Ladies, if you are anything like me, you have been looking at wedding dresses from the moment your relationship got serious,or maybe even a little before that. Every girl wants to be that bride in the most stunning dress on her wedding day. It’s a rite of passage we have longed for since we read our first fairytale and saw Cinderella’s gorgeous gown as she married her Prince Charming.
With so many new engagements happening over the holiday season, I wanted to share some tips based on my experience as a bride, friend of a bride, and planner. These tips are meant to help you when it comes to finding “The One”…and ladies, I’m not talking about your future hubby! To be completely honest, it was easier finding the man of my dreams than my dream dress!!
- Save the Date!– Rule of thumb proclaims you should start looking for dresses 6-9 months out. The time it will take to receive your dress really depends on the designer, style, and an array of other factors. Also remember that you will need sufficient time to not only receive your dress, but have alterations and several fittings to make sure it fits like a glove! When it is time to start looking for your dress, call local wedding boutiques to make an appointment. In Houston, as in most places, an appointment is an absolute must. This is not just a regular shopping trip after all! Generally, bridal salons do not allow brides to freely roam the showroom or stockroom for dresses. Make sure when you call you ask how long your appointment will be for so that you give yourself adequate time to get from one appointment to the next. During the peak season, especially, bridal salons become booked quickly, so make sure you are on time and don’t lose your place in line!
- Know your budget, and be realistic!– I would strongly suggest that you ask for the price range of the dresses prior to setting up an appointment. If you are using a planner, they will be a great resource as they will know the price level for the various bridal salons in your area. When I set up appointments for my personal dress shopping experience, I made sure to ask the price range and average dress cost for each boutique. If the low end was already above my budget, I definitely did not set up an appointment. If the majority of the inventory was above my budget, I too passed. The reason…I did not want to set myself up for heartbreak! Don’t get me wrong, I know it is fun to play dress up and dream, I get that. But when that dress you tried on for kicks ends up being “the dress” and you cannot afford it, you are going to compare every other dress to it. Anything less will feel like you are settling! Trust me, don’t put yourself through this unless you have a go to family member that is willing to triple your dress budget to keep you happy! I would err on the side of caution here!!
- Your entourage…– Once your appointment are set, it is time to ask the most important ladies to join you on your hunt for the dress. I would highly recommend you take a small group with you. A large entourage can cause issues both logistically (often salons have limited space) and emotionally (more people, means more opinions, some harsher than others). A group of 2-4 women is ideal. Some brides even opt to go by themselves to narrow down their favs before bringing anyone else with them. This really just depends on you and how sentimental you are. Personally, I was super bummed that I happened to find my dream dress at an appointment that my mother was unable to attend. We had already gone to probably 11 appointments…yes 11! On a limb, I went to my 12th boutique without my mom the day I found my dress. Know yourself and your nearest and dearest to make a decision that works best for you!! Looking back, I wish I would have waited. Also keep in mind that some salons will give a percentage off discount to brides who purchase on their first visit so you need to be prepared with all the power decision players in your life!
- Find inspiration, but be open to ideas!– Time and time again I hear brides say, “I never thought I would like that type of dress”. It is true. What we go in thinking we will love is not always right for us. Before going shopping, cut out pictures from magazines, scour Pinterest, and hit up wedding posts to see what brides are wearing. Taking images with you will help you and your consultant hone in on your taste. Just don’t limit yourself to preconceived ideas of what you want. Doing so could cause you to miss out on the dress of your dreams.
- Trust your consultant!– When you try on your dresses you will have a bridal consultant helping you. She will not only help you find dresses but also (more than likely) get you into the dresses. I am very modest and did not know that I would literally be changing with a complete stranger in the room. Feel free to be open and honest and if you do not feel comfortable with this, let them know. If you are at a professional boutique, they will do EVERYTHING possible to accommodate you. Don’t settle for anything less. Also know that the consultants, no matter how young or old, should know what they are doing (again if they don’t, you may need to go elsewhere). Trust that they know their inventory, bridal styles, what works or doesn’t. Be open to their suggestions and trust their knowledge. When I found my dress I literally only tried it on to humor the consultant because I didn’t want to be rude and say no to her ideas. My friend who came with me was making faces as if a trash bag had been placed in my dressing room. When I came out with the dress on we both got teary eyed and then busted out laughing because we knew it was the one…you never know until you try!
- Consider the following…– When selecting the style, be sure to consider the time, place, and season of your wedding. If you are having a religious wedding, shoulders showing, plunging neck lines, and other modesty issues may be frowned upon. If your wedding is outside on the beach, a heavy, satin, ball gown is likely not going to lend itself to the occasion. Knowing what is appropriate is a must! If you have a planner, they can help you research what works depending on the logistics of your big day! Again, share details with the consultant so that they can help guide you in the right direction!
- Size DOESN’T Matter!– Brides often leave bridal salons discouraged because of size. DO NOT feel bad when leaving the salon. Here is some insight…bridal salons have sample sizes only. They are usually somewhere in the middle and not made for women of all shapes and sizes. I’ve had brides who are in great shape and couldn’t fit into even one dress. Don’t be discouraged. Also, wedding dresses are generally 2 sizes smaller than normal dresses. This can vary even more substantially depending on the designer. I had to go up 3 sizes from a normal day to day dress and was super down on myself until I did some research and realized this is the norm. Don’t leave the salon feeling like you will have to eat carrots and water for the next 9 months to be a blushing bride! This is simply not the case. The best advice is to know your body type and find what is most flattering to you and on you!! Please don’t order a dress 2 sizes smaller than needed and kill yourself at the gym so you feel better about the number… believe me, the price of alterations is not cheap and you will be wishing you bought a reasonable size!!
- Final thoughts…– Above all, remember that you are the bride (yes, you may need to whip out the “bride card” here) and the final decision is yours. You are the one who will be wearing the gorgeous dress so you make the final call. Don’t be swayed by overzealous friends and family with impeding opinions. Doing so may cause you to buy a dress you will regret. Stand strong, consider options, and when you find “The One” stop looking and rest assured it will be perfect!!!
Best of luck on your search! Enjoy this experience because it is a once in a lifetime!
Image Credits Lissa Ryan Photography