Wedding Dress Shopping: Expectation vs Reality

Yes, I know, I’m not getting married til 2018. But did you really think that was going to stop me from starting my wedding dress hunt? I’ve helped others find their dream dress, been an honest yet tactful voice of reason during fittings and spent hours upon hours glued to ‘Say Yes To The Dress’ on TLC (Kleinfelds, not Atlanta!). I’ve dreamed of my wedding dress for a long time, so once we had our date and venue finalised, I started booking appointments. Of course I was aware of the risk factor of finding a dress now and have it sitting in the closet for a long time, and the possibility of seeing something I liked better down along the line.

Many brides go shopping for a dress with a particular style in mind, and I’m no different. For many, they discover on the day that the style they’ve been thinking of is in fact completely wrong for their body type, or that something else suits them better. My first wedding dress shopping experience was with the gorgeous Nataliya at Wedding Boutique, near Oranmore in Galway. I’ve known Nataliya from the wedding industry for the last couple of years, and I know that she stocks the most stunning gowns so when I heard she was having a Paloma Blanca trunk show at her showrooms I just had to go. I invited along my mother and future mother-in-law. This raised a few eyebrows with some people. “Your mother-in-law? Really?”. I feel so sorry for the many women out there who don’t get on with their partner’s mum, because I’ve been so incredibly lucky with Sean’s mother. She’s a sweetheart, very caring, and because she has no daughters she hasn’t had the dress shopping experience that others would have. She was thrilled to be asked. We arrived to Wedding Boutique on a dreary, rainy Sunday morning. Nataliya asked me when I arrived, “so, you know what kind of style you want to try?”. “Ballgown!”, I replied to Nataliya’s delight. I tried three stunning ballgowns, but the first was really special. You’ll note I’m not going into too much detail about the type of dress in case my lovely fiance actually reads the whole blog post! It was a delightful first experience, and I felt so much more comfortable because I knew Nataliya.

wedding dress shopping wedding boutique oranmore
Nataliya at Wedding Boutique, Co. Galway

The following weekend, I made a trip to Cork city for two appointments, accompanied by my three beautiful bridesmaids. I’m betwixt and between naming the boutiques, because my experience fell way below my expectations, but I want to let other brides make their own assessments. At the first, we arrived a few minutes early only to find that they had moved to a new location on the other side of town. Not a good start – no updated information on their website and I hadn’t been advised when I made the appointment. I was greeted and handed some tags to select the styles I liked – off we went, needless to say it was all very princess-y gowns that were tagged! My bridesmaids know my style to a T which is great as we agreed on many of the choices. I began trying on and was able to make some very objective assessments of each gown. We came along to my top choice, a Justin Alexander gown I had had my eye on for some time and was dying to try on. When I looked in the mirror – I felt it. That ‘feeling’. This was my dream dress. I could see the sales assistant already counting the sale in her head, and then…she went to the counter and checked the book…to discover the dress had been discontinued. Since April.

Wedding dress shopping tips True Romance Weddings

Later that afternoon, we arrived at the second appointment, which I had made for 3pm, only to be told at the desk that “we don’t take appointments on the hour, they’re always on the half hour”. No apology, just an assumption that it was my mistake. So a tedious wait began until 3.30pm, when we were hunted upstairs to the showroom and handed a pile of tags again to start picking out styles. Two more brides and their parties arrived upstairs behind us, and suddenly there was about 20 people inside in the showroom which was packed with dresses. Gowns I had selected were being picked by the other brides too. We were then told to move upstairs to a dressing room, which was stuffy and hot with a miniscule fan in the corner. A sales assistant arrived into the room with a handful of gowns, didn’t introduce herself or ask which one of us was the bride; more of a “right, let’s get on with it” attitude. I was firstly put into a gown that I hadn’t picked out, in a shape I didn’t like. At this point I was almost ready to pass out with the heat, and she begrudgingly went to get a glass of water for me when my maid of honour asked for it. When I asked about the dresses I had picked out, I was told the samples were a size 10 and that they definitely wouldn’t fit me. She kept trying to put me in dresses in different shapes, which I had to flat out refuse, before she said she had nothing else for me to try. I had to remind her that not all brides are a size 10 and demanded to be put into the dresses I had picked. I finally got to try on two that I particularly liked, and they were very nice on. Even the sales assistant was surprised to find that I was right about the style and colour I wanted. Even if I had fallen in love with one of those dresses, I wouldn’t have bought it there out of sheer principal for the poor treatment.

Wedding dress shopping carolina herrera henshaw bassey
Via Henshaw Bassey

By the end of the day, I was feeling deflated by the whole experience. Here you are, planning to spend quite a large amount of money on a gown, and you’re being treated like a chore. Certainly, it was miles away from what we see in movies and on TV. I’ve put the dress search on hold for the moment – I’ve seen three gowns that I really like, and what I would love is something that might combine all of them. I’m looking into the possibility of getting my dress made instead – where I can decide on all the elements of the gown and have it made to suit me and body.

So, what do you think? Have you had similar experiences to me? Would you name the boutique or send a complaint afterwards? Let me know!

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