Updated: Oct 26
One of the best things about the wedding planning process is being able to shop for that perfect wedding dress! After 10 years in the business of wedding planning and dress shopping for my wedding, there's no doubt that dress shopping is the thing that most brides get excited about. Although fun, dress shopping can be a stressful experience if you go in blind. Here are 9 pro-tips to keep in mind for planning your wedding dress search.
When should you start your dress search?
Dress shopping can start 12 to 18 months before your wedding. The first thing you should do when finding a bridal salon is book an appointment. Having an appointment is best to ensure that the bridal consultant's full attention is on you. Be cognizant that the bridal salon usually reserves a week or two in advance, depending on the season.
Have a budget
Wedding dress prices can vary depending on the style and location. Of course, wedding dresses can cost thousands of dollars, but that does not mean you can not find something for less. For a basic outlet wedding dress that most likely does not have lace or beading, you can find dresses starting at $500. Wedding dresses with all the bells and whistles usually start around $1,300 and increase from there.
Before going into a bridal salon, it is a good idea to know your budget. Your budget should include the price of the dress, fees, shipping, and alterations. Avoid trying on dresses that are outside of your budget. Letting the bridal consultant know the budget guides them in the right direction and prevents heartbreak for you later.
Trying on wedding dresses
Searching for that perfect wedding dress can be so much fun but don't get carried away! Trying on too many dresses can get you confused. It's best to limit the number of dresses you try on to 15 or less. If you feel like the dress looks perfect and makes you feel special, it’s most likely the dress for you! Waiting for the tears? Don't... In my experience at least 50% of brides will not have that over-the-top reaction when finding "the dress".
What to bring to your appointment
When prepping for your wedding dress appointment, you should bring anything you would be wearing on the day of your wedding including; a strapless bra, shape wear, high heel shoes, and a hair tie so you can see if the dress you choose calls for an updo.
Side Note: Please be mindful that the bridal consultant will be in the room with you as you are changing so wear appropriate undergarments!
Be aware of wedding dress sizing
Before you freak out, let me warn you about requesting your "regular" size at the bridal salon. Wedding dresses tend to run small. They also usually have no "give" to the material and they do not fit as street clothes do. Most wedding dresses you try on during your fitting will not fit perfectly but that is normal. Your bridal consultant will take your measurements to ensure that the dress they order for you will be perfect!
When and where should you go for alterations
After you purchase and order your dress, your wedding dress checklist isn't done yet. Understanding that you will need to make alterations to the dress is an important note. A wedding dress will take time to alter, so you want to leave enough room in your "wedding countdown timeline" to have those alterations made. It is best to make at least two appointments for wedding dress alterations around three months before your wedding. Many bridal stores have on-site alterations, but some do not. If this is the case, you want to be sure that you bring your dress to a seamstress that specializes in wedding dresses. Wedding dresses are complicated and require a certain level of expertise so be sure to bring it to an expert.
Who should you bring to your dress fitting
This is an exciting day for you, and you want your friends and family to share this moment. When picking who you should bring, choose people who are encouraging and excited for you. Also, keep in mind that too many cooks in the kitchen make a mess so try to limit how many people you bring. This is your moment and you should have people around you that will celebrate with you. No "Debbie Downers" allowed!
Let the Dress have its moment
Before your wedding day, do a dress photo shoot! You’re spending all this money on a dress that you’re only going to be wearing once. Let it have its moment! Plus it's always nice to get pictures ahead of time so you can take your time. It's also great as it gives you a chance to test looks before your big day and work with the vendors you hired. Don't forget these pictures are forever!
Getting caught up in your wedding dress search or picking apart every dress you try on is easy to do, but you must remember to CELEBRATE! Even if things don't go as smoothly as you imagined, attitude is everything! Stay positive! These are memories you'll have forever.