How Long Do Wedding Dress Alterations Take?

Michael Bold
Written by Michael Bold · Posted in Dresses » Fashion Last Updated May 16, 2023 · minute read

Arguably one of the most important parts of a wedding is the dress and making sure it fits correctly should be a top priority. 

Seeing a radiant bride saunter down the aisle to her partner is what it’s all about. Having a dress that fits perfectly in all the right places is essential so that you can swagger in confidence. 

But how long do wedding dress alterations take? Well, luckily we’ve got you covered.

bride and groom walk showing off wedding dress

How Long Do Wedding Dress Alterations Take?

In this article, we’re talking about all things wedding dress alterations. We’ll take you through some of the most common alteration types, a suggested timeline for your changes, as well as answer some frequently asked questions. All in a bid to let you know how much time you need to assign to this particular challenge.

This is an important one. An ill-fitting dress can be uncomfortable but at the same time really knock your confidence. So listen up sharp! We’re here to help you out and make sure you have the best day of your life.

What are wedding dress alterations?

To put it simply wedding dress alterations are anything you change about your dress after purchase.

This could include things like making sure it fits you perfectly at the hips. Adjusting the length to your personal preference. Or adding things like details, straps, or arms.

Unless your name is Stella McCartney you’ll likely hire a professional to deal with wedding dress alterations. They’re experienced with working to the deadlines of the bride and with wedding dresses. 

They can ensure your dress fits you exactly how you like. At the same time, they can tell you exactly how long it will take and how certain alterations will affect the schedule.

Advice from the Story Amour team

Having been to over 1000 weddings in our 15 year wedding photography career we know how a poorly fitted dress can wreak havoc on the day. 

Bride’s constantly pulling their dresses up. Painful-looking strap marks and filthy trains are some of the common complaints we see. 

All this takes away from the magic of the day, so getting your dress alterations correct is super important. 

The dress is essential to any good white wedding so no matter how long it takes we think you should really prioritize this process. It’ll mean you can enjoy your wedding to its fullest without worrying about how your dress looks and feels.

How much does your wedding dress need altering?

There are lots of different ways you can alter a wedding dress. Some things will be a quick fix whereas others will take much longer to complete by your seamstress.

Let’s take a look at some of the common wedding dress alterations requested by brides.

Hemming 

It’s important to decide on your shoe choice early on. Exciting we know! This is so that your dress can be hemmed to the perfect length. 

Hemming is one of the most common adjustments to wedding dresses. Simply put, people are of different heights. Equally, some people like to wear flats whilst others want to don some 9-inch heels on their big day. Each to their own we say.

With this being one of the more frequent requests this shouldn’t take too long. At the same time, your height will remain consistent from purchase to the wedding day. Unless of course you have a growth spurt or change your mind about wearing those tall heels!

Taking in the bust, waist, or hips

A bit like Cinderella’s slipper it’s unlikely your dress will fit you perfectly the first time you slip it on. People have curves where others don’t and vice versa. At the same time, you’ll have your own personal preferences on how you like clothes to look and feel on your body.

Alterations of the bust, waist, and/or hips are what will really take the fit of your dress to the next level. It will give it that custom look and make it look like it was made especially for you.

It’s usually much easier to take in a wedding dress than it is to let it out. There’s fabric to play with and a dress can typically be taken in by around 2 dress sizes. Of course, it all depends on the type of wedding dress you’ve chosen.

These alterations can affect how long it takes simply because these measurements are more liable to change. Changes to your weight or exercise regimen may increase how long it takes for your alterations simply because of more trips to the seamstress.

Shortening straps 

Another simple enough alteration that shouldn’t take too long is shortening the straps. 

As we’ve already touched on, this is one of the biggest complaints we see from brides on their wedding day. Constantly pulling up their dresses to protect their dignity. It’s a simple and quick alteration that can be the difference between a wedding day disaster or big day bliss. 

Having the correct length of straps will ensure your freedom of movement throughout the day. You can enjoy things like wedding toasts or the traditional money dance without fear of any wardrobe malfunctions.

At the same time altering the strap length can be great for the petite ones out there. This can subtly lift the dress so that it sits perfectly at your waist. 

Adding embellishments or details

Anything you add to your wedding dress will inevitably take more time. You’re still going to require some of the alterations we’ve already discussed so you should keep that in mind. 

Maybe you want to add sleeves? Or adjust the length of the train? Add a waistband? Or pockets? All these things will take your seamstress time to plan and execute.

Factors that affect the time it takes to alter wedding dresses

As well as the different alteration types you can make to your dress there are also other factors that influence how long it takes to make changes. 

The complexity of the dress’s design 

A simple design will generally be much quicker to alter than one with lots of intricate details. 

A plain dress can simply be taken in or hemmed. However, one with lace detailing for example will need to be altered in a way that the pattern lines up. This will make your dress look seamless and as though it was custom-made for your body.

