Top tips for choosing a wedding dress

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First come the congratulations and the thrill at finally naming the big day. Your thoughts will be full of romance and the desire for a perfect wedding.

But there is a lot of work to do before the big event and top of the list is choosing the wedding dress. It will be the centre of attention and feature most in the wedding album so it needs to look right.

Before getting carried away with the romance of it all, the would-be bride needs to put on her thinking cap — there are some tough choices to be made and some hard-headed thinking to be done.

We offer a few hints to help you make the right decision without tears. Of course, it is you decision and your day but a few pointers might help you avoid the pitfalls along the way.

1. Browsing the gowns

Bridal gowns come in all shapes and sizes. Designer wedding dresses define seasonal trends and there has been an explosion in bridal wear design over the past decade.

Before even thinking of your wedding outfit It's a good idea to browse the market and see what's on offer.

Wedding dress designers understand that a bridal own is more than just a dress for a special occasion. It's a statement packed with emotion. Check out magazines, sure, but there is nothing like trying out the real thing with expert help on hand from experienced assistants.

2. Figuring out your shape

Designers of wedding dresses try to bring out the best in the bride. They want to flatter the figure, not fight it. Professional models will enhance any gown but look for pictures of real women at real weddings to get a better idea of how you will look on the day.

Ball gowns look good on all but the most petite and A-Lines too generally work for most body shapes. Sheaths and Trumpet dresses, however, will expose any flaws so don't choose these unless you feel perfectly fine about your figure. Empire gowns are a comfortable choice for an informal wedding and ideal for the pregnant bride especially if made from a lighter fabric.

Be practical and ruthless in your choice of style. Remember that your dress will feature in scores of wedding photos for years to come. Don't be misled into thinking you are going look your best on your wedding day while wearing an ill-fitting dress that does not match your body shape. Feeling uncomfortable or self-conscious is not going to help.

3. Knowing your place

It is not a good idea to choose the gown without thinking about the location of the wedding. A ball gown is going to look stupid for a beach wedding while a simple skirt will look odd in a cathedral.

These are extremes sure, but it is surprising how many brides get carried away with the gown and give a little thought at all about where it will be worn. Formal bridal wear looks best in formal surrounding so, if it's a church wedding consider a floor-length gown.

An informal outdoor wedding lends itself to casual bridal wear with a shorter skirt or strapless dress. Think too about the time of year. Heavy fabrics not only look better in winter, but they will also be warmer too while a summer beach wedding demands lighter materials and freer styles.

While a traditional setting may call for a traditional white gown, wedding dresses no longer need to be pure white. An informal setting can leave you free to pick colours that complement our skin tones.

4. Cutting your cloth

Know the limits of your purse. You don't need to decide to the last penny but you do need a general price range and you should set a maximum limit. A rule of thumb is to devote 10% of the total wedding price to the bride's outfit and that includes all the peripherals such as shoes, veils, bouquet, jewellery and so on. And it is vital to be realistic about what you can afford. It is far better to choose a cheaper dress and add some extras than to go for an expensive dress and cut back on the frills.

5. Listening to your heart

Listen to your heart, not your friends. Helpful as they want to be your mother, your best friend, your dearest pals will not know what's in your heart. They make choices that suit them no matter how hard they try; it's just human nature after all.

Try to picture yourself on the wedding day, decide what you want to see and go for it. If you have kept all the above provisos in mind, design, shape, budget, and location you are highly likely to reach the right decision and select the wedding dress of your dreams.

Would-be brides can end up searching through hundreds of wedding dresses and, after a while, they all begin to look the same. So makes some fundamental choices before you even set out on the search.

Remember, it is your day and it is what you want. But with some realistic boundaries in place, a little knowledge and a clear goal you are sure to find your dream dress that's a perfect fit for a perfect day.

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