who purchased her dress Jesús Peiró, gown from Miss Bush Bridal
See the full wedding here, Photography by Rik Pennington


If the dress has been cut and/or made then the shop will generally have to take delivery of the dress and will be obliged to pay for it. As the client, this means you also have to take delivery and pay the balance. You are the proud owner of a dress you don’t love!

Option 1:  Try the dress and have it carefully pinned by a fitter. Will it actually work if resized or modified? This is by far the best bet if you are on a tight budget and simply cannot afford to change dresses.

Option 2:  Take the dress to a trusted reseller – for example – and get them to sell your dress at a reduced price to recover some of your outlay.

Option 3: Ask the bridal shop if they can hold the dress, reallocate to a future client, and refund you if and when this happens.


If the dress has not been cut or made:

Option 1: Ask the shop if the designer or manufacturer will switch dress styles for you. This will be dependent on who the designer is and where the dress is being made. Generally the most reasonably priced dresses are made overseas and the delivery times are longer, but, because of the size of the companies, they sometimes have spare stock.

UK based designers, like Suzanne Neville would be able to change the order to a completely different style , fabric permitting.

Option 2: Ask if the order can be cancelled and surrender your deposit. This is clean end of transaction. Non-refundable part payments are fundamental to the operation of bridal boutiques. With the greatest respect, if a bride’s ability to change her mind is not something giant insurance underwriters are prepared to accept, neither can small businesses.

Unless you are a WAG or marrying a Russian oligarch, there are now some financial and practical implications to take on board.

A Jenny Packham Gown and Gypsophila In Her Hair for a Relaxed and Rustic English Country Garden Wedding


Money No Object?

Take your budget and your butt to a British designer that cuts, makes and finishes all their dresses in the UK. They will be able to get a dress made perfectly for you in a short time frame and accommodate any further weight loss as per the ‘Dear Annabel’ letter that I quoted at the beginning of this feature.

Ordinarily, I would include Spanish made dresses in this advice too, but Spain still closes for August. If you find yourself reading this at some other time of year, designers like Jesus Peiro can turn dresses around in weeks if need be.


Budget Busted?

Samples and once worn dresses often offer the best value replacement. Summer is sample selling season as shops are about to get their new year’s dresses. Here’s where you can negotiate hard if falling out of love with your dress has left you broke!

If someone was to walk into my shop, make a reasonable offer for a sample dress and leave with it in its current condition at that very moment, I would strike a very good deal. If you are bold enough to try this, make sure you have a brilliant dry cleaner and fitter lined up – you don’t want to be jumping out of one bridal frying pan into a matrimonial fire!

This will give you much better value for money than a worrying, online-import dress where arrival is uncertain and the quality indeterminable.

If your budget can run to a shop handling your sample purchase, they will often have a cleaning and fitting service included or available as an optional extra.

High Street retailers will, of course, have stock, but we are talking about ‘falling in love’ with a new dress. The internet can shout at me all it likes – I would rather marry in a good suit than a wedding dress from BHS.

Inspirational bride with an amazing story_0073

A selection of very happy Miss Bush Bridal brides
See the full weddings here: top lefttop rightbottom rightbottom left


Prevention is Better Than Cure

Reading between the lines of the letter above, I suspect Annabel’s reader’s decision to buy a dress at a wedding fair may have been fuelled by the excitement of a day out with friends.

  • Before you commit to a made-to-order dress ask the following questions:-
    • What happens if I change my mind?
    • What is the cooling off period for a deposit?
    • When does a deposit become non-refundable?
    • What happens if I lose/gain weight?
    • What happens if I cancel or postpone the wedding?
  • If you are planning to change shape through diet or exercise consider buying from a designer, either directly or via a boutique, that will offer a late measuring appointment. This means you are securing the delivery of the dress and the time allocated to make it. You can then often leave it as late as six weeks prior to your wedding for your measurements to be taken. This allows weight loss to be factored into both the size and design.
  • Shop with experts. A great stylist can see your shape better than you can! Whilst losing a couple of stone is an immense and empowering achievement, your bone structure, frame, colouring and personality should influence your decision more than your spare tyre. I have more tyres than Kwik-Fit right now so this is a subject close to my heart. My favourite dress shapes suit me as a 14 as much as an 18. Getting your wedding dress style right is more about self esteem than sizing; the right stylist can work on both.

