Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What it's like to go wedding dress shopping in Malta (Part I)

Before we get started, my wedding dress shopping point of comparison is two reluctant trips to two bridal-wear stores in my Canadian hometown to price compare and confirm my uneasy relationship with wedding dresses.

If I'm going to spend any money on a dress (which I'm not very keen on doing) I want it to be one bad-ass work-of-art piece of clothing. I don't want an unintentionally designed dress. I want something a little different, but still recognizably wedding-esque. It's a thin line, and not an easy one to walk. Definitely not an easy one to explain to a salesperson. But if all else fails I'll just head over to Zara and pluck up a cheap white-ish number. I'm just not keen on anything in between.

Stepping off of my soap box, I walked into Pronovias on the Strand in Gzira, Malta, to try on my first wedding dress. I don't need to buy any time soon (one of the many luxuries of a long engagement), but my mum and little sister were in Malta, and it was probably one of the only times I'll be able to get in-person familial input during the whole wedding process.

I had made an appointment to try on dresses, and my salesperson - Marisa - kindly took down my details and helped me look through Pronovias' current collection on a touchscreen monitor. I chose four dresses I didn't hate and we headed to the change area - a What Not to Wear 360 degree mirrored room. I stripped in front of Marisa and put on a crinoline hoop contraption, which Marisa told me would allow me to walk (as I skeptically raised my eyebrows).

Then Marisa opened a closet full of cream coloured high heels, and asked me my size. I am probably not wearing heels on my wedding day but I went along with it anyway. In a country where most women wear heels every. single. day. I was sure Marisa wouldn't understand that I wanted to be able to walk down the aisle without cringing (Maltese women are so practiced and elegant in heels they never cringe).

Between the hoops and the heels it was, needless to say, difficult to move.

Marisa came in with one dress at a time, and surprisingly, they went over my head, instead of me stepping into them, which I hadn't expected. The dresses were all a sample size UK 12/US 8. Which, even though that's not far off from my size, I was swimming in.

Then it was just me, Marisa, and the mirror. And the session went much like any other wedding dress session does (I assume. I'm new to this whole bride thing). Marisa made all the right comments, and I found things I liked and loathed about every dress I tried on. Then she called in my mum and sister to have a look. Easy.

(we were actually happier than we look in these photos)
wedding dress shopping in malta
There was almost no sales pressure, which was a nice surprise. Marisa thought my train would look lovely flowing down the aisle of a Maltese church. Which was really sweet of her, but we will have a civil ceremony, and I don't like most long trains. Like the heels, this is a cultural difference, so I let it go.

The dress I hated the least (or liked the most, if you're a glass half full kind of girl) was a simple, natural waisted gown in soft tulle and feathers (pictured above). Yes, feathers. A la Swan Lake. Still a bit too much on the traditional side for me, but not altogether awful. Alas, I did not purchase the dress. It cost €1900 (ohmygosh! way more than a month's rent!): exactly what I estimated this one would. Alterations - the bodice and the length - would have cost an additional €80.

I was particularly surprised to learn that if I put a deposit down on the dress, no other bride in Malta could wear it until after my wedding. I suppose that on a small island such a policy avoids the always awkward situation of wearing the same wedding dress as your best friend's cousin (the horror!)

Regardless of my uneasy relationship with wedding dresses, I think I'll be popping into Pronovias again. Although I'm not sure I'll find the work of art I'm looking for there, the no-pressure atmosphere was exactly what I wanted and nothing like similar bridal shops in Canada, where I was faced with a never ending cascade of personal questions and unsolicited opinions. And I didn't even make it to the change room!

- Jess

p.s.  I pin obscene amounts of sparkly, frothy, bad-ass, modern wedding fluff on my Pinterest boards. Follow along!

p.p.s I didn't cry/see fireworks/gasp/squeal when I tried on my first wedding dress (although I think it's adorable when other people do). And I'm okay with that. 


  1. Wow! Sounds like a pleasant experience, Jess. Have you looked at any gowns from BHLDN? Maybe not the best match with an ocean in the way of any potential fittings, but nice for inspo. Can't wait to see THE one!

