When do I search for the gown of my dreams?
When we first got engaged, the normal slew of emotions and thrill hit me in predictable and sequential order. Shock-thrill-glee-cloud 9 joy followed suddenly by, Oh god… that means I get to start planning my wedding now… but where do I even start?
From then on for the next 10 days of planning mania it became an onslaught of Pinterest boards, gathered notes, spreadsheets, and the general chaos that surrounds the process of gathering all 80 of your nearest and dearest in one place. And I’m serious when I say 10 days, because after that, for me, it was all too much to handle and I turned over the entire process to my fiancé.
We opted to plan our wedding about 15 months out from the actual date. A longer timeline than we’d originally hoped but a necessary one given my friends and family would be making a 12,000 km trip to be there and would need as much time in advance to plan and save their pennies. Handing over the planning of the wedding was a genius idea for stressed out Andi that allowed my introversion head space the room it needed to maintain sanity. But with that, the only thing that was important for me to organise was my dress.
(But, of course).
That was one decision that required plenty of room for overwhelm on its own. About 12 months out I started the search for a gown and about 8 months out was when I finally decided on ‘the one’.
When we see the faces of eager new brides walk into our store and announce their wedding date, so often we hear them add an addendum like, “we have plenty of time.” There seems to be no consistency in the timelines they announce alongside that —
We have six months, so we have plenty of time.
We have two years, so we have plenty of time.
This often spurs the question that we opted to answer for you today: “When should I start searching for my wedding dress?” Normal years and wedding years don’t seem to follow the same pattern, and you might be surprised by what the answer is.
If you’re looking for them, the world is full of overwhelming and stress-inducing spreadsheets and checklists that are promoted as being ‘helpful’ for planning a wedding along the way (if you’re anything like us, you’ll agree there is a point where too much organisation can be a bad thing for generating magic or enjoying the process along the way. (We gently suggest the style and ease of an aid that helps but doesn’t stress you out — like the Together Journal Wedding Planner X An Organised Life or The Hello May Magazine “Wedding Field Guide” - both available in store at Mrs Fray).
Everyone runs a different race. For some of you, the timeline below would look like wayyy too much time, are you crazy? I’m going to elope in two months and I can totally do it and I’m not stressed at all about it. If you’re that girl, go you good thing. For others, this might not seem like enough time. But as wedding photographers and bridal store owners, we’re suggesting the timeline below based on the hundreds of weddings we’ve watched run smoothly (or otherwise), hopefully in a way that’s helpful for you.
So, where does a girl start this planning mania? We’d try this:
Between 24 - 12 Months — Find the Venue, the Date, the Photographer
Between 18 - 8 Months — Find the dress
Between 12 - 2 Months — Find the extras
STEP ONE: Between 24 - 12 Months — Find the Venue, the Date, the Photographer
This might seem like eons away, but believe us when we say it’s not in wedding years. Further to that, the venue will be the framework for which you plan out the rest of your brilliant wedding day, right? So it’s ensuring you have a good canvas to start painting from. And our biased opinions about photography come from a place of being photographers but also a place of being brides who valued and savoured the photography they got for their wedding days. As with all things but especially with photos: You get what you pay for. So prioritise having someone along to capture the feeling of the wedding day to give back to you later in picture form. We promise it’s important.
Occasionally you’ll find a venue or a wedding photographer who is free on your chosen date to party at a very last minute stage, but more often than not these two aspects of a wedding day plan are what get booked out first. So don’t see it as something you’ve missed the boat on if you’re reaching this 9 months out from when you’d like to get married, because there will be options for you. But like we said: the venue and the photographer give you the canvas for the wedding day, so find a place and person that most speak to you and lock that sucker in.
STEP TWO: Between 18 - 8 months — Find the dress.
Since we are a bridal concept store that hosts multiple designers, the answer to the question of time and finding wedding gowns varies based on which dresses you fall in love with along the way. Karen Willis Holmes, for example, sells her gorgeous gowns off the rack, which means that if you find one you love and your size is in stock you’ll be able to get the dress shipped to you straight away (boom!). If the team at KWH doesn’t have what you’re looking for, they’ll be able to make your gorge gown in as little as 4 months time.
If Prea James is your girl, Prea makes her gowns made-to-order based on the measurements we take for your size. This means that she can craft you up a gown in a size 9 (bust) / 8 (waist) / 7 (hips) (oooo that’s right: half sizes, too). Because of the customisation of this process, Prea requires a minimum 5 month lead time to make you one of her beautiful gowns.
L’eto Bridal gowns require a 3 month minimum for your gown to be made in the three-size range they offer, and without the specification of customised sizing this might require a little more wiggle room for adjustments once you receive your gown to ensure the fit is perfection. Lola Varma Bridal also requires a 5 month lead time for their made-to-order gowns with any special nips and tucks to be done after receipt of the gown on the other side. For all gowns and all designers, we suggest you plan to have your gown in your hands at least 6-8 weeks out from go time so that you’re able to take anything up or in if need be.
So why does it need to be 18-8 months before our wedding day, Andi? Don’t you think that’s a bit excessive? No, and I’ll tell you why. Given that all our designers run their rockstar ships differently, we want to ensure that everyone is on the same page for when they should order and receive their dress before a wedding day. We also want to make sure that you’re able to have enough time to make any alterations on your end if required. And lastly, we know what a freaking gigantic stress relief it is to finally have received your wedding dress. Truly. For some reason once you have that dress hanging in a dress bag on your door, the world of wedding planning seems like a much less terrifying and stressful place.
Between 12 - 2 Months — Find the extras
I’m an accessories girl. So even though the dress is obviously a bloody big deal, I’d be remiss for not saying that this is my favourite part of the whole outfit planning. If you were the girl who loved singing Hansen into her hairbrush for three hours longer than necessary in preparation for a night out on the town (no? …just me?), then you might find this bit utterly delightful as well.
Thankfully, Mrs Fray has you covered. Once you’ve sorted the grand decision of the dress, we’re here to help with the finer details and finalising your look with only the best shoes/earrings/fragrances and the little-less-seen negliges underneath. This is the fun nitty gritty stuff of making yourself feel your best on the day and before.
Wherever you’re at in your process, we’re here to help along the way. Since opening our doors in Campbell, we’ve met women and their gaggles of supportive girlfriends come in for champagne and browsing as far as 2.5 years out from go-time. We’ve also comforted frazzled females who rush in 7 weeks before the day in desperation from a gown purchase gone wrong. For both of these women, we’re ready and able to help. So whatever stage you’re at, our doors are always open and welcome to you. We look forward to seeing you soon.
x Andi & Amy