I think wedding dress shopping has to be one of the most exciting parts of the wedding planning process. There aren’t a lot of wedding-type things that I’ve dreamt of forever, but THE dress is one. My ideas of what I want specifically may have changed over the years as my style has evolved, but generally I’ve had an idea in my head. What fashion-loving girl hasn’t?! I knew what I didn’t want as much as what I did. I wasn’t sure on one or two details, but had a general starting point, which I think helps. If you go in and literally have no clue what you’re looking for, I can only imagine how long that process would take. To help you narrow down and start getting an idea, today I am sharing ten tips before you go wedding dress shopping.

budget

Let’s get the least favorite part out of the way. Have a general idea of your budget! I told one of my girlfriends the following while we were wedding dress shopping: “You don’t test drive a Ferrari and THEN test drive something else.” If you go try on a 20k dress when your budget is 3k, you’ll make something awesome seem not as great because it just can’t meet that expectation. I’ll also say that there are amazing dresses in EVERY price range. I had a number, and went in knowing that I personally was willing to go a certain amount over that from my own pocket because I just wasn’t going to compromise on the dress. One of the first questions you’ll be asked when you walk in to try on a dress is the budget. The next question you’ll be asked is…

CONSIDER THE TIME

Some dresses take much longer than others to get in and some brands hand make each dress. You need to know your date so the shop can have an idea of when you would need your dress in by. There may be some designers that won’t be able to get your dress to you in three months! So, have your date before you go and make sure you give yourself enough time. I was so eager to find a dress, it was one of the first things after we set a date and location.

HAVE A LOCATION

Location is important. A fully beaded ball gown is not what you would expect on the beach and a plunging neck, open-back body con dress is not what you’d expect to see at a religious ceremony in a church. Consider the location of your ceremony and your venue.

One or two?

Considering the above, will you change something about your dress to go from the church to the ceremony? Examples may include having removable sleeves during the ceremony, wearing a fur shawl outside during a winter wedding, or wearing a completely different dress all together. Budget definitely factors in to this, as does personal preference, but will you change during your reception or stick to one dress? This may change how you shop, so try to decide up front.

I’m definitely someone who I think could have three dresses, but for our wedding it just doesn’t make sense. It is a small intimate wedding in Italy and I don’t think that goes. Plus, I could potentially drive myself crazy, while draining my bank account, buying a few different dresses. If you’re having a huge wedding with a big reception, then several dresses may work perfectly. Consider the overall vibe of your wedding!

BE REASONABLE

Sure, you want to look the best on your wedding day. But, dropping six sizes and completely transforming your body in six months might not happen. Particularly if you are focusing on overall health and wellness. One of my girlfriends considered a particular dress with some features that really accentuated the body, but when she tried it on she was constantly adjusting it, holding her arm in front of her stomach, and talking about how she would lose a certain amount of pounds to make that dress work. Losing weight is not like dying your hair- you can’t guarantee it will happen, so while wanting to look your best and setting goals for that is amazing, be reasonable. You don’t want to wind up feeling insecure on your wedding day. Also, don’t worry about ‘numbers.’ Dresses, particularly wedding dresses, are not typical sizing like you’d order in an every day dress or even pant size. Don’t let numbers get you down! Order your size. You can always take the dress in, but letting it out is much more challenging and can only happen so much.

Find inspiration

Hellooo Pinterest. (If you’re not following me yet, I’m a pinning machine so do so, here.) I personally found Pinterest and good ole’ Google to be more helpful than wedding magazines, but I bought them and flipped through them all anyways because it’s fun and a part of the process! If you see images that you like of a certain brand, head to their site and see all their options for the current and upcoming seasons. Look up trunk shows coming to your area, too! Some ideas to use Pinterest and other sources of inspo to help you narrow down are: shape, fabric, neckline, train length, and style.

Research

Start looking for stores to visit. You may want to go to the store down the street, your mom or best friend may have found their dress somewhere and you want to go back, someone may be having a trunk show of a brand you discovered you love, or you may like the overall aesthetic of a shop. Regardless, do your research. Don’t just look at their site, look up reviews on multiple sites. If there are a lot of bad experiences, don’t go there. I know I completely ruled out looking at a place after one of my best friends (and a few of her bridesmaids) had challenging experiences with the store ordering the dresses way too big, then charging insane amounts for alterations and STILL not getting some of them right. This is a huge purchase and you want it to be a wonderful experience. Make sure you know who you’re agreeing to work with!

Decide who you want to go with you

Once you’ve narrowed down where you want to look, consider who they allow to come with you. Some stores don’t allow children under a certain age, so your best friend’s little girl who is your flower girl might not be allowed. Some stores only allow a few guests with you, so your mom, sister, cousin, grandma, aunts, and all your bridesmaids might not all be allowed to attend. If a lot of opinions overwhelm you when you know what you want, then consider going with just one or two people and waiting to invite other special people back during a fitting.

Make appointments

You typically can’t just walk in to wedding dress stores and start trying on dresses. They want to be sure that you have someone assigned to you who knows the store and can help you find dresses to try on, help you into the dresses, and keep track of what you like and don’t like. To ensure that you have a place to try on and someone to help you, make appointments ahead of time. Some places book up quickly, especially on Saturday mornings, so be sure to get them planned out ASAP.

talk it out

Talk with your Mom, Grandmother, or whoever else may be an important part of your life and potentially your decision making process. You’d rather talk about expectations or what you’re wanting before you get to the store. That way, you don’t end up devastating your Mom that you don’t want to recreate your her dress for your ceremony and rather, you’d like to repurpose her belt or use some lace. Finding out if there is anything that might be really meaningful to someone and that could influence your dress choice is important before you’re standing in the store getting in and out of dresses. Also, find out if there are any long-standing family traditions that may be important to consider.

Hopefully you find this helpful in getting you started on the dress process! I’ll be sharing more about my specific experience, some things to consider based on what I learned throughout the process, and how/where I found my dress. Stay tuned! XO

Image credits: Mine / Daughters of Simone / Berta

11 Comments

  1. These are all such great tips! I loved trying on dresses and the moment I put mine on, I started to cry and knew it was the one! Best feeling ever!

    xo, Sara

  2. Such good tips! You forgot Have Fun- wedding dress shopping was one of the most fun things I got to do while planning my wedding… and it was all over so fast!

    -Stefanie