The Roller Coaster Ride
Here is the deal; you are going to ride a roller coaster of emotions through the entire dress process. It will be fun and painful and if you have any sort of budget it won’t be like the movies. Remember that you will find a dress perfect for you, you are beautiful, and its one day.
There are a lot of bridal stores and many carry the same designers, make sure you like the store and the service before you invest in a gown with them. Unless the store is designer specific, you can probably find that dress at another shop.
Dress shopping is a unique experience, the sales woman will come in the dressing room with you, you will be practically naked with a stranger while you finagle yourself into massive dresses in a tiny dressing room. Just laugh and enjoy the ride.
Stages of Dress Shopping
You still have plenty of time but you are too excited to wait, you go to the first boutique and they fill a dressing room with all kinds of dresses. You probably want to buy the first or second one you try on because the moment you put on a bridal gown you really feel like a bride and you don’t want that feeling to go away. That’s Stage One – Excitement and Wonder.
But you most likely came back to reality and decided you have plenty of time and should keep looking to see what else is out there and what the prices are like at other shops. A few weeks later you spend an entire weekend going from appointment to appointment at bridal shops, try on dozens of dresses and by the end of the day you want to cry. None of them are perfect. The one with a beautiful bodice has too much tulle. The one with a perfect shape is the wrong fabric. Stage Two –Disappointment.
At this point you are probably also feeling a level of disappointment in the fact that unless you are spending an exorbitant amount of money at a designer store in LA or NY you probably aren’t being served fancy champagne and feeling like you are on an episode of “Say Yes to the Dress.” Instead you are being shoved into dirty sample dresses held on by industrial clamps. You can’t tell the real color of the dress or how it will fit and have no idea why you care so much about a dress you will wear once.
The Third and Final Stage: Relief. You will give yourself some time off from dress shopping and go back when you are emotionally prepared. You will finally find your dress or go back to the very first one you loved during that first blissful day. You will dance around in it and feel the sense of relief that the entire process is over with. This is a great day to bring some friends or family to see the gown you chose and get some additional pleasure in their satisfaction.
Start early - It may take time to find a dress and it can take up to 6 months to have your gown back from a designer once you order it. Then you need to budget time to have any customization and alterations done. It is better to get it early and store it than be in a panic the month before your wedding.
Call ahead - Make appointments for the bridal stores so that you get the attention you deserve. Ensure the store has dresses within your price range before you visit.
Read the reviews - Read yelp reviews of the bridal stores before you set up an appointment. Don’t work with a store with poor reviews. Coming from experience, you need to be able to trust your bridal store. Unless you plan to buy off the rack, you need to trust you will get your dress on time and that it will be correct.
Don’t try on any dress outside of your budget - You don’t want to fall in love with something you can’t afford and it will make it hard for you to really love your dress later. Don’t put yourself in that situation.
Try on a variety - When you first start your shopping try on dresses in every shape and style. Just because you think you want a princess gown does not mean that is what you will like on your body. Trying on a variety of fabrics, designs and fits will help you narrow your choices when you are shopping later plus give you an idea what looks right on your body type.
You can change that - With just about every dress you try on there will be something specific you don’t like, the stylist will ask you “what don’t you like about this one?” and when you point it out she will tell you that you can change that with alterations or add a belt if you think it’s too plain or add straps if it is strapless. It is true you can change things, but remember it comes at a cost. Be sure you have room in your budget. Custom alterations can be costly, especially if you need fabric from the dress designer. Also, if you are adding a belt or other accessory try these with the dress to make sure it looks as you expect before you make your final decision.
Color - The dress you choose may come in white, off white, ivory, oyster or a dozen other variations of white. Don’t assume the dress you saw online or on another bride was white, they all look white. True white is very bright; most of the samples will be in off white or ivory. Ask the stylist to show you dresses in the different colors so you can see the difference. When you choose your dress and need to pick the color try to find dress samples of the colors from the same designer. Colors will vary between designers and it can be hard to tell on small swatches or just by a description.
Second look - When you pick your dress, the one you think is “the one” have the stylist write down the details and come back another day to order it. When you picked your dress you probably tried on a dozen other dresses the same day. It is smart to come back with fresh eyes and it won’t hurt to try it on one last time when you order it.
Bring the shoes - Purchase your shoes or bring a few final contestants and try them on with the gown at your final ordering day. If the dress can be ordered in a specific length this will help the stylist get the perfect length and save you money on alterations down the road. Also, if you are trying to decide between a few different shoes, seeing them with the dress will really help you visualize the whole look.
Fake wedding date - Give the bridal store a fake wedding date for a few weeks before your real wedding. This will ensure your dress comes in a bit early and you can get your alterations done and put it in the closet without stress. You don’t want to be worrying about your dress days before your wedding.
Final fitting - If you do an early final fitting (because you gave a fake wedding date) be sure to try your dress on again in the week prior to your wedding just to make sure it still fits well. Don’t be caught off guard because your weight changed right before your big day. When you do this, put on your shoes, and accessories, the whole bit. Make sure you like the entire ensemble together so that you know if there is a little tweak you need to make or a different piece of jewelry you want to wear.
Money Saving Tips:
Where you shop - If you are priced out of bridal stores, try a nontraditional route. Department stores, antique stores and even online retailers sell bridal gowns or white formal attire that may as well be a bridal gown at a substantially lower sticker price.
Alterations - Find a shop that gives you credit toward alterations or better yet includes them for free. Even if your dress fits perfectly when it comes in it will not have the cups or bustle sewn in, some shops include these necessary alterations in the price. Ask ahead of time so that you know if you need to budget for this or not.
Accessories - Look online for accessories such as your veil or belt. Bridal boutiques jack up the price on these items since you will be trying them on with your dress to see the full look. You can find almost identical pieces online substantially cheaper. There are many Etsy shops that offer customer veils cheaper than anything you can find in a bridal shop.
Samples - Sample sales or purchasing a dress off the rack can save a ton of money especially if you can find something that almost fits. Samples may not make as much sense if you need substantial alterations as these can get pricey. There is no harm in trying a few trunk shows or flipping through the off the rack section to see if there is anything that catches your eye. You never know what you might find.
Don’t wait - Avoid rush fees by ordering early. Some shops can take 6 months for delivery and you need to factor in time for alterations. Rush fees can be expensive and are completely avoidable if you start early.