Wedding dress hunting is usually a central part of your journey as a bride, and with the number of styles, fabric colors, shapes and designers out there, make sure to take enough time to figure it out.
Today we are posting about how to best prepare yourself for your very first dress shopping trip and sharing some practicalities of coming to your first bridal salon appointment.
If you arrive well informed of what to expect, your can focus 100% of your attention on the dresses and use your time at the salon better.
Some brides walk in to their first dress shop and choose one of the first dresses they tried – and that is remarkable and admirable.
If you feel great, love the dress and everything feels right, then of course that is the one! If you get “the feeling”, there is no necessity to carry on looking.
Others (like me) didn’t know at first what they were looking for, what styles exists out there and which ones would fit right.
On top of so much beautiful online inspiration, there is also a well of information to absorb.
When to begin? Where do I begin? What to I want? How do I know that I found it?
How much do I want to spend?
This is not about how much you can spend – but what you think is reasonable to spend on a garment you will wear once, for just a few hours.
Consider the fact that there is a normal and long life after the wedding, where you might have other longer-lasting investments you would like to make.
A more expensive price tag doesn’t automatically mean it is a better match or a more suitable dress for you.
An upper figure of what you want to spend is one of the first things to establish, or you will have too much choice, or financial remorse.
When do I start?
Work backwards from your wedding date. Most dresses will take four to eight months to be made once you have chosen it. You want to factor in at least 2 fittings before the wedding to make sure it fits perfectly. This means you should allow as much as 9 months for getting the dress made and fitted, which means if you want to take your time finding it, or if you think you will be a choosy dress shopper (or have no idea what you want when you start) – just start as early as possible! Why not as soon as you know you are getting married? It could be great to know your venue, as it might affect the dress style you go for.
Plan to buy the dress absolutely no later than eight months before the wedding – this will allow for the designer to create your dream gown without rushing, and you have time for the 2 fittings you need. It is also great to have ticked it off the list early, as more planning tasks quickly emerges! If you can avoid it – don’t buy the dress feeling panicked by time constraint.
Starting a year in advance and allowing yourself space to think and try out more avenues is always helpful to making an informed decision.
You want to be able to take your time, enjoy every moment and give yourself enough time to mull over the options. Wedding dress shopping should be a joy, not a rush!
On the contrary, you might not want to buy your dress too soon either, in case there is a change of heart or wedding style/ date.
Is there a dress code at my ceremony or reception?
It is good to be aware if the dress fits in with the atmosphere of your venues, so you don’t feel inappropriately dressed.
It is also good to have the weather in mind so you are not too hot or cold.
There are wedding dress separates that will increase your options, such as detachable sleeves, capes, trains or ball gowns that can be taken off revealing a lighter reception dress.
So with a little bit of ingenuity, you can have any dress of your choosing, then modify it accordingly with removable pieces.
What would I like to try?
You might not be completely aware of what you want yet, but when beginning your hunt it could be very useful to have a starting point, how imprecise it might be.
Once you are in that kind of dress at the appointment, you will realize what is right about it and what isn’t, and so your consultant will have a better idea of what to try next.
If you don’t, it is fine too – trying dresses and talking to the consultant will help you a lot.
As there are many aspects to bridal gown design, check if you would have certain preferences, or if open to anything!
What fabric do you like? What silhouette? Any specific color? Sleeves? Neckline? Must-have feature such as Open back, Lace, Embellishments? Traditional or Trendy? Sexy or Demure?
You don’t have to define all, but develop at least a basic idea.
It is encouraged to draw some ideas from the venue, other brides and wedding publications, and form an initial vision.
If you have a picture of a dress that caught your attention, bring it along.
However – be prepared that it might not be what you thought in reality! Don’t worry – there is something better waiting!
Having an idea is an useful indicator, but remember to also be open to trying dresses beyond that first vision, they may surprise you. Therefore, try to not be too fixed on your first idea, as it could end up being restricting.
Even if you are strongly set on a fitted mermaid gown, but not finding the one, try on a different silhouette too because you never know – perhaps it just feels totally right!
Where do I start?
Living in a big city, you will naturally have a bigger range of salons to choose from than if you are in a smaller place. If your town doesn’t seem to have your desired styles on offer, it could be worth traveling to find the right dress, as opposed to settling for what just happens to be available.
If you have developed a strong idea of the style or designer you yearn for, do some research of where you might find the dress. Not all bridal salons will stock every kind of dress, so call ahead and make sure that you won’t be disappointed or waste time.
Book 2 or 3 appointments with bridal salons that you genuinely believe could have something that you want, which is also in your budget.
Most bridal shops have a catalog of their collections on their website, making researching easy.
It is always worth calling ahead – something could be out of stock, they might not have listed every dress, or perhaps got an exciting trunk show coming up! It is also worth looking out for sample dress sales, or consider pre-loved gowns which could mean you get the designer dress of your dreams for a lot less dollars.
How many salons shall I look in?
