Where to go?
Firstly, speaking from experience, I searched for local Bridal shops as you do not want to be travelling miles to find a dress, not only will you have to go and try them on you may want to go again for a second fitting to be sure it's the one! Also you may have to go back for alterations, so think out the distance when you decide on shops.
Bridal shops are a lovely environment to be in, beautiful dresses galore, helpful staff, drinks while you wait, sparkly tiara's, you get the idea! It's a brides heaven!
It is best to have a budget in mind before you go, with some leeway of course! This will help you narrow your search by informing them that you don't want to spend over your budget as they will NOT ask you what it is. This is to avoid falling in love with a dress then the price does not match what you had in mind to spend.
Have an open mind
When you get to your chosen shops, going with an idea of what you like and don't like is great but stay open minded to dresses. Bridal staff do this all the time, they may suggest dresses that you wouldn't of picked, it may surprise you what you end up liking. I know I was, I didn't think I wanted much bling on my dress, yet the first one I tried on had sparkle everywhere!! It had a long train as well which I didn't really want in my head but once I looked in the mirror, I loved it!
Despite all of this, this is not the dress I chose, as they told me the price and I thought no wonder with all them sparkles! I was close though, as at the time I thought it was amazing. My mum advised going to look at other shops to see what else there was out there.
And boy was I happy we did, the dress I ended up with was perfect, I knew straight away, I felt comfortable and happy in it, it had all the features I was looking for, something which felt and looked like me. The other dress was too over the top for me and our style of day, we was having a BBQ for our wedding and I couldn't imagine eating a spare rib in it!! I wanted to feel relaxed and carefree so I could enjoy the day without any worries.
So try lots on, ask the right questions, take your time, think about how it will look and feel to fit in with your day, ask yourself is your day informal and casual or a formal affair.
Don't forget to ask about alterations, some bridal shops may offer this in the price, others do not. Mine had to be sent somewhere else to be altered, I had some taken off the train at the bottom and as the dress had a round neck line this had to be made smaller. Because of the delicate beading/sparkle on the dress as well, these take longer to alter as it's more fiddly work. And once you've decided on the dress you will need to have that done, so asking first will leave no surprise's.
You may encounter the extra's on offer like a having a veil and hair accessories. Again this choice is down to your style of dress. You can sometimes get lovely accessories elsewhere at reasonable prices. But I would advise trying some on anyway, to see what they look like with your dress to give you an idea, while you are there. Myself, I knew I didn't want to cover the dress up as it had gorgeous detail round the neck line where a veil would sit, so that was a no no along with no need for a necklace and I knew then my hair would need be up, to show the round neck line off. So have a think about the kind of details that will compliment your dress and style.
Hope this helps anyone who is about to start their dress search and good luck!