Wedding dress shopping advice from a bride who’s been there
Wedding dress shopping can be one of the most exciting parts of wedding planning for the bride… or one of the most frustrating. For all future and current brides out there who have not yet begun wedding dress shopping or who hasn’t yet found the perfect dress, you are in luck! We are checking in with our bride, Katie, on our Wedding Journey series about her experience with wedding dress shopping as well as wedding dress shopping advice she can give.
“As a bride, the wedding dress is probably one of the most exciting and important wedding items to find and buy. The bride in the white dress is an iconic symbol throughout time with many legends, myths, traditions, and expectations associated with it. While we have broadened the expectation of the traditional white dress (I’m looking at you awesome brides who are rocking the pink, dip dyed, rainbow, floral print, and various other dresses that break away from the traditional white gown!) every bride still wants to ensure she has a gorgeous gown that makes her feel stunning and the expectant soon-to-be spouse drop their jaw.
However, you might find it can also be one of the more frustrating wedding items to find and purchase while wedding planning. I know that for me, I had some ups and downs with my wedding dress shopping experience. Which is why I’m here to give you my advice and tell you what I learned so hopefully you can have a better, more informed experience.
Wedding Dress Shopping Tips
- Have a budget! Like everything else Bryan and I have mentioned, have a budget in place for your whole wedding so you know how much of your budget you can allot to your entire wedding ensemble. It’s not just the dress – it’s the veil, the shoes, hair accessories, jewelry and of course alterations. Alterations usually do not come included in the price of the dress and can run anywhere from $100+ on top of the price of your dress. Keep this price point in mind when doing your initial browsing and especially know the top price number you feel comfortable spending before heading to the dress shop. Believe me, you do not want to set your mind on a dress you cannot afford.
I made the mistake of doing this. Bryan and I were up late researching dresses on Pinterest (damn you Pinterest, yet I love you!) and I remember we both gasped when we saw THE DRESS – it was perfect and it fit my vision of what I wanted my dress to look like. After researching more into the dress, I found out it was a dress from a British designer. Well, I was lucky enough to be making a family trip to London in a couple months so I decided to make an appointment at the designer’s flagship store in London. I tried the dress on and it was stunning! But come to find out, was a hefty price and would need extensive alterations plus would need to be shipped over the Atlantic ocean. What was I thinking? Did I expect anything less? Needless to say I had to say farewell to my dream dress which leads me to…
- Have an idea of what you want but be REALISTIC (a.k.a. flexible). I am not telling you to not research online for dresses. In fact, I loved The Knot’s wedding dresses feature, which allows you to choose shapes, fabrics, etc. and you can browse through different designer dresses that may be available at local dress stores! While it can’t guarantee that exact dress will be available at those stores, it’s a much better starting point to know what may be available in your area AND a general idea of the price the dress sells for. This helped me find dress stores that carried my eventual wedding dress and helped lead me to my wedding dress. This also helps you to research back up options when the various dresses you do like end up not being available in the dress shops in your city.
What I also mean by “having an idea of what you”, I mean researching your body type and dress shapes that fit with that shape. Know the style and materials you want your dress to include. I did this by having a list of 3 must-have design items for dresses I would consider. I wanted a dress that felt old-fashioned, like Edwardian evening dresses, but that was also updated and would make my figure look delicate, feminine yet dynamite! So, my list included:
- Had to be all or mostly lace with lace sleeves
- Had to be a sheath shape
- Had to have a bateau neckline
Originally, I also wanted to have that list include a double hem like the “Dream Dress” from England, but it quickly became a fact that that was not a very popular style and unless I had a custom dress made it was not an option. (I research and looked into that too – If you are thinking of going custom, keep in mind you will be paying a high yet fair price for labor. The custom dress gown price I was quoted, for a dress that was very similar to the designer dress I tried on in London, was almost $1000 more than the price of the gown in London! You’ve been warned…)
This is when being realistic and flexible becomes invaluable! This could also mean trusting in your dress consultant for your dress appointment and trying on dresses that might not have originally came up on your radar but have some of your list’s “musts”. Dress consultants know body types and their inventory, you might be pleasantly surprised.
Extra tidbit of advice: DON’T DIET FOR THE DRESS!!
I don’t believe in dieting and shrinking down for your wedding dress and your wedding in general. Your fiancé obviously loves you just the way you are or they wouldn’t have proposed. Dieting for the big day just screams extra pressure and stress in an already stressful time period. I fully believe in generally living a healthy lifestyle and taking care of yourself but also dresses for your body. You have to plan way in advance when it comes to dress shopping (more on that in a sec) and you don’t know what size you will eventually be on the big day. Rather than order the wrong size dress and scrambling or having an ill-fitting dress, find a dress that accentuates your body’s best features (which every body has!!) and that you feel just lovely in. You will be so much happier in the larger wedding planning picture as well as more comfortable and happy on your big day. Which brings me to the next piece of advice:
- PLAN AHEAD! Before I worked for a wedding planning company, I worked for a small wedding dress shop owner and her #1 frustration with brides was not giving themselves enough time for dress shopping. Typically, you do not buy a dress off the rack! The dresses at a dress store are sample dresses – those are the dresses you try on to determine if they are the one and then you order a dress based off your own measurements which is then custom made for you in mind, shipped and then fitted through alterations. The order, construction and shipping timeline of a dress is anywhere from 3 months to 5 months – even expediting it can take 2 months! So start your dress shopping as soon as possible and give you and your dress shop enough time to find the right dress, order it, have it constructed and shipped and still more time to have it fitted and altered a couple times so it fits like a dream on the big day.To give you some idea, it took me 3 months of dress shopping (granted, that also included shopping on two continents and countries lol) until I found the right one. But I still gave myself 5 months to have it ordered, constructed, delivered, and altered before I would need it for my bridals 3-4 weeks before my actual wedding date. So ladies, give yourself plenty of time just in case the unexpected comes up. Your dress consultant will appreciate it too.
- Finally, the last piece of advice – you will know you have found your dress when you SMILE… uncontrollably. I was starting to be done with dress shopping. I kept having one disappointment or set back after another. I felt like I was never going to find “The One”. But once I finally found a dress shop that carried a sample of the dress I was currently looking for and tried it one for myself – I couldn’t stop beaming! I was giggling like a school girl and there was a flush to my face. You just know and you are so happy and can’t wait to wear it on the big day to see how your sweetheart will react to seeing you look so amazing!
So relax, do your homework before you start, be realistic and flexible and trust what you feel when you put on that dress that makes you beam. You’ve got this bride and you’re going to look fabulous! While I would love to share what the dress I eventually chose looks like, I am waiting to unveil the dress to the groom until I walk down the aisle, so you will just have to wait with him…
Until next time, all the best!”