Wedding dress shopping can be an incredibly daunting task. Before I got started I actually had a feeling of dread whenever I thought about it. For some reason in my mind I kept thinking my dress shopping experience would be miserable like my house hunting experience was. The physical act of house hunting – drive, get out of car, look around, hate house, get back in car, drive to next house – was complete torture to me. I suppose the idea of hopping in and out of dress after dress must have resonated as a similar experience.
Prior to shopping I made the conscious decision to not do any research and to stop looking at dresses online altogether. Since I was dreading the experience I didn’t want to get burnt out on wedding dresses before I even got started. In hindsight I think reading up on what to expect from the experience of dress hunting could have saved me some of the anxiety I brought on myself. Because of that I put together a list of the things I think are most important when planning your dress shopping process.
- Start Early! You might be lucky enough to fall in love with the very first dress you try on, but you also may need to try 100 dresses before you find “the one”. Either way there’s no harm in getting started as quickly as you can once engaged. It takes months for a dress to be made once you’ve ordered it so it’s always starting the hunt as soon as possible will ensure you find your dress with ample time to order and have alterations made.
- Don’t worry about shedding for the wedding. Working out is a wonderful thing and is obviously great for your health so I’m not knocking the idea of fitness. What I would like to impart is that the person you are marrying loves you exactly how you are and they are the only person who matters on your wedding day. Who gives a shit if you have to order your dress in a size 2 or a size 12. The dress you choose is going to make you look and feel amazing on your special day. If you are already on a weight loss journey – you go girl – but don’t feel like you won’t look stunning if you don’t hit a certain number on the scale. You will look phenomenal on your wedding day because you are the star of the show!
- Only pull dresses that fit the theme and feel of the wedding. This is obviously more flexible if you haven’t selected a venue yet. But, if your venue is selected you’ll want to make sure your dress fits the ambiance of the location so that you don’t look completely out of place on your big day. If you are planning a beach wedding, clearly a ball gown is not the best option. If your having a sleek and chic evening black tire affair, maybe skip on the bohemian flocks. My wedding will be in the middle of the woods so I tried to pick out dresses that had some unique air of whimsy to them.
- Be open to trying different shapes. While you will want to match the theme of your location its also important to be open to trying the many different cuts that wedding gowns come in. There are only two outcomes to trying shapes you weren’t considering: 1. you find something even better than what you thought you would like or 2. you are reaffirmed in your decision to go after a particular style of dress. Either way you get to play dress up in more beautiful gowns and have more photos to share with friends. Win/win. I will add that from my experience, being someone who wears a lot of dresses, I was fairly confident that I wanted to be in an A-line dress but my consultant had me try on a few other shapes so I would see all my options. What I experienced was a reaffirmation of my choice to go with the A-line shape and it made me more confident in the wedding dress shopping process.
- Don’t feel the need to show your group all of the dresses. You will most likely try on dresses that you will know are not for you before you even pull it all the way up. Don’t bother showing them off to the group you take with you to your appointment. You are likely booked in for a very strict time window and showing off a dress you hate will just eat up your appointment. The entourage doesn’t need to see everything, just your faves.
- Make sure guests know their role. Entourage behavior can make a huge impact on your dress shopping experience so make sure they are clearly aware of what their role is before the shopping date arrives. Every bride is going to be different. I’m very opinionated and have clear cut ideas about what I think looks good on me and what doesn’t. I didn’t need my mom, mother-in-law, and friends there to give me their opinions or reaffirm mine. I wanted them there to simply share in the experience with me. I let them all know that very clearly before hand, even though none of them would be the type to tell me everything looks horrible anyway. You may be someone who wants advice from your group, or perhaps you want them there to affirm your choice. Either way, make sure they know their purpose in attending your special event. Setting clear boundaries will (hopefully) help to avoid those horrible bullying situations you see all the time on Say Yes To The Dress.
- Take a lot of pictures. Buying a dress is a huge commitment financially so it’s natural to want a few days to reflect on what you’ve tried on. I liked quite a few dresses after my first trip shopping, but eventually fell in love with just one of them after looking back over the photos. Also be sure to take someone with you who can actually operate a phone camera. I had my mom and mother-in-law with me on the first outing and some of those pictures were rough. They don’t quite understand the whole flattering angles things.
- Stick to the budget. Know what you or whomever is buying the dress is willing to spend on the dress before booking the appointment. Take into account you will also need to pay for alterations, shoes, and accessories as well. Do you want all of those items wrapped into one final budget item or are you ok separating those costs out? Make sure your consultant is full informed at the beginning of the appointment what your all-in budget is and if that number is flexible or firm. You don’t want to fall in love with something you can’t afford so just don’t even allow yourself to go there.Personally, I even avoided looking at dresses online once the time came to actually go shopping because I didn’t want to create a fantasy in my head that couldn’t come to fruition. The shop I ended up purchasing my dress from actually separated their dresses into different rooms by price bracket. Not even seeing the pricier dresses combats the potential issue entirely.
- Trust your gut. You are the one who will be wearing the dress and you know what aspects of the day mean the most to you. Choose the dress that makes you happiest, most comfortable and confident. It’s ok to not know immediately and need to stew on the decision. You may have to try on a dress a few times before you know its the one. Don’t expect a tearful TV moment. Simply put, not everyone is emotional like that and you may not be either. I had to try on my dress on two different trips before I knew it was the only I wanted, but once I had it on again I knew for sure. I didn’t cry, that’s just not me. I did though review my photos obsessively and consider the logistics of every aspect of the dress. Everything made sense in this dress AND it made me feel great. You’ll know you’ve found a winner when you can’t wipe the smile from your face.
I hope you’ve found these tip helpful and that your hunt for the perfect dress is stress-free.