We know a lot of brides were looking forward to wedding dress shops reopening while in lockdown. But now restrictions are actually starting to ease, it's understandable if you're suddenly feeling a bit nervous about the prospect of wedding dress shopping during Covid.
We're here to tell you that you can definitely still have that magical trying-on experience you've dreamed of - while staying safe.
That's because boutiques around England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been getting ready to reopen for months. Following government advice, they've been putting together rigorous hygiene plans to keep their customers safe.
What's more, there are a few simple things you can do, too, to make sure your appointment goes well and to help you feel confident about the experience.
We've spoken to bridal fashion expert Megan Ziems - Founder & Creative Director of Grace Loves Lace - to bring you everything you need to know about wedding dress shopping during Covid, from the safety measures shops are taking to what you need to know before the day.
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Your Pre-Shopping Prep
There are a few things you should do before you head out, in order to make the most of your the bridal boutique experience.
1. Book Your Appointments
Many wedding dress shops operated on an appointment-only basis before the Coronavirus pandemic; now, booking appointments is essential.
If you can, we'd recommend booking your appointments on different days. We do see the sense of having a 'wedding dress day', where you schedule time at different boutiques so you can more easily make comparisons between the dresses you try on.
However, bouncing between lots of shops on one day has the potential to raise your stress levels at the moment. Go easy on yourself and have a proper break between trying-on sessions. After all, having time to reflect - rather than getting caught up in a whirlwind of dresses - is no bad thing.
There may be a fee for appointments, and sometimes this is redeemable against the cost of a dress at the boutique - make sure you understand the policy before you book.
2. Consider Virtual Appointments
During lockdown, more and more bridal boutiques started offering virtual appointments. This is something that looks set to continue as restrictions ease - and beyond.
Going digital is ideal if you're still not sure about IRL shopping at the moment. You can either talk through dresses with an in-house stylist, and even have styles sent to your house to try!
However, it can be worth having a virtual appointment before your trying-on appointment, to get an idea of which styles to try on the day. Trust us, a wedding dress appointment will fly by - the more research you do in advance, the better.
Leading bridal brand Grace Loves Lace has championed virtual appointments for years.
"We have offered these since GLL started almost 10 years ago and will continue doing so as part of our online experience," says Megan Ziems, Founder & Creative Director.
"Our passionate and skilful team of stylists offer a personalised consultation to support brides-to-be in selecting and styling their wedding outfits, all from the comfort of their own homes."
3. Pack Your Favourite Face Mask
Bridal boutiques will be asking customers to wear face masks at all times, in line with government requirements. Why not treat yourself to a special white face mask for the occasion?
4. Bring Some Shoes
Boutiques usually have shoes you can try on, to see what your dress looks like with heels of different heights.
That's unlikely to be offered at the moment, so you may want to bring along your own pair. This doesn't have to be your actual wedding shoe, if you haven't chosen them yet, just something with a similar heel height.
READ MORE: 27 Nude Wedding Shoes for Elegant Brides
5. Choose Your Guest(s)
Wedding dress shops will be restricting the number of people you can bring to your appointment, in many cases to one guest, sometimes two.
Honestly, that's no bad thing. While wedding dress shopping is often depicted in films and on TV as a group experience, the reality is that it's easier to make a decision when you don't have multiple opinions competing for your attention.
6. Charge Your Devices
However, if you were planning on bringing more than one guest to help you decide, the others don't have to miss out.
"As per government guidelines, we’ve reduced appointment attendance to one bride and one guest, however, we strongly encourage our brides to take lots of photos in our gowns, along with dialling in friends and family via video calls, to ensure they’re a part of the GLL experience!" says Megan.
"Our stylists are trained to assist in taking photos for our brides to share with their nearest and dearest, as well as facilitating FaceTime calls to ensure that they can continue to be involved."
7. Check the Guidelines
Chances are your chosen wedding dress shops will explain on their website which safety measures they're putting in place. However, if you're feeling at all unsure, contact them in advance to ask.
"At Grace Loves Lace, we are committed to following the advice supplied by the World Health Organisation, and the protocols advised by local and international authorities," says Megan. "We are ensuring that our London stylists are practising social distancing at all times, along with wearing a face covering.
"The showroom has increased professional cleaning services and our stylists are sanitising all surfaces after each and every appointment. The space is stocked with hand sanitiser, which we require all guests to use before, during and after their appointments and we also have disposable face coverings available."
As well as safety measures, double-check the length of your appointment - they're usually an hour to an hour and a half.
8. Tell the Wedding Dress Shop Your Timeframe
With all the disruption and postponements, it's entirely possible you're shopping for your dress a bit closer to your wedding than you'd like. We usually advise starting your search 9 months before - ideally 12. If you're shopping nearer the time, check with the shop that they'll be able to get your dress ordered and altered in time.
But remember, it's important not to rule out shopping at a boutique even if your wedding is mere weeks away, as some shops have special processes in place for shorter-notice brides.
"We offer a series of ready-to-wear gowns that are made to standard dress sizes (as opposed to our made-to-order gowns, which are handmade to each bride’s size range and height), which are available for immediate purchase and urgent delivery," says Megan.
"Dispatched within three-five days of the order being placed, there is no faster and easier way to be bride-ready.
If the bride has a bit more time up her sleeve, they could very well be eligible for a made-to-order gown on a priority order. If the bride’s wedding is between eight weeks and five months away, we will work with our studio team to prioritise the gown production for an additional fee."
Your Wedding Dress Shopping Experience
The day has arrived! It's time to try on some wedding dresses.
9. Don't Be Afraid to Ask Lots of Questions
Even with all the safety measures in place, the experts at wedding dress shops are still offering the same level of styling service, so ask away!
10. Be Open Minded
If you've spent lockdown looking at wedding dresses, you may have pretty much made up your mind about the type of gown you want.
While we always think you should stay true to your style, it's also worth listening to your stylist's advice. They may suggest a dress design you wouldn't normally consider, but it's worth trying it on, if only to rule it out - and you never know, you may find you love it...
Browsing the store may not be allowed - instead, you'll talk through dresses with the stylist and they'll take your shortlist to a dressing room to try on.
11. Be on Time
It's more important than ever to stick to your appointment time.
With a combination of high demand and cleaning time between appointments, boutiques simply can't afford to let sessions run over - so if you arrive late, you'll have less of an opportunity to try on wedding dresses.
12. Enjoy Yourself!
Wedding dress shopping can be a really enjoyable experience - and that's still true during the Coronavirus pandemic.
When putting their safety measures in place, wedding dress shops have also been thinking about how to ensure their brides have fun with the process.
"We pride ourselves on our unique service method and it’s our mission to ensure each bride-to-be has the experience of a lifetime," says Megan.
"Brides can still enjoy their complimentary appointment, bring a loved one, try on beautiful gowns and feel like a bride. For us, it’s always been about making every customer's bridal shopping trip a destination experience and a day to remember – despite restrictions!"
When you're choosing your dress, think about the finishing touches you can add it really make the look your own - our hair accessories edit will get you inspired.