    1. Yup! Love BHLDN. I may end up buying somewhere else (US? Canada? UK?) and bringing it to Malta to be altered.

  2. I love the deposit- no one can wear my dress thing. Too funny!

    When I went shopping I only visited 2 small bridal boutiques and also felt no pressure. I actually preferred when one of those boutiques didn't have me browse the racks. I gave a sort of explanation and they went to work. The other store had us choosing 5 dresses to try and it was overwhelming.

    In any case, I'm glad I didn't have a lot of time to ponder and 'search' as I'm certain it would be quite easy to try hundreds of dresses and never commit.

    Good luck with your search Jess - and sorry for this scattered, rambling comment. It's 10 am Norway time and 3 am Alberta time. Darn jetlag!

    (By the way, I didn't get all teary even once,)

    1. I know! I thought the exclusive-dress deal was so strange.

      And Hoorah for not getting teary eyed! (although I'm not sure I'll hold it together on the day-of)

      Have a great time in Alberta, safe travels :)

  3. Sounds like a very familiar situation. I remember being like huh, what, over my head? And then having them in the room with you the entire time. But hey, it's their job.

    I went to 2 different bridal shops and ended up going back to the first one and buying my dress there. When I was there the 2nd time (with family this time) trying on the dresses I liked the first time I came across a dress that was just kind of sitting out like it had been tried on recently and even though it was strapless and I didn't want strapless I tried it on anyway. It ended up being the dress I bought and we custom made a halter strap. It's a darling Nicole Miller. So, sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone and remember that they can just about anything to a dress. I guess I was extra lucky because I'm short and there was plenty of fabric left to make the straps.

    I do think it's kind of cool that they won't let anyone else purchase your dress until after you wedding. :)

    Good luck! I loved having a long engagement. Much more relaxed that way.

    1. Yes, definitely hoping being short makes alterations easier! Great advice Anna, thanks :)

  4. Oh wow you look amaaaazing! I didn't feel fireworks or start crying when I found THE dress, but I knew right away.

  5. I love reading all of your blog entries! Thanks for responding to my emails and hope you and Mike have a grand time planning your futures together. Feel free to check out my blog too, although it's not as prodigious as yours.

  6. that "no one else can wear the same dress" policy is wild :) I know they offered that with prom dresses in my hometown, but never heard about that with wedding dresses!
    I got really lucky that my best friend found my wedding dress in the warehouse of the store she runs. It had somehow been lost amidst a sea of designer dresses and was continually marked down during that time and I paid nothing in bridal terms for it. And I didn't cry or get goosebumps either, it is a dress, and one you wear only once.
    My sister-in-law found a dress she loved and bought it on ebay for pennies, and buying used is also a great way to save money- once wed has the most beautiful pre-owned dresses.
    Are you getting married in Malta??

    1. If your friend finds another hidden gem in a warehouse, let me know :)

      Used is definitely an option for me (besides being kind on your pocketbook, it's also kinder on the environment! I once wrote a research paper on that actually...), or maybe something that isn't strictly 'bridal' at all.

      We aren't sure where we're doing it yet, but are seriously thinking about getting married in Malta. It is, after all, home. But, honestly, we are struggling with asking our loved ones to give up so much of their vacation time and money to attend a wedding abroad. Any advice?

  7. Hi Jess! Have been following (snooping around?) your blog for a while, but finally decided to speak up. Maybe you can help? So...I'm Maltese, but living abroad and planning to get married in Malta next year. 1900EUR for a dress is much higher than the cost of dresses I am seeing here in Denmark (around 700-1400, with more than enough below 1000EUR), so I was wondering if that is the regular price range? I am still deciding as to whether to buy the dress in Denmark or Malta, but if that is the price range I might just stick to here!

    1. Oh gosh, I'm so sorry for not replying to you sooner Annuca! This comment got lost somewhere along the way and I'm only just seeing it now. I hope you found a dress, but if not here's the information you were wondering about:

      I was looking for something a bit different, so I was going to shops that are definitely above average prices in Malta. At all shops the cheapest dress I saw was €900 for a simple satin mermaid. €1,200-€1,500 seemed to be a common price tier, followed by €1,800-€2,500. I hope this helps!


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