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The best part of wedding planning is also the most stressful part: shopping for your wedding dress.
There’s the budget, choosing who gets a preview, finding the right bridal boutique, attending fittings… Who knew it can get so complicated?!
Nevertheless, we’ve decided to write this post to prepare you for your wedding dress shopping experience, starting with the steps. Then we’ll answer your dress questions and finally look at some wedding dress shopping tips!
Let’s dive right in!
7 Steps to shop for your wedding dress
- Find inspiration
Finding some wedding dress inspiration online is not a difficult task. And with Pinterest and Instagram around, it’s so much easier to do than 20 years ago…
When you’re searching for that perfect dress on these platforms, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Those brides with the long beautiful sheath and A-line dresses, aren’t really that tall, most of the time. Realistically, if you look at their height, try to see if you can figure where their hips start, then their knees and ankles. Notice anything? Yes, even some of the taller models are probably wearing very high heels or standing on top of something.
Why is this important?
Well, simply because most of us are of regular height, and many of these wedding dresses by top designers won’t look as flattering any more once they have been drastically shortened.
Another thing to note when finding online wedding dress inspiration is the price tag of the wedding dress.
These beautiful designer gowns with the lace and the tulle, all the embellishments and so on, will cost quite a pretty penny. And the chances of finding an extremely good dress maker to create a similar wedding dress are slim – and will probably be quite expensive, too, as bridal fabric doesn’t come cheap.
Also note the availability of the wedding dress you like. If you saw it on Pinterest, for example, will you be able to locate it at a bridal boutique to book a fitting.
- Determine who is buying
Who is paying for your wedding dress? If your parents are paying, you should consider the budget which they have made available for you.
If you’re paying, then you should do your research properly to avoid any disappointment when paying a lot of money for a dress that never arrived. It happens more than you think…
- Set a budget
Play it safe by setting a budget for your wedding dress, especially if you can’t afford an expensive number, or an expensive wedding for that matter.
Some research will help – visit a few boutiques in your area to get a feel for what type of wedding dresses will fit in your price range.
- Choose your entourage
By the time you’re shopping for your wedding dress, you will have (hopefully) chosen your bride squad.
Decide who you want to take with to your first dress fitting: your bridesmaids, the moms, etc. Or maybe you want to do it alone?
- Make some appointments
Time to make those appointments! After doing your research about bridal boutiques in the area, make some fitting appointments with them and let those who are going with you know.
Note: some boutiques ask a once off fee when you fit your dress for the first time. That’s because many brides fit a dress, take photos, and then let someone else make the dress for them.
- Attend fittings
On the day that you attend your first fitting, be on time. If you’re late at one boutique, you might be late at the next. Dress fittings take time, so make sure to ask the boutique if they can take out a few dresses for you to fit once you arrive – mention your budget and style when you make the appointment.
The next few fittings after you’ve found your dress are very important. Don’t miss out on them and wait last minute, only to find it doesn’t fit well at all. You can take your maid of honor or a bridesmaid with, or even your mom – a second opinion always helps.
- Collect your wedding dress
Once you’ve attended your last fitting and all necessary adjustments were made, collect your dress no later than 1-2 weeks before your wedding day. To avoid the groom from seeing it, you can also ask someone to pick it up for you and take it to the venue on the day.
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Wedding dress shopping etiquette and tips
Be on time – if you’re late for your appointment, they might give your spot away to another bride-to-be, especially if it’s a popular boutique.
Check how many guests you can take with to the boutique – not all of them allow an entourage of 5 people, and some don’t allow children.
Shop early for your wedding dress, but not too early – 9-12 months before the wedding is a good starting point.
Take your wedding theme and the climate of your wedding destination into account – a long sleeve mesh wedding dress will not be a good fit at a hot Arizona wedding venue.
Don’t fit a dress you can’t afford – you will likely fall in love with it, and overspend heavily on your wedding budget, or you will struggle to find a dress to match the luxurious number you’ve just tried on.
Be prepared with questions for your wedding stylist. This will also help them get a look and feel for your type of wedding dress.
Treat yourself to a spa or salon morning before your dress fittings, if you have the budget for it. You’ll feel more relaxed when trying on dresses.
