Give your wedding dress the vow factor

Dress to impress, forget the credit crunch for one day and invest in the wedding of a lifetime

You only get married once (hopefully!), so why not go all out to make it a day to remember for all the right reasons. And one of the best reasons of all is a drop-dead-gorgeous, knockout, deluxe, peel your guests' jaws off the floor gown.

The right gown - the one with the biggest wow factor - starts with the right fabric. Pure fabrics - silk, cotton, velvet - crease more than those with synthetic additions, so you have to decide which is more important: luxury or wearability. You can, of course, opt for a thicker, more expensive duchesse silk instead of a thinner slipper satin silk for added luxury and structure and fewer creases, or a silk mix (most of your guests won't be able to tell the difference and, after a couple of glasses of champagne, the rest won't care).

If you are planning on wearing an ornate, vintage-style bodice, it would be wise to go for a heavy brocade fabric as it has a raised patterned surface and adds much needed texture. Chiffon, organza, crepe, silk tulle, satin and taffeta are all lightweight fabrics. Chiffon is good for soft drapes and looser dress styles; organza is very similar, but has a slightly stiffer texture, making it ideal for overlays (although you probably wouldn't want a whole dress made from it); crepe has more of a ruched feel and is perfect for slinky, column shapes; silk tulle is beautifully soft and make you feel like you're floating on air; satin adds a lovely shimmer to slinky sheath styles; and taffeta is papery and ultra-light (it's the one that rustles when you move).

And finally, there's always lace - the most weddingy of all wedding fabrics. Anyone can wear it and it never fails to flatter. Just be careful to make sure the pattern matches across the seams, otherwise you might look like you're wearing a patchwork dress.

Your next big decision concerns your neckline: are you a sweetheart or a bit strappy? If you've got great shoulders and aren't afraid to show them to all and sundry, you should think about an offthe- shoulder gown, which is particularly effective for brides whose cups have a tendency to runneth over, or a halter. A wide, soft scoop (known as a portrait neckline) is an elegant option that shows off the neck and collarbones; a full scoop (sometimes known as a ballerina) suits just about everyone and can be cut as low or high as you wish (or dare); straps are young and fresh but need well-toned arms and a neat bust line; strapless dresses, on the other hand, need an ample bust so they don't appear too precarious; and last but not least is the ever-popular sweetheart, which offers serious cleavage.

Once you've decided on a top, it's time to consider your bottom (oh come on, you know what I mean). The options are just as varied and the choice you make is just as important, so take your time and don't be rushed. A full skirt, which sometimes comes with an integral hoop to make it even bigger, is perfect for brides with wider hips as it hides a multitude of sins. You can get a similar effect with deep, parallel box pleats, especially if they are created in a heavy silk or satin. You have to be pretty confident to opt for a bustle because, frankly, yes, your bum will look big in it. It's a similar story with a tulip skirt, as this slim, bodyhugging style leaves little room for manoeuvre (although it is useful for balancing out wide hips). Straight up and down column shapes are great if you are a straight up and down kind of gal. But if you want to look taller and slimmer, try a pick-up hem, which adds dramatic drapes around the bottom of the skirt and inches to your legs.

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Okay, so that's the fabric, the cut and the style of your dress sorted out. Now what else needs doing? Not much really, just your accessories, the bridesmaids, your mum, the groom, the cars, the catering, the church, the hymns, the favours, the flowers...

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