Deciding on a wedding dress is arguably the most important fashion decision a woman will ever make. You want to look beautiful and feel special on your big day. But the excitement of it all can quickly become overwhelming. Don’t let yourself get stressed in your quest for the dream dress. Instead, make wedding dress shopping the exhilarating experience it’s meant to be.
Just follow the 10 steps in this guide to easily find “the one”:
1.) Ready, Set, Research!
Maybe you already have an idea of the styles that appeal to you or perhaps you don’t have a clue. Either way, doing some research before you shop will make a world of difference. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources to pull from. Explore Pinterest, Instagram, and bridal magazines. Then pay attention to the styles and fabrics you’re drawn to. Do you seem to favor tulle, lace, or satin? Perhaps voluminous gowns are more your thing. Or maybe those sleek column dresses are calling your name?
2.) Select Your Silhouette
While you’re doing all that fun research, it’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different wedding gown silhouettes. This will make it easier to verbalize what you like when you go to your dress shopping appointments. Here’s a breakdown of the different types:
- A-Line: Fitted bodice that billows out past the waist, resembling an uppercase “A.” This style flatters all body types.
- Ball Gown: Perfect for giving off major princess vibes, this silhouette has a fitted bodice and a full skirt. It’s ideal for most body types but can overwhelm those with smaller, more petite frames.
- Column: Also referred to as a sheath dress, this style is typically streamlined and snug throughout, with some having a slight flare from the knees down. It looks amazing on slim, athletic bodies or is perfect for flaunting an hourglass shape.
- Mermaid: Snug from the chest through the knees, then flaring out near the knees. This silhouette is ideal for hourglass shapes or those wanting to show off their curves.
- Tea-Length: Oh so perfect for a bride going for a retro-inspired wedding look. This style has a nipped waist and a full skirt that falls below the knee and above the ankle. It’s flattering for most body types.
- Trumpet: Also known as “fit-and-flare,” this cut is fitted from the bodice and down to mid-thigh. Think of it as a less dramatic mermaid or a modified a-line. It’s ideal for hourglass bodies or petites. It can also create the illusion of curves as long as you don’t have a rounder torso.
3.) Determine Your Budget
It’s easy to get carried away once you start pinning wedding dress ideas and poring over bridal magazines. There are so many gorgeous gowns out there! That’s why it’s important to figure out your dress budget – and stick with it. Determine your budget prior to your shopping appointment and commit to only looking at dresses within your price range. Keep in mind all the accessories that go with the dress – shoes, veil, undergarments, etc. Alterations can tack on even more cost, typically a few hundred dollars. Armed with all this information, you can avoid purchasing a wedding dress you can’t afford.
4.) Factor in Your Wedding Style
Before you start shopping, figure out your wedding theme. Are you going for a formal, elegant affair? A whimsical garden party? A boho beach wedding? Ensure that you keep the theme and venue in mind to help focus your search. You definitely don’t want your dress to clash with the wedding style! After all, a billowy ball gown would look out of place at a daytime beach ceremony.
5.) Time It Right
Make your initial shopping appointment 10 to 12 months before your wedding day. You never know how long it will take to find your dream dress, and you’ll want to place your order six to eight months before the big day. Many gowns take about four months to be produced and another two months for alterations. If you don’t order early enough, you’ll have to deal with the expense of rush fees. You might also be limited in your choices since not all gowns will be available for rush order.
6.) Be a Savvy Shopper
Now that you’ve done all your research and set a budget, you’re ready to actually make a visit to a bridal shop! Most salons require appointments. Try to make yours on a weekday in the morning. It will be quieter and the store won’t be as crowded. Also, don’t exhaust yourself by visiting several shops in one day. Stick to no more than two store visits per day to avoid getting frazzled and overwhelmed.
7.) Carefully Choose Your Shopping Crew
Yes, it’s tempting to bring your whole entourage with you when you shop. The more the merrier, right? But too many varying opinions will make it harder for you find the right dress for you. Be selective and choose just two or three people whose opinions you trust. Make sure they’re positive yet honest. Nothing’s worse than a negative voice making you doubt your dream dress decision or pressuring you into going with a gown that you’re not madly in love with.
8.) Keep an Open Mind
While you should have a good idea of the style you favor, try to keep an open mind and try on a couple dresses that don’t fit your predetermined silhouettes or fabrics. You never know. It could end up being the one! Wearing and actually seeing yourself in a dress is vastly different from seeing it on display.
Keep an open mind about the sizing as well. Wedding gowns often run smaller than normal clothes. You might have to go two or three sizes bigger than what you’re used to. But don’t freak! Focus on how you look in the dress, not the size label. It’s easier and less costly to take in a gown than it is to let out.
9.) Make Some Moves (And Document Them Too!)
Spend a few minutes in each dress you love to make sure you’ll feel comfortable wearing it all day. Move around by sitting, walking, and even dancing. A dress that looks beautiful but isn’t comfortable could leave you feeling awkward on your big day.
Channel your inner model and have your shopping crew take pictures of you in your favorites. Mirrors can be deceiving but a camera often tells the true story. Get pictures from all angles and a couple videos as well. Seeing the dress in motion will give you a more authentic idea of how you’ll look on your wedding day. Pro tip: Always make sure the salon allows cameras before beginning your photo session.
10.) Know the Signs That You’ve Found “The One”
After trying on dozens of dresses, it can be trickier than you might think to know you’ve found the perfect dress. Sure, you might burst into tears of joy, but it doesn’t always happen that way. That’s why it’s important to know the signs that you’ve found the wedding dress of dreams.
Here’s how to know:
- You’ve never felt more beautiful. When you look in the mirror or view your pictures, you’re struck by how stunning you look. There’s something about finding the right dress that makes you feel like you’ve never looked better.
- You stop caring about trying on other dresses. You no longer see the point in trying on another dress. Once you find the perfect one, all other choices seem irrelevant.
- You feel a rush or get a tingle. You feel a wave of excitement and literally get a tingle. And yes, you may even cry. No worries if you don’t, however. As long as you glow from the inside out, that’s a telltale sign.
- You can’t get it out of your mind. When you find the dress of your dreams, it can literally take over your dreams. You think about it constantly, even before you drift off to sleep.
- You picture yourself wearing it on your wedding day. You start envisioning what you will look like walking down the aisle and can picture your soon-to-be spouse’s face light up when he sees you in it.
- You don’t need anyone else’s opinion. All the other dresses required the insight of others, but this one leaves you feeling certain. When you’re sure that you’ve found the perfect dress, you don’t need the assurance of anyone else.
- You don’t want to take it off. When you feel like a dress was meant for you, it can be hard to take off. You can’t get over how flattering it is. You feel comfortable yet stunning!
Now Go Bask in Your Bridal Bliss
Congrats! You’re now more than ready to navigate the wedding dress shopping process with ease. That magical moment of finding the perfect dress should be blissful, not stressful. Feel free to bookmark this guide and refer back to it as many times as you need. You’ll not only be able to find your dream wedding day look, but the path to finding it will be an amazing experience.