While I’d love to tell you I’m an expert at wedding dress shopping and I nailed my dress on the first try (or second, or third…), I absolutely did not. What I can tell you is that after going through the experience I went through, I have plenty of advice to give. I guess I’ll say this is less of a “how to find your dress right away” post, and more of a “do’s and don’ts of wedding dress shopping” post.
First things first – if you’re engaged, Congratulations! If you’re not engaged and just reading this because you love me, I appreciate your loyalty :). The first thing I recommend when starting to look for dresses is to find stores around you that have good reviews. Wedding Wire was my best friend for this. Start with places that people like, that are fairly close to you, that have a wide range of dresses in your budget, and most importantly will give you champagne.
Basically, after going through the whole experience myself I realized what I did right and what I did wrong, so I hope these Do’s and Don’ts are helpful to you and make shopping for your dream dress a little easier!
DO: Set your budget before you start.
This is extremely important because there is literally no limit to the cost of wedding dresses. You can find a dress for $500, or one for $50,000 (if not more). Before you start shopping, decide how much money you want to spend. This way when you start looking around you won’t be stressed about cost and also won’t have to deal with the torture of trying on a dress you love and wondering if you can afford it. Another thing you can do is start at the bottom (those $500 dresses) and work your way up, so you are not only below your budget if you find something you love, but you can put the rest of the money toward something else too!
DON’T: Forget about extra items.
It’s easy (kind of) to set a budget for a wedding dress. But what about alterations, and a veil, and shoes, and a hairpiece… I think you get my drift. The best thing to do is to set a budget (total) and then figure out how much you want to allocate to each individual item. If you want to spend $2,000 total, you can find a dress for $1,500, shoes for $150, etc…
DO: Make a fun day out of it.
Aside from the pressure of finding the perfect dress, take a step back and just realize that you’re going WEDDING DRESS SHOPPING (yes, caps was necessary). This is supposed to be exciting. Bring your mom, your MOH, your sister (if you have one)… and just have FUN. Go to a few dress shops and break for lunch (or brunch + mimosas) in between; But try to go somewhere you don’t have to make a reservation, so you don’t feel rushed through dress appointments.
DON’T: Get overwhelmed or discouraged.
There are a LOT of different dresses, and to be honest after a while they all start to look the same. Don’t get overwhelmed. Take your time trying dresses on and think about what you like or don’t like about each dress. If you try something on that doesn’t feel right, just let it go and move on. Try not to get discouraged if you don’t find the “one” right away. If you start feeling negatively about dress shopping, take a break for a few weeks and then start back up again.
DO: Find Sample Sales and Trunk Shows.
There are some dress shops that only sell sample dresses. This means you can find expensive designer dresses for up to 50% off! The only downside to this is the size they have is the size you get, so you are a little limited in that regard, but you could get lucky and find something perfect and super affordable. Another good thing to do is to find out what dress shops are holding trunk shows. This is when a specific designer brings their entire line of dresses to the shop and they usually offer 10-15% off during the show. These are very helpful if there is a specific designer you have been eyeing,
DON’T: Try dresses on above your budget.
Why tease yourself? When I called dress shops I specifically asked what the price range of their dresses were, and skipped two shops that told me their starting cost was $5,000. Thanks but no thanks. Unless for some reason your budget changes (like if you win the lottery, or find a lucky pot of gold at the end of a rainbow) don’t go somewhere you know you can’t afford. It’s not worth the torture if you end up finding something you love but really can’t afford.
DO: Start looking early.
How early is early? I would honestly say 10 months is ideal, so you’re not stressed about it at all. Most places will tell you it can take 4-6 months for the dress to come once it’s ordered, and 1-2 months for all of the alterations; Aka 8 months total worst case scenario. That being said, try to get a head start as soon as you can so you don’t have to worry about getting it in time for the big day. This will also give you extra time to try on more dresses before you have to pick one.
DON’T: Travel too far for your dress.
You should be able to find plenty of dress shops in your area that carry different designers and styles. Before traveling super far, give the dress shops that are close to you a shot. Remember that you also have to go back for alterations, and the final fitting. When I couldn’t find a dress I liked I almost went to Kleinefeld in NY, but the thought of spending thousands of dollars on flights and hotels for multiple trips just wasn’t worth it for me.
DO: Figure out what theme you’re going for.
For me, I knew I wanted vintage (to go with the Venue we chose). Other themes include Bohemmian, Whimsicle, Modern, Rustic, Garden/Floral, Romantic, etc. Yes, of course, some of these themes can overlap. It will definitely help you limit the number of dresses you are interested in if you have an idea in mind of what theme you are looking for. You can also bring dress photos from online for inspiration.
DON’T: Bring too many people with you.
It’s definitely fun to have a bunch of people with you on this special day, but more people also means more opinions and more confusion. I started off with my mom, MOH, and grandmother, which I actually thought was a perfect amount. Eventually I started going with 1-2 people at a time (just one bridesmaid, just my mom, etc.). While I absolutely loved getting honest feedback from different people, this made it easier for me to focus on my own opinions instead of those around me. I did end up bringing the whole crew once it was time to make a final decision.
DO: Take Pictures!!
I cannot emphasize this enough. There were so many dresses that I thought I loved in person, but absolutely hated how they looked in photos (which is actually a pretty big deal since that is all you are going to have to remember your wedding by). There were also some dresses that I didn’t think I liked in person, but kept ging back to when looking at photos. So trust me, take as many pictures, and from as many angles, as you can.
DON’T: Pick something uncomfortable.
Unless you are going to get one dress for the ceremony and one for the reception (which I am not), you’re going to be wearing this dress for a loooong time. Probably around 8 hours, so make sure it’s something you are going to be comfortable in. Make sure you can move around and dance in it, that the straps aren’t cutting into your shoulders (if there are thin straps), or that it wont be falling down all night (if its strapless).
DO: Be open minded.
For me, wedding dress shopping was stressful, mostly because I had a specific idea in mind of what I wanted and nothing I tried on matched it. Try NOT to do this. If I could go back and do it again I would have been much more open minded from the beginning, because the dress I ended up picking looked nothing like the dress I originally had in mind. I totally would have saved myself a ton of time (and headaches) if I just tried on different dresses from the get go.
DON’T: Look at photos of other dresses once you’ve decided on the one!
Once you pick your dream dress, DELETE every other dress photo you have on your phone. Delete them from your saved photos on Instragram. Delete them from your memory. DON’T look at dress photos anymore. All you are going to do (if you’re anything like me) is drive yourself crazy wondering what if there is a better dress out there. There isn’t. So lay back, relax, and focus on what shoes you want to get instead.
I sincerely hope this post helps you in your dream dress hunt, and that my tips make your dress shopping experience a little more enjoyable. If you have questions or want to know more about the dress I chose or why I chose it, feel free to send me a message!