10 Tips for Wedding Dress Shopping

This post is part of our almost weekly How To Series.  Since I spent most of last weekend on a marathon wedding dress shopping adventure, I decided to share what I learned.

Sharon enjoying a mimosa after finding the perfect dress

  1. Do some research online beforehand, but only to get an idea of the different styles that are out there.  I spent so much time looking online that I narrowed in on a certain style and then when I actually got to try on a dress exactly like what I had picked out online I didn’t like it.  There’s nothing quite like trying on the dresses in person so allow yourself time to do that.
  2. Know your budget ahead of time.  You need a very clear budget range BEFORE you start shopping.  This probably means you should wait to go dress shopping until after you have figured out some of the big budget items: venue, catering, photography.  Assuming that the dress is coming out of an overall budget, it needs to be dependent on the cost of other large ticket items.
  3. Bring your shape wear and heels, but realize that you might not actually need them.  Depending on the shop and what types of dresses you are trying on you may end up trying on dresses that have built in corsets in which case you don’t need shape wear.  If the dresses are new and you are trying on samples you also won’t need heels because they are made extra long and hemmed to fit you during alterations.
  4. Most sales people will ask you standard questions, “What silhouette do you like?”, “Straps or strapless?”, “What fabrics do you like?”.  I had trouble answering these questions and I was finally able to get to what I wanted when I started describing how I wanted to feel and what the wedding was going to be like.  For example, I wanted to feel feminine and romantic, so I ended up liking the silks and chiffons rather than the satin.  A good salesperson can help put your ideas about your wedding into an actual style.
  5. Try different types of shops to see the range of what’s available.  We went to everything from department store, thrift shop, David’s Bridal, off the rack discount wedding shop, and couture boutique.  I had initially shied away from the fancy couture boutique assuming everything would be out of my price range, but it turned out that the dress I ended up buying there was less expensive than some of the dresses I liked at the consignment shop and David’s Bridal.  
  6. Don’t bring your entire bridal party.  Dress shopping is tiring and the more people the longer it will take and the more drama may ensue.  For me, two guests was an ideal number.  This was very helpful because one would take notes while the other one took pictures.  
  7. Make an appointment (preferably not on a Saturday since they’ll be super busy).  Our appointments lasted between 90 minutes and 150 minutes.  Ask ahead of time how long you have for your appointment.
  8. Other things to bring: tissues and a hair tie.  You may cry, your mom might cry, or perhaps it will be the salesperson!  We saw a lot of people crying, but I only teared up a little bit.  Even if you normally wear your hair down it’s helpful to tie it back for trying on veils or hair accessories.  
  9. Ask about alterations and factor that into the overall cost of the dress.  Alterations generally run $200-500.  Some dress shops require that you use their alterations department.  Some places have a set cost and others are specific to your dress and what needs to be done.  Gowns with corset backs usually require less alteration where as a dress with a lace overlay or lace appliques may have expensive alteration costs.
  10. Bring a camera.  Most shops will let you take photos.  I found it very helpful to see myself in the dress in the photos and to compare photos from one shop to the next.  Especially if you are doing a dress shopping marathon, you may need a reminder of what you tried on and how it looked.
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9 responses to “10 Tips for Wedding Dress Shopping

  1. Great advice! So excited that you found the perfect dress 🙂

  2. I agree! I ended up picking a dress I dismissed when I saw it hanging on the rack the first time around. You always have such practical advice; despite all the drudgery of wedding planning I’m glad you were able to really fall in love with your dress. The proof is your smile in that photo!

    • Thanks Hadyn. The wedding dress shopping was fun overall since it was an opportunity to spend time with my mom and Jay’s mom. We shared some laughs making fun of the most ridiculous dresses and mom was totally shocked when one of the dresses I liked turned out to be 10K! The funniest moment was when I was clamped into this very fitted dress that was at least a size too small to begin with and I could barely move. The salesperson said I could sit down in it so I had to try. I ended up lowering myself into the chair with my arms but still couldn’t bend at the waist at all. We all burst out laughing.
      Anyways, tiring, but fun!

  3. It was a delightful experience! Not one I had thought about having so it was especially fun.

  4. So glad you could join us, Cindi. For the rest of you out there, that means Sharon went shopping with her mother and future mother-in-law!! And we had a lot of fun and love the choice she made. Sharon, the one thing I would add is to keep looking until you find the right one. We saw many that would have done fine, but the “one” was really “The One” and worth waiting for. Same with fiances, actually!! lol.

  5. Having an open minded bride to shop with was the key to success. She indulged us in trying on dresses her mother and I picked along with suggestions from the consultants. My favorite moment of the first day was when Sharon came out from the dressing room at Macy’s and little girls could be hearing gasping in awe and then total strangers weighed in with how stunning she looked in a blue evening gown.

  6. You don’t show much of the dress in your smiley photo above but I note that you do seem to be channeling your signature SheRa bodice line – it has always been a good look for you!

  7. If I may weigh in: My BEST ADVICE to brides when dress shopping is to tell the shop that your wedding is actually two weeks before it really is. That way there is less potential for stress and fingernail-biting if there is still last-minute chaos with completing alterations to the dress.

  8. Madelon’s advice is specially good with baby due dates. Be sure to tell everyone it’s two or three weeks later than it actually is so no one will be calling you on or around your real due date to ask, “Had the baby yet?”

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