I’m often asked by brides how I picked my wedding dress. I wish I could tell them that I researched ad nauseam, travelled from London to New York to Barcelona where I visited all the best stores, tried on a few dozen gowns and finally set my heart on ‘The One’.
But this couldn’t be further from the truth. I left it too late and no design house would make me a dress (despite my begging), so I walked into my favourite High Street store in South Kensington and bought a dress off the rack. I think it was the first one I tried on. It was by no means my dream dress and it did not bring tears to my eyes. In fact, I thought the skirt was too full and that I would need a lot of padding to pull off the sweetheart neckline. But I figured that having worked in fashion for so long, I was never going to cry at the sight of me in any wedding dress, and at least this dress suited the location, the atmosphere I wanted to create for my wedding day and my skin tone! So, leaving the store, I congratulated myself on having proven that things don’t need to be as hard as we make them out to be and shopping for a wedding dress doesn’t need to be at all stressful.
Two months later, there I was, in the old Havana Yacht Club, marrying my ‘Mr Smith’ (I was, of course, Pocahontas!). My most vivid memories of that day are the scent of my bouquet, my husband’s look when he first saw me, and the wind gently lifting my skirt as I walked down the makeshift aisle towards ‘Mr Smith’. No doubt this was one of the most beautiful moments in my life and one that I will remember forever.
If I were to do it all over again, I would choose a totally different gown, probably something like Monique Lhuillier’s Forever, Reem Acra’s Eternity or even Jenny Packham’s Eden. My dress was a simple, blush, modified A-line with a heavy silk satin skirt and an embroidered tulle overlay. Not memorable but it made me feel beautiful, fun and relaxed; all the things I wanted to achieve.
At our Singapore bridal boutique, I often see brides obsessing over the finishings on a dress and the size of the sequins. There is no arguing that good craftsmanship and good design are crucial, but once you have ticked those two boxes, the most important thing about a dress is how it makes you feel.
Dresses by Reem Acra, Jenny Packham and Monique Lhuillier
So, from my own experience as a bride and wedding stylist, here are my top five tips on choosing a wedding dress:
#01 Don’t leave it too late. Designers need around five/six months to make a dress and you need to allow an extra month for alterations. Give yourself one month to settle on a dress. Longer than this and you risk becoming confused and overwhelmed.
#02 Do your research online and prepare for your bridal appointments. You don’t need to go to 10 stores, just to the two or three that carry your favourite designers.
#03 Be open to trying on different silhouettes and choose the one that fits you best. Many brides are surprised at how stunning they look in a shape that is totally different from what they had in mind.
#04 Don’t be scared to fall in love with a dress. Many of our brides end up buying the first gown they try on simply because our stylists are experienced and they make good recommendations. If you fall in love with the first dress you try on, continue to try on other shapes, and if you are still in love with the first dress, well, you know you have found it.
#05 Go for a dress that shows your individuality and makes you look beautiful. Once you have settled on a good designer, focus on the atmosphere that you want to create on your wedding day. Imagine yourself looking back at your wedding. How would you want to remember the occasion? How would you like your guests to describe you: soft and romantic, modern and chic, trendy and simple or like a princess? Pick a dress that conveys that.
The great thing about choosing a wedding dress is that you are not alone in the process. If you have a good stylist, they will give you their honest opinion. If they are experienced, you can be sure that you will walk down the aisle looking stunning. And years down the line you can boast about how easy it was to find your perfect wedding dress.