So you’re engaged, now what? The search for the perfect wedding dress can seem intimidating when having to consider a wide variety of questions such as: “what do I like? When should I start? Who do I bring? How do I prepare?” Whether you've had a Pinterest board since you were ten or you’ve only seen your mother’s wedding dress boxed up under the bed, here are a series of tips to help you find the dress of your dreams.
Wedding Dress Shopping Tips: How to Prepare
Shopping for wedding dresses is an event you've probably been thinking about for a while! But before you jump right in, here's some advice to make sure it goes as smooth as possible.
When to Start Wedding Dress Shopping
Wedding dress shopping can be one of the most anticipated moments of the bridal experience, so it's natural to want to get the jump on things once engaged. When is the right time to start wedding dress shopping? Typically, you will want to begin shopping at least 10-12 months before your wedding. Made-to-order dresses can take up to 8 months to be produced and alterations up to 2!
If your wedding date is well over the year (or maybe even two year) mark, and you want to see what styles are going to work for you, don’t hesitate to start your search. It is important to keep in mind that most bridal stores have a quick turnover rate of dresses as designers come out with new collections and older ones are sold off-the-rack or discontinued. If you are shopping ahead of time, fall in love with a gown, and are wondering when to buy your wedding dress, don’t wait on it!
There are many options for elopements and short engagements as well. Bridal consignment stores sell gowns at a reduced price and are not only great for a bride on a budget but one on a time constraint as well. Other bridal boutiques can have off-the-rack dresses and samples you can purchase and go home with that day. Some designers have dresses in the beginning stages of production that can arrive within a much shorter period of time than the average made-to-order dress. Doing some research or calling local bridal stores can let you know what they can offer you in time for your big day.
Find Wedding Dress Inspiration (Before Your Appointment!)
Before shopping on your own, it can be helpful to find wedding dress inspiration online. See what bridal shops are in your area and check out what dresses are popular on their site. Looking at bridal Pinterest boards or Instagram can also give you an idea of what you are drawn to. Make note of common fabrics, silhouettes, or descriptive words to bring with you to your bridal appointments.
Set a Wedding Dress Budget
One of the most important questions you have to ask yourself before going shopping is: “What is my wedding dress budget?” Although there is no right or wrong answer, it is important to understand what you are going to get for your dollar. First, you need to determine who is paying for your gown. If it's someone other than yourself you need to communicate with them to determine what their wedding dress budget is and if you are comfortable staying within the limits or willing to pay the difference if the dress exceeds it. If you are paying for your own gown, it is still important for you to know what your budget range is.
Having no previous experience in this field is common, and you might find yourself wondering what the average wedding dress cost even is. This depends on where you go and what you are looking for. As expected, the more detail you are looking for, the more it will cost. Beading and intricate lacework, along with any added fabric such as sleeves, layered skirts, or long trains will increase the price of your gown.
How Many Bridal Appointments Should I Make?
Once you’re ready to go and try on dresses, don’t forget to pace yourself. You may want to see all your options, but trying on dresses can be overwhelming. For a more seamless experience book yourself in at 1-3 bridal shops over the span of a weekend or longer. Make sure to take pictures of styles that you like so you can look back and reflect or use them for direction in the next appointment. And if you feel like you still need to see more, book more appointments as you go. With dress shopping, sometimes less is more! Don’t push yourself to try on any and every dress you see. If you find “the one,” it is okay to cancel appointments you’ve previously made!
Who to Bring Wedding Dress Shopping
When bringing guests with you to shop for your wedding dress, only bring those whose opinion you truly value and feel you need to make this decision. A good range can be anywhere from 2-5 people, but the most important thing to remember is that it is your big day and you can bring whoever is right for you whether that means going alone or dragging along the whole extended family. Some bridal shops have a limit, so call ahead of time and ask.
Kennedy Blue Bridesmaid Dresses | Photographer: Britney Tarno
Questions to Ask Before Your Wedding Dress Appointment
There are many different ways and places to get your wedding dress, so it is always a good idea to do some research before you begin shopping. This could mean going on bridal sites or calling the shops to get some basic information such as price ranges, sizing, timing, and designers.
What Sizes are Your Wedding Dress Samples?
