How to Start Shopping for a Wedding Dress (and Stay Centred Doing It)
Title photo by Nataschia Wielink Photography
Hold up! Before you start shopping for a wedding dress you’re going to want to read these 8 tips.
Wedding dress shopping can seem daunting at first. Just looking at runway fashion trends and the (eek!) price tag that comes along with them can be intimidating alone, before the shopping even starts! However, you don’t want to start shopping willy nilly or you could end up having regrets. Read on (and take notes if you have to!) for how to start your wedding dress shopping on the right foot.
1. Wait until you’ve booked your venue.
Your choice of location will have a huge impact on what qualifies as an appropriate dress for the occasion. Is your ceremony outdoors? On a beach, in a field, in the woods? In a church? In a contemporary space? The type of venue you select is going to set the entire tone for the rest of your wedding day, so you’ll more than likely want a dress that matches that tone - in appearance and practically speaking!
2. Do a bit of background browsing and research.
Even if just for an hour, start looking online at some wedding dress styles to get an idea of what appeals to you. Maybe you’ll learn that there’s a designer you are very keen on! And you’ll certainly want to narrow down what stores in your area sell dresses by that designer. It’s also a good idea to check if there are any trunk shows happening soon, especially if they feature that designer you like. There’s a chance it could be your only opportunity to try the dress you’ve been eyeing!
Alternatively, maybe you’d like to check if there are any wedding dress pop-up shops or sales going on. Pop-up shops tend to show up during the year around the same time that wedding shows and exhibitions do, i.e. around the beginning of the year or over the fall season - however, you just never know. It’s worth a fast Google search to see if anything catches your fancy!
3. Set your budget!
You must, must, must set a budget for yourself. Everyone has a certain amount they are not okay with going over, and it’s important that you establish that number before ever stepping into a bridal boutique. There’s nothing worse than walking into a store and having your dreams crushed because it’s full of gorgeous dresses you can’t afford. Settle on a number and start shopping at the stores that can accommodate your budget. It will start you off on the right foot and in a good mood. And the sales associates there to help you will be much better able to serve you.
4. Keep an open mind…
Knowing what you like is important, but it shouldn’t put you in a box! Start shopping with an idea of what necklines and silhouettes flatter your body type but don’t enter a boutique thinking you need to stick to a particular look. Limiting yourself to one or two specific styles might make you miss a good opportunity, and you might just be surprised with what looks good on you! This is where suggestions from the sales associate or mom can pay off.
5. …And a clear head.
On your first shopping trip, it’s particularly important that you should go with just one person - someone close to you, who cares a lot about you. Dress shopping can feel overwhelming at the start, so you should do it with a clear head - which means one trustworthy opinion, not three! Multiple opinions will add to the confusion and should be left for later shopping trips.
Keeping a clear head also means going on a week night instead of the weekend. Wedding boutiques are often appointment-only (so make sure to book one!), but on a Saturday, these appointments will be run back-to-back. You’ll be much less pressured and more clear-headed if you don’t have to think about time sensitivity, and you might just get lucky enough and have the store to yourself.
Once you’ve had that first trip and have gotten more familiar with the process, you can start to think about bringing your sisters, friends, bridesmaids and mother-in-law on a weekend. Brace yourself though! It might feel a bit chaotic. But that’s okay, because now, you’ve got this!
6. Bring the right shoes!
If you’re trying on dresses, it’s important you know what they will look like on your actual wedding day - and part of that is bringing the shoes you’ll be wearing. However, it’s likely you won’t have those yet, so wear something similar in height to what you would like or what you think you’ll be buying. This way you will have a better idea of how the dress falls and how it will look once it is altered.
7. Know the importance of fit.
For seasoned dress shoppers, this will seem silly to mention, but many new dress shoppers don’t know their dress sizes. Dresses are not sized like street clothing - you may be a size 6 jeans but a size 10 dress! Don’t let this trouble you. It can easily become upsetting and stressful to some when the reality of their true dress size, which they have never dealt with before, comes to light. But how your dress fits will speak much louder than the numbers on the label.
A properly fitting dress can be transformative for your figure and overall appearance when sized up (mind the pun!) against an ill-fitted one. So while the numbers might shock or surprise you, do not let them deter you from shopping in the proper size. While you could theoretically just “go on a diet”, this approach is always bad logic for approaching a wedding dress. Just don’t do it. Too many brides have gone through this thought process and have only lived to regret it. Buy in the dress size that you are, not what you want to be. It’s simply not worth the risk.
8. Listen to your gut.
Being true to yourself is so critically important. When you try on a dress, listen to your gut and trust your intuition. How does the dress feel? How does it make you feel? Answering these questions to yourself honestly, and telling the store associate and your companions the stone-cold truth will result in the best wedding dress shopping experience possible for you. If you have doubts about a way a dress looks or feels, move on to another. Do not settle from peer pressure, uncertainty or otherwise - or you just might end up having regrets on your wedding day. Any nobody wants regrets on their wedding day!
I hope these tips have better mentally prepared you and given you the chance to tackle this exciting part of your wedding planning with confidence! Wedding dress shopping is easily one of the most emotional parts of the wedding planning process. You’ll try on a dress and the reality of your engagement will hit you like a ton of bricks - or rather, like a cascade of fluffy feathers, balloons and confetti! Without a doubt, it’s going to be an exciting experience - so remember to enjoy it! Good luck!