This is of course dependent on how easy it seems to find something interesting in each place. You might have to book a double appointment in a particular salon if the usual hour of appointment didn’t leave enough time for all the potential dresses.
In so many cases, the more you try, the harder it is to buy. Therefore, start out by researching the salons carefully beforehand, being selective and make sure they have options that seem viable for you, budget wise and dress style wise.
By holding on to the idea that there the perfect dress exists in the next store, or the next, or the next, you might end up chasing around town for something that can’t be defined, maybe doesn’t even exist.
My advise is to not look in more than 4-5 salons, as it could get overwhelming to try a huge amount of dresses, and of course frustrating and time consuming too.
So to start off with, choose the most promising salons only, the salons that offer dresses in your budget, personal taste and that simply speaks to you.
Will I have to be undressed in front of a stranger?
Yes, or no – you will be able to decide if the consultant is in the dressing area with you, or if you prefer to climb into the dress yourself behind a curtain or in a booth.
By default you can expect a consultant to see you in underwear and your bra, but if you are uncomfortable with this, they will let you do the dressing and simply just help you do the back up.
Some dresses can be tricky to get in and out of, so you might appreciate some assistance.
What underwear shall I wear?
Ideally wear nude or neutral well fitting pieces, and a strapless bra. Very bright or dark underwear might show through some dresses.
Avoid knickers that creates lines, skimpy thongs or underwear you don’t feel comfortable in showing for others.
The best is obviously to wear the lingerie you are planning to wear on your Wedding Day, if you have those already.
Remember that well fitting shapewear can make a huge difference in how a dress looks and feels.
If your desired design is backless, or has a sheer back or low back, a stick-on bra could be a solution, which will give shape and some support.
What hair and makeup shall I wear at my appointment?
Come fairly done up, so you get a true sense of what you might look like on your wedding day – however little or much makeup you intend to wear.
Likewise with your hair – you don’t need a full hairsalon updo of course, a nice DIY bun or DIY chignon is sufficient. Bring your head piece if you already have one, and of course you will try the veil at the salon which should complete the picture!
A note on makeup – most wedding dress shops will appreciate if you leave the red lipstick off.
Why do I need a consultant?
OK – you might have looked at a few dresses already or online – but even if you have a strong sense of fashion, you are not likely to be a wedding dress expert. A wedding dress consultant is trained in wedding and occasional wear and work with brides everyday.
She or he will know your bridal style before you know it, just by listening to your reactions to the first few dresses you try on. Give your consultant the keyword description of what you have in mind, and you will probably be surprised of how well they were able to interpret that.
You might think that the best would be if you could rummage through the stock room yourself, but only the consultant knows the stock well enough to know what fits your shape, budget and size (and how easily it is to become confused when presented with too many options…)
Let her pick out dresses for you to begin with at least, because she has the expertize of what is going to look great on your body. If you trust her, she might even find a dress that you didnt even know existed, that turns out to feel a million times better than the initial dress you had in mind!
What time shall I go for my appointment?
The most popular day for dress shopping is Saturdays, especially the afternoons, and therefore this will be a naturally busy and chaotic time.
It is better to – if you can – take half a day off work during the week and shop at your own leisure, with the consultant being able to give you his or her undivided attention.
How do I know it is the One?
If you don’t know if it is the one when you wear it, it is not the one. If you don’t want to take it off or try something else, it might well be Your Dress.
Your guest or consultant might agree in jubilation that a particular dress looks great on or that is so you – but you must always listen to your own instinct first.
Practically speaking, the dress should flatter your figure, feel comfortable too, and fit with your wedding vision. (Some brides buy their dresses only thinking practically – personally I am not one of them, even though I wish I was)
Emotionally speaking, You should love what you see in the mirror from all angles. If the dress makes you look and feel beautiful, you might even be able to visualize yourself walking down the aisle.
The description “feel like a bride”is hard to define, but it is somewhere along the lines of regal, divine, or just damn good.
Maybe its none of those for you, but at least you would have some sort of tingle in your stomach area and a giggle wanting to spring out. A bit like falling in love with someone, or feeling a bit tipsy.
Other people should be able to tell from the look of your face or the twinkle in your eyes. Maybe you simply just light up, perhaps smiling differently to when trying the previous dresses?
Contrary to popular belief, you or your family or best friend don’t need to tear up for the dress to be Your Dress – it can still be your perfect wedding dress even if nobody cried.
Furthermore, just because your mother shed a tear when you had that particular dress on doesn’t mean you need to buy it.
Maybe she just had a happy memory from her own wedding?
It is an emotional garment and so it should be – but it is good to think sensibly too. There are many, many dresses that could be “the one” for you – so have an open mind whilst shopping.
When you are in Your Dress, you will feel proud of who you are, and you will think about your groom immediately, and how exciting it will be to see him at the end of the aisle.
If you think this is maybe the one because it it the best you have tried so far, but you have trouble knowing for sure because you tried too many at the same time – it is always possible to sleep on it and come back another day!
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