By Rebecca Padgett
It’s the dress of all dresses. It’s possibly your favorite outfit — ever. It might be the most money you ever spend on a clothing item. It could be the dress you’ve been dreaming of wearing since childhood. It’s a huge deal.
It’s your wedding dress.
While finding your dress is extremely exciting, it can also feel like a lot of pressure. At least, that’s how I felt at first. I craved the perfect experience, the perfect dress. I worried about the price. I worried about the opinions of others. I worried that I wouldn’t find the “one.” Let me reassure you, reader, all of these fears were erased when I recently went dress shopping because I kept some key aspects at the forefront of my mind.
Reader, I found THE dress!
With that behind me, I compiled a few tips — some my own and some from others — to assist you in your own wedding dress shopping.
Find What You Like
If you haven’t been doing it for years already, now is the time to pin all the dresses to your Pinterest board. Where Pinterest is a great resource, I also recommend scrolling through Instagram accounts and visiting wedding magazine websites because they are a wealth of knowledge on dress designers. Whether it’s via Pinterest board or screenshots on your phone, gather a considerable collection of dresses you like. Determine if there are any common themes. Maybe you love a sweetheart neckline. Do you tend towards sparkles, lace or satin? Do you like fitted or full skirts? You will likely find some tendencies.
Maybe you have a certain store in mind. That’s great, but you may want to add some other shop stops just to be sure. It’s also possible that you have no idea where to begin. Consider the city in which you want to shop. Do you want to be close to home? Do you want to shop where your family is? Do you want to meet in the middle? From there, take a look at the brands and prices offered in that area to see if they are a good fit for you.
Set A Budget
As you’ve been looking at dresses and designers, you’ve probably noticed some price tags. Look at your wedding budget and also evaluate how important the dress is to you in regards to other aspects of your wedding. Set a budget that you are and whoever else might be contributing is comfortable with.
Determine A Theme
You don’t need to have your wedding fully planned out, but it might be helpful to know some key aspects. Consider the season; this might help you decide on a style of dress or how you will style the dress. Think of some adjectives that describe your wedding style. For example mine were: boho and whimsical with an elegant twist. This was helpful to both my stylists and myself in envisioning my wedding and the dress I would wear to it.
With your arsenal of dress possibilities and your homework done, you’re now ready to set appointments. Most bridal shops require you to set appointments, very few welcome walk-ins. In your timeline, you should consider that dresses can take anywhere from four-to-eight months to deliver to your boutique. Ideally, you could begin dress shopping anywhere from a year to eight months out. If you’re planning on an all-day shopping spree, I would suggest appointments for three-to-four shops if possible. This is a good amount without being overwhelmed. Remember, it doesn’t need to happen all in one day if you don’t want it to. You may not find the one at the first store you go to, and that’s OK. The important thing is you’re making appointments.
Prep For The Appointment
You should wear a strapless bra and underwear that you’re comfortable in to best envision the dress. Many brides bring along the shoes they plan to wear or a similar pair. If you want to wear heels, bring them. If you’re a flats kind of gal, bring those as well. I’m not saying go out and have your makeup professionally done, but I did wear a bit more makeup than normal so that my normally almost-bare face wasn’t so shocking against the dress. Also, it sounds like a no brainer, but don’t forget deodorant, maybe even spritz some perfume. The store associates will be pinning the dresses, causing them to be closer to you than normal.
Pick the Right People
Those closest to you are the ones that should be at your try-ons. For example, I chose my mom, my grandma, my sister/maid of honor and my childhood best friend/maid of honor. These are the women I have known longest and that know me the best. I knew they would be supportive, would provide needed feedback and would ultimately let me make my own decision. Some stores have limits on how many people can come, so be sure to check in advance.
As soon as you enter the store, do not be afraid to ask questions. The store associates should have your full attention at all times. It is your day, and you are making a very important decision. No question is too small, and certainly no question too dumb.
Be Open Minded
You may have the dresses you like, but be open to trying other styles. You may be surprised to find that you’ve fallen in love with yourself in a ballgown. Or you may find out that strapless isn’t for you.
This one was hard for me because I am such a visual person. It was hard to see past the pins, the excess fabric and my hair that had lost its curl. I had to envision myself on my wedding day. Remember how I said to ask? Well I asked. I asked to dance in my dress, to see how it moved. I asked to go out into a different room with different lighting, just to see how it looked. I asked to put on a veil. Just simply putting on a veil made it oh so real and made all of the difference.
Don’t Feel Pressured
Don’t be pressured into a decision by your family, friends, a sales associate, anyone. Don’t feel like you have to make a decision that day. Don’t feel like you have to go over your budget to find the best dress. Don’t feel like you have to like a certain style just because it’s “in.” You should feel at ease and joyful on this day.
Make Sure Accurate Measurements Are Taken
If you find your dress, make sure all of your measurements are taken and recorded by a professional. This will likely be an employee at the store. Even with your measurements taken, you might still need alterations. It is always best to order a bigger size and have it altered rather than a smaller size. If the shop doesn’t have their own tailor, ask for recommendations.
When You Know, You KNOW
It’s so cliché. It seems ridiculous, and I definitely doubted this reasoning. That is, until it happened. The associate hadn’t even fully pinned the dress back, and I still knew that I loved it. I couldn’t stop smiling, and that’s when everyone in the room knew it as well.