Things I Learned Wedding Dress Shopping
When I got engaged, the thing everyone wanted to ask about was the dress. I’ve been dress shopping five times since July.
I’ll be the first to say that I have had really mixed feelings about dress shopping. Being a double-digit bride isn’t something that I’m excited about, and trying on bridal gowns in inflated sizes really hits your self-esteem. For the record, I’m a ten, on my way to an eight. Like most brides, I’m trying to lose a little weight before the big day. Nothing crazy, but I could lose a little, and this was a good reason to do it. But some bridal gowns I tried on were an 18 or a 22. But whatever. I went in to try on some dresses.
It has been truly amazing being engaged. Everyone is SO nice and always wishes you well. I am also beyond excited to marry Charles. It’s also been fun making the day that little girls dream about into my reality!
I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned dress shopping, mostly that I wished I had known before.
Try a Few Stores
I went to some local boutiques, both high-end and lower-end, as well as a David’s Bridal. I originally went in without any interest in buying to a couple of places. I’ve worn a full-length formal gown exactly three times before this, and I didn’t know what exactly I was looking for. There are a lot of options. Mermaid, trumpet, a-line, ballgown…the list goes on and on. And there are a million dresses of each silhouette. The first place I went was a locally owned bridal boutique and tried on dress after dress after dress. I didn’t really love any of them, and the idea of spending $1,500 on a dress I’d only wear once, and be told my budget was low was really not working for me. I will say that my consultant was amazing at pulling dresses that matched what I wanted. She asked a ton of great questions about what I liked and what I didn’t, and we narrowed it down a ton. My next trips were easier because of this.
I am also not bashing David’s Bridal, but the experience there was less than optimal. I felt like they didn’t have what I wanted, but the pressure to buy something, anything was put on me a ton by the salespeople there. I didn’t feel valued more than a dollarsign, even though the dresses were very nice.
Try Different Silhouettes Anyway
I thought I wanted a sheath dress. Something slim-fitting, and also something probably strapless. Nope! I tried it on, didn’t love it. Tried on lots of other styles. Mermaids, trumpets, a-lines, ballgowns. What I ended up with wasn’t at all what I had pinning on Pinterest for years, but it’s very me. After trying on every possible cut, I knew I was making the best possible choice. Obviously, based on the pictures in this post, I really only like a-line silhouettes, so I didn’t take many pictures of anything else. Here’s a mermaid that I tried on…and hated. The consultant said it made me look thin. I think that was a lie.
Don't Go Over Budget
I didn’t go over budget. This is something I’m so happy with. Hearing that my budget was super low even though it was more than $1000 more than I’d ever spent on a dress was really discouraging. I was also concerned about the costs of alterations, which can cost a fortune more. I ended up finding exactly what I wanted for less than $500, and already have an all-inclusive alterations package for $200. I’m very pleased with how it’s turned out, and now we have more cash to spend on food, or like, the bar. I was also surprised at how stupid expensive veils are. $300 for a veil? And what about those sparkley belts? $84? No. Amazon is your friend, if you’re working on a budget. I would just rather spend that money on something else.
Go Somewhere That Allows Pictures
This was a must for me. I refused to shop anywhere that didn’t allow photos. I needed to know how I looked in it in photos, because it will be the most photographed thing I’ve ever worn. I found that most places were fine with this, and I cancelled appointments at places that saud no photos until I’d bought something. It also let me look at it later, sleep on it, and make a better decision.
Don’t Bring the Entourage…or Anyone
My first couple of dress-hunting experiences were solo! It was really nice to think about what I wanted without worrying about other people’s feelings. After I’d narrowed it down to a particular style, I did a couple of shopping trips with moms or friends to get opinions. It was really easy, because it was more like “here are my three favorites, please pick one” than having a whole bridal salon to pick from. I also recommend going with the smaller group. Too many opinions means that you won’t make a decision at all.
Sometimes There Isn’t “The Dress”
I also didn’t find the one. I didn’t get emotional. I didn’t know it was perfect. I tried on five dresses that I completely loved. Any one of them could have been it. Any one of them would have been fine. Once it’s altered to fit me, and I’m all dressed up with hair and makeup and a giant veil, they will all look beautiful. Any of them. In the end, I just had to pick one and stop looking. At some point, it’s more important to make a decision rather than wait for an emotion that might never come. Too many episodes of Say Yes to the Dress had made me believe that I needed my mom to cry, and I would just know. I didn’t know. I still don’t. But I made a decision and it’s one that I’m happy with.
I bought my dress, alone, and no one knows what it looks like! The ultimate surprise.
I hope this is helpful if anyone is looking for the dress. I had a really good time trying on dresses and would go again and again and again. In the end it was most helpful for me to just pick one. I’m happy with it, and it’s going to look beautiful when it finally arrives! I can’t wait for you to see it…in ten months. It wasn’t any of the ones pictured here. :)