Coronavirus: Guidelines for Shopping for your Wedding Dress
Important: Bridal boutiques and menswear stores reopened in England and Wales on the 12th of April 2021 and in Scotland on 26th April. We recommend getting on your chosen boutique’s waiting list as soon as you can or booking a virtual appointment if possible.
Depending on where you are based, bridal boutiques and menswear stores are able to open as long as they have the necessary safety equipment and procedures in place. Here’s our guide to help you prepare for your shopping experience and know what you can expect.
Should I book an appointment in advance?
Yes, almost certainly! In order for many stores to be COVID secure, it is likely that they will be by appointment only. Simply popping in to browse will not be a possibility for the foreseeable future. Your entourage will also be limited and you may be encouraged to come with just one person to help with decisions. Some boutiques will be encouraging customers to have a live video link with bridesmaids or other family members to help with any decisions and join in the experience while minimising the number of people in the shop.
Boutiques will want you to have all the time you need to make such an important decision without feeling rushed. There will inevitably be fewer appointments available to allow time for deep cleaning between customers. So, it is even more important than before to do your research online and on social media before booking an appointment. Then you will know if the boutique stocks the styles you like in your price range. You won’t want to waste an appointment!
Some boutiques ask for a small fee to book your appointment. This is to ensure you are serious about purchasing so that they can dedicate their time to help you. If you purchase your wedding dress from that boutique, they will usually take this amount off the final bill. Each store’s policy is different, so check with them individually before booking an appointment.
Due to coronavirus restrictions causing disruption, many boutiques such as Ellie Sanderson are now offering virtual appointments. The appointments are personalised and allow you to try on your dream dress from the safety of your home. This way, the boutique can help you find your dream dress sooner and potentially even order it for you in advance.
Speak to your boutique to see whether they are offering this service.
How should I prepare for a bridal boutique appointment?
REMEMBER, if you or anyone in your household have coronavirus symptoms or have been in contact with someone who is COVID positive, you should postpone your appointment immediately and isolate for the government-recommended amount of time. If anyone in your entourage is experiencing symptoms, they should not attend the appointment with you.
- Pinpoint the right boutique before booking an appointment. You can do this by seeing who they stock online, looking at their photos to see if you like their style, then contacting them in advance.
- Check that their range fits your budget. If there is a particular dress you want to try on, check they have it in stock.
- Do your research prior to the appointment and discuss your style preferences with the team to ensure they have what you are looking for.
- For many stores, it is unlikely that you’ll be allowed to spend time browsing as they’ll want to limit touchpoints and their staff will take the dresses you choose into the dressing room.
- If you have a particular style in mind, print off pictures to take with you or send them in advance, rather than handing them your phone to look at. They may have the exact dresses that you are looking for or be able to find similar styles for you to try on.
- Be aware that there may be less stock due to the knock-on effect of coronavirus. So, if there is a particular fabric, style, or designer you are looking for, ensure the team knows so they can advise you prior to the appointment.
- Ask the store what their policies are and what you can expect from your shopping experience. They will provide you with information about the safety measures they have in place and any further information you will need prior to the event.
- Ask if there is anything you need to prepare or bring with you to ensure that you are complying with the guidelines set by the government. For example, they may not be able to provide you with a beverage and may need you to bring your own water bottle with you.
Will I be able to bring my bridesmaids to my wedding dress appointment?
You’ll likely be encouraged to only bring one member of your bridal party with you to minimise risks. The other members will be more than welcome to attend via video link though, if possible.
Who should you take on the appointment?
- Even though numbers will likely be limited, you should try and get your bridal party involved virtually on Zoom, Facetime, or Teams. Ask the shop or boutique if this is possible in advance.
- The person you bring with you may have to help you to dress to minimise contact with the team so choose someone that you are comfortable with.
- Brief whoever is accompanying you so that they know the safety regulations set out by the bridal boutique or shop. Everyone will need to comply and there will be no exceptions.
- You may feel safer bringing someone from your own household, which could be your partner. It may break with tradition, but it is more important to stay safe. Remember, you’ll try on several dresses so you can agree on a code word with the boutique so you can let them know which is “the one” and keep your partner guessing which you’ll be wearing on the day.
What will my shopping experience be like?
This will differ depending on the store and their policies, but we can be certain of 4 things:
- The store will need to put precautions in place to protect its team and customers. This will likely include the team wearing gloves and masks and the installations of plastic shields and sanitation points where necessary.
- You may be asked to bring your own mask and gloves to wear or be offered PPE when you arrive.
- You will not be unable to browse as extensively as you would like. This will be to minimise touchpoints and to ensure the team knows exactly where they need to clean between appointments. You may be asked to browse what the store has online and inform the store of your preferences to ensure the appointment runs as smoothly as possible.
- The appointment may feel slightly clinical as you will need to follow certain hygiene and safety procedures. You may be asked to remove your outdoor shoes and wash or sanitise your hands on arrival.
- You may not be allowed to enjoy refreshments within the bridal boutique that you haven’t brought with you yourself.
While the shopping experience may feel clinical, the boutique team will do everything they can to make it a fun and memorable experience for all the right reasons. While the team won’t be able to hug you when you’ve found the dress, they will share your happiness with you!
To help business owners reduce risks and improve safety in their businesses, the UK Wedding Taskforce created a comprehensive risk assessment which you’ll see being used in most boutiques. You can download the template here.
How to make the most of your shopping experience
- Arrive on time for your appointment.
- If the team is helping you to try on your wedding day attire, do not be alarmed if they are wearing PPE. This is an appropriate and necessary requirement to keep you all safe in close quarters.
- Ensure everyone attending is completely well, anyone with coronavirus symptoms or living with someone who is experiencing these should reschedule their appointment and stay at home.
- The service may be a little slower than usual as team numbers will be limited, so have patience and be understanding.
- Listen to the team at all times, it is their responsibility to keep everyone safe.
- Finally – and this is a difficult one – only shop when you are 100% ready to find and place a deposit on your wedding dress. Until then, enjoy all the opportunities to browse dresses online with some fun virtual window shopping.
What if I don’t find my wedding dress during the appointment?
Do not panic! The team at your bridal boutique or menswear store will do their utmost to ensure you have the greatest chance at finding the perfect attire for your day. Ensure that you have done everything you can to research and prepare for the appointment and provide the team with the information they need to fit your style.
While there could be the risk that you will lose that small fee for booking the appointment, it wouldn’t have been a waste. You will leave the appointment with more knowledge and will know exactly where to look next. That might involve a second appointment at the same boutique if you just needed more time, a different friend to advise you or a fresh perspective on another day. However, if the styles just aren’t right for you and you need different options the boutique will happily recommend different boutiques in the area with styles that might suit you better.
Should I wait until nearer the time?
No, we wouldn’t advise waiting as there will be a lot of weddings in 2021 and 2022 and you don’t want to be at the back of the queue! Creating a bridal gown is time-consuming, especially if there is a lot of lace, pearls or beading and you won’t want your seamstress to be rushing your dress.
If you are worried that you’ll change shape a little between now and then, choose the design, get it booked in, and confirm the exact size nearer the time. The boutique will advise you when they need to know.
If you have had to postpone, or have been planning your wedding during coronavirus, it is time that you planned for a bit of fun … and nothing will put a smile on your face more convincingly than finding the right dress!
For more information, read our interview with Ellie Sanderson about the new normal when shopping for your wedding dress.
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