Finding your wedding dress is one of the best parts of being a bride. After all, who doesn’t love sipping champagne while trying on an array of gorgeous gowns? It’s a shopaholic’s dream. But sometimes, wedding dress shopping can also be stressful and overwhelming, and not everyone has that Cinderella experience. The good news is that there are some steps you can take to make sure it’s as fun and magical as you imagine. Here are my insider’s tips to navigating wedding dress shopping like a pro!
Start early. Many newly engaged brides-to-be are surprised by just how long it takes to create a wedding gown. This can be anything from 4-12 months, depending on the design. This is because the gown is custom made for you and may include shipping (and customs) times if it comes from somewhere like Paris. You should also factor in time for alterations, and multiple fittings. So, while there are always options if time is short, your best bet is to start shopping at least 9 months ahead.
Do your research. Before trying on any gowns, it’s a good idea to do some research to see the kind of dresses and designers you are drawn to. Cut images out of bridal magazines, or save them on Instagram or Pinterest and have them available to show or send your bridal stylist. Think about the setting and season of your wedding, and try to narrow your ideas down to a few keywords.
Make your bridal appointments on a weekday. If you’re visiting a bridal salon, Saturdays are the busiest day of the week. It’s far better to book your appointments for a weekday, when you’ll get more time and personalized attention, and be less rushed yourself. Worried that your bridesmaids may not be available? That’s actually a benefit, since it’s always better to limit your retinue to just a small group of trusted people for that first appointment. This way, nobody will be offended.
Call ahead. It’s always a good idea to call ahead to the bridal salon before your appointment. And appointments are almost always required! When you make your appointment, inquire about events too. Even though they may carry a particular designer, they may not stock the style you’ve fallen in love with or that designer on that day. If a trunk show is going on, the salon may only be showing one designer for that week. So communicate ahead of time, they may be able to order in a sample, or have something similar ready for you to try on. And if you’re curvy, you should also make sure they carry plus size samples or inquire about how they plan to accommodate you.
Start your day with a pamper sesh. You want to be feeling at your most beautiful and confident when trying on wedding dresses, so treat yourself to a blowout and manicure beforehand. It’ll be much easier to imagine yourself as a bride if you look wedding-ready!
Keep an open mind. Even though it’s a good idea to go in with an idea of what you like, you should also be prepared to try on a bit of everything. Listen to your designer or bridal consultant if they suggest a particular silhouette will flatter your figure. You may also like to try a gown in another color, even if you ultimately choose to go with traditional white or ivory. You may surprise yourself with what clicks!
Don’t forget your accessories. A bridal ensemble is about much more than the dress! If you have heirloom jewelry or a veil that you’re planning to wear, bring them along. (If you don’t, don’t worry – salons will always have some beautiful options for you to try on.) Already gone out and splurged on a pair of sparkly heels? Bring them too! (And definitely bring them to your fittings, so the dress length can be properly measured.) It’s also a good idea to wear proper undergarments to your appointments.
Be open with your bridal consultant. If you’re shopping at a boutique or salon, be upfront from the start. Let them know if you have a budget limit, and be clear about your likes and dislikes. If you have any questions, ask them. And when you return for your fitting, don’t be afraid to air any concerns.
Trust your instincts. There can be a lot of pressure to say yes to the dress, but if you have any hesitations, it’s always better to wait. Go home and sleep on your decision. On the other hand, if everything in you is screaming ‘this is the ONE!’, then don’t be afraid to go for it, even if it’s the first dress you’ve tried on. Some brides are just that lucky!
Expect a few rounds of alterations. Alterations can be a stressful experience, especially if you’re expecting your gown to fit like a glove on the first try. It probably won’t! Whether you’re working with a couture designer or ordering from a salon, every gown needs a few fittings to be absolutely perfect.
Happy wedding dress shopping!
Image by John and Joseph