wedding dress shopping

How to Shop For (And Say Yes) to Your Dream Wedding Dress

As every bride knows, wedding dress shopping can be a bit overwhelming. The dress, and how you feel in it, is one of the most memorable parts of planning a wedding. Your gown will set the tone for the wedding theme and all of the details that follow, whether you’re planning a luxe ballroom gala or a backyard barbecue. It’s often referred to as the most important outfit of your life, but you’ll only be able to wear it once. Oh, and to top it all off, it’s definitely going to be the most expensive garment you’ll ever wear. So, no pressure, right? 

Whether you’re shopping frugally for a sexy fit-and-flare or going all out on an extravagant ballgown, our top tips will help every bride sort through the thousands of options, designers and styles so you can confidently say “YES” to your dream wedding dress!

shopping for wedding dress

Find Your Inspiration

Before you start scheduling bridal shop appointments or gathering your entourage, take some time to yourself to research current wedding dress styles and trends and take note of what you like. Check out Pinterest boards, bridal boutiques and designers’ instagrams and even your favorite celebrity wedding gowns. Seeing a trend within the ones you love? Whether it’s a halter neckline or tiered tulle that makes you swoon, keep these similarities in mind as you prepare for your first appointment.

Confirm Your Budget

We get it. Money isn’t the most comfortable topic to talk about, but you’re going to have to figure out who is paying for the dress and how it will affect your overall wedding budget. If your parents are paying for the dress, hash out that conversation beforehand so you don’t end up trying on gowns out of your price range. Brides reports that couples usually spend about 5% of the budget on their attire, so if you’re fronting the cost of the gown, pick a price range together. 

Timing is Everything

Plan your appointments with enough time to order and complete alterations. It takes roughly four to eight months to create your wedding dress, so we recommend starting dress shopping at least 10 months prior to your wedding date. Place your order at least 7 months prior to ensure the dress comes in time to be altered. Don’t jump the gun on shopping too early or you could risk finding something you love even more, closer to your wedding day. 

See a full 12 month wedding dress timeline here

Making Your Appointment 

Ready to make your appointment at local bridal shops? First, take a look at the boutiques in your area (and don’t forget to read the reviews!) If you’re looking for a specific designer, ensure they carry the line. Call ahead, or schedule online, based on your availability. Belle Vogue Bridal, an Essense of Australia, Martina Liana and Stella York retailer, recommends considering a weekday appointment. “It’s a much more personalized shopping experience when your stylist can focus on you and your bridal party. It’s more of a sentimental, private appointment.”  Remember to bring your undergarments you plan on wearing for the wedding (don’t forget nude underwear!) and a pair of heels to practice walking. 

When choosing the entourage for your dress shopping experience, think of the people whose opinions matter the most. This is not the time to reconnect with an old frenemy; even if you and a close family member tend to butt heads, consider going without them. This is your time, don’t let anyone else ruin it. We recommend a maximum of 5 people (and make sure those attendees have your best interest and feelings in mind.) 

Keep An Open Mind 

It’s so important to keep an open mind while dress shopping! Your consultant will be very mindful of your likes and dislikes, but they’ll also throw in some options that you may not have pulled yourself. Sometimes, those end up being the best option! You might not have considered how flattering a sheath gown would look on your build, so try it on and give it a go! Consultants often say that some gowns look completely different on a person than they do on a hanger, so keep an open mind and try some wild cards before you make the final decision. 

Sizing

Wedding dress sizing is much different than regular clothing. Sizing differs among designers, so trust in your consultant’s measurements. Ordering a few sizes up might sound crazy, but your bridal shop and alterations specialist will make sure your wedding gown fits perfectly on your big day!

Consider Comfort

Of course you want to look good on your big day, but keep in mind that you’ll want to feel your best too. Try on a variety of fabrics and decide which feels right. If you’re planning mid-summer nuptials in Cancun, you’ll probably want to steer clear from long sleeves that could make you sweat. Going to break dance the night away? Choose straps that will keep your gown in place. Thinking about these little details ahead of time will help you avoid any regrets on the big day. 

Say Yes!

Within your price range?

The silhouette of your dreams?

Comfortable enough to wear for 12 hours?

Okay – you’re ready to say yes! When you’ve truly found “the one,” you will know. Don’t second guess your own opinion or let anyone else tell you to keep looking. You can confide closely with your consultant as their top priority is to help you find the dream dress. Some bridal shops require payment upfront while others take deposits, so keep that in mind when you’re ready to purchase your dress.

Finishing Touches

After you’ve secured your gown, it’s time to start thinking about the finishing touches that will complete your bridal vision. Are you going to wear a veil or opt for a flower crown? Will you accessorize with pearl earrings or a simple silver cuff? Select your heels, hair and makeup at least 2-3 months before the big day so you’re completely set for the week of the wedding.

Plan Fittings

Plan your first fitting about two months prior to your wedding day, and then schedule with your preferred alterations specialist. Your second fitting will fall about one month before your wedding date and you’ll probably try on your gown one more time when you pick it up to ensure every stitch is absolutely perfect. At your fittings, you’ll learn how to properly bustle your gown to make an easy transformation post ceremony. Practice walking in your heels and move around to make sure the dress is completely comfortable. After this step, your wedding dress will be ready to make it’s aisle debut!

Find a Bridal Shop Near You to Schedule an Appointment to Find The One! 

wedding dress shopping