Shopping for a wedding dress can be thrilling and, at the same time, intimidating. Your wedding dress will most likely be the most expensive dress you’ve ever purchased. But there’s no reason to feel overwhelmed if you know what to expect. Here’s all you need to know to find not only your perfect dress, but the right fashions for everyone in your bridal party.
Before You Shop for Your Wedding Dress
One of the most meaningful and remembered parts of your wedding, especially for you, will be your wedding dress. So you’ll want to make sure to leave enough time in your schedule and money in your budget to get the dress of your dreams. The first step in finding that dress is setting the wedding date. It might not be obvious at first, but when you marry will help dictate the style of your dress. If you’ve always dreamed of wearing a short, chiffon number, you’re going to have a problem making it work in mid-winter, unless you live somewhere warm. Alternatively, you’re going to want to stay away from a floor-length satin gown with full sleeves for an August affair.
After you’ve picked your date (or an approximate date), talk to your fiancé and decide what kind of wedding you’d like to have. You’ll need to find a location for your wedding. Are you a laidback couple who’d like an outdoor barbeque or would you prefer to wed at a castle surrounded by hundreds of your closest family and friends? The specific wedding style and venue you choose will reduce your wedding dress options. There are thousands of dresses out there and you can’t try them all on…as much as you might like to.
Once you know what style of wedding you’d like and where you’re going to have it, setting a budget will be easier. And setting a tentative budget is key to narrowing down your dress choices. You’ll typically spend 10% of your wedding budget on your dress, alterations (depending on the amount of work required, alterations can cost hundreds of dollars) and accessories and your groom’s tux. You can’t have a $10,000 dress on a $12,000 budget…unless you’re not planning on feeding your guests, so keep your budget as realistic as possible. You’ll need to have a number in mind when you start shopping for dresses. You don’t want to fall in love with a dress you can’t afford.
Once you know when and where you’re going to wear your wedding dress, what kind of wedding you’d like to have and how much you’d like to spend, you’re ready for the fun part…wedding dress shopping!
Going Shopping for Your Wedding Dress!
It takes four to six months for most wedding dresses to be made, so you’ll want to start your search at least six months before your wedding. The more time you give yourself, the better. You don’t want to incur rush charges by ordering your dress too late. Or run out of time if it takes you awhile to find your dress.
Before hitting the bridal salons, look online and browse through some bridal magazines to find dresses you like. Print or tear out of a few pictures to take with you when you start shopping. Make some appointments at nearby bridal salons, take a couple of your closest people (be it your mom, sister, friends, or if you want to break tradition, your fiancé) and start trying on gowns. Avoid bringing an entourage to your appointments because a large group can often make shopping for a dress more difficult and even overwhelming. Too many opinions might detract from the one that matters most…yours.
Keep an open mind while trying on dresses. Put on dresses in different silhouettes and fabrics, even if you think you want to wear a specific style. If there is a specific feature you want changed on a dress you otherwise like, you can request it. Just keep in mind that any design changes will be an added charge. Also, be aware that the dresses will be in sample sizes (sizes eight or ten). Don’t be bothered if that’s not your size. The salespeople will fit the dress as best they can so that you’ll be able to envision how it will look in your size.
Once you’ve decided on the one, you will be measured. Make sure to order your dress in the size you are now, even if you’re planning on losing weight. It’s much easier to take a dress in that to let it out. Also, you’ll probably sign a contract and most places will also require you to leave a 50-percent deposit. Keep in mind that most orders can’t be cancelled, so only order a dress that you love. If you’re not sure or have doubts, keep shopping until you find a dress you really adore.
Alternatives to Bridal Salons
Most brides choose to buy a gown at a traditional bridal salon, but if you’re looking for something different or you’re on a really tight budget, there are other options. Check out vintage-clothing stores, consignment shops and discount or outlet stores. Find out when your local bridal store is having a sample sale or ask if they are willing to sell you a sample dress. Another alternative is to look at bridesmaids’ dresses and evening gowns, which are less expensive and usually less formal but often come in white. You can also have a gown made by a dressmaker or there are even places that rent wedding dresses. eBay and Etsy are two good places online to look for discount or unique wedding dresses. And a number of clothing stores, like J.Crew and Ann Taylor, now offer a line of bridal dresses at more budget-friendly prices.
