Last year, blogger Kate put together Five Things Brides Must Know Before Going Wedding Dress Shopping. If you have not read it, you should stop what you’re doing read Kate's wedding dress shopping advice right now! (Seriously, go read it now!) If you’ve already checked it out, carry on!
My wedding dress shopping experience almost exactly reflected the way that I shop for clothes. I spent hours crowd-sourcing every available inch of the internet and put together a cohesive vision. I visited four shops by myself, a fifth shop with my sister and a close friend, and then revisited one of the first shops with my mother and grandmother. After the sixth visit, I scoured the internet looking for the dress that I (accidentally) fell in love with.
Did you get tired just reading all that? Yeah, so did I. The upside? I now have an enormous amount of experience to share with you. Here are seven of the most important things that I learned along the way:
1. Budget honestly
I never expected that I would feel so uncomfortable discussing numbers with consultants. Nonetheless, be honest with the consultant (and yourself!) about how much you are willing to spend on a dress. It will save you a lot of headache and heartache in the long run. This brings us to an important, related topic…
2. Know your lines
Familiarize yourself with the lines that the boutique carries before you visit. (No, I’m recommending you memorize anything... but you’ll thank me later.) While many bridal consultants will stay reasonably within your budget, others will not. During my second dress shopping experience, a consultant pulled a lovely lace number from a designer with whom I was not familiar. It was a spectacular gown, but it just wasn’t The Dress. After taking the dress off, I peeked under the slip to check the price tag. It was ten times the maximum price point we had discussed.
TLDR? If you have a ballpark number of what each dress line runs, you’ll have a better idea of which dresses to try on and which ones you’d be best served to leave on the rack.
3. Move it, move it!
If you find a dress that seems like it should be on your short list, take it for a spin. Walk around the room, sit in a chair, and (space permitting) bust a move. It’s easy to love a dress when you’re only standing in it for a few minutes at a time. The moral of the story - keep your comfort in mind when you’re looking for that special dress.
4. Selfies are your friend!
Bridal boutiques often request that you don’t take pictures of yourself in the dress. Admittedly, you should focus on how you FEEL in the dress just as much as how it fits. But if you are dress shopping alone, turn your phone on mute and attempt to snap a selfie before heading outside the dressing room. I once tried a beautiful dress that hit all my specifications… until I looked back at a selfie. I couldn’t help but notice the bodice of the gown mimicked Madonna’s infamous cone bra. Yikes!
5. Bring a trusted few
This is a multi-purpose suggestion. Bring only a handful of people you trust. It can be tempting to bring in your entire bridal party and all your female relatives, but too many opinions can muddle how you perceive a dress. Side bar: your trusted few should include a few undergarments you know and love! You know your body better than anyone, but it will be hard to gauge how a dress really fits if the boutique does not have appropriate undergarments in your size. My personal recommendation is to bring a few of your nearest and dearest, your lucky underwear, and your favorite strapless bra.
6. Get creative
Sometimes we forget that dress shopping can require as much creativity as the rest of the wedding planning process. It might be worth it to try some styles or fabrics you were not necessarily considering at the outset. You could buy a previously-worn dress, check your local thrift shops, or have a gown custom-made. You could borrow Aunt Stephanie’s dress or you could scour the internet for lookalikes for a dress silhouette you’ve been pining after. If you find a dress you love in the store, don’t be afraid to ask for a discount. (Bonus points if you can offer to pay a reduced price for a less-popular floor sample.)
7. Channel your inner seamstress
Every boutique is going to offer a different alterations policy: mandatory in-house alterations versus no alterations offered versus buyer’s choice, flat rate versus line-item alterations, etc. Unless you are one of the lucky few who can buy clothes that fit impeccably straight off the rack, you’ll need to have alterations done. If at all possible, ask your local seamstresses for ballpark costs of potential alterations for wedding dresses in your fabric of choice. (If at all possible, try to do this BEFORE you buy your gown; alterations can cost anywhere from $100-$1,000.)
Readers, what is the best dress shopping advice you’ve received? Tell me in the comments below!
Lauren Miller is a northern born, southern bred girl planning a January wedding. She lives in Memphis with her fiancé, Mitch, and their two dogs, Bosco and Cassidy. She loves dogs, traveling, and fresh food. Check back for regular updates on her adventures in wedding planning, detailed how-to guides, and design inspiration! You can also follow her on Pinterest.