Finding the perfect wedding dress

For many young girls who dream about their future wedding, finding their dress is supposed to be the most magical thing in the whole world. In reality, the experience is a little more complex. There are so many emotions and thoughts that get piled in and heightened during an appointment at a bridal salon: excitement, anticipation, nervousness, budgetary concerns, and high expectations. Shopping for a wedding dress can be overwhelming, so I’ll walk you through it and offer advice based on my own experience.

  • Set a budget and stick to it. Make sure to budget your dress in proportion to the rest of your wedding. If the dress is the most important to you, then spend more on it while cutting money from somewhere else in your wedding that feels less important. Also, keep in mind that the number on the price tag is not what you’ll end up paying. You’ll also have to pay for the veil, undergarments, shoes, jewelry, and possibly alterations. These extra things add up fast, so be mindful of this when setting the budget for your dress. For example, my veil was an extra $200 that I didn’t see coming because I hadn’t even thought about my veil before.
  • Book your appointment for an off time. If you go on a Saturday afternoon, you’ll likely walk into a crowded salon with distracted consultants hopping from one bride to the next. If you book your appointment for a weekday (preferably before the after-work-rush), you should have a quiet salon with a dedicated consultant. This is really important because the mood of the store will have a big impact on the tone of your appointment.
  • What to wear to your appointment. Before I went on my first wedding dress shopping excursion, I did some research online and was told to wear a strapless bra. Personally, I hate strapless bras because all they seem to do is slowly fall down during the day. If you’re going to a smaller bridal salon, you may want to wear a strapless bra just in case. But, if you’re going to a larger salon, such as David’s Bridal or Alfred Angelo, good news! They provide you with their own “special” strapless bra to wear during your appointment, so you don’t have to torture yourself by wearing a strapless bra the rest of the day. The panties you wear are more important. I suggest something nude and seamless. If you’re comfortable showing your entire backside to a complete stranger, then by all means, wear a thong. If you’re more conservative, seamless full-coverage will do just fine.
  • Bring a small entourage. Yes, you’ll probably want to share this experience with everyone who is important to you, but you’ll be better off keeping it small. More people means more opinions, more people to please, and more of a headache. So just bring a few people who you really trust and whose opinion you value. I brought my mom, brother, sister, and one of my bridesmaids/best friends, and that’s really all I needed. Bring people who will support you and contribute to you having a good experience, not people who will stress you out. Also, no kids if you can help it. They will be distracting not only to you and the rest of your group, but also to the other brides in the store who are trying to find their dress. During my appointment at David’s Bridal, the group next to us included a screaming toddler, which is no fun for anyone. I asked my consultant how she felt about kids in the salon and she said, “It gets annoying. It’s inconsiderate to everyone else in the store.” Luckily for us, the screaming kid left about halfway through my appointment.
  • Come to your appointment with an idea of what you might like, but be open to other styles. It’s always good to have something in mind when you enter the bridal salon because it gives your consultant something to start from. Be open and ready to try on dresses that are a little different than what you first had in mind, because you can do so while still sticking to your personal style. It’s a good idea to try on different silhouettes in order to figure out what actually looks good on you. For example, Pinterest had me in love with ball gowns, but they absolutely buried my 5’2″ frame. I ended up going with a trumpet gown, something that I had never originally pictured myself in.
  • Trust your consultant. Watching copious amounts of Say Yes to the Dress does not make you an expert, nor does it realistically prepare you for wedding dress shopping. Your consultant, on the other hand, is an expert; she does this for a living. If she pulls something from the rack that you’re hesitant about, try it on anyway. They know your body shape and what kind of look you want (if you communicate with them), and they are an invaluable asset when it comes to finding the right dress. About halfway through my appointment, my consultant asked me more about my personal style, and when I told her that Audrey Hepburn is my style icon, she knew exactly what to pull for me. She immediately went for an Oleg Cassini gown and it ended up being “the one.” I had never heard of Oleg Cassini because his gowns had never come up in my research, but I trusted my consultant and she nailed it. Honestly, after looking at more of the Oleg dresses, I wish I could marry Dan twenty times and wear a different dress each time– they are beautiful!
  • Keep in mind the season and theme of your wedding. I cringe every time someone refers to a wedding “theme” because it sounds so cheesy, but it’s the best word I can think of. Basically, just the general style, mood, concept, and colors of your wedding. It’s important to remember your wedding as a whole while picking out your dress because your dress has to fit your wedding. For example, you’re getting married in July, a heavy dress with long sleeves (however beautiful it may be) will look and feel very out of place. For summer and spring weddings, you’d want to go with a lighter, more practical dress.
  • Wear the dress; don’t let it wear you. This one is especially for brides who like bling, lace, or lots of details. You could have the most beautiful dress, but it won’t look right if it’s drowning and overshadowing you. Don’t let the detailing on a dress distract When I tried on ballgowns, they swallowed me whole. A good example of this concept is the dress that came in second place when I went to David’s Bridal. I was in love with the illusion neckline and lace on the dress, but in the end I realized that it was just way too much fabric. This dress wore me, I didn’t wear it.
  • Don’t be afraid to keep trying on dresses, even after you think you’ve found “the one.” You’re going to hear mixed opinions on this, and mine is that buying a wedding dress is a big deal, so you should be sure before you purchase it. If you feel like you’re going to leave the store still wondering what else you could have found, you’ll regret it. If you still have the urge to try more dresses on, do it. But then go back and try “the one” on again, and you’ll know for sure that you’re making the right choice.
  • You might not cry, and that’s okay! A lot of women expect that they’ll know they’ve found “the dress” when it makes them cry (Say Yes to the Dress only adds to this expectation). Not everyone is the same, and not everyone will cry, and that doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you or that you haven’t found the dress. Some people see angels, fairy dust, and rainbows when they find their dress, others just have a calm, sound feeling of knowing. When you know, you know; it doesn’t matter if you cry or not.
  • Love your body. Too many women feel pressured to lose weight for their wedding. Every time I see the phrase “Sweating for the Wedding!” on Pinterest, my soul aches. Brides, we are all beautiful. We will look beautiful on wedding days no matter what the scale says. I understand wanting to feel your best on your wedding day, and that’s fine as long as you don’t take it to an extreme. Love your body as it is, and find a dress that makes you feel even more beautiful. Enhance your beauty, embrace your curves (or lack thereof), and shine from the inside out.
    Planning your wedding and picking out your dress is a very exciting time in your life. It’s important to pick the right dress, but you also have to keep the big picture in mind. It’s about more than the dress, more than the wedding, even. It’s about you and your fiancĂ© starting your lives together and building a present and future filled with peace, joy, and love.
This is the glow of a woman who just bought her wedding dress. A strong, beautiful woman who is ready to walk into her future with her head held high. Yes, I just called myself beautiful, because that's how I feel.
This is the glow of a woman who just bought her wedding dress. A strong, beautiful woman who is ready to walk into her future with her head held high. Yes, I just called myself beautiful, because that’s how I feel.

2 thoughts on “Finding the perfect wedding dress

  1. What a beautiful post! Your advice is right on the money. I wish you much happiness on your Big Day. PS — Oleg Cassini was Jackie Onassis’ favorite designer and he was also, some people say, madly in love with her.


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