Finding ‘the’ Dress! Honest and inspiring advice from wedding planner & stylist Jenna Hewitt
Thank you again to Claire for having me on the English Wedding Blog. For those of you not following this monthly piece, I’m Jenna (Weddings by Jenna Hewitt) and I plan and style weddings for couples looking for a laid back luxury feel across the UK. This time I’m talking the dress! How exciting! In fact surely this is the most fun part? The dress shopping is at least billed as fun, a lovely experience, but are you feeling a little overwhelmed at the prospect? Are you feeling the pressure to find something perfect? Back in July I had the pleasure of dress shopping with my lovely bride-to-be, Hannah and I thought I’d share a little bit about the experience and some advice on where on earth to start when searching for that dress!
I’m going to start with a couple of things you really should think about before you even begin.
NAIL DOWN YOUR VENUE
Yes, the temptation to rush out and try on dresses the minute that ring goes on your finger is HUGE! But, slow down, wait a minute. Venue choice can have a big bearing on your choice of frock, from two (very different) angles. The first is budget related. It may seem boring but it’s important… your venue and catering will be the largest expense of your wedding – if you are anything like my clients, around 60% of your total budget. Knowing this gives you a guide of how much you have to spend and, without this, it’s pretty hard to begin a search (if I had a budget of £100 for a handbag, I wouldn’t be tapping up Mulberry).
The second is very much style related. You may not have thought about it, but your venue is likely to have a bearing on what you’ll wear on the big day; a beachside wedding in Dorset is a very different feel to a stately home in Hampshire. Hannah has her venue booked (tick) and we’ve worked on a very clear vision of the look and feel (OK… we have a whole styling lookbook) and this helps not only you, but also the lovely person at the end of that dress shopping appointment.
I’ve seen a fair few brides-to-be through finding their wedding dresses and, hands down, for me you need to start with some idea of the style, the look and feel you are after. There really is no point in booking heaps of appointments only to find that they don’t stock anything that vaguely appeals. Not only is it a frustrating waste of your time (and theirs), it can be utterly deflating. When Hannah asked me with help in finding hers I (first) jumped at the chance and, second, told her to start surfing the social media web. Few brides have a crystal clear idea of exactly what they want before they begin but to start your research at your first appointment isn’t always the best idea. Pinterest, wedding blogs, bridal boutique websites, Instagram – there are so many visual resources right out there to help you sift through what appeals and what doesn’t. At this point I want to do a plug for the fab new Luxe Bride, a newly launched guide to the UK’s best luxury bridal shopping experiences. It really is worth checking out and even has a very clever boutique finder to help you find your ideal shopping experience. If you’re at the start of your search it’s really worth a look.
WHEN TO BOOK?
So you’ve done your research, you’ve booked your venue, you have your styling mood boards (or your ‘in your head’ ideas) sorted and you’ve identified some places to start booking. The next question brides ask is how far in advance do I need to book? Now I’m an ‘always early for everything’ kind of girl. I hate it if I haven’t got my clothes out for holiday/made a packing list at least a month in advance but, when it comes to booking dress appointments, there is a balance to be had. If you book too far in advance I’d say you run the risk of missing out on new styles as the trends change and new collections are released. Book too late and you may not have the turnaround and fitting time to secure the dress of your dreams. I think 12 months out is plenty of time (even for the most organised/slightly twitchy girl).
MISS BUSH BRIDAL
I knew from Hannah’s images and the work we had already done on the wedding styling that Miss Bush Bridal was the boutique for her. I first met Miss Bush owner (and also founding member of Luxe Bride and all round amazing character) Emma Meek when I was shopping for my own wedding dress 7 years ago and I’ve been recommending brides-to-be there since. There is nobody quite like Emma both in terms of expertise and eye for style but also straight talking refreshing honesty – especially when it comes to wedding dresses and what works on you and doesn’t. A fabulous character too unique to describe (I’d suggest following Miss Bush Instastories for the best insight) Emma and her team are incredible. I still maintain that the Miss Bush dress-shopping experience is up there with the best you can get.
WHAT MAKES THE BEST SHOPPING EXPERIENCE?
To give you a little insight into the luxury boutique experience that is Miss Bush I’ll take you back to July when Hannah and I visited. It may have been rainy outside but inside the converted Chapel of Miss Bush HQ, it was far from gloomy. The light, the layout, the environment is unique and beautiful. We were greeted with a glass of Prosecco, a special and thoughtful little touch. Speaking of thoughtful touches, Miss Bush (in cahoots with Hannah’s fiancé, Ben) had arranged a beautiful bouquet in keeping with the wedding theme. It was gorgeous and these things really matter. They make the experience.
PRIVACY AND PERSONAL STYLING SERVICE
Hannah’s private appointment was with Corinne, her dedicated personal stylist. Privacy and personal service – what a treat or, as put by Emma: “how much more fun would going to Zara be if it didn’t involve a greater amount of time spent in queues for the fitting rooms and the tills? The experience of wearing the clothes is great, the choice utterly contemporary but unless you have a quiet half hour on a wet Tuesday is it not an ordeal? The Luxury of an ‘appointment to view’ with a dedicated stylist on hand is (another) little treat”
EXPERTISE & A BIG DOSE OF EMPATHY
You kind of need both of these things. Let me explain…. The experience or expertise to pin a dress to you properly (giving you the right “this is how this will look on me” impression) is completely underrated and, for me, a boutique with an understanding of the fitting process from start to finish as well as an eye for style of what will work and what won’t are a must. By the way Miss Bush aces all of these. But then, then we come to empathy. Emma sums it up brilliantly: “You meet as diverse a group of women as you could ever hope to. Every conversation with most women shouldn’t be – but is – a discussion of their various body hang ups.” Yes we all wish we were of model stature, able to rock a bin bag and blissfully carefree. Reality is we aren’t. We all have our ‘issues’.
You want a bridal boutique or dress designer that not only ‘gets this’ but also enables you to feel comfortable with it. One of Corrine’s opening questions for Hannah was “tell me what you love and hate about your body.” It sounds direct but it didn’t feel it, rather it was put across in that way from a woman who ‘gets it’ and this should put you at ease. You should be able to feel relaxed, able to be honest and that comes with empathy and connection from ‘your team’ (of which your dress designer or boutique is surely one?)
BE OPEN MINDED & TAKE TIME TO MULL IT OVER
My final pause for thought in finding that dress of your dreams is, don’t anticipate it will be done and dusted in the first appointment. It more than likely won’t. You’ll want the time to mull it over, ponder/obsess and, no doubt, keep coming back in your head to the dress or style you can’t stop being pulled back to. Good luck!
Contact & Bookings: Weddings by Jenna Hewitt