1. Set a Budget
Before you get carried away Pinning all those diamond encrusted wedding dresses, take a look at your wedding budget and set a number you’re willing to spend on your gown. This will not only narrow your choices (such an endless amount of beautiful gowns out there!) but also help you hone your expectations in the dress shopping process.
2. Start Shopping 9-12 Months Ahead (If You Can)
Believe it or not, gowns typically take anywhere from 4-10 month to be made. Factor in shipping times and design changes made to your dress alterations and multiple fittings – in the end, your gown could take up to 12 months to be ready.
Don’t have that kind of time? Some designers offer rush services, but be prepared to pay an extra fee. Out of timely options? If you’re happy to get a professional cleaning and are lucky enough to fit in sample sizes, salons often allow brides to buy samples off the rack for a lower price.
3. Do Your Research
Overwhelmed by the endless options and don’t know where to start? Take this wedding dress quiz to find what style of gown might be right for you. Want to know what silhouette best flatters your favorite bits? Take a scroll through our post on how to choose the best dress for your body type.
4. Use Social Media To Find & Save Gowns
Pinterest and Instagram are brilliant for discovering the endless gowns on the market these days. Follow your favorite blogs, designers and bridal salons to discover new collections, see your favorite gowns on real brides, find out about surprise sample sales and hear about nearby trunk shows. Save your faves on your wedding dress boards, and Instagram archives to bring with you to your appointments.
5. Make Bridal Salon Appointments
Try to schedule your bridal salon appointments all in one day or weekend. This way, each gown is fresh in your mind for comparison; you’re more likely to say “Yes!” if you’re not waiting on another appointment weeks later.
If you schedule your appointments all in one day, make a party of it! Plan a bridal lunch in between appointments to thank your bridal squad and do remember your ladies may not be able to make every single shop.
6. Call Your Bridal Salon Ahead
A top tip for a flawless dress buying experience: give your bridal salon a jingle to give them an idea of what you like. Bridal salons almost always keep notes with all your favorite gowns, what kind of bride you are, and when and where the big day is taking place. All of this helps them pull gowns perfect for you on the day you arrive.
While certain salons may have your favorite designers, they’ll likely only have a select number of gowns. Ask them if they have your favorite style and if they can order a sample if it’s not already in the shop. This is also a great time to ask questions like “Do you have plus sized samples of your gowns?”
If you plan to bring any treats or bubbly, be sure to ask if they’ll allow it. Many bridal salons offer champagne to their guests already, and some would prefer to keep stain creators away from the precious wedding dresses.
7. Choose Your Bride Tribe Wisely
Take special care when you select which guests will join you on this wedding dress hunt.
First, check how many guests your salon will allow in their rooms (most often 4-5 including the bride). Second, take a good hard look at who needs to be there. For instance, is anyone helping pay for the gown? Finally, choose guests who are above all, positive people. Certain close friends may not be suited for this day due to general cynicism (no matter how fun they are as friends!) Make sure your bride tribe is uplifting, understands who you are, what you like, and understand that this day is about you choosing your gown.
Brides often ask if they should invite their future Mother in Law. Our take: if she’s someone you get along with and super supportive, absolutely, if you like! If you have a contentious relationship, or you worry about her judgment, perhaps invite her to another bridal event and let her know you’re shopping with a few close friends. You want to feel comfortable zipping and unzipping all day.
8. Forget About Sizing
Wedding dress sizes are vastly different than street sizes (what you wear on a day-to-day basis) so don’t get worked up when you see your wedding dress size. In fact, when you’re at the salon, that sample you’re trying on is definitely “one-size-fits-no-one”.
Nearly everyone needs alterations, so the gown you buy will eventually be taken in and tailored to fit you perfectly – totally different from the usual “pick a size number” shopping experience.
9. Be Open To Different Gowns
It’s so helpful to know what you like, to narrow the gowns pulled at your dress appointment. But don’t be afraid to try on something totally out of the box.
For example, try on a gown that’s not white – maybe ivory, champagne, nude or even raincloud blue! You may be surprised to find out you like something different.
10. Listen To Your Bridal Stylist (& Your Gut!)
It’s true, your bride tribe knows you best. But no one knows the gowns at the shop like your bridal stylist. The person pulling gowns and jumping into the dressing room is paid to make this experience perfect for you. They’ve taken into account everything you love, and quite frankly is likely a more objective opinion than your family or friends. They are thinking of what you like, not what they like.
But ultimately, block out all the noise and listen to your gut. If you know deep down you don’t love something, it’s not your gown, no matter how “pretty” your bride tribe says you look. And if you, in your heart, know you prefer something different, listen! You’re the one who’s going to be wearing the gown, you make the ultimate choice.
11. Don’t Be Afraid To Say Yes To The First Dress You Love
Bridal stylists are super smart, and if they can tell you have a serious favorite during your salon walk through, they’ll likely put it on you first. Our experts say often brides think they are being too quick to decide, but then they come back to buy the first gown they loved anyway.