Rachel Scott

Ask the expert – Rachel Scott Couture unpicks wedding dress shopping

When it comes to that classic perception of wedding dress shopping there are two types of people – those who can’t wait to indulge and those who can’t bear the thought.

One thing both have in common though is they want to have a positive experience throughout the process.

So what can we do to start you on the right road to that great experience and finding the perfect dress?

Halfpenny London - Equinox dress and periwinkle vail
‘Equinox’ dress and ‘Periwinkle’ veil – Halfpenny London

First step – don’t just look at dresses!

When you think of doing wedding dress research, chances are you’ll naturally focus on the garment itself – looking through photos, videos and designers’ online

What shapes do you like? What fabrics?

Well I’m here to tell you the most important thing is actually to prioritise other elements of the shopping story above just the physical outfit (and I’ve got some
amazing dresses in my shop so I don’t say that lightly!)

Whether you’re massively excited to look at all the dresses or are horrified at the thought of trying on more than two, to truly get the right dress you need the
right experience.

You’ve got years of experience shopping for your normal wardrobe so you know which designers you like or don’t like, which shops are guaranteed winners,

and I bet you could pretty much buy a pair of jeans blindfolded!

But when it comes to bridal shops it’s important to recognise you will be starting from scratch and doing research will give you not only the best end dress result but also the best experience.

Halfpenny London - Equinox dress and Virgo jacket
‘Equinox’ dress and ‘Virgo’ jacket – Halfpenny London

Finding the right retailer

Remember not all bridal shops are the same.

If you visit one place and realise they’re not your style (of dress or of experience) don’t panic.

The next shop might be right up your gorgeous dress street.

Before you visit shops, give them a phone, email, and ask questions.

Maybe see if you can pop in for a chat?

Take the time to ensure you’re going to the right place, with the right styling and the right experience.

At Rachel Scott Couture we love to chat and get to know a bit about you before you come in so we can find the right journey to the right dress.

Buying a wedding dress should be an experience and not just a transactional purchase.

By chatting things through you’ll discover if you want to buy from someone on a one-to-one basis.

Or would you rather rummage through rails and choose yourself?

Do they do quick turn around?

And what about sizing, fittings and styling options?

You’ll find out the things that are important to you and where your priorities lie, making your dress choosing easier.

We offer free-of-charge preliminary consultations where you can come in and meet us and learn about how we do things (differently!)

Sassi Holford - Isla
‘Isla’, Sassi Holford


It may initially seem logical to start looking at the shops closest to you but Google maps doesn’t know what type of dress style you like, your budget or your
beliefs on sustainability.

Your time is precious, your wedding dress shopping experience is even more precious so don’t risk the disappointment you’d feel if you’re actually a vibrant theatrical diva but you’re stuck in an appointment at a boutique which only showcases slimline, boho, understated gowns – all because it was the nearest location.

Also consider if your chosen retailer will enable you to add your own bespoke flourishes.

Are they open to enjoying that creative design process with you?

Do you work shifts and need to do appointments outwith normal working hours?

And it’s not just initial appointments but throughout the process with fittings when you’re in the busy run-up to your wedding.

We offer fitting appointments outside standard hours.

We also have our own in-house seamstress to complete the work, whereas a lot of retailers won’t offer that option.

If that’s the case, you’ll need to allow time to research and source your own external seamstress – potentially not a quick task so make sure to ask in advance so you can plan ahead!

Halfpenny wonder BTS
Halfpenny London ‘Wonder’ collection illustration


It’s often a subject we shy away from but again, to get the right experience and therefore the right dress, you need to be sure the shops and designers you’re going to fit within your ideal.

I always emphasise to clients that discussing budgets openly is just as important as me knowing if you’re allergic to silk or must have your arms covered for religious reasons (or to cover a ‘granny-still-doesn’t-know-yet’ tattoo!)

The more detail we have the better.

BTS - Halfpenny London
Behind the scenes at Halfpenny London

Be confident to say no

You are the person who knows you best!

Bridal sales assistants may have plenty of knowledge of their designers, their styles or what’s ‘on trend’ but that shouldn’t dictate the look you go for.

I would never assume to start styling a bride until I’ve got to know a little about them as a person (and it’s amazing how quickly that can happen!)

Use the sales assistant’s knowledge as a tool to help you find your own personal look, one that fits your personality, not a body shape mould or what’s in the ‘trendy this season’ rule book.

This is so much more than a fashion exercise.

This is your iconic moment. It’s crucial you get the right look to give you the right feeling on your wedding day.

If you like something, say so – if you don’t like something, say so!

I promise no good sales assistant will be upset.

In fact they’ll relish that opportunity to help fine tune what they offer next.

Cost versus experience

What if more than one shop offers the same designer you like?

Pricing should generally be roughly the same across retailers but do you feel one shop is more your vibe than the other?

Are you getting an enhanced personal service?

Really think about who will give you the most amazing experience.

It may be worth travelling a bit further to not only get the physical dress of your dreams but also the best overall experience.

'Puccini' dress Suzanne Neville
‘Puccini’ by Suzanne Neville

Finding the right designer

You’re going to be looking at a range of designers that you’re likely never to have heard of before, and that may initially seem overwhelming.

Remember don’t put yourself under pressure to know everything about them in advance.

Simply getting an overview of a designer’s styling is a perfect starting point.

The specifics of skirt shape, fabric, colour etc will all become apparent once you start trying on – for the moment though, ask yourself if the designs are generally heading in the right direction for you?

If you spot a specific designer range that catches your eye, find the nearest stockist and contact them for more details.

Keep it open ended, ask them to tell you about the designer, the styles, the way they work – good retailers will know you’re starting from scratch so will always be wonderfully open to providing information.

Final homework

Be careful about thinking of wedding dress research as purely being about looking at dress pictures.

There’s so much more useful information available to you that can help ensure you get your perfect dress and your perfectly bespoke dress experience.

Want to switch up your wedding look throughout the day?

Read Rachel’s expert advice on versatile wedding outfits here

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