As a final thought, I have huge empathy for today’s bride. Never has there been so much choice, so many microscopic ways for your wedding to be examined, and so many mixed messages. It was easier twenty-six years ago to walk into your local shop and get the dress that your Mum thought went best with your perm.

Almost immediately after I got married twenty-one years ago, flower crowns gave way to tiaras and long-sleeved, full dresses to strapless A-lines. The dress I loved didn’t seem so loveable after all. Now I love it again. Fickle. Your relationship with and towards your dress is as changeable as an evolving marriage or maturing figure, and as greatly impacted by your self-esteem. Over think it or don’t over think it; spend wildly or barely at all, but start by loving it madly. Regardless of changing fashion and fortune, however frivolous or indulgent your choice, the dress will be your enduring symbol of youth and love.


Emma Meek is the Managing Director of the award winning Miss Bush Bridal in Surrey



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.

28 thoughts on “Don’t Love My Dress

  1. What an excellent post. I think there’s so much pressure to find ‘The One’ but many of my friends have quietly admitted to me that they didn’t have that ‘moment’ that we’ve come to expect and rather they simply bought a dress that they liked and could afford. Not quite the romantic notion television tells us it should be. I had a similar problem to your reader too. I shan’t bore you with the details but I bought a very pretty sample dress thay I could afford rather than the gown I really loved. 10 months later I still didn’t feel wonderful about it and when the (boutique recommended) seamstress told me with dramatic flare that to resize it would be “very, very difficult” and “very, very expensive” and that quite frankly, she didn’t wanto take on the job but would do so out of the kindness of her heart(!) that was the last straw. With 10 weeks to go I had a dress I didn’t really want and which didn’t even fit me. Two panicked trips to David’s Bridal in London later and I have a new dress that I adore. The prices are incredibly reasonable (I swear my new dress would have been double the price in a traditional boutique) and they put a rush on it (free of charge) so my dress arrived in two weeks. Perhaps your reader might consider that? (I don’t work for them by the way, I promise!)

    I now have 2 dresses and have blown my budget as well (I should have just bought the original dress I loved!) But at least I’m happy. I did take the original dress to another, very reputable, alterations boutique. Their conclusion? The original seamstress was probably just lazy because to resize my original dress was only a little more work than any other and would cost the standard amount. But although that lady sent me into a panicked spin I’m oddly grateful to her because she forced me to confront my niggling doubts.

    This is just a long way of saying – you have options! Just be honest, seize the day and make quick decisions. It will all be alright and as my fiance told me, no matter what you pick it will be the right dress in the end because at the end of the day, it’s what you will be wearing when you marry the love of you life – and while the dress is very, very important, that’s what really matters. Good luck, reader!

    1. I went to David’s Bridal to get a new dress and they were brilliant and I got a dress I am in love with. They had a dress 3 sizes too big in the shop and thee seamstress was wonderful and has basically taken the whole thing in so it will fit perfectly!

  2. Some great advice here from Emma! I am one of those brides who fell into the ‘OMG I don’t love my dress’ category, but with some clever alterations & the advantage of hindsight I made my peace. After all it’s the dress I got married in, that makes it special all on it’s own xo

    1. It is weird isn’t it – the evolving relationship with your dress! This is why I tell people not to worry too much about whether it will ‘date’. Just do you love it. Quite often brides are tempted to play it too safe. The answer is it will date just as the bride will age. A new look will eclipse the style, then it will return as vintage! You are absolutely right about the dress taking on greater significance when it becomes part of your history.

    2. Confession time: I DID love my first dress (Papillion by Jenny P) but fell out of love with it in the end, actually because I received a shoddy customer service experience form the shop I got it from (TERRIBLE service actually) – which tarnished the dress for me. So I sold it and got another Jenny P dress. Guess it just goes to show there are a number of reasons you might fall out with your first choice dress! xx

  3. The bridal holding flower is so beautiful, i see many style rose in, but i also think this wedding flower is much more beautiful than it.

