Find Your Dream Wedding Dress… Without Being Bridezilla
Today's brides have a glorious range of choices in wedding dresses. Here are tips for finding a dream dress that makes you feel and look fabulous!
There has never been a more glorious range of choice in wedding dresses than you'll find today. You're certain to find a dress that makes you feel and look fabulous! Here are some tips for a good experience when shopping for your dress.
Shopping for Your Wedding Dress
Think ahead and shop well in advance. Most designers require four to six months to produce a gown so you should be shopping at least nine months in advance. Some brides purchase their gowns as much as 18 months before the big day. Shopping early will give you the most choices.
You'll often get the widest range of choices at an independent bridal salon that can do special orders from designers with distinctive styles, rather than the mass market chain stores.
Find out if you should make an appointment with the store where you intend to look at wedding dresses. Many bridal salons prefer to have brides make appointments, and some require it. Find out ahead of time. If you make an appointment but need to cancel, let the store know in plenty of time. If you are not considerate enough to cancel an appointment properly, you are not enough of a grownup to be getting married.
Find out if the store charges a service fee for trying on dresses. DressFinder is seeing a growing trend for bridal stores to charge a consulting fee which is credited to the price when you order your dress. This is a sensible approach when you consider the store's costs for providing services. You just want to know what to expect.
No Committees, Please
Go shopping by yourself, or with one or two trusted friends at most. This is YOUR decision, and you need to be able to listen to your own instincts about what dress makes you feel great. It's easier to hear what your heart says if you don't have a crowd with you.
Get a Babysitter
If you or the friends who shop with you have children, arrange for a sitter. This needs to be stressed: a bridal store is NO place for kids. While the adults are looking at dresses, a curious or bored child can cause hundreds of dollars in damages, or even get hurt. If you want to shop for a flower girl dress, arrange a dedicated outing to focus on that, and make your flower girl feel like a princess for the day.
Don't be too dazzled by a big designer name. You can expect top quality from a top designer, but judge the dress, not the label. Your mission is to find the dress that will take the groom's breath away and make him say a prayer of thanks as he sees you come down the aisle. The right dress will make your friends and family think, 'What a beautiful woman!' first, and 'What a beautiful dress!' sometime later.
Before you go dress shopping, make sure you're freshly bathed and scrubbed, and wear pretty undies (no thongs, puhleez!). If your undies are too skimpy you might not be allowed to try on dresses. Wear little or no makeup. That protects the gowns, and it also lets you see more accurately which colors will be most flattering to your true skin tones. Avoid hairspray or perfume, and don't apply hand or body lotion unless it will have at least an hour to be absorbed. It's even more important to avoid tanning solutions. They can ruin a gown if the color smears. Wear small button or stud earrings, or even none, and certainly not big dangly ones that could snag on delicate lace. Simple pearl earrings would be ideal. Leave food or drink outside the store.
Wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off. Many bridal stores ask customers to remove their street shoes at the entrance, to help protect delicate fabrics and long skirts from picking up dirt.
Most salons will not have you wear shoes while you are trying on the gowns. You will usually be standing on a platform or stool as wedding gowns are cut long. Unless you are 5'9" in your bare feet you will need a hem or you will need to request that your gown be made to the exact length to accommodate your height and shoes (this is called a hollow to hem measurement). The only time you would wear shoes is if you are being measured for a custom length. Most brides will have a seamstress hem their gowns and at this point you'll need to have the shoes you'll be wearing on your wedding day.
We strongly recommend that for your wedding shoes you stick with medium or low heels, or especially for the reception. You'll be on your feet a lot on your wedding day, and aching feet can ruin your smile!
Stick to Your Price Range
Decide on your budget before you go anywhere near a bridal store, and resist the temptation to try on more expensive samples 'just for fun.' Falling in love with a dress that's out of your price range will either break your budget or break your heart. Try on dresses within the price range that's realistic for you.
Bridal Store Staff
The bridal store staff will wait on you more closely than you're used to when shopping for other clothes. It's their job to help you find the dress of your dreams; it's also their responsibility to be protective about the store's expensive, delicate merchandise. So don't feel crowded if a staff member comes right into the dressing room to assist you. Enjoy the attention!
If you end up comparing dresses from different places, make sure you have a clear understanding of what services will or won't be included in your purchase price. Consider all related costs so you're comparing true totals. A price that looks higher might in fact be very competitive by the time you add up all related costs.
Commitment: Final Sale
Be sure you understand that when you order your wedding dress it is a final sale (bridesmaid dresses too). Buying a wedding dress is not like buying a mass-market T-shirt that you can return if you change your mind. Take that seriously, but don't let it scare you. If you can commit to a man, you can commit to a dress!
Guarantees and Service
Be aware that many designers will only guarantee their gowns if they are purchased through an authorized full-service bridal store. There are too many fakes in circulation for them to take any other approach.
Something else to remember is this: the majority of local bridal stores are independently owned, and each store's first responsibility is to their own customers. Do not purchase your dress from one place then expect another store to serve you if you need help with it. The store you purchase your dress from is the one that should look after you.
If you're thinking of buying your dress from some discount service, be sure you understand the risks, and don't waste the time of the real bridal stores in your shopping process. If you or your bridesmaids use a real bridal store to try on dresses, then leave and order the same dress from someone else whose no-service price is cheaper, you are not being a clever shopper, you are being a parasite. Your wedding dress is the last place you want bad karma from abusing someone's services. Remember the Golden Rule.
Wedding and formal dresses are more closely fitted than ordinary garments. Dresses are made to standard sizes (which can vary from one designer to the next), so unless you're having a couture dress designed especially for you (and paying couture prices!), expect the fit of your dress to be close but not exact when it arrives. It's normal that your wedding dress will need to be altered to achieve the perfect fit for your unique contours. (Bridesmaid dresses, too.)
Allow for alterations in both your budgeting and your time planning. Some bridal stores handle alterations in-store; others will refer you to independent services. Altering a bridal gown is skilled and delicate work, and the seamstress is one of your most important partners. Note that it's the complexity of the alterations that will determine the price, not the amount that a seam has to be taken in. Whether the seamstress takes it in a half inch or three inches the price will be the same.
Be aware that many manufacturers charge extra for larger sizes in certain styles. Be sure to ask about that so you know all costs to expect.
BE REALISTIC ABOUT SIZE. Even if you have major diet or exercise plans we suggest that you buy your wedding gown for your current size. All gowns can be made smaller, but the opposite (called releasing the gown) is more difficult, more expensive, and rarely looks perfect. Sometimes, it's not even possible to make the gown bigger as there's just not enough fabric to work with. With all the stress of planning a wedding, weight loss plans often fall short of the goal. You don't need the added stress of a dress that is too small and can't be made to fit.
Even if your weight stays steady, your contours can change because of your activity levels, or even just the time of the month. Try to be measured for your final fitting at the same time in your cycle that your wedding day will fall. That can head off surprises.
Avoid the biggest fitting problem of all: don't get pregant until after the wedding!
Have a backup plan for your wedding dress. The majority of dresses arrive on time and in good condition, but supply lines stretch around the world, and things can go wrong with special orders even from famous designers. With a full service bridal salon you'll have an experienced team on your side to solve problems.
Enjoy Your Choice!
Once you've decided which dress is THE ONE, stop looking at other dresses and don't try to second-guess yourself! Have faith in your own judgement, and enjoy the peace of mind that comes from having one of your most special decisions looked after.
"Smile! You look gorgeous!"
— Article by Elisabeth Archambault; Copyright Elisabeth Archambault