15 Things Every Bride Should Know Before Shopping for Her Wedding Gown
The dress of your dreams is finally just an appointment (or two, or three…) away.
There aren't many things on this earth as dreamy as walking into a bridal salon for the first time. Each store, with rows and rows of wonderful white fabrics and runway-worthy silhouettes, is overwhelmingly enchanting. Combine that magical feeling with one part excitement, two parts mama's opinion, and three parts champagne, and you can bet all normal reasoning goes right out the door.
So, before the bridal store casts its spell on you, it's important to do a little homework. That way, when you're star-struck by a budget-busting ball gown, you at least have a few notes jotted down to help bring you back to reality (or help you responsibly reason your way to a bigger budget).
Here are a few helpful things to keep in mind before you slip on your first dress.
1. The earlier you can shop, the better.
It's helpful to know the general tone of your wedding before hitting the boutiques, but it's shocking how far in advance you need to order your gown. We recommended shopping eight to ten months in advance. This will ensure your selection isn't limited based on your ordering timeframe, and, just in case you need multiple shopping trips, you'll have plenty of extra shopping time.
2. Keep your shopping team small.
We know that "Say Yes to the Dress" brides often have a couch full of commentators, but we don't recommend it. Invite a two or three people whose opinions you trust to avoid being overwhelmed or deterred from a dress you love by too many comments from the peanut gallery.
3. Brush up on dress terminology 101.
Taffeta, tulle, illusion – oh my. It's helpful to speak the same language as your consultant, and you may not have looked at designer dresses in a while (cotillion and prom were many moons ago!). As you're pulling pictures from Pinterest, be sure to check out the terminology behind the looks you love.
4. Do your research, but avoid over-pinning.
Definitely do a good bit of online looking before you shop, but be careful of the fairytale world Pinterest depicts. If you spend too much time scrolling through perfectly styled images of super expensive dresses, you may end up a little bit disappointed during your real life appointment with a budget (even if it a big one!).
5. Remember that every bride's experience is different.
Just because your sister picked her dream dress during her first-ever appointment doesn't mean the pressure is on for you to do the same. Don't be deterred if it takes you longer than you expected, but also don't walk away if you fall in love at first sight.
6. Don't walk in the door without a budget and general style in mind.
While it's critical to keep an open mind during your appointment, you've got to give your consultant some direction for a successful shopping experience. Your budget, taste, and over-all wedding vision are some of the first questions you will be asked, so come prepared.
7. Factor in extra costs.
Don't forget about the price tags on alterations and accessories when planning your budget. The perfect shoes, veil, and belt can be more expensive than you expect. Be sure to ask the salon about their alterations policies and pricing, too. You'll need to factor in those costs into your gown-shopping budget.
8. Take how far you're traveling into consideration.
Don't get us wrong. We love a weekend getaway with the girls to go shopping. But, don't wander too far without considering the complications for alterations. If you buy a dress that's a plane flight away, you'll either have to fly back there for fittings, or figure out a local seamstress willing to work on a designer dress he or she may not be familiar with. Many bridal salons will not work on a gown they did not sell you.
9. Come ready to play the part, but don't go overboard.
There's nothing like having all eyes on you to make you hyper aware of your appearance. Stepping out of your yoga pants with no make up on into a designer ball gown may not set the right tone for wow-worthy appointment. Don't get all dolled up, but looking presentable will help you feel good in the gowns you're trying on.
10. Try on a few things outside of your comfort zone.
Even if you've always envisioned a ball gown, don't be afraid of the A-line or fit and flair mama pulled for you. We promise it's not a waste of time. There may be another element – like the fabric or the neckline – that will speak to you. Or, you just might surprise yourself and fall in love with look you hadn't anticipated.
11. Shop for your own skin.
What styles and silhouettes do you like on your body as it is now? Even if you're planning to lose a few pounds between now and the Big Day, your body type won't completely change. Shop for what looks good on you now. It's easier to take a dress in than make a dress that's too small work at all.
12. Don't let bridal sizes scare you. It won't be your normal number.
Bridal sizes are tiny. Don't get down if the gown you're trying on is a much bigger size than you normally wear. It's not you. It's the dress. Really.
13. Come ready to commit, but don't force it.
When the right one comes along, you'll know it. It sounds cliché. We know. But, it's so true. If you're not feeling it, don't let mama's tears on the sideline talk you into the wrong gown. On the other hand, if it's the one, don't feel like you have to walk away and think about it. Go for it.
14. Be prepared to approve every little detail before you leave.
The process isn't over when you pick the dress. As you're getting measured, you'll get questions on every detail of your dress from any variation in fabric color to the heel height you plan to wear on your wedding day. You'll have to sign off on them all.
15. Take a picture of "the one," but don't put too much weight on that one snapshot.
If you're shopping on a normal schedule, it might be six or more months until you see your gown again. Though you're sure to obsess over any pictures you took of yourself in the dress in the meantime (it's impossible not to!), don't second-guess yourself. Keep in mind that the dress in that picture isn't your dress. It's likely clipped all over the place and may even have an element that you're changing all together. Replay the amazing feeling it gave you in the salon, and remember your gown will literally be made to fit your body.
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Once you've found the one, get ready to pop the champagne and wait. There's nothing quite like unveiling your dress at your first alterations appointment. You're sure to fall in love with your pick all over again.