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You’re planning your perfect day. You need a perfect dress.

No matter what style of wedding you’ve chosen, how grand, sophisticated, fluffy, formal or casual, the bride’s dress sets the focus for the day. Maybe you’ve had a picture in your mind for some time of exactly how the dress of your dreams will look, maybe not.

Either way you should keep an open mind and try on as many as you can, whether you’ve decided to buy your dress from the vast range available in the shops, have one designed and made especially for you, or hire. The more dresses you try on, the surer you’ll be that your ultimate selection is right. Each rejected dress helps pinpoint what you’re really looking for.

Leave masses of time. This is one dress that really mustn’t be an impulse buy. You’re going to need a minimum of six months, preferably much more. You can’t plan accessories, flowers, bridesmaids’ dresses, the cake or many other aspects of your wedding until you’ve chosen the dress.

Take along someone who’ll give honest advice, a best friend or your mum. At some stage you’ll ask the inevitable ‘does my bum look big in this?’ and you need the truth, not idle flattery. Don’t be disappointed if the style you’ve fallen for doesn’t look as great on you as you’d hoped. Few of us have super-model figures and a dress that looks fabulous on a willowy waif might be a disaster on someone of more realistic proportions. Forget it and concentrate on finding the right dress for your figure.

And there could hardly be more styles to choose from. There’s no pressure on brides to be dedicated followers of fashion. The dress of your dreams may be sleek and sophisticated with minimal embellishment, it may be a meringue, it may be romantic gypsy – it doesn’t have to pay heed to current catwalk creations. It doesn’t even have to be white, ivory or cream. Paula Yates did it in scarlet, Sharon Stone did it in pink, and we only started doing it in virginal white ourselves after Queen Victoria set the trend in 1840 and the nation obligingly followed suit.

While what you see in the mirror will largely influence your choice, the dress must not only look good but also allow you to manoeuvre your way through the day. Something that’s comfortable while you’re standing admiring yourself in the looking glass may be restrictive when you walk, get in and out of thecar or carriage, kneel (if it’s that sort of ceremony), negotiate steps, sit (perhaps for a long period at your reception), eat, drink, and dance. You don’t want to hear a ripping sound when you fling your arms around your beloved for the first dance of the evening. All eyes will be on you and you probably don’t want to end up on You’ve Been Framed.

Winter Weddings

If you’re planning a wedding for the cooler months, don’t take vanity so far that you’re frozen. Hunched shoulders and pinched purple lips won’t make for the prettiest photographs. A stole or little jacket can look just as sexy as bare shoulders, and you’ll have the chance to peel off at the reception.

Whether you choose from a shop, ask a designer to create something especially for you or hire a dress, you should receive expert help and guidance from the shop assistant or designer. Tell them what you want, listen to their advice and comments, and don’t be afraid to try on dresses that are far away from what you had in mind. You might be surprised at the result. There are, though, a few basic guidelines for various body shapes, though most of us are aware of which parts of our body, or features, we should minimise, and which we like to show off.

It’s inappropriate to show too much bosom at a wedding. If you’re generously proportioned avoid too much embellishment or ornamentation on your top half. Smaller busts can be enhanced to give added curves for the day but there’s not much point turning up looking like Jordan if you can’t deliver the real thing. Larger hips can be disguised by a full skirt, which makes the waist look smaller, but petite brides have to be careful as this style can be overwhelming. An empire line, with the waist below the bust, adds height and hides fuller hips. Clingy fabrics are fine for the perfectly proportioned and well toned, while fitted boned bodices with full skirts and bustles are kind to most shapes. If you can, take your wedding shoes with you when you’re trying on. The height will make a difference to how you look and the length of the dress. If you’ve already got the lingerie you’ll be wearing, wear it while you try on. And don’t go trying wedding dresses wearing full make up. It’s a day for a naked face. Getting smudged make up off wedding dresses is no fun.

Finding a dress that fulfils your dreams, feels good, makes the most of your figure and face and is appropriate to the occasion isn’t going to be simple, but it doesn’t have to be painful. Even if you have to spend many days searching (don’t make them consecutive days, that’s too punishing for even the most committed shopper) try to make them fun. Stop for refreshments, have a pleasant and relaxing lunch and don’t be tempted to grab a bag of groceries en route and lug them around with you. Once you’re married and looking back on the blissful day, the moment that you found your perfect dress can be another wonderful memory to cherish forever.

Bridal Gowns