Bride and seamstress schedules

An often overlooked factor of the process is the schedules of the bride and the seamstress. Planning a wedding is a lot of work and will take up a lot of the bride’s time. 

You’ll need to juggle this alongside your work life and recreational time with family and friends. 

At the same time, your seamstress will no doubt be busy with all their other brides. They also have a life so it can be difficult to find a time when your schedules match up. 

Try to find the availability of your seamstress well in advance of your big day. 

Equally, be open to dropping other engagements if it means your dress will fit perfectly when your wedding comes around.

Weight 

We’re sorry to talk about weight but it is possibly one of the major factors at play. After all, that’s the reason you’re getting your dress adjusted in the first place, isn’t it? To find the perfect fit.

If you lose or put on weight you’re going to need more wedding dress alterations that will ultimately take more time. 

Keep this in mind if your weight is liable to fluctuate. Equally, if you’re pregnant it could be best to arrange your final dress fitting as close as possible to the big day.

What’s the typical timeline for wedding dress alterations?

So you’ve found the perfect wedding dress. Woop woop! Now what? Well, you’ve probably got a pretty good idea from trying it on at the bridal shop of what needs doing. However, it’s not until your fittings that things really start to take shape.

Timing is everything when it comes to wedding dress alterations. Let us break it down into a typical timeline for you.

Three to four months out from your wedding

Your first session will probably take around 1 hour as your seamstress takes measurements and plans their alterations. They’ll talk to you about how you envisage the dress fitting as well as discuss what can and can’t be achieved. 

This initial consultation should be arranged around 3 to 4 months before the wedding. This gives plenty of time to schedule a date between both parties. 

During this meeting, they’ll probably pin or tack your dress rather than alter it there and then. You’ll also have the opportunity to discuss anything you want to add or remove from the dress to make it more unique to you.

Six weeks before your big day 

This is your opportunity to try on your dress with the last round of alterations. 

If you requested things be added or taken away it’s also your chance to see them in the flesh. You can see how they look once you’re wearing the dress and finalize your decision. 

Let your seamstress know if the dress doesn’t feel quite right. They can then make minor alterations to find the perfect fit.

Final fitting two weeks before the wedding 

WARNING WARNING, THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE. Only joking. But seriously this is your last chance to tell your seamstress if your dress doesn’t fit right. At the same time, you can only hope and pray your weight doesn’t alter between now and the big day.

Most brides will find that the dress fits perfectly at this final fitting. At this point, you can take the dress home and keep it somewhere safe until the big day. Or try it on again. Yeah, we know you’re going to try it on again!

At this final fitting, it’s also a good idea to bring along your Maid of Honor or a Bridesmaid. They can be shown how to best lay out your train so your dress looks amazing in all your photos.

Think about your wedding day weight

We know we’ve already touched on this once already but we think it’s really important. If you’re planning on losing weight for your big day you might want to schedule your fittings closer to the time. 

Equally, we don’t think you should buy a small dress early on with the aim of losing weight. 

This is unnecessary pressure to put on yourself during a very stressful time. Equally, if you don’t achieve your goals it may be impossible to make the dress fit you. 

It’s much more difficult to increase the size of a wedding dress than it is to make it smaller. So it could be a costly endeavor if you end up purchasing another more suitably sized dress.

Who should you trust to alter your dress?

Who you choose to alter your wedding dress will have a massive impact on how long it takes to complete the job. 

Whilst a family friend might be handy on the sewing machine can you really trust them with such an important task?

If you want to know how much wedding dress alterations are likely to cost you can check out our article all about the subject. However, these are a few popular ways to go when it comes to deciding who to trust with your most prized possession.

Bridal salon seamstress

Most people purchase their wedding dresses from a bridal salon. This gives them a chance to try on a range of dresses to find one that matches their style perfectly. 

Many of these will have an in-house team that can alter dresses. This is a popular route to go down and one we highly recommend. It’s likely that the in house seamstress will have already altered your design of dress for other brides. They’ll be familiar with the fabric and how it falls as well as know its limitations and what can be achieved.

This service will no doubt come with an additional cost but it may make the whole process a lot easier for you. Even more so if you’ve chosen a bridal salon close to home. It will save you time traveling long distances for your fittings.

Independent seamstress

There is the independent route that you could go down. On the plus side, they may have a more open schedule if they’re not attending exclusively to wedding dresses. On the flip side though because they’re not working with wedding dresses day in and day out it might take them longer to make the alterations.

They may be cheaper than going with the bridal salon but you’ll also have to find them for yourself. You need to weigh up whether the savings in costs is worth the time you’ll spend finding the perfect tailor.

You could ask friends for recommendations if they’ve already had an independent seamstress. Or you could read reviews online to make sure they’re delivering a quality service every time. This obviously all takes time that you might prefer to spend elsewhere in the lead up to your wedding.

