Finding your bridal gown is one of the most important decisions you will make during your wedding planning process. It can be exciting but also overwhelming. I have compiled a list of information and suggestions to help you feel more prepared before embarking on your shopping journey.
Timing is important.
Don’t shop too early or too late. The ideal time for dress shopping is 9-12 months before your wedding. This may seem early, but most dress designers take at least 3-4 months to make the dresses and then you should allow at least 2 months for alterations. Not to mention, there is a peace of mind to getting the dress a little early just to make sure everything is perfect and to start accessorizing. If you happen to have a longer engagement and want to buy your dress early, there is nothing wrong with that. But if you decide to start looking, be prepared to buy if you find something you love, because it may not be there for very long. If you happen to have a shorter engagement, begin shopping as soon as you can. Sometimes you can buy off the rack or rush your order.
Do some research.
Not only is it a good idea to research ideas and styles you may like, but also to get more information about local bridal shops before you make your appointment. If you found a dress online that you love, figure out which store carries that designer and call to see if the dress is there. Ask for the price range of their dresses and make sure it aligns with your budget. This can help eliminate wasting your time at a store that may not have the style or price point you are looking for.
Determine your dress budget.
Figure out your budget before you go shopping. If someone else is paying for your dress, talk to them about it before you go to any appointments. Again, research to make sure you have a realistic budget. It’s also a good idea to have a separate budget for the dress, your alterations, and your accessories. Many shops do not do alterations in house, so it’s not fair to combine the dress and alterations budget, because they will not be able to tell you exactly how much your alterations will be.
Be prepared to say “yes” to the dress!
Many stores offer first appointment incentives, such as discounts or in store credits. This can help you save money, so don’t feel bad about buying on your first appointment. Many brides find something they love right away and are excited to have one more big decision checked off their long list. That being said, if someone else will be paying for your dress or needs to be there when you say “yes”, make sure that person is with you! You may stumble upon a sample dress and if you don’t buy it that day it could be gone. Or you may go during a trunk show and will miss out on the style and sale if you don’t buy that day. Shopping with the intent to buy allows you to be prepared when you find THE Dress!
Bring a small entourage.
It can be very overwhelming to bring a large group with you to your bridal appointment. Many eyes staring at you, many opinions about the dresses you try on, many people trying to get you to try on dresses you don’t even like. My advice is to bring only 1-2 people that you are closest with and you really trust to help you make this decision. Bring people who will be supportive and positive and will make your experience fun. Leave the negative Nancy’s at home.
Don’t go to too many stores.
It can be overwhelming to go to more than a couple stores. Once you try on that many dresses, it can be very hard to make a decision, because they will all start to feel similar and you may find many that you like. My suggestion is to start with one store and see what you find. If you don’t find anything you love right away, then head to a different store. I know some brides likes to go to a bunch of stores all in one day and that’s fine if that’s what you want to do, but just think about how exhausted and overwhelmed you will be after 5+ hours of dress shopping in one day! I don’t know about you, but even when I go to the mall I'm burnt out after just a couple of hours. And sick of changing clothes!
Wear appropriate undergarments.
At most shops, your bridal consultant will be in the dressing room with you. She is there to help you get into the dresses (let’s face it, sometimes they aren’t easy to get on by yourself), to zip you up, and clip you in if the dresses don’t fit right. This helps the process go more smoothly and she can help keep the dressing room tidy. Make sure you wear the appropriate undergarments and if you are shy, don’t stress too much. These ladies are used to helping brides change and it’s not a big deal to them to see you in your underwear.
Trust your consultant.
The bridal consultant that you are assigned has this job for a reason. She knows the dresses in the store, she knows what looks good together, she knows which styles will work for your wedding venue and theme, and she knows what will look good on you. Be open-minded to her suggestions. She is the expert and she is there to guide you through this decision. She wouldn’t be there if she wasn’t willing and able to help you find your dream dress!
Don’t stress about losing weight!
I know brides usually want to lose weight and look better for their wedding day and that is fine! But try not to focus on the weight you want to lose while dress shopping. Find a dress you are comfortable in NOW, and if you lose more weight, great! You will be able to get the dress taken in during alterations. But it’s important to love the way you look in it now and to feel confident you are saying yes to the right dress. This takes away some of the pressure about losing weight. Because sometimes the more stressed you are, the harder it can be.
This is YOUR dress.
This is your wedding and your dress. Do not let other people make this decision for you or talk you out of buying your dream dress. Yes, listen to the people you trust and let them give you advice, but ultimately it is up to you and you should do what makes you happy. A happy bride is a beautiful bride!
Don’t try on dresses out of your budget.
If you are not willing to change your budget if you fall in love with a more expensive dress, then I highly recommend not to even try it on! It can be very disappointing and depressing to fall in love with a dress and then not be able to buy it due to the price. If you have a strict budget, make sure your consultant is aware, so she can make sure to suggest dresses within that range.
Plan ahead and schedule an appointment.
Most bridal shops do require an appointment to try on wedding gowns. You might be able to schedule something last minute, but often the dressing rooms can be booked weeks in advance, especially on the weekends, so make sure to call ahead or visit their websites to book online and reserve your spot.
The sample sizes won't fit perfectly.
Most bridal shops only carry one or maybe two sizes in each style. This is especially true of smaller boutiques. Often sample sizes are ordered as an average size. This means the dresses aren’t going to fit you exactly (unless you happen to be perfect sample size!), so your consultant will clip you in the dresses to give you the best idea of how they will fit. So don’t expect to be able to try on your exact size. This isn’t like buying a shirt at the mall, so have patience. Additionally, if you will be needing to try on plus size gowns, I recommend calling the stores ahead of time to see what their selection is like.
Bridal sizing runs smalls!
Do not be discouraged when you find out the size you need to order. Again, trust your consultant when they measure you and tell you what size to order. Each dress line has a different size chart and these size charts are very different from mall sizing. And keep in mind, you will need alterations of some sort. The dresses are not made for your exact measurements, so if it fits in the waist, it may be too big in the bust. Or if it fits in the hips, it may be too big in the waist. This is why brides are told to order their dresses early, so they have time for alterations to get the perfect fit.
I know I just gave you A TON of information, but trust me, these things are much easier when you are prepared. Enjoy this time and good luck finding your perfect dress!