  4. As if I didn’t love Emma enough, she goes and quotes Bill Shankly!
    This is such a great post, and so well-written. Particularly love the last paragraph, about the dress being an enduring symbol of youth and love. One of my main thoughts in the dress search has been that moment when I show the wedding photos to my future children, and for them to say how young and in love I look!

    1. I never tire of looking young and wrinkle free in my wedding photos – I have reverse Dorian Gray thing going on. 😉 I just wish we’d had the great photography that exists now!

  5. I love the whole article and there’s some fabulous advice however my favourite sentence has to be, “It was easier twenty-six years ago to walk into your local shop and get the dress that your Mum thought went best with your perm.” Fabulous! I married the first time in 1999 and while my perm was long gone by then it was a pretty similar experience! x

    1. Take me back to 1988 – leg-o-mutton sleeves and a mullet! The style cul de sac was a lot simpler! 😉 xxx

    2. Haha!

      OK, confession of SHAME – I used to have a perm myself. Jeez Louise – we’re talking circa 1990 or there abouts. God only knows what possessed me, but, I thought it looked cool at the time *winces at memory of using sun-in hair dye at about the same time too*

  6. This is utterly brilliant advice & I wish that more Boutiques would be this open & helpful about what to do in a “I’ve-changed-my-mind” crisis!!! A Brides ability to change her mind is exactly WHY I don’t start my Bridesmaids & Flower Girls Dresses until pretty late on – I want them to feel that it IS ok to change their mind about the style/colour they have chosen, but I do operate a very open & honest policy of “Once we do this/hit this date, we can’t make anymore changes” but by this stage we are usually on a couple of weeks away from the wedding anyway!

    1. Thanks for taking time for read and reply. It is critical to balance the business & emotional side of relationships! it’s a balancing act on a daily basis! xxx

  7. Annabel – this is a brilliant article! This was exactly what I needed a few years ago when I got married. I loved my dress at first, goosebumps, tears, etc but I ordered it very early on in the wedding planning process and as the months went by and I looked through blogs and wedding magazines and saw a whole variety of dresses, I slowly began to doubt my love for my dress. At one of the final fittings, which I rushed to my appointment in my lunch break and was on my own, I admitted to myself that I really didn’t want to get married in that dress. I cried on the way back to work, rang my fiance and my mum who didn’t know what to say or do. I knew we could not afford to buy another dress so I accepted that I was getting married in a dress that I didn’t love. I was dreading my final fitting but I booked a day off work and my mum insisted on coming with me. I was so nervous, think my mum was too. What I least expected to happen, happened. I LOVED my dress so much I was actually sad to take it off. I thoroughly enjoyed wearing my dress on our special day. I think, looking back, you need to make time for your fittings. Don’t rush there in your lunch break like I did, make it a special occasion, take your mum and enjoy the rest of the day by celebrating rather than going back to work! I know not everyone will fall back in love with their dress but I think’s it’s good to know that you can talk to your bridal boutique about it. I didn’t think for minute that I would be able to do this. Fabulous advice!

    1. So pleased you found it helpful Wendy! I knew who to turn to right away for supporting responding to our reader- Emma really, really knows her stuff and doesn’t mince her words. That’s what I love about her!

      Such excellent advice about not rushing your fittings. It’s a chance to really savour the planning of a special day – I wish more brides would slow down a little to be in the moment of it all too – hopefully many will take your advice and do just that 🙂

      Thanks again Wendy xXX

  8. Great post! I totally went through this as well about 3 months ago. At the time I freaked out completely but was too scared to tell anyone because I had saved up for months for ‘the dress’ and blew slightly more than the budget on the one I got. It only happened because I walked in a bridal shop in search of bridesmaids dresses and there was a mannequin in THE most beautiful dress I had ever seen in my life! It was Ian Stuart Midsummer dream and I wanted it (despite already having the other one). I talked to my best friend about it and she was really supportive. In the end I stuck to my original dress because there was no way I could afford the new season dress and it was a decision I had to make.

