Wedding dress shopping is a process that could be mentally exhausting without the right guide. We are looking at a bride with a vision, aiming for perfection across many stores and price ranges.
If you want to go back home as a satisfied bride with her dream dress, we’ve got some wedding dress shopping tips for you, from timelines to choosing the dress, mistakes to avoid, and more. Check this post for the best wedding dress shopping ideas for brides, guests, and everything in between.
Brides Often Ask
How long before the wedding should you go wedding dress shopping?
When to start shopping for a wedding dress depends on the length of your engagement and how soon you are getting married. However, the best time is usually one year before your wedding.
Who traditionally goes dress shopping with the bride?
Traditionally, the bride’s mom goes dress shopping with the bride. However, these days, siblings, family, and friends accompany the bride in, for dress shopping.
Wedding Dress Shopping Checklist
With all the rush and limited time before the wedding, how to go wedding dress shopping becomes a crucial task. So to make your task easy, here is a wedding dress shopping checklist.
A year before the wedding
- Create a wedding budget off your main budget
- Make research on wedding dress styles that suit your taste
- Make the first appointment for wedding dress shopping
- Prepare your gang for the trip
Eight to ten months before the wedding
- Say yes to the dress and buy it
Five to six months before the wedding
- Buy the appropriate undergarments for a wedding dress
- Make a firm selection of the wedding accessories
- Book an appointment for a hair and makeup trial
Four months to the wedding
- Receive your wedding dress with all excitement
- Book your first fitting and alteration
Eight weeks to the wedding
- Infuse a sentimental touch, you know the something old and blue idea.
- Book your second alterations and fitting.
Three weeks before the wedding
- Break in your shoes by practicing in them.
- Book your final alteration and fitting where you merge the dress with shoes and accessories to create the whole wedding look.
- Take your wedding dress home with you.
One week before the wedding
- Curate your wedding day bag complete with a hand-held steamer, emergency kit, jewelry, and accessories.
- Launder, preserve, or sell your wedding dress.
Do Your Research and Save Photos
One thing we tell brides when the wedding date is set is to prepare a mood board on places like Pinterest. You need it for everything, from catering to halls, seating charts, cake, makeup, and even your dream wedding dress.
For your wedding dress, create a mood board and fill it with your research on wedding dress styles from necklines to silhouettes, fabrics, embellishments, and more. You don’t know how to prepare for wedding dress shopping if you don’t have the basics covered.
Hence, become a bridal dress expert in a short time by looking at styles on Instagram, Pinterest, wedding websites, and magazines. Equip yourself with relevant information so that spotting your dream dress will be easy.
Choose Where to Buy
Offline and online wedding dress shopping have their pros and cons depending on who is asking. If you are shopping offline, the tension is less because you can see your dress in real-time. Also, there is less room for errors, unlike buying online.
However, online buyers often get cheaper deals and more buying options all from the comfort of their homes. Moreover, they may not even have the luxury of time to trail across shops. So whichever option you choose, here are some tips for the best shopping experience.
- Call the shop in advance
Make an appointment at the bridal salons you’ve chosen and call them in advance before leaving your home. This will help them get ready for you by sorting out dresses with your preferred styles and designers. They will also have a room ready for you while giving hands-on and dedicated attention to you. You’d simply have your specifications waiting for you.
- Make a list of questions to ask the stylist
Prepare a list of sensible questions for your stylist, knowing that they are the only ones knowledgeable enough to answer. When will your dress be ready and how long does it take to deliver? How do you preserve or get ready for travel? When is the best time to steam it? Does it need a bustle and what is the best for the design? What is the best undergarment and maybe jewelry for the dress? Ask questions relating to the entire ensemble because the consultant has a better eye for bridal looks.
- Bring shoes and accessories (if you have any)
Bridal salons often have a general pair of shoes that brides can use for testing the dress. But it is always better to bring your shoes, undergarments, and other accessories to the appointment. This is because these accessories will match whatever dress you choose. Hence, you will be looking at your full look before the big day.
- Take pics
You will try on many dresses and make comparisons after your first appointment. So take a lot of pictures and check out which clothes flatter you the most. This will help you make an easy pick when you attend your next appointment or are ready to choose.
- Take your friends or relatives with you
Confirm how many guests you can come with to the salon and prepare in advance. Choose only your best friends and relatives who can convey their feelings without pressuring or throwing shade. They must be fun, selfless, uplifting, and kind, and never make it about themselves.
- Choose your size
Know your size and measurements so well that the online chart does not confuse you. Also, wedding dresses come smaller than street sizes, so your regular size 8 clothes may be a wedding dress size ten. Hence, since all wedding dresses will almost always need alterations, the order in your size or a size higher.
- Check the return policy
Do your due diligence on the website, read and understand their return policies back to front. You don’t want to end up with a dress that doesn’t fit and your money is stuck because it says it is non-refundable. So avoid disappointments and stress by reading everything through.
- Order several options to try on
If the site allows, order many dresses to try on and see which suits you perfectly. Move, dance, and do wedding shenanigans in them to see how comfortable they are. They would never be as cozy as your pajamas, but you know what we mean.
- Consider the time of delivery
If you want to shop for your bridal dress online, the time of delivery is of the essence. Order dresses at least nine months before your wedding day, this will give you enough time for delivery, fittings, exchange, and alterations.
- Choose sites
Buy from sites that you have done or are comfortable doing business with. But if you don’t know where to look, check out these renowned online bridal salons below.
- Etsy with dresses as low as $150
- BHLDN with dresses beginning at $250
- The Outnet with dresses from $200 and regular discounts of up to 50%
- eBay with dresses starting from $50
Start shopping in advance
Prepare for wedding dress shopping well in advance because you don’t know how long it will take to land your dream dress. Also, it takes a while for dresses to be produced, which can take from six to twelve months. Then you have to deal with the alteration and all. You really don’t want to pay rush fees or end up with a badly altered dress for your wedding.
Before you go dress shopping for a wedding, you must set your overall budget. Within the wedding list, map out a budget for your bridal dress, which often amounts to about 6% of your overall cost.
However, when costing your wedding dress, consider the season, designer, design, embellishment, and size. You should also set budget for shipping, tax, alteration, custom fittings, and even rush work if you are ordering within a short time frame.
Lastly, think about wedding accessories like veils, belts, shoes, and even jewelry. Oftentimes, the dress alone amounts to an average of $1,800, according to the Knot, and more when you consider other factors.
How to Choose Your Dress: 15 Tips
Shopping for a wedding dress is a surreal experience, especially if it’s your first time. So if you want to come back as a happy bride, here are some tips on how to choose your wedding dress.
- Know Your Wedding Theme, Colors, And Style
Your wedding dress is an expression of your tastes and style. So lay down a concrete wedding theme and color palette way in advance. Choose your style and the wedding tone so that you don’t end up buying a new dress or looking awkward at your wedding.
- Think About the Season
The time of the year you’re getting married is important. If it is a summer wedding, you want to opt for breathable dresses. For winter weddings, you may prefer heavier or more covered dresses