Whether it’s the very first thing you do when you get engaged or you put it off until the last possible second, every bride needs a wedding dress. But how do you navigate choosing one? The pressure can feel very real, especially since all eyes will be on you and not to mention, all the pictures that will be taken! Read on as we walk you, step by step, through the process of choosing your dream wedding dress + our #1 resource for finding your dream wedding gown!
Before you step into a dress shop, the very first thing you need to do is do your research. If you haven’t already, make a dedicated Pinterest board just for dress ideas (don’t forget to set it to private!) and pin images that catch your eye or you are drawn to. Next, research all the different dress silhouettes. Here’s a start to get you going: A-line, Ball Gown, Sheath, Trumpet, Mermaid, and Tea Length. Think about your body type and whether you would like something tight to show off your curves or something more loose for a comfortable fit. Also, think about your height and what would be most flattering for you.
Next, you’ll want to research designers. Most dress shops will list the designers they carry on their website so start from there. Check out the designer’s collections and decide if you like their style. Each designer has their own style so if you’re not feeling a designer, move on to the next one. Jot down style numbers for dresses you like best.
Know Your Budget
Perhaps the most important step is to know how much to spend prior to trying on dresses. Don’t forget to account for accessories like veil, headpiece, jewelry, alterations, shoes, etc. in your total wedding look budget. There’s nothing worse than falling in love with a dress only to find out that it’s out of your budget.
Once you’ve done your research and have taken a good look at your budget, it’s time for the fun part: making appointments! Plan to shop at least a year in advance of your wedding date to allow time for shopping around, dress delivery dates, and alterations. Even if you don’t have a full year before, try to shop as much in advance as possible.
When choosing shops to make appointments, be aware of designers they carry and check out their Google and Yelp reviews as well. Most shops will have a suggested budget listed on their website, but if not, call in advance to be sure.
When scheduling your appointment, try to avoid weekends as much as possible. These are the busiest times for shops and you will be pressed for time since most have back to back appointments. It is best to shop on a weekday where you will get more personalized attention and consultants won’t be on a strict schedule.
Communicate What You Want, Yet Be Open to Suggestions
The first thing you’ll do at your appointment is meet with your consultant. Your consultant is like your best friend for these next 90 minutes. Be totally honest with them and don’t be afraid to communicate what you want or be open if you’re unsure about what you want. Bring your Pinterest dress board or show pictures of dresses that inspire you. Share with them a little about your venue and the theme of your wedding as well as a few adjectives about how you want to look in your wedding dress. This will help them get to know you and your vision early on the appointment so they can do their job better. Your consultant will often act as a sounding board and unbiased friend during your appointment. Trust them. They can tell when you don’t love something or when your face lights up when you see yourself in a certain dress. Trust their experience. They know their shop’s dress selection and have seen dresses on tons of different body types. Their experience will help lead you to your dream wedding dress.
Choose Who to Bring Shopping With You
We’ve all seen those Say Yes to the Dress episodes where the bride’s entourage takes over the appointment and leaves the bride in tears. We don’t want that to be you! Choose oh so wisely about who you want with you as you go to appointments. Most dress shops cap guests at 6 people for space so if you need more than that, make sure to call before making an appointment.
The biggest thing when choosing your guests is to think about if they have your best interest at heart. Will they be cheering you on if you find a dress you love or will they unashamedly voice their opinion about not liking it? Choose family and friends that love you, are supportive, and can be objective if asked.
Leave the Day Open
Many brides will try to cram 3 or 4 appointments back to back in a day to maximize time, but leaving the day open with lots of time in between appointments can be much more relaxing. You need to account for travel time, parking, and breaks for food (believe me, you’re going to need it!). Sometimes shops run behind in their schedules as well. Having debrief time after an appointment over a cup of coffee is also super beneficial because you can gather your thoughts and talk about the experience with your friends and family before moving on to your next appointment.
Try Different Silhouettes First
When you get to your first dress appointment, keep your options open. Most shops let you peruse through the dresses and pick a few you like. Try to choose a dress of every shape first. This way, you can try on all the silhouettes and you will naturally gravitate toward one or two which will help you narrow it down. Once you’ve found the shape you like best, have your consultant pick different styles within that shape.
Keep Your Wedding Location, Theme, and Travel Plans in Mind
When trying on dresses, keep in mind your venue and theme as well as travel plans. If you are getting married on the beach, maybe a trumpet satin dress is not the best choice. Or if your venue is a ballroom, a sheath french netting dress might not be fancy enough. If you are going to be traveling by plane to your venue, try to pick a dress that will pack easier and make sure to bring a travel steamer with you. All these little details will help the wedding day go off without a hitch!
Stay True to What You Love
Your wedding dress is all about you. You will be the one wearing it and you will be in it in all of your wedding photos for years to come so it has to be one that you love. If you are not feeling a dress right away, take it off and move on to the next one. You will find your dress and you will know when you put it on! Likewise, don’t let your friend’s or family’s opinions sway you if you really love a dress. It’s okay to let them voice their opinions, but if you are loving a dress and they are not on board, it might be best to ask them to politely put their personal feelings aside. You definitely don’t want to buy a dress because you felt pressured.
Set Aside Favorite Dresses
While in your appointment, ask your consultant to set aside your favorite dresses for the end. Trying on your 3-4 favorite dresses at the end of the appointment again will help you narrow it down even further. It also gives you a refresh. You end up trying on a lot of dresses in an appointment and sometimes they all end up blurring together. Going through your favorite dresses at the end helps to solidify your vision and helps you remember why you loved the dresses at the beginning of the appointment.
Once you’ve narrowed down your favorites, have your guests take pictures (make sure shop allows) of you in each of the dresses. There’s something so different about seeing yourself in the mirror in a dress versus in a picture. You are able to be more objective and see how it looks on you from other people’s perspectives. Get pictures from every angle and make sure you love the dress from each one.
Tell-Tale Signs You’ve Found the One
When it comes down to it, you want to feel beautiful in your wedding dress. If you aren’t sure if you’ve found the one, here are some tell-tale signs that you’ve found it: you keep touching it, you find yourself stealing glances in the mirror, you are continually smiling, you want to try veils with it, and most of all, you don’t want to take it off. These are all signs that you are 100% sure that this dress is yours. So go ahead, pop the champagne, snap the picture, you’ve found your wedding dress!
I liked that you said that one thing to keep in mind when you are wedding dress shopping is your budget. I would imagine that sticking to a budget would be beneficial to not spending more money than you want to. I would be sure to set a budget and stick to it so that I don’t spend too much.
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I’m grateful that you mentioned that one should start early to find a wedding dress shop so my sister can find the perfect wedding dress for her wedding. I will let my wife know so she can take my sister along because she will feel comfortable shopping with her. Thanks for all the useful tips about how to find a wedding gown and where to start.