Purchase at least a year before
Dresses can take anything from 4 to 8 months to be made and you need to also allow enough time for their fittings. Ofcourse, some dresses can be made quicker and also there are off the peg options, but if you have plenty of time, make sure you use it wisely.
Work out a budget
Work out a budget and ring shops before booking appointments asking if they do dresses in your price range. We don't advise trying on dresses out of budget as it can be heart breaking to realise you can't afford the one you really want.
Be ready to purchase the gown if it's the one. Make sure finances and eveything are in place before shopping as gowns can be discounted at any time and it can lead to disappointment when brides come back to buy to find the gown they want is no longer available.
Ask about any added costs such as alteration costs, (get an exact figure), how much are hoops to hire or buy? Do the shops charge for storage? If so how much? If they don't store your gown be aware you would need somewhere to store it, and may need separate insurance for it.
Wear appropriate underwear e.g. strapless bra etc, as some of the dresses may not fit and body parts can be exposed to other shoppers and also members of your bridal party.
Opinions of others
Keep your bridal gown shopping party to close relatives or friends. Have with you people you trust who will think of you and your needs not what they would want for themselves. The smaller the group the less distracting and easier it is for the bride to listen to their own thoughts rather than that of other people!
Buy a dress that fits now
Even if you're planning on losing weight before your wedding, your body type isn't going to completely change. Besides, it's lot easier (not to mention less expensive) to take a gown in than to try and make a too-small gown work.
Always ring in advance to book an appointment and also should you no longer need the appointment ring the shop to cancel so it can be made available to another bride. Also try to arrive on time if you are running late, let the shop know.
The true you
If you are petite, ensure you see the gown on you, not made taller by being put on a high platform. Ask the shop to pin the gown under for you to see how it will look. And maybe take a pair of shoes in a height you are comfortable in to see the gown as it will be worn on the day.