If you are hoping to get a gown off-the-rack as a consignment or a sample, asking the size range that retailer carries is crucial. Most made-to-order retailers tend to carry a limited size range of wedding dress samples, tending to have only a couple sizes at most of each dress style. The most common sample sizes are 8-14, but many bridal shops carry a wider range and some cater specifically to curvier women. Call ahead to see what they can offer you!
What is The Price Range of Your Dresses?
Each bridal retailer will have a different price range based on the wedding dress designers they carry and whether they are made-to-order or off-the-rack. Most retailers will carry a wide range of prices, so if your budget falls within you can ask more pointed questions to determine whether what you are looking for is possible at that shop. These pointed questions can be about designers, fabrics, or silhouettes you are interested in.
What to Wear Wedding Dress Shopping
If you've never been wedding dress shopping, it can be difficult to know the etiquette for what to wear. Luckily, we're here to help! Follow our tips below to feel comfortable and confident as you find your dream wedding dress.
What Undergarments Should I wear Wedding Dress Shopping?
Knowing what to wear under a wedding dress can be the greatest challenge of all. So here are some tips on what is expected of you during your bridal appointment. Trying on wedding gowns is not a one person job. Whether it is a bridal consultant or a guest in your entourage, there will be someone in the fitting room helping you in and out of dresses. Dress down to your comfort level but keep it thin. This could mean leggings and a tank-top or just your underwear (yes, braless is not only acceptable but preferred!). Common undergarments for wedding dresses would be spanx or other shapewear, a strapless bra, or sticky cups. If possible, keep everything a muted or neutral tone.
What Shoes to Wear to Your Bridal Appointment
If you know what kind of shoe you are hoping to wear, even if they are not the exact pair, bring them along to your appointment. The height could not only make an impact on how you feel about the way you look in the dress but also give you an idea for how much of a hem you may need. Most dresses come in a standardized length that may not be perfect for everyone so it’s helpful to see what you’ll need to alter. While getting in and out of the gowns, it is easiest to remain barefoot and then slip the bridal shoes on after the dress is in place. Some shops will have shoes for brides to try on, but they may not be the size or style you are going for.
Photographer: Nicki Lynn
Should I Bring Accessories to my Wedding Dress Appointment?
If you have any accessories you know you’ll be wearing on the big day, don’t hesitate to bring them along! Whether it is something borrowed or something blue, having them on can help give you the bridal moment you’ve been waiting for. Your mom’s veil or your grandma’s pearls can help personalize your dress experience and aid you in finding “the one!”
More Tips for Your Wedding Dress Appointment
While you're here, we'll let you in on some more wedding dress shopping advice!
Wedding Dress Sizing is Different than Street Sizes
Wedding dress sizing tends to run smaller than street sizing so don’t be alarmed when you discover your size is bigger than you had anticipated. Every designer has their own size chart. As long the dress fits, the numbers don’t matter. Your bridal consultant will take your measurements and you can decide together what size will work best for you. Do you have a weight loss goal? Although we commend you for wanting to look your best, we still recommend buying for the size you are now and taking in if necessary.
Take Pictures of the Wedding Dresses You Try On
Don’t forget to take lots of pictures! If you like a dress, take a picture of the front, back, and profile so when you look back you can see every angle. Don’t like a dress? Delete the picture! There is no need to reminisce on the “no’s.” Most importantly, take an “I said yes” photo after purchasing the dress!
Check for Discounts/Bundles at Your Bridal Shop
There are many ways to save a couple dollars while dress shopping. Don’t be afraid to ask if there are any student/military/teacher discounts. Most shops will also have a discount if you order both bridal and bridesmaids/menswear through them. Wedding dress sample sales are also a great way to get a dress quickly and at a reduced price. Most designers release new collections in the spring and the fall so keep an eye out for shops hosting trunk shows; this is not only a great opportunity to check out new designs but they often have special discounts while the shows are happening.
There is no shortage of details to consider when shopping for your perfect gown, but the most essential thing to remember is to enjoy the experience and take some much needed deep breaths. Allow yourself to enjoy the experience. The dress is a symbol of the celebration between you and your significant other, and the goal of your loved ones and your bridal stylist is to make you feel as beautiful as you are.
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