While you’re trying on wedding dresses, check out what accessories are available at the bridal salons to get an idea of what you like. There is no set rule for what accessories to wear with your wedding gown. If you don’t want to wear a veil, don’t. If you’d like to wear a tiara, go right ahead. Choose whatever accessories you like, but make sure that your whole look—dress, accessories and shoes—works well together and makes you look fabulous.
After you order your gown, if you didn’t purchase them at the same time, buy accessories to complete your look: hair accessories, veil, shoes, jewelry and, if you’d like, a bag. Also, go shopping for foundation garments that will work with your dress. You’ll probably need some sort of bra or bustier as well as underwear or shapewear. You’ll need to have these, as well as your shoes, with you when you go to your dress fittings.
Don’t Forget Your Bridesmaids and Groomsmen
At least three months before your wedding day (you want to make sure there is time for alterations), gather your bridesmaids and go shopping. In the past, bridesmaids typically wore identical gowns. Today, you may opt to have them wear different dresses as long as they’re in the same color, style, length and/or fabric family. Pick a style (or styles) and color (or colors) that fits your overall wedding style, but make sure that whatever dresses you choose flatter your maids. This will not only make them feel good, it will ensure that your pictures look good as well. Also be considerate of cost, age-appropriateness and re-wearability.
Tell your bridesmaids the overall look you’re going for, and, if you trust them, allow them to pick their own accessories. If you think they might need a little help, suggest some options or colors for them to choose from. Also, it’s customary to give your bridesmaids a gift of thanks for being in your bridal party, so give them an accessory you’d like them to wear.
While you might be concentrating on yourself and your girls, don’t forget the guys. Depending on your groom, you might need to remind him to set up an appointment to either buy or rent a tux or suit for himself and his groomsmen. Then again, maybe you’re marrying a fashionista and he’s on top of it. Either way, you’ll want to make sure that what he wears goes well with what you are wearing and that your bridal party looks cohesive.
The Bridal Gown Alterations
When your dress is finally ready, you’ll need to get it altered. During your first fitting, wear whatever foundation garments you’ve bought to wear on your wedding day, as well as nylons (if you’re wearing them) and shoes. Your undergarments can make a difference of up to two inches on the hemline or waist, and also show if your dress will be too revealing in any area or if different garments are needed. Try to anticipate any problems: make sure you can sit in the dress, lift your arms and move comfortably. You will typically have to have at least three fittings before your gown feels and looks like it was made only for you. Always have a final fitting once all the alterations have been made. You want to make sure there aren’t any other problems or changes that need to be made. Also bring the person who is going to bustle your dress to your final fitting, this way she can be shown how to operate the ties, hooks, loops or buttons.
Your Bridal Hair and Makeup
So, you’ve figured out your wedding day attire and accessories, now you need to focus on your hair and makeup. Find a hairstylist and makeup artist that you like, either one you already know or ask around to find one. As a last resort, search the web for someone near you who has gotten good reviews or whose work you like. Make an appointment about two months before your wedding day for a hair and makeup trial. Look in magazines and online for hairstyles and makeup ideas to take with you to your appointment. Keep in mind this is the time to find the look you’ll wear on your wedding day. Be honest with your stylists and let them know what you do and don’t like. If you’re planning on wearing a veil or hair clips, make sure to bring them with you. Also, dress up a little because a fancy hairdo and stunning makeup will look different if you’re wearing your weekend sweats. If possible, try to make your hair and makeup trial to coincide with a dress fitting so you can see the everything all together.
On The Day
On the wedding day, make sure to eat. In all the excitement and activity, you might forget. Get your hair and makeup done. When going to get your hair and makeup, wear a button-down shirt or something else that is easy to take off so you don’t mess up your hair and makeup. Give yourself lots of time to get dressed. Your photographer will probably want to take pictures of you getting ready, so the more time you have, the better. And finally, enjoy yourself!