Wedding dresses in an empty bridal boutique

How to shop for your wedding dress during the Coronavirus pandemic

Obviously, the top priority is for you and your loved ones to stay safe. But if you find yourself with some time on your hands and are getting married later in 2020 or in 2021, there are still ways to safely go on the hunt for a wedding dress.

Shopping for your wedding dress is usually very much an in-person experience. We’re talking visits to multiple bridal boutiques – or high street stores –  to try on gowns, often with your mum and a bridesmaid or two in tow. Then there are the fittings and alterations, as well as any styling appointments you might book to choose your shoes and accessories.

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Obviously, with the UK currently in lockdown due to COVID-19, this sort of shopping isn’t  possible at the moment. It’s hard to know exactly what to do if your wedding is during the Coronavirus pandemic, as the situation is constantly changing, and we don’t know how long the lockdown will last.

However, if your big day is later in the year or in 2021, you don’t have to totally give up on wedding dress shopping.

Maybe you always planned to get married on this date, or maybe you’ve rescheduled your wedding and are already sending out change the date cards. Whatever the case, there are things you can do now to get closer to find your wedding dress.

Image of home office desk with Macbook open
Image | Arnel Hasanovic at Unsplash

1. Start researching bridal boutiques

We can’t say when wedding dress shops will be open again. The UK went into lockdown on 23rd March and on 16th April it was extended for ‘at least three weeks’. At the moment, you can only go outside for essential reasons – to buy food, to exercise or for medical reasons – so obviously in-person wedding dress shopping is off the table.

However, you can still use this time to decide exactly which boutiques you want to visit when they reopen. Our guide to the best bridal boutiques in the UK is a good place to start. Look at your Pinterest board of wedding dresses – or start one if you haven’t already – and see which designers keep coming up, then check which boutiques stock them.

“I always say don’t do too much research, but this really is the perfect time to do it and work out which are the brands whose ethos throughout this situation you strongly identify with,” says designer Kate Halfpenny. “You’ll learn a lot about a company now if you reach out to them during this crisis to see what they suggest.”

We also recommend that you:

  • Decide which location to try – this could be near you or you could turn wedding dress shopping into a weekend away in another city, once the lockdown is over. Remember, however, that weekend appointments can get very booked up, so if you choose an area you can visit during the week, you might find dress shopping easier.
  • Read online shop reviews.
  • Look at boutiques’ social media feeds for inspiration.
  • Research the price range of any boutique you like the look of.
  • Ask married family and friends if there’s anywhere they’d recommend, or simply put out a shout for recommendations on Insta stories.
  • Find out whether each shop offers in-house alterations, and if not, whether they can point you in the direction of a good seamstress.
  • Check whether they also offer shoes and accessories, if you’d prefer to put your bridal look together in one place.
  • Look at how they handle the shopping process to see if it suits your style – do they offer appointments and if so, how long are these? Do you have to pay a deposit for an appointment? Is this refundable? Will there be any other brides-to-be in the store? What size samples do they have for you to try on?
  • Look at their opening hours.

READ MORE: Important questions to ask your wedding dress shop

2. Book wedding dress appointments

It’s impossible to predict when the restrictions will be lifted and bridal boutiques will re-open. The UK’s deputy chief medical office, Jenny Harries, has said it could take up to six months for the country to return to normal life, although shops may well reopen before that with social distancing measures in place.

However, once you’ve identified the boutiques you want to visit, if you can make some appointments for a few months’ time, there’s a good reason to do so. “2021 is going to be a busy year so start researching all aspects of your wedding now and make bookings if you can,” explains designer Sassi Holford. “For your wedding dress the same applies – book those first appointments before everyone else does!”

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We usually advise brides-to-be to start shopping at least nine months before the big day. You don’t want to feel rushed into a decision, and it can take several months for your dress to be made and shipped – and then you’ll need to build in fittings and alterations, too, which can add a few weeks. Ask boutiques what the lead times are for your favourite designers.

READ MORE: The ultimate wedding planning checklist

Some designers may be able to create gowns more quickly if their dresses are made in the UK. “New orders will be dependent on the fabric selected being readily available, but as we make in England we have the ability to turn around orders very quickly,” says Sassi.

