A Guide to Starting Your Dress Search


Starting your dress search is a terrifying step on your wedding journey; for the first time you are going it alone without your groom-to-be by your side, and you can’t even talk about it when you get home!

Before you have reached the dress shopping stage, we recommend you have found your venue and at the least reserved your date. There are enough decisions to be made when exploring shapes and styles of dresses, without having to picture yourself at three different places. The style of your dress is most certainly influenced by your venue; after all, your chosen environment sets the scene for your big day. Whether you have chosen a relaxed garden affair, a castle, or a destination beach wedding, keep your initial vision in mind.

For some girls, the dress is a priority, and as soon as they saw the picture of it in the magazine, they knew they had to have it, no matter where they got married. If this is you, fantastic! Your quick decision making and belief in your instinct will help you on your wedding journey. If this isn’t you, please do not worry! Not everybody has the ‘moment’- before or after trying dresses on! This is where we girls at Ellie Sanderson come in to play…


Before You Visit

Do some initial research. Flick through some magazines or browse the internet, and just get a feel for what is out there. Don’t forget to check out real brides and what they wore (see ours here) for inspiration. You might feel instantly drawn towards the vintage inspired tea-length gowns, feature backs, or full tulle skirts. This is a fabulous starting point to help you decide where to shop. Don’t expect to fall in love with something in the first magazine you pick up, and be prepared to change your mind when you start trying dresses on.

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Where To Visit

Deciding where to begin your dress search can be daunting; this is it, you are finally beginning to try on wedding dresses, one of which you may end up wearing on your very own wedding day. Here at Ellie Sanderson we see four clear reasons brides visit us:

1. Location: Actually, we have brides visit from all of the country. They either live in Oxfordshire or Buckinghamshire; or they went to university in Oxford; or they wanted to travel outside the hustle and bustle of overwhelming London; or at least one set of parents lives in the area. Don’t forget you will need to have at least two fittings booked in nearer to your wedding. Can you travel to the area easily on a night after work?

2. Recommendations:  Listen to already married friends. Every week we see brides whose friend/cousin/sister previously visited Ellie Sanderson and told them they simply must go there too. Leave the weekends of travel to all different shops in different locations to them; start in the place they loved most!

3. Award winning: If you are the first of your friends to get married, don’t worry. Listen to the experts and other brides across the UK who have voted their favourite suppliers into top place year in year out. As the proud winner of seven national awards to date, we here at Ellie Sanderson are very proud to have our customer service, overall experience, and quality of dresses recognized and voted for by you!

4. Designer Labels: Has your initial research told you that you seem to prefer the classic and timeless designs of Sassi Holford? Perhaps the decadent glamour of Jenny Packham has caught your eye? The globally admired designers we stock are all award winning themselves; so visiting us is definitely a win-win situation!

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It’s the B-word us English people don’t seem to like talking about all too much. Before you set out, look over your overall wedding budget. Have you allocated a price you can comfortably afford? This is where you initial research will also be helpful. Don’t forget to include fittings and accessories as these aren’t included in the price of the dress. We have previously had girls in tears because they dress-shopped before they had the budget chat with their partner/parents and were left heartbroken afterwards, knowing they couldn’t match the feel of a corseted Suzanne Neville gown to a manufactured gown at under half the price. In the industry, you certainly get what you pay for! When you do visit, be honest with us too. We aren’t here to spend your budget and more; we are here to guide you in your search for the perfect dress, within budget, and style your whole wedding look. You may set out to find the dress of your dreams, despite the price, or you may set out to find a gorgeous gown within budget; either way, stick to it.

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Who to Bring

An easy decision for some, not so easy for others. Keep your guests to a maximum of two; save your bigger numbers for the wedding day guest list itself! Too many opinions can be overwhelming and it is difficult to listen to five different voices at once. Bring mum and your sister, or your sister-in-law, or a close friend. Someone who is going to be honest with you, support you, understand your own vision and budget, and ultimately enjoy this journey with you. When it comes to your fitting stage, you may want this person to still be with you, so even better they helped with your dress decisions from Day One. Don’t forget we offer a free styling appointment in store, back in your dress a few months after you have paid your deposit; maybe this is a great day to get Mother in Law involved if you have already picked your two guests for your earlier visits.

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What to expect

In a nutshell? Lots of fun, a glass of fizzy, and some gorgeous gowns! Visiting on a weekday is always quieter compared to the weekend, so this may be a good day to start your search. Here at Ellie Sanderson we offer a large private changing room, a personal viewing area complete with a insanely big mirror, and a consultant who is here to help you from beginning to end. We have shoes you can try on in store in all different sizes, so don’t worry that you haven’t bought yours yet. Try and keep your underwear neutral; black knickers and tights are never a good look through a dress! If you have a strapless bra then certainly bring it with you, if not we can always help you tuck the straps in, or alternatively, you can pop it off altogether when changing into the dress. Please don’t worry, we have seen everything before, we aren’t here to judge you, just to help you!

Anything else to expect? Oh yes, finding the dress of your dreams. It may be the first you try, it may take ten to really perfect your shape, style, and favourite fabric. Either way, there is no “rule”; stay open minded and expect the unexpected. We will help you find your perfect dress no matter what.

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