One of the most exciting chapters on the bridal journey is finding your dream dress! Walking into a bridal salon is like walking in to a bridal candyland – and although exciting, it is pretty easy to feel a bit daunted by the many styles, fabrics, design options, designers and price ranges on offer. Knowing which is the right one might take a bit of time.
Use this timeline to shop for your gown in a way that won’t leave you unnecessarily stressed. Finding this significant garment is a balance between choosing with your heart, with practical circumstances in mind, and to a large extent a process of elimination. Once you found it, the people that make it need enough time to do so, ensuring a perfect fit on your big day and a chilled as possible experience.
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As soon as you are engaged…
Start searching around in your heart of what you would really like to exude on your wedding day. This can be related to how you always imagined your wedding dress to look like, or you can also use your intended wedding style as a reference point. Your venue, theme and time of year can have a big effect on what style of dress you choose to go for. Personal preferences should always be the biggest deciding factor though – anything is possible if it is what you always dreamed of.
Silhouettes, fabrics, design elements should also be researched. You can go for something that you know works for your body, or perhaps you have a dream dress you have seen somewhere in a magazine that you know you must try. An easy way to figure out what silhouette already works for your body is to look at the dresses hanging in your wardrobe! What designs do you love wearing? What is “you”?
Go online and buy a few bridal magazines to get an idea of what styles of dresses are available these days. Also research your local bridal salons, go to their websites and check out their lookbooks. It is natural for modern brides use social media for instant wedding inspiration. Just be prepared – these is a vast jungle out there, so be sure to limit your research to max 3 months and then just go with your initial ideas, or you’ll soon feel pretty overwhelmed – you have to draw the inspiration line somewhere.
As you plan your overall wedding budget, also establish your bridal outfit budget: dress, shoes, accessories and jewelry included.
10-11 months before the wedding
Book appointments to 3-5 bridal salons in your town and surrounding areas, if you don’t mind traveling. Even if you are planning to order a dress online, it is still a really great idea to wear a few “real” dresses so you get an idea of how different styles fit.
Before you book, make sure to have a firm idea of what the salon stocks, their price range and designers available before you arrive. Make a phone call a head of time especially if you saw something you loved on their website to make sure that there is a sample your size available to try. Not all salons stock the same dresses as they might specialize in different niches. You want to avoid wasting time trying on dresses that simply wont do it for you, or something beyond what you can afford.
8-9 months before the wedding
By now you would have tried 10-20 (or more) dresses and have been forming insights about that works and what doesn’t. It is crunch time! You probably have had one or so dresses that made you feel really happy and fitted the vision. It makes sense to buy that dress!
Not every bride knows instantly and had the tears and the “moment” – and that is absolutely fine – it can be THE dress either way. What is of greatest importance is that is is comfortable to wear, in a comfortable price range and reflects your personality. If you have doubts, it is fine to sleep on it and come back for a second appointment another day. But try to stop yourself from believing that there will be a better dress in another shop – after 5 salons and 25 dresses you will just get more and more confused and overwhelmed.
When you have said yes to the dress, make sure to find out how long the dress will take to fabricate. If you didn’t yet find it, for all new dresses you try from now on, make sure that they can be ready in time for your wedding – otherwise don’t even bother trying them on to avoid disappointment.
The height of your heels will be fundamental for the hem length of the dress, so as soon as you know what shoes you are wearing be sure to call the salon with the information.
5 months before the wedding
With the dress you have chosen in mind, now is the time to complete the look with a veil, earrings, necklace, garter, headpiece or tiara, a shrug or a cape, shoes and anything else you plan on wearing.
As you said yes to the dress, you probably took a photo of how you looked in it – this picture will be very useful as you choose your accessories. You can even ask the salon to give you a piece of the fabric your dress will be made of, or at least a color swatch – so you choose an ivory veil with ivory dress and so on.
When you go for your first fitting once the dress is ready, bring your accessories to your fitting appointment to get a complete picture of your intended look.
1-2 months before the wedding
You should have at least 2 fittings in total: once the dress is ready at the salon for the first time since you ordered, a second fitting to check the progress. You might also want a third and final fitting close to the wedding for further fine tuning to ensure complete perfection.
If you worked hard to loose weight for your wedding the third fitting will probably be necessary. Always buy the dress size that fits you at the time you buy it. Wedding planning is stressful, and not everyone finds the time or focus to be as strict with their lifestyle as they intended.
If you are pressed for time…
Not all engagements last a year! There are plenty of ways to get the dress of your dreams sooner. Look for bridal boutiques that offer ready-to-wear dresses, that you can literally take home with you on the same day.
Having a dress made by a dressmaker might have a shorter timeline, but it depends on their orders, the dress you order and the dressmakers experience.
You could buy a pre-loved dress or look for sample sales that most salons has once or twice a year. The designer might be able to do a rush order so it is worth inquiring – bear in mind that an extra fee would be added to the cost of the dress.
There are many high street stores and online retailers such as Etsy that offer wedding dresses that will arrive quickly. Bear in mind that shopping this way you might need to allow for a seamstress to make any necessary alterations to make the dress perfect for you.