Weddings are back! On Wednesday, the government announced that from July 4, ceremonies could resume in England with up to 30 guests. Small weddings have been allowed in Wales and Northern Ireland since mid-June but they are yet to get the go ahead to make a comeback in Scotland.
For many brides, this will be the cue to get serious about wedding dress shopping again – whether you’ve already chosen your gown, put the process on pause during lockdown, or are just getting started.
Choosing a wedding dress is, most of us hope, a once in a lifetime experience so it’s understandable that you might feel wary about beginning the process at such an uncertain time. But as someone who has recently dipped my toe in the water, I can assure you that bridal designers are full of ingenious solutions and clever ideas to make your search as joyful as it is safe.
Try a virtual appointment first
Before venturing into a bridal boutique, take advantage of one of the virtual appointments which many designers are offering. This will give you a good feel of whether their creations are right for you, and you can even explore a surprising number of design details via video call.
‘It’s a lot of fun and so interactive – I run around finding fabric swatches and sketching,’ says Phillipa Lepley, whose designs are loved by the socialite set. She explains that many American brides have placed orders during lockdown after only a virtual consultation.
The service goes beyond inspiration, too – Lepley has created a virtual measuring service; a tape measure is sent to you at home along with a sheet showing all the different figures needed, you then video call a member of Lepley’s team who takes you through the process, checking to see you have the tape measure correctly placed. She’s also been sending fabric swatches and embroidery samples.
I have also trialled a virtual consultation with Kate Halfpenny which was surprisingly emotional. As soon as I mentioned that I’d like ‘something with a bow’, her imagination ran wild with the possibilities, she showed me pictures of different designs and how they could be customised just for me.
Can my mum and friends come along to an appointment?
Most boutiques are asking that guests are limited to bringing one or two others, ideally from your ‘bubble’ so that social distancing can be maintained.
‘For the time being, we ask that you limit your VIP guests to two at your appointment,’ says David’s Bridal, which has outposts in Birmingham, Glasgow, Watford and at Westfield Stratford City.
Many designers are seeking to emulate the experience of having friends/ mums/ aunties in tow to toast your chosen gown by setting up iPads in store so that you can Zoom in your nearest and dearest.
What will fittings be like?
It’s almost impossible to socially distance when carrying out a wedding dress fitting, but designers have been working for weeks to adapt their practices to make the process as safe as possible.
Most boutiques will ask you to wear a mask while your fitting is taking place, equally the seamstresses will be wearing masks or visors, too. You can expect your fitting to take longer than usual too; ‘we can’t pass pins to each other any more, so each person will have to have their own pin cushion,’ explains bridal couturier, Phillipa Lepley.
What safety precautions are being taken?
Bridal shopping lends itself to social distancing, with many places already operating on an appointment-only basis. Now, many stores are spacing out their fittings to ensure as few people as possible are in the shop at any one time.
They are also introducing many of the measures which you’ll be familiar with from other shops; hand sanitising, wearing a mask and having your temperature taken upon arrival.
Lepley tells me that she has replaced her usual chairs with plastic ones which are easier to clean and is encouraging brides to arrive by bike.
Can I alter my dress to suit my new wedding plans?
If you’re already well into your dress search then you might be facing the dilemma of your dream dress no longer quite fitting the bill, whether you’ve changed the timing, location or venue of your nuptials – or have just re-thought the design during lockdown.
Kate Halfpenny reports that many of her brides have adopted a ‘sod it, I’ll add a veil’ attitude to their dresses, going bigger and jazzier than they’d previously planned. For others, the considerations will be practical – maybe you’ve moved the wedding to later in the year so you’d like to add sleeves or a cape. Most designers will be happy to accommodate alteration requests.
If your plans have changed entirely, then you might want to consider selling your original gown via a service like Still White or Bridal Reloved and starting your search again – if you’re in a rush, Matchesfashion.com and Net-a-Porter have excellent collections of bridal ready-to-wear, even offering same-day delivery to some postcodes.