Shopping for the gown is a highly anticipated part of a bride's pre-wedding plans and bridal boutiques carry different styles, with some offering exclusive designer labels and expertise on selecting the dress. 'We have seen a lot of necklines, including off-shoulder, strapless and boat necks. Many designers are doing lace sleeves, which seems to be influenced by the royal wedding last year. Lace sleeves are a wedding fashion trend that has come in and out of style for decades,' says Dana Trang, founder of Hitched bridal boutique. Dresses by designers, such as Rivini and Lela Rose, covered in fabric, such as transparent organza, create the illusion of a neckline resembling a strapless dress. Low back dresses are also in with lighter fabrics such as satin crepe, making it easier to transport them for less formal destination weddings. Colour and layers of fabric from the likes of Oscar de la Renta see classic whites and subtle floral designs given ivory, pale blue and scarlet hues, while Reem Acra adds layering with tiered tulle skirts. Brides should avoid shopping with a preconceived idea of the style of dress they want. 'Buying a wedding dress is very different from buying normal clothes. It looks so different on than it does on a hanger, so we always stress the importance of trying on numerous dresses,' Trang says. 'After the bride has tried on a couple of dresses based on our recommendations of what we think suits her, and the wedding style and venue, the bride will usually change her mind.' The most important factor to remember is personality, says Anna Ang, owner of The Dressing Room, which designs its own gowns. 'We have brides who arrive for their appointment with four or five friends and they each have very different views of what looks good on the bride or what type of gown they think the bride should wear. 'We suggest brides only bring along one or two friends or family members who have a similar style to that of the bride so their opinions will be valuable,' Ang says. Bridal boutiques usually limit the appointment time or the number of gowns that can be tried. The first appointment should focus on silhouettes that suit the bride's body shape. 'Too often a bride walks into a boutique and goes straight to the rack and decides on two or three gowns to try,' Ang says. 'If a bride walks into a boutique where they have a three-gown policy and then only tries on the three gowns she has chosen, she may come out of that appointment not having progressed in her search. 'Work with the bridal consultants. They should know their range of gowns intimately and should be able to recommend gowns to each bride. On so many occasions we have had brides tell us they wouldn't have thought they could carry a particular type and ended up choosing it as their wedding gown.' Jessica Lee and Cecile Chen, founders of Trinity Bridal, which stocks designers including Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera, advise brides-to-be to be open to styles. Fabric, silhouette, fit and comfort should be picked to suit the bride's personality. 'She should make sure she is the one wearing the gown rather than the gown wearing her,' they say.