Don’t have your heart set on only one type of wedding dress. There are many styles that fit all body shapes, so be open to some suggestions as well.
Make sure that you are happy with your choice. Just because others say you look stunning and gorgeous, etc. doesn’t mean that you should get that dress, if you don’t really like it that much…
If you’re planning on buying the veil and bridal accessories at the same bridal boutique, ask for a bundled discount. Chances are good that you will get it.
Keep your contract for dress fittings and your invoice/statements in a safe place. Your bridal boutique will likely walk a long journey with you until your wedding day, with all the dress fittings and alterations, so keep a paper trial of everything.
Try on the more affordable dresses first, then scale up. Chances are good that you will find the perfect dress before going over budget.
Remember to actually try a wedding dress on – don’t just dismiss it because it’s on a hanger. A wedding dress looks better “on” and will show off it’s true design and style – it might just be “the one” you’re looking for.
If you’re planning on shopping online, check the online store’s return policy. If it’s a good one, you might be able to order a few dresses from them, and send back those that weren’t a good fit.
If you’re a plus-sized brides, be sure to let your boutique know beforehand, so that they confirm that they actually have sample sizes for you to try on in store, or make arrangements for your fitting day.
Consider how comfortable the dress is, because you’ll be wearing it the entire day. Also, try to sit down in the dress to see if there will be something that might irritate you, such as the boning or the embellishments.
Order too big, rather than too small. It’s easier to take a dress in than making it bigger.
When should I shop for my wedding dress?
Ideally, anywhere from 9-12 months before your wedding day. If you decide to shop for it later than that, take into account additional fittings that need to take place, as well as rush order fees that the boutique might charge to finish your dress in time.
If you shop for your dress earlier, say, right after your engagement, you might find that your wedding dress might be out of style, or that you don’t like it that much anymore.
How much is the average wedding dress?
On average, wedding dresses cost around $1,000 – but prices vary greatly. You can spend anywhere between $300 and $1,650 for a wedding dress, and even go below or above this price range – do your research before you spend.
Designer labels are very expensive, and not many brides can afford them – this can be thousands and thousands of dollars, which will like break your wedding budget! Did you know? The most expensive wedding dress is a whopping $12 million!
What is a good wedding dress budget?
If you have an average sized wedding budget, and the dress is part of it, we’d say a good amount will be $1,500. This will include most dress styles and you have a wide array to choose from.
Who pays for the wedding dress?
Traditionally, the dress will be paid by the bride’s parents as part of the wedding budget – also provided by them. But nowadays, many brides choose to buy their own wedding dresses, or at least a part of it.
How do I choose a wedding dress for my body type?
If you want to show off your curves, choose a dress style that will hug your figure a little, but won’t be too tight and uncomfortable – mermaid styles dresses as well as fitted sheath dresses are good choices.
If a ball gown is your thing, consider your height – these dresses can easily look too frumpy or to expanded on many body shapes.
It’s best to ask your wedding dress stylist which dresses they consider to be well-fitting on your body shape when attending your first appointment.
Can you rent wedding dresses?
Of course you can! That is so convenient, right?
Renting your wedding dress is fast becoming a thing, because many brides opt for some budget cutting to spend more on other things, and also, it’s becoming harder to sell your wedding dress afterwards.
What style wedding dress is most flattering?
It depends on which feature of your body you want to show off.
If it’s your hips, a dropped waist or mermaid dress will be a good choice. If it’s your neck, a sweetheart neckline or off-the-shoulder dress will be great. If you have a small waist, consider a banded wedding dress or belt around your waist to accentuate it.
What do you wear to try on wedding gowns?
Opt for nude colored underwear that fits you very well, so that you can keep it on while fitting wedding dresses. Also, bring a pair of shoes or heels along – the correct height that you also want to wear on your wedding day.
13 Things no one told you about wedding dress shopping
- You will probably like the first one you try on, and that’s okay! The first dress is the “bridal moment”, the realization of you getting married.
- Wedding dresses don’t have to be white – this is a tradition brought on by Queen Victoria in 1840, before that, women simply wore their best dresses. And now we’re slowly moving back towards that trend.
- You pay extra for designer labels – a well known fact!
