When I worked at a luxury wedding dress boutique, I saw it all: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
It was mostly good - happy tears, bonding with your favorite ladies, and experiencing really meaningful moments. Naturally, however, there were also struggles. It wasn’t uncommon to witness family fights and complete meltdowns, as there can be a lot of pressure to manage. You’re not just shopping for a dress, you’re deciding on the time-honored traditional garment you’ll wear while declaring your devotion to the love of your life. Pretty awesome!
Over time, I gathered a few tips to help eliminate the stress and anxiety of wedding dress shopping. Check out these suggestions before you hit the bridal stores with your squad.
Start wedding dress shopping early
Some dresses can take about 6 months to make, on top of alterations which could take another couple weeks. If you want to avoid rush fees and the stress of missing out on a dress because it won’t be available in time, start your bridal dress shopping as soon as you have an idea of what you’re looking for. If you begin early enough, you may even have a chance to attend a bridal sample sale and snag your dress at half price.
Leaf through magazines and blogs, learn about different dress silhouettes and designs, and write down any wedding dress designers you are particularly fond of. As you look for boutiques to go dress shopping, see if they carry the designers you like, or dresses similar to the designs you’re looking for. It even helps to bring photos of dresses you’ve been eyeing to your shop appointment.
Make sure the bridal salon can provide you with enough space for your group and bubbly for a toast, if you choose
When you call to make your appointment with the bridal salon, let them know if you’ll be bringing an entourage. Shops have a limited amount of space reserved for your appointment. If you plan on going with a large group, relay this to the shop so that they can plan to accommodate you. If you’d like to sip bubbles while you shop, ask the shop if they provide champagne, or if you can BYO.
Put some effort into your hair and makeup
We’re not saying you should get your h&m professionally done, but this is an important moment in your life, and it’ll make you feel good to present yourself as such. I haven’t seen a Say Yes To The Dress moment with a post-gym sweaty updo yet… just sayin’. Also, it helps the bridal consultant get a feel for your style if you arrive with your hair and makeup done. The better your consultant understands you, the better chance there is that they’ll pull a dress perfectly suited for you.
Wear proper undergarments
Break out the nudes. On the bottom, wear a seamless thong or brief. If you’re considering wearing Spanx or other supportive undergarments, make sure to bring these as sometimes they’ll make a dress slide on easier. Bring a strapless bra or a bustier. Remember that you’ll be changing clothes with the assistance of your bridal consultant.
Bring a pair of heels
Oftentimes, the shop will have shoes for you to try on with the dresses, but it’s nice to have your own heels (or boots or flats or whatever you think you’ll wear on your wedding day)
Bring any jewelry you’d like to wear on your wedding day
If it’s simple pearl studs, this isn’t super necessary. But if you have a large statement necklace, a veil passed down from you grandmother, etc, it’ll help you visualize the end result if you can try on everything together.
Be ready with your budget
This is a crucial piece of information that your consultant will use to find your perfect gown. If you set a budget higher than what you’re really comfortable spending, you risk falling in love with a dress you can’t afford.
Keep an open mind
I can’t tell you how many times a bride came in with a specific dress in mind only to find that the design didn’t really suit her after trying it on. You’ll most likely find your perfect dress like you found your perfect partner - be flexible and open to trying on different styles, especially if they’re suggested to you by your bridal consultant. You can trust them; they see multiple brides in countless dresses everyday, and have a pretty good idea of what body types look best in which silhouettes. Step out of your comfort zone and you’ll be amazed at what you might find.
Sizing: don’t take it personally
Bridal sizing is different from the rest of your wardrobe, so don’t be offended if you go a few sizes up for your dress, as often is the case. When you’re trying on dresses at the salon, they’ll most likely be a sample size that will be pinned and clipped to fit you, not your own size.
Read the fine print
Some points to look out for: Are alterations included in the price? If something goes wrong with dress production, will they ensure you still get your dress well ahead of time? When is your final payment due?
Move around in the dress to make sure you’re comfortable
Is it really your dream dress if you can’t breath or dance in it? Can you sit down and eat in your dress? If you’re feeling any discomfort in the dress, let your consultant know so that they can ask alterations if there’s anything that can be done to relieve the pain. Oftentimes there are fixes!
Don’t be afraid to give all of your opinions, even if it may hurt someone’s feelings
Say everything that’s on your mind! The more you share, the better the bridal consultant can steer you toward making the best decision for you.
Make a follow-up appointment if you have a few favorite dresses
If you limit your choices but aren’t sure you found “the one”, make sure to write the designer and style number down. You can follow them on instagram or Pinterest while you’re considering them. Make a follow-up appointment to come back and try on your finalists. Sometimes all you need is a clear head!
Don’t let anyone pressure you into this decision
Wedding dress shopping can be a bit stressful. Dresses aren’t cheap, and the emotional importance of the day you’re planning is pretty big. If you receive pressure to buy a certain dress from a sales associate, from your mom, or from a girlfriend you brought along to help, brush it off! Try your best to let them know that you need time to think about it. It’s YOUR decision, and no one else’s.
And on the subject of opinions… there are pro’s and con’s of bringing an entourage along with you to wedding dress shop. It can feel like a party, and it’s exciting to share this time with your ladies. Just remember that everyone has an opinion, and you may not like everything that is said. This is your dress and your wedding - the only opinion that really matters is your own!
Once you find “the one”, stop shopping
It’s tempting to keep wedding dress shopping… the excitement, the gorgeous gowns, the accessories… but what if you find another dress that you love equally? Unless you plan on buying multiple dresses, or you’re ok with losing your deposit on your first dress, stop when you find your perfect dress!
And most importantly… have fun wedding dress shopping!
Cover Photo: Primalicia Bridal