As someone who's recently gone through the process of searching for 'the one', I was lucky enough to have had my Say Yes to the Dress moment. In Sydney, there are so many bridal boutiques and generally, you need to make an appointment in advance to view wedding dresses and try them on.
You can usually bring an entourage with you to the appointment, you just be mindful of checking in advance how many are permitted with the current coronavirus situation. Of course, this varies depending on the size of the store.
This store is first in my list because this is where I ultimately found my wedding dress. Located in the Dymocks building in Sydney CBD, Abbey Bridal have a beautiful range of dresses by Maggie Sottero, Sottero and Midgley and Rebecca Ingram.
My grandmother joined us for my latest dress fitting at Abbey Bridal and was genuinely shocked at the overall beauty of the store, stating that she'd never seen such stunning dresses in her entire life. I also have to state that the service at Abbey Bridal is just so lovely. Additionally, I found the sizing to be quite inclusive. Each time I have gone into the store, I found a generous sale rack, so if you do get lucky, it means that you may be able to snag a beautiful designer dress at a fraction of the price off the rack.
This store is on this list despite me never having gone inside it. The reason for this is while I was standing in my dress in the other store, with an appointment lined up for this one and made that dreadful cancellation call, the voice on the other end was happy for me that I had found my dress. I will most likely be ordering bridesmaids dresses from Perfect Day Bridal due to how lovely and well-wishing they were, rather than being upset with me for cancelling last minute.
The brands carried include Ariabride, Brides Desire, Catherine R Couture, Curvy Collection, Fox Bridal, Higar Novias Group, Justin Alexander, Kellylin Couture, Luna Novias, Morilee, Zac Posen for White One and even Perfect Day Bridal's own private collection. It was fate that I was standing in my dress right before my appointment with this store; I am quite confident that if I hadn't found it at Abbey, it could easily have been at Perfect Day Bridal.
Luv Bridal is an Australian-based bridal boutique. It has stores in other states, not just NSW. The actual boutique is really pretty and has some lovely staff working at it. The boutique has an entire room dedicated to off the rack sale dresses, which is fabulous for those without a lot of time left until their big day. The brands sold include Madi Lane, Evie Young Bridal, Mia Solano, St Patrick, Pronovias and Envi just to name some.
The diverse range of dresses and inclusive sizing, along with lovely service, means that you have a great chance at finding your dress here. If I hadn't accidentally found my Abbey Bridal dress, I could also easily have ended up with something from this store.
4. Oleg Cassini Stores
Oleg Cassini is an international brand which has stores based in Sydney and Melbourne. It sells wedding dresses and bridesmaids dresses and has an entire range of dresses for $1000 or less.
You can buy a complete wedding gown from this store for even $500 or less, which is unusual in the current wedding dress shopping climate. That said, the lower costing options that are under $300 appear to typically on the shorter side, or are one of a two-piece set, but you can still get a two-piece bridal set for under $600, which is very impressive. Oleg Cassini also have a range of bridal suits.
I definitely recommend perusing Oleg Cassini if you are on a budget but are looking for something new and in style.
Now that we've gone down the road of lovely dresses and perhaps tight budgets, there is no way that I could forget to mention White Runway. With some beautiful dresses for as low as $330, some even going on sale for $150 or so – you can't walk past this store. I initially was searching for bridesmaids dresses and I accidentally stumbled upon the fact that wedding dresses are also sold here. With different styles of dresses, this is definitely a store you should put on your list if you are on a strict budget. Also, if you are after a dress in an unusual colour, White Runway make many of their dresses in multiple colours so it's definitely worth checking out.
If you aren't too fussed about the dress being new and are happy to go for a drive, you can say less to the dress with eco stylist Faye Delanty. The Salvos Boutique (yes, you have read that correctly) in Warilla, near Wollongong, is where you can find many second-hand dresses, mostly for under $500.
As with all of the other bridal boutiques in this list, it is necessary to book an appointment in advance. The boutique promises a lux bridal experience for a small fraction of the price. I've even read that there may even be unworn dresses there.
Speaking of prices, other places that tend to respect modest wedding dress budgets include Asos, Still White, Facebook Marketplace, JJs House and even some of the wedding groups on Facebook. I'd also definitely take a look at sample sales at bridal stores.
At one point, I was really tempted to buy from Amazon or AliExpress but I did find that the reviews of my preferred dresses stated that they often didn't look like the picture, so it would have been a waste of money if that happened. I'd only have considered going down that route if it was worth taking the risk.
Other things to be aware of is that you might try on samples that are too small or too large. In case your entourage is not well versed in dress shopping, you should warn them that this is quite normal and it's often about seeing whether you like the actual dress at that point, as opposed to its current fit. Additionally, many dresses have room to move in terms of alterations, and they are typically designed with them in mind. Unless a dress initially fits you like a glove, it is important to keep in mind that you will most likely need to budget for alterations to be made for it to fit you properly.
Planning a wedding can be difficult enough as it is, and as such I intend to write a short series of articles based on my own recent Sydney-based research to try and make your life easier. Have you been to any of these beautiful wedding dress stores? Which is your favourite? Where and how did you find the one?