Oonagh-by-Sassi-Holford
Oonagh by Sassi Holford

What’s more, you might still be able to start the shopping process from home. “We’re offering virtual appointments where you can talk on the phone or video chat with one of our stylists, so we can talk brides through what they’re looking for,” explains Kate. “This means we’ve got a real plan for when they finally do come into the boutique.”

You can also now have online appointments to start choosing your dream Sassi Holford gown with the help of their London and Taunton store managers, via Zoom, FaceTime and WhatsApp video.

We’re hoping more designers follow their lead and set up virtual consultations during lockdown – Hermione de Paula is due to offer the service from May 2020.

READ MORE: The best short and tea-length wedding dresses for 2020

You can find inspiration for your bridal look everywhere – including your own wardrobe. “One really fun thing brides could do is try on the party dresses they already have at home and note down what it is they like about them,” says Kate. “Everyone has that dress that’s the go-to, fail-safe which makes them feel amazing no matter what, so what is it about that particular one?”

HALFPENNY LONDON LOOKBOOK
Bailey skirt & Iris slip, Halfpenny London

3. Consider ex-sample wedding dresses

If you’re on a tight turnaround, ask if the shop has any ex-sample dresses for sale. These are dresses they’ve used in the store for brides-to-be to try on, so there may be a small amount of wear and tear. You’ll need to be flexible with what you want, as these come in limited sizes and styles, but you could get a designer dress at a discount. The advantage is that the dress is right there, so you can get going with alterations quickly, to ensure a perfect fit.

White blossom hair comb

4. Look at wedding dresses to buy online

If your wedding plans mean you need to get your dress ASAP – or you just can’t bear to wait – there are bridal dresses you can buy online. Make sure you don’t end up with a fake designer wedding dress; these are the reputable sellers you need to know about. Some are designer, but it’s also a good idea to consider high street wedding dresses, as there are some beautiful collections.

  1. David’s Bridal – you can buy a huge range of wedding dresses online from the US site – take into account the extra time and charges for international shipping.
  2. Rowley Hesselballe – beautiful wedding dresses and jumpsuits from this London design house.
  3. Grace Loves Lace – beautiful boho styles.
  4. The Reformation – contemporary-cool looks for brides.
  5. Warehouse have brought out a chic wedding dress collection.
  6. Revolve have a range of different brands – just search for white dresses.
  7. Needle & Thread – floaty, romantic designs.
  8. French Connection – cool styles including jumpsuits.
  9. KITRI Studio – fashion editors’ favourite affordable brand.
  10. Whistles – wedding dresses that range from pared-back to pretty.
  11. Ghost – figure-flattering silhouettes.
  12. Oasis – five classic wedding dress styles.
  13. ASOS – bridal looks from brands including their own ASOS Edition.
  14. Monsoon – wedding dresses from midi to maxi.
  15. Phase Eight – affordable elegance.
  16. The Outnet – the ultimate designer discount site. Currently closed, but taking orders that will be despatched once their warehouses reopen.
  17. Raishma – beautifully intricate ethical bridal fashion.
  18. H&M – did someone say wallet-friendly wedding shopping?
  19. Self-Portrait – cool, catwalk-inspired bridal gowns.
  20. Alie Street – wedding dresses from short to floor-length.
  21. Constellation Âme – pared-back luxury for contemporary brides.
  22. John Lewis – plenty of high-quality brands.
  23. Ivy & Oak – chic styles from this Berlin-based designer.
  24. Browns Fashion – luxe, high-style dresses.
  25. Matches Fashion – cool designers for dresses and accessories.
  26. Catherine Deane – romantic dresses and bridal separates.
  27. Net-a-Porter – currently closed, but you can still place orders which they’ll fulfill when it’s safe to do so.
  28. Rime Arodaky – sexy wedding styles from this renowned designer.
  29. MyTheresa – a range of luxe designers at discounted prices.
  30. House of Ollichon – if you’re looking for bridal separates and jumpsuits, look no further.
  31. BHLDN – we love this Anthropologie-owned wedding brand, but allow time to ship from the USA.
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Still need a fashion fix? Check out the best high street bridesmaid dresses.