Avoid DIY alterations

It’s our strong recommendation that you avoid DIY wedding dress alterations. Obviously, if you’re handy with a needle and thread and just want to add a small detail to your dress that’s fine. 

However, anything more than that and we think it’s best to call in the pros. Wedding dresses are complicated and not to mention expensive. It’s not something that you want to get wrong.

The adjustments you require will no doubt have been done time and time again by a professional. Just trust them, it will save you any heartache.

Important things to bring to your fittings

In order to speed up your wedding dress alterations it’s important to bring some essential items to your fittings. This will make for a much smoother process and your seamstress will be very happy with you.

  • Wedding shoes: Bring the shoes you’ll be wearing on the day or at the very least a similar height of shoe. Hemming the dress to the correct size is one of the first things your seamstress will look at. So knowing the height they need to work to, will be a massive help.
  • Your undergarments: In the same way as any clothing you wear, what you have on underneath can drastically affect how it fits and feels. Our advice is to bring with you what you’ll be wearing under your dress on your wedding day. This way your seamstress can get the best idea of how to tailor your dress.
  • Accessories: Many brides will wear a veil with their dress as well as other accessories like tiaras or necklaces. Bring these along to your fitting. You can make sure they work well with your dress. This will save time if, for example, you were to try everything on at home and not be happy. 
  • A chaperone: Bring along a trusted friend or relative. They can help you into your dress so that they know exactly what to do on the big day. They can also be shown how to lay the dress down to look its best in photos. It’s also great to have the support and another set of eyes which may speed up the process.

FAQ for how long wedding dress alterations take

How soon can a wedding dress be altered?

A wedding dress can be altered to your specific body measurements as soon as possible. Whether it should be is another question. If you’re quite consistent with your body measurements you could request alterations there and then. 

As a general rule of thumb, we suggest having your first alterations made 3-4 months before you say “I do”. This gives plenty of time for further changes. 

Is one month enough for wedding dress alterations?

In short, no! As we’ve already touched on in this article bridal salons and seamstresses are usually pretty damn busy. It’s unlikely that they’ll be able to schedule you at a convenient time with only one month’s notice.

With that being said you may be able to find someone to carry out the work. This becomes even more likely if you only require some simple changes to your wedding dress. 

At the same time if you’re having a destination wedding this may be your only option. We’d suggest arranging any last minute meetings with your seamstress as soon as possible to guarantee their availability. You don’t want to be searching last minute in a country you’re unfamiliar with for someone to alter your dress.

Are 6 weeks enough for wedding dress alterations?

In a similar vein to whether one month is long enough, no, not really. However, it once again depends on what you’re asking your seamstress to do. If they had a completely free schedule then yes they could probably turn your dress around in 24 hours. However, it doesn’t work like that. They’re busy with all their other brides and their dresses.

Can a size 12 dress be altered to an 8?

All dresses aren’t made equal and some have much more complicated patterns than others. 

It may be possible to alter a simple dress from a size 12 to an 8 but can be much more difficult with intricate details. In this instance, we’d recommend purchasing a size 10 dress as it would be much simpler to tailor that to a size 8 if need be. We realize that is easier said than done, particularly if your weight is liable to fluctuate.

Why are wedding dress alterations so expensive?

Like most things in life, you get what you pay for. Tailoring a wedding dress so that a bride looks absolutely flawless on her wedding day requires skill and precision. 

Much like bridal makeup it’s not something they can afford to get wrong. It will have taken them years of practice and requires them to be constantly honing and improving their craft. 

They’ve also got their equipment and potentially a shop that all require upkeep. In our opinion, it’s an investment that’s definitely worth making in order to find that perfect fitting garment.

Related Reading: Why Is Bridal Makeup So Expensive?

Will alterations ruin my dress?

Provided you get the right person to carry out your alterations it shouldn’t ruin your dress. This will be their day job and something they’ve carried out many times working with brides to create the perfect fit. 

One thing to consider though is that some changes are irreversible. For example, if you have your dress altered to a size 8 and are then a size 16 two weeks before your big day there wont be much your seamstress can do to fix it.

Conclusion

Getting the right fit for your wedding dress is essential to avoid wedding day heartache. As we’ve already touched on, there’s nothing worse than an ill-fitting wedding dress and it could be a ruiner for the bride.

The amount of time it takes to alter a wedding dress will vary from bride to bride. Each will have their own specifications and requirements for how they want the dress to look. At the same time body shapes vary massively so the work that needs to be carried out will be unique to that individual.

Some people may require a few simple alterations whilst others may require a complete overhaul.

Start to think about any alterations you may require as early as possible. If you go to a bridal salon to try on dresses, ask for advice on what is and isn’t possible with each dress. This can save you time in the long run.

Enjoy your wedding dress fittings. You and your seamstress will have the same goals in mind. To make you feel a million dollars and full of confidence as you walk down the aisle to say “I do”.