Things you absolutely have to know before you start shopping!
#1 – Determine the look and feel of your wedding. We don’t recommend shopping for dresses before you have a venue and at least a hint of an idea of what you want your wedding to be like….if you buy a dress that’s rustic and traditional, and then everything else about your wedding ends up being chic and modern, you may not like how the photos turn out or even end up disliking the dress itself (horror). Not everything about your wedding has to match, per say, but you do want your wedding dress to fit the theme!
#2 – Along those same lines, keep in mind where and when your wedding will be held. You don’t want a full ballgown with heavy lace sleeves if you’re getting married in the South in summer, and you don’t want a thin, strapless gown if you have an outdoor wedding in February.
#3 – Set a realistic dress budget. This is hard. But hear us - you do not want to even try on dresses that are outside of your budget, because nothing good can come of it. If you fall in love with it, you’ll either end up in debt or disappointed, neither of which are good ways to celebrate the best day ever! Also, be mindful of what the budget will actually need to include (shoes, alterations, embellishments, accessories, veil, etc.). You don’t want to spend $1500 on a dress if you only have $1500 for the dress, because you’ll end up overspending on the non-obvious costs.
#4 – Find photos of what you want online or in magazines and bring them with you when you go search for dresses. Check the descriptions underneath to learn certain terms (sweetheart neckline, tulle, organza, etc.) so you know what to look for and what to ask for. Do your research beforehand; it’s helpful for you to have a visual idea in mind, and it can really help your consultant!
#5 – Be flexible! So many times what we hear from brides is that the dress they ended up walking down the aisle in was completely different from what they initially imagined. You may be obsessed with one style in pictures, but then try it on and realize that it doesn’t look the same way on you. Be open to trying on styles you never thought you’d like - something may surprise you!
#6 – Shop early, but not too early - most experts say the best time to shop is ten months prior to your wedding date, as it takes six to eight for the dress to be made and then altered, etc. If you shop sooner, your dress may be out of style by the time the actual wedding rolls around or you might change your mind, but if you shop later, you run the risk of having something go wrong with the dress and not being able to fix it.
#7 – Make an appointment. Most bridal stores don’t allow you to just walk in and start trying on dresses like you would in a normal clothing store, so make sure you call ahead and arrange a date and time!
#8 – Only bring the most important people (excluding the husband-to-be, of course). Dress shopping is SUCH a fun occasion, and you’re going to want to bring everyone you love, and of course your six bridesmaids and mother-in-law are going to want to come, but the saying “too many cooks in the kitchen ruins the sauce”really rings true here. Too many opinions are going to make you stressed and frustrated. Limit it to three or four people whose style opinion you trust.
#9 – Don’t rush. If you’ve only allocated a couple of hours for a morning appointment, you’ll only get to try on a few dresses; it takes more time than you might think to get the dress on and off, consider how it would look with belts and veils, look in the mirror for a while to see if you like it, etc. We suggest allocating a whole day to visit one or two stores!
#10 – Be physically prepared. Eat something, please - the worst thing would be being hangry when trying on dresses. Wear the right undergarments (strapless bras and nude underwear/spanx). Style your hair. Put on some makeup if you normally do for special occasions (but not too much, or it’ll get on the dresses you try on). Because this IS an important occasion, you need to be able to at least envision yourself on your wedding day in the dresses you’re trying on - you won’t be able to do that if you’re in your purple bra and your hair is in a greasy messy bun.
#11 – Test the dress. Walk around to make sure you can move comfortably (even though sizing may not be exact), and you can lift your arms without fear of tearing anything. Mirrors and lighting can be deceiving, so have whoever is with you take a couple photos so you can see what pictures might look like.
#12 – Order your size based on your current body type. If you want to lose weight before the wedding, that’s fine, but alterations will take care of it; ordering a size hoping you’ll fit into it before the wedding is a dangerous choice that could negatively affect your budget and your health!
#13 – Don’t buy everything all at once, and don’t buy anything until you’re ready. If you’re not 100% sure about the dress, don’t get it. Sleep on it, try on some other styles, and if it’s meant to be the One you’ll go back for it! Don’t feel pressured by anyone - the consultant, your mother, or your bridesmaids - to purchase it if you aren’t certain. On the flip side, you may be tempted to buy the dressandthe tiara and belt and veil the consultant picked out for you right there in the store. We say wait on that. They’re showing it to you to help you feel more like a bride, but they didn’t spend much time picking it out, and there are so many options you likely haven’t considered.
#14 – Remember the goal. It’s easy to get frustrated or discouraged by the process, but ultimately, this dress only needs to be what you want to be wearing when you kiss him for the first time as husband and wife and then party with all your friends and family. It’s THE dress, but you’ve worn great dresses to proms, socials, and other events in your history - you’ll find it, and you’ll rock it!
Do you have any more tips you've heard that you think other bride-to-be's would find helpful? Do any of these surprise you? What are your questions? Tell us in the comments!!
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