To some brides, the image is clear. They can describe the feel of the material, the intricate lace pattern, the shade of white, and the fall of the train. To other brides, the picture is a shimmery blur, but somehow they know in their heart what they are looking for. That feeling of “This is it! This is exactly what I pictured wearing on my wedding day” even though they could never put it into words. And then there are some who never really gave it much thought, who never pictured wedding day or what they would be wearing. Whether you are any of these brides or not, there is one thing you all have in common, the hunt for THE dress.
Having worked at a retail bridal shop for many years helping brides find THE dress, here are my top 5 tips to making the hunt for THE dress less stressful.
1. Be honest with yourself and the store associate about your wedding dress budget.
According to The Knot*, the average wedding dress cost of 2021 was $1800. What affects the price tag? Material, embellishments, cut, and brand. Duchess satin would be more expensive than chiffon, swarovski crystals instead of rhinestones would also bring the price up. Handmade lace vs laser cut lace change the value of the dress. And of course, designer gowns will always impact the price tag. Make sure that when you are setting your dress budget, you are honest with yourself as to what you can afford, and allocate money aside for alterations. Unless you are going for a custom fit dress, you will be spending anything from $50-$500 on alterations on hemline, taking in or letting out the dress, bustling, and more.
When addressing the sales associate assigned to help you with your wedding dress hunt, let her know what your budget is. There is nothing worse than falling in love with a dress that you might not be able to afford. Let them know that when they are bringing you suggestions, that they should stick to the price point you are asking. Some shops offer financing options, ask them what those options are.
2. Try on different silhouettes!
Wedding dresses aren't like regular dresses. Some are multiple layers, may require different undergarments that what we wear everyday, and others are HEAVY. Do yourself a favor and first try on the 5 main silhouettes: mermaid, a-line, trumpet, ball-gown, and sheath. You will be surprised, sometimes what you think you won’t like is what you end up falling in love with and other times, it reaffirms what you already knew. Rule of thumb when trying on wedding dresses, take two bra styles, a strapless bra and a regular bra. Some locations offer corset bras for you to try on the dresses with and others don’t. If you are wearing heels on wedding day, bring a pair that will be similar in height.
3. Location, location, location.
No, I am not referring to the location of where you are buying your dress. I am talking about where you are planning on getting married. If you know you are wanting a beach wedding, go for dresses that are made out of lighter materials like batiste, charmeuse, or chiffon. It won’t be weighed down by sand, you won’t be sweating a ton in it, and it will be light and airy. If you are getting married on a farm or in the woods, chiffon might be tricky because it is delicate and can easily snag. Faille and damask are good options for cooler months and allow for a more structured look. Just make sure that you keep in mind that the last thing you want on a wedding day is to be freezing in a chiffon dress in the middle of winter or roasting yourself out in the beach wearing a dress out of moire.
4. Don’t bring a huge entourage to try on wedding dresses!
We’ve seen it all, from parties of 1 to an entire sorority group come in for a wedding dress trial. What tends to happen when you have too many people giving input when you are trying on dresses is that what you want, your voice, gets lost in the sea of opinions. I’ve seen brides fall in love with their dream dress only to leave it in the store and settle for another dress because of other’s opinions only to come back months later to exchange the dress they bought for the one they truly loved, sometimes costing them more. Trying on wedding dresses can be nerve-wrecking without even considering body issues and more. Our suggestion, tell everyone you want them to be surprised on wedding day when they ask if they can tag along for wedding dress shopping, and only pick 1-3 people who you know will respect your wedding day vision, won’t try to talk you into a dress you can’t afford, and who will truly be happy for you with whatever dress you chose.
5. Research the stores you are planning to visit.
Wedding dress shops do not carry every dress in every size. What they tend to carry is a limited selection of sizes, and sometimes not very many size options. Go with an open mind. Call ahead and ask if they have dresses you can try on and give them your size and even measurements (bust, waist, hips). If there is a designer dress you have in mind, ask if they carry it and if they don’t have it in your size, if they have a similar style that you could try on for size purposes. Many will help you out by calling sister stores that carry what you are looking for so that you can try it on. Some let you purchase off the rack while others require an order period. Make sure that when you call to make appointments, you ask as many questions as possible as to the process.
Hunting for THE dress should not be a stressful experience. Some people find their dress on the first store, others find it on their second day of searching. And others find it a bit later after taking a small break. Just remember, if you think you found it, close your eyes, imagine you are about to walk down the aisle and your groom turns around to look at you. You’ll know then if you found it!