    I think it was just nerves because I’ve since tried my dress on again and I’m totally in love with it so I think I made the right decision, because the Ian Stuart one would have been totally wrong for my shape in hindsight. I do still sometimes look at it though and it still is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

  9. Wow, losing 2.5 stone for your wedding, that is a real achievement well done. Sad that it is currently a bittersweet one as you have found yourself with a dilemma. Emma, you give amazing advice and I really hope that one of these options is the right answer for this bride. Everyone deserves to feel amazing on their wedding day.
    Hope you have a fabulous day xxx

  10. The EXACT same thing happened to me!!! It was the worst feeling ever. I wrote a post on my saga as well because it was such a terrible situation. I wish that I had bought another dress and am planning a vow renewal just so I can buy another one.

    Feel free to check out my saga here:

  11. Firstly GO YOU for doing what it takes to achieve your weight loss goal!! I too lost 2stone for my wedding and was so glad I did 😀 It made me feel more confident on the day.

    My dress story was like yours a rough ride! I had to choose a new dress just 9 days before my wedding day (there were tears I won’t lie) but the best thing you can do is take a BIG deep breath and take the best action you can. I did and it all worked out just great in the end.

    Remember how far you’ve come on your weight loss journey and get on the hunt for your new dress (if that’s what you decide). Remember anything’s possible and all you need to do is keep calm….my mother always tells me “Don’t sweat the small stuff and its all small stuff”.

    Much Love
    Christina x x

    P.S. Fantastic Article, full of wonderful advice!!!! Love My Dress…how I wish I’d found you sooner.

    1. I obviously didn’t read facebook correctly…my advice still stands but maybe I’m a year too late lol

  12. i bought a beautiful vintage wedding dress but then had to postpone our wedding due to my illness. I carried on shopping though and bought a vintage headdress, jewellery and everything else to go with it. Fast forward 2 years and only 9 weeks before our wedding I tried it on and cried a little then laughed a lot. I really didn’t like it anymore and I didn’t like the accessories either. The problem was I still wanted a dress that wasn’t cream or white and as it was July, most dressmakers couldn’t fit me in as it was the height of the season. I took a punt on Etsy and bought a beautiful dress that with the hard work of a vintage textile restorer became the dress I wore and felt like myself in. I have my husband to thank for keeping me calm throughout.

  13. Thank you for writing this article. It has given me some peace in a whirlwind of stress and panick. I’m due to get married in 4 weeks and am not in love with my dress. In fact, I’ve had to be very honest with myself in admitting it’s just not ‘me’ and I can’t find a way to resolve it. Don’t get me wrong, there are parts of it that I love – the back is stunning, elegant and modern, but the front was greatly redesigned and has lost its fluidity and what first attracted me to it. What doesn’t help is that it still needs a lot of adjustment, it’s really big and needs taking in and apparently some wadding?! I have another fitting in a few weeks but I know that even when they take it in much more, it still won’t be right. After a lot of panick, some tears, sleepless nights and showing pictures of me in my ‘unfinished’ dress to friends and family, I decided to look at second hand options. I feel I’ve now found The dress I love and which reflects my personality and it couldn’t be more different but there’s always a ‘but’. In this case it has a large stain on the underskirt (cannot see) and needs some adjustments, but it is just more ‘me’. I’m currently looking at quotes to get it dry cleaned again and altered before deciding whether to take the plunge or not. Thankfully, the current owner has not had any other calls so far. Will my original dress ever fit perfectly or reflect who I am? Can I risk waiting another week for a fitting and then another week again for the final reveal? Could I resell my original dress and hope to get back most of what I’ve paid for it? These are not the questions I thought I’d be having a month before my wedding day but whatever I decide, I know it really will all be ok in the end! What helps me feel a little bit better about this whole situation, is that I’m not the only one to have experienced this, as sometimes we can be a little hard on ourselves!

    1. Louise, I am exactly in the same boat, just minus the ideas as to exactly what to do about it. I am going to go and retry the sample to see whether I like it any more in the form I initially tried on and to reassure myself as to what my finished dress might look like. If I don’t like the sample enough on a second viewing, then I guess I’ll be seeking out some of those UK-based designers and going for it! I never really thought I would say this (I started this whole process a bit “anti-bride”, or at least trying to be – “I’m so relaxed, such a cool bride, it will all be fine, it’s just a dress, I don’t know what all the fuss is about”!), but now I am looking six weeks to go in the face, I’ve realised I was kidding myself and the panic has well and truly set in. Good luck! xx

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