- The ‘new dress’ might not be that new. Do proper research on the boutiques you’d like to visit and make sure their wedding dresses are brand new, if a brand new dress is what you want.
- There will almost always be additional fittings needed – at boutiques they talk about “one-size-fits-no-one” – so don’t get hung up on sizes. Wedding dresses will be altered to fit your body shape the right way.
- The more dresses you try on, the harder it will be to choose one. Best way to avoid this is by taking photos of the dresses you like – all the details, front and back – and using it as a guideline for your visit to the next boutique.
- Sample sales and pop-up shops are your friends. It’s like a giant seasonal sale of last-size dresses or ranges from dressmakers and designers. Sample sales can be found online and in boutiques, pop-up shops are less frequent, but check out Facebook events, and also Google.
- Letting someone else make your dress isn’t always cheaper. Bridal fabric is expensive, plus you’re paying for the skills of a dressmaker. Also, please do your research on dressmakers before you pay, to avoid an expensive lesson learned.
- You will struggle to sell it afterwards. It’s getting harder to sell your dress because the internet is becoming saturated with online shops, and brides trying to find a bargain because of reasons. If you do sell it, however, you will hardly get your money back.
- There’s nothing wrong with shopping off the rail. “The rail” isn’t a bad thing – it can be the last out-of-season dresses, dresses to sell because the boutique wants to make space for new stock, marked down dresses that wasn’t that popular, etc. Have a look at the rails, you just might find something you like!
- More embellishments = more expensive. Many wedding dress embellishments are hand sewn onto dresses by skilled hands. And that is what you pay for: skills and hours of labor.
- Renting your wedding dress is the latest trend. Like we mentioned earlier – you can rent your wedding dress, rather than buy it. There are bridal boutiques that offer this.
- A “trash the dress” party isn’t a thing anymore! A frankly, it’s just annoying. (It’s a party where the bride and bridesmaids do a shoot where the dress is literally trashed – with paint, glitter, etc.) Even if you think “It’s my dress, I paid for it, I can do with it what I want” – isn’t there someone out there who would look stunning in that dress and can’t afford a brand new one?
10 Mistakes to avoid when shopping for your wedding dress
- Going over budget
This can happen so easily! Be strict with yourself (and the stylist) when it comes to your wedding dress budget. Some boutique’s stylists will sneak an overpriced dress into your fitting room, hoping you will love it, and then buy it! Be sure to ask each and every dress’ price before trying it on.
- Choosing the wrong people to go with you
If you take people along who are either very opinionated or not opinionated at all, you’re going to have a loooong day. Avoid taking people along who will try to force a dress on you that they like. Your dress fitting is a special moment, so make sure you want to share it with the people you want to.
- Wearing the wrong undergarments
If you’re planning on wearing a neon pink bra, you’re in for some challenges. It will be distracting when trying on multiple dresses and trying to get an overall view and “feel” of the wedding dress. Go for nude colored undergarments.
- Being late
Being late at appointments will result in a rush of trying on wedding dresses, before the next bride comes in.
- Not discussing your dress styles and budget with the boutique beforehand
If you just show up with no clue, you will overspend. If the budget isn’t discussed, the boutique will likely take out their more expensive dresses for you to try on, because, well, they need to make money.
- Not making appointments
You can’t just pitch up with your entourage and hope all goes well. Chances are, they will send you away, because the stylist will likely be busy with another bride.
- Not attending dress fittings
If you miss your dress fittings once you’ve found “the one”, how do you know it will fit well on your wedding day? Avoid the nasty surprise on the morning-of and just attend your fittings.
- Wearing the wrong shoes
If you take along shoes that won’t be the same height as the ones on your wedding day, you might have a problem. The dress will be tailored according to your height, and it may result in your dress be too short or too long on your wedding day.
- Not doing your research
Research is key when planning on shopping for your wedding dress. Research different styles, fabric and bridal boutiques. Be prepared on the dress fitting day with all your dress images for inspiration, and your dress budget, of course.
- Not taking the weather and climate into account
Finally, when shopping for your dress, take note of the possible weather and climate on your wedding day. This will determine if you can wear a long sleeve, or if you might need a bolero.