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How do I find my wedding dress? From Wellington, Wairarapa to Palmerston North

Bride and bridesmaid hanging a wedding dress in a hallway, Wairarapa

Oh the excitement! You're engaged and looking for a wedding dress in Wellington, Wairarapa or Palmerston North for reals! There seem to be so many options out there, where do you start? I've put together some resources from my favourite brides and wedding dress designers, boutiques and surprises to help you find the perfect wedding dress for you. In addition to drawing on my own experiences finding my dream wedding dress (scroll down to see!). Plus a bonus tip to avoid.

1. Custom Designed Wedding Dress

Great for: brides who know exactly what they want

Two Doves Bridal custom made wedding dress, Palmerston North

The ultimate experience to finding the wedding dress of your dreams is to have it custom made. If you know exactly what you want or you have some inspiration or themes; bridal designers can bring them all to life. Utilising locally made and designed fabrics is high on some bride's wish-lists. Similarly ethically sourced fabrics of beautiful quality from overseas can also be used.

The process of having a dress custom designed can take up to 6 months including multiple consultations, fittings and catch ups. This process is thoroughly enjoyable and can contribute to you feeling super special when planning your wedding.

Two Doves Bridalwear and Accessories Gina is based in Palmerston North and has been creating custom-designed wedding dresses and accessories for over 10 years. Fran (above) had a very clear picture of what she wanted: classic, elegant and stylish; which Gina skillfully brought to life.

2. Off-the-Rack Wedding Dress (from a boutique)

Great for: brides who want a wide range of styles to choose from

wedding dress from Hello Romeo, Wellington boutique

If you're like me and have no idea what you'd like your wedding dress to be, then a bridal boutique might be a great place to start. I tried on ball gowns, fit-and-flare, A-line, tea-length and strapless dresses (even though I swore I'd never have a strapless wedding dress!). This helped me narrow down what I liked and what suited me.

Buying a wedding dress from a boutique also has the advantage of being potentially cheaper than having a custom dress made. You can alter a shop-bought dress to fit you like a glove. Many boutiques offer this as part of their service; or work closely with a local seamstress who specialises in bridal wear.

Olivia started her cute wedding dress shop originally in Martinborough in the Wairarapa, before re-locating to Wellington city in 2020. It was always a pleasure walking through the village to see what gorgeous gowns she had displayed in the windows! Sarah (above) found her ideal wedding dress at Hello Romeo.

3. Vintage or Second Hand Wedding Dress

Great for: brides who want something completely unique and eco-friendly

Wairarapa wedding dress from an op shop bride in a wool shed

For the eco-concious bride, nothing beats a pre-loved, vintage or second-hand wedding dress. Secondly, you're sure to find something unique, completely personal to you. The third biggest benefit to giving another opportunity for a wedding dress to shine, is cost. It's significantly cheaper to buy second hand as opposed to new. But where to start looking for one?

Op shops and designer recycle boutiques often have a couple of wedding dresses donated and on the racks. Try making a day out with bridesmaids or friends visiting op shops in different suburbs around town. Throw in a gourmet lunch and champagne and you're all set. Kind of like a pub crawl for ops shops!

Some wedding dress boutiques stock pre-loved (often vintage) gowns, as well as sell-on-behalf. This means they are selling dresses worn by previous brides for them.

Wellington city boutique sell both new and pre-loved gowns, as well as offering sell-on-behalf.

This cute little shop in Featherston in the Wairarapa often has wedding dresses on display in the window. Jude has carefully curated each piece of affordable high quality fashion, designer clothing, footwear and accessories. She has a passion for NZ designers and quality garments from around the world.

4. Hot Tip: Avoid Online

wedding dress hanging in a doorway, Marton

My final piece of advice when choosing your wedding dress is to avoid buying one online. They may look great in the photos on the internet but they rarely turn out like the pictures. Horror stories of mis-matched expectations involving wrong colours, fabrics, poor fit, wrong length... the list goes on.

Take this opportunity to support local New Zealand businesses, designers and people. There is a dream dress out there for everyone!

Nicki's dress above was bought through Jen at the former WR Bridal shop in Marton.

I hope these tips have helped give you some ideas on how to find your wedding dress in Wellington, the Wairarapa and Palmerston North. Please feel free to check out my documentary-style wedding photography for outdoorsy couples who hate awkward poses.

Lots of love, Sarah xx

PS: My dress!

tea-length wedding dress in rose garden, Wairarapa

Photo by the wonderful Fred & Hannah


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