Finding the perfect wedding dress is a little bit like falling in love. It takes time, patience, and a whole lot of trial and error. But the journey can be just as rewarding as the destination. It’s all in the preparation. Here are ten insider tips you need to know before you say “yes” to the dress.
Ideally, brides-to-be should start dress shopping 10 to 12 months in advance. Most salons require six to eight months of lead time for all made-to-order gowns. If you purchase your custom dress four month ahead of your wedding or later, it’s considered a rush order, which is often exponentially more expensive. Plus, planning ahead will give you plenty of time to schedule fittings. It’s custom for brides to have an average of two to five fittings.
BUDGET, BUDGET, BUDGET
Nowadays you’re hard pressed to find a bride who’s not on a budget. Typically, the wedding gown is 10% to 15% of the overall wedding budget, but that will vary for each bride. Be sure to factor in “hidden” costs, like your undergarments, shoes, veil, accessories, and, of course, alteration fees. An inexpensive gown with professional tailoring can look like a million bucks!
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Research is imperative in the early stages of dress shopping. Before you step into a bridal salon, it’s best to know what type of wedding you’re planning. Is it a casual beach ceremony or a black-tie formal? Get familiar with the silhouettes you like, what color palette you’re working with, and the latest trends you’re drawn to. All of this information will help you and your bridal stylist select the gown of your dreams.
Most bridal salons are by appointment only, and some schedule six weeks in advance. Before you call, peruse their selection online. Do they have dress designs you like? Are there plenty of choices in your budget? If so, try to book an appointment for a weekday or weekend morning. The earlier, the better. That’s the time of day when the stores are the quietest. And try not to book more than two or three appointments in one day. Remember, this is supposed to be fun!
LIMIT YOUR FRIEND COUNT
Be selective about who you bring dress shopping with you. You don’t want too many cooks in the kitchen! One to three people is the standard. Any more and you’ll likely overwhelm yourself and the salon.
Be open about trying on different styles of dresses. Often, the silhouette you never thought you’d walk down the aisle in will be the one that steals your heart. This is where a bridal consultant or stylist can really come in handy. Share all your research and let her choose a few things outside your wheel house.
KEEP IT MOVING
If you like a dress in the fitting room, practice sitting, walking, and dancing. Take note of places where the gown feels restrictive or doesn’t stay in place. You want a gown that can keep up with you all day long!
DON’T WORRY ABOUT SIZING
A typical size 6 or 8 in ready-to-wear clothing translates to a size 10 or 12 in bridalwear. DON’T get hung up on numbers, but DO make sure that the salon carries your size before you make an appointment. Focus on fit, and the rest will take care of itself.
CHOOSE YOUR UNDERGARMENTS WISELY
If you plan on wearing specific undergarments on the big day, like a corset or Spanx, bring them dress shopping. Undergarments can alter the fit drastically, so wearing them in the early stages will give you a better idea of how your dress will look when you tie the knot.
SHOP OUTSIDE THE BOX
Retailers and designers often host sample sales twice per year – usually in early winter and the beginning of summer. These sales are a great way for brides to shop designer dresses for less. The downside is that they’re often stocked with sample sizes, and every sale is final. But if you arrive early and keep an open mind, you might find exactly what you’re looking for.
Trunk shows are another option to explore. Call your local bridal salons and inquire about their upcoming shows. Events like this usually take place once or twice per month. They give brides the opportunity to meet the designer and talk about how they can customize your gown. Or, better yet, keep an eye out for a Great Bridal Expo in your area. Here you’ll find the latest styles hot off the runway and receive special discounts you won’t see anywhere else.