Written with love, by Felicia
Last month, I gave you a brief introduction to my dress-shopping experience and my “slight” obsession with “the dress.” For someone who feels so passionate about wedding dresses, being able to choose my very own was an experience I’ll never forget. So, from one bride to the next, here are my top 10 tips for dress shopping that I learned along the way, which I hope will help you as well:
1) Go into the shop with photos of dresses you like and with a specific budget in mind. Bring in photos you like, but also photos of dresses that you like but might push you a bit out of your comfort zone. Go in with two budgets, also. One for the dress and one for alterations. If your budget is $1,500, ask yourself is that $1,500 just for the dress or dress and alterations. If alterations are included, expect to look at gowns $200-$300 less than that.
2) Go with an open mind. You have no idea what a dress will look like on YOU from a photo or a hanger. If you always wanted a mermaid dress and realize you can’t walk comfortably in it, try a trumpet or fit-and-flare. If you always wanted a ball gown, but get swallowed up in the skirt, try an A-line or a dress that can have a bit of extra crinoline added to give you some extra poof without overwhelming you.
3) Get creative. Sometimes this means expanding your budget, but it can be really fun. First, ask your consultant if you can mix and match details from a few different dresses. If so, the possibilities are limitless and can help you truly create a one-of-a kind gown. Say you like the sleeves on one dress, and a belt from another, but the silhouette of something else, you can combine them all for a truly unique gown. Also keep in mind that if you like a dress but think the skirt might be too full or not full enough, crinoline can always be added or removed to your liking.
4) Go with as SMALL of an entourage as possible. You’ve all seen the TV shows where women go dress shopping with everyone from their sisters to their third cousin once removed. While it’s tempting to want to include everyone, dress shopping is a very personal and intimate experience. There is such a thing as “too many cooks in the kitchen.” The more opinions you have, the more stress you get.
5) Put yourself first. Going along with the previous tip, this is your day. You have to love the dress, you have to be comfortable, and you have to see yourself getting married in that dress. Other opinions are nice, but none of them matter as much as yours. I believe that if it truly is “the dress,” you need to fight for it. However, keep this in mind: Many places of worship require a certain amount of modesty that may require you to cover up. A dress full of illusion lace or a plunging neckline may not be the most appropriate for a church wedding. Cover-ups are an easy add-on that you can wear during the ceremony and take off once the ceremony is over.
6) Don’t be selfish. Do not, under any circumstances, try on dresses outside your budget. Again, referring back to tip No. 5, you need to put yourself first and buy what you like; however, in most cases, someone else is probably purchasing the dress for you. You set a budget for a reason, it’s because it’s what you can afford. Think about it this way: Take that $1,500 budget we were talking about before. If you try on a $3,000 dress and love it, you are creating a very awkward situation, and one of two things are going to happen: A.) the person buying the dress will cave in, spend double what they were expecting and may have to go back home and cut their own personal budgets (say a heating bill or car payment) because of that, making them feel remorseful; or B.) they put their foot down and tell you “No,” then you feel resentful. Who wants either of those to happen?
7) Buy an extra yard. Trust me on this one. Purchase an extra yard of fabric! It may cost you a little bit extra, but you never know when it’ll come in handy. Last-minute straps, sleeves, or bolero. You can frame it with your wedding invitation, use it for your future child’s christening gown (instead of chopping your dress), or make a special gift for your parents. The possibilities are endless.
8) Be timely… but not too timely. Give yourself about nine months out to shop. If you go too early, you have the chance of missing out on trends that may arise at a later date.
9) There is no one-and-done. Don’t feel like you have to buy your dress the first time out. Also, don’t think you will have just one appointment, either. Expect at least three to four appointments: one to choose the dress, one when the dress comes in to make sure it fits appropriately, and two additional fittings – one of which will be two to three days prior to your wedding. Because of this, be mindful of where you purchase your dress. You want to make sure you can go back to the shop when needed for alterations.
10) Be realistic. Dresses run small. Don’t even look at dress size on the label. Remember, what you try on in the store is just a sample; your dress will be made to your measurements anyway. That being said, it’s always easier to take in a dress than to let one out. If you plan on losing weight, great! But don’t buy a dress in the size you hope to be; buy the dress in the size you are now. That way, the seamstress can take in what she needs, and you don’t add stress by hoping you’ll fit into it.
And one more for good luck…
11) Pay it forward. The folks in your bridal party are often left spending a lot of money to be a part of your wedding. If someone in your bridal party wants to be involved but might back out because the cost of the dress – and if you can swing it – buy her dress for her as a surprise. A few hundred dollars, in the long run, will provide you with a lifetime of happy memories knowing you were able to help someone be a part of your special day.
Have you purchased your dress yet?
If so, what tips do you have for brides starting their dress-shopping experience?