Here’s a little fact about me: I’ve spent almost nine years in the bridal fashion world. In that time, I’ve worked with a lot brides and learned a few things about dress shopping. Buying a wedding dress is a fun but complex process. But if you keep a few things in mind, you'll have a great experience.
Buying a wedding dress is not like buying any other dress you have ever purchased. Sizing is different, fit is different, purchasing is different. Expectations and emotions run high when it comes to the purchase of a wedding dress – and not only yours! Mothers, sisters, and best friends have an emotional stake in your dress and will try to attach their own feelings to it. Your dress makes a statement about who you are and the kind of wedding you’re having, but it’s also an opportunity for your loved ones to say something to you about how they feel.
When you’re making such a statement purchase, it’s critical that it be a decision YOU make. And that applies even if mom or someone else is purchasing the dress. This is YOUR wedding and YOU need to love (and I do mean LOVE) your dress. Bring people with you who care about you (no body shamers or negative Nellys) but who will be honest with you. Dress shopping is a time for good vibes only.
In spite of the above note, I want you to remember, it’s just a dress. Although your wedding is likely the biggest party you’ll have in your life, keep it in perspective. Weddings tend to make us think in the most lavish terms. But at the end of the day, the most important thing is to get down the aisle to the love of your life and say I DO. What you wear is important (see above), but it’s not the end of the world.
Ninety percent of brides don’t get the kind of dress they were dreaming of. It’s okay. Sometimes dreams have to adjust to the reality of pricing, sizing, and availability. Like in the “real” world, if a full skirt makes you look large through the mid-section, a full skirted wedding gown isn’t going to be your most flattering look either. Go in to your appointment with ideas of what you think you want, but let your stylist – and your mom – make suggestions. You’ll often be surprised.
Have a budget and stick to it (and don’t forget to account for accessories, alterations, and tax – which are all separate from the price of the dress). As a bridal stylist, there is no worse feeling than having a bride fall in love with a dress that is out of her price range. This usually happens when brides want to “try it on anyway.” What happens if you fall for something out of your price range? Either find the money or let the dress go. Sometimes other parts of the budget that can be sacrificed to buy the dress of your dreams. Sometimes there aren’t. In case of the latter, let the dress go and remember: It’s just a dress. (Besides, there’s often ways to incorporate parts of your dream gown into a less expensive version). One other note about money: Prepare for sticker shock. Wedding gowns (and most special occasion gowns) cost much more than one would think. Having worked on the manufacturing side of things, I can tell you that there’s a lot that goes into a wedding gown. Each piece of re-embroidered lace, hand sewn bead, and yard of silk…it costs a pretty penny to incorporate into a gown. But I’ll say it again: Have a budget and try to stick to what you know you can afford.
Gown shopping is exhausting – mentally and physically. Never go to your appointments (you did make appointments, right?) hungry or tired. It may not end well. Also, try to limit your appointments to three salons in any one day. After about 6 hours you’ll be ready to call it a day.
Go shopping with your hair and makeup done (although go easy on the makeup. Getting foundation out of a silk gown is my idea of a small crisis lol). You’ll get personal with your bridal stylist (in a good salon, they’ll help you get in and out of dresses), so wear your pretty underthings, in nude. P.S. – don’t be the slightest bit embarrassed about being in the dressing room with your stylist. I promise you, they’ve seen every part of every type of body. They’re professionals and it’s their job to make you feel comfortable and look your best.
Have your credit card ready when you start shopping. You never know when you’re going to find the gown of your dreams! Although you may need a day or two to think over a dress, go knowing that you are prepared to say yes to a dress. If you are still saving money or need to arrange financing with your parents, do that first. THEN start shopping. Much like shopping for a car or a house, it’s good to go in knowing how much cash you have and can dish it out when the right one comes along. All that being said, if you’re looking to special order or custom design a dress, start early. Wedding gowns take a lot longer to order than you think. The standard manufacturing time is 4-6 months. Custom gowns can take up to a year to design. Rush options are usually available. If you don’t have that much time, be open to making a “ready to wear” or “off the rack” purchase (and don’t worry, the dress will be just as nice).
Do you agree with these tips? Have others to share? Tell us in the comments below!
Need more dress shopping advice? The Cosmopolitan Concierge helps brides hunt down the perfect dress before they step foot in a store. Walk down the aisle knowing you’re wearing the perfect dress for you! Give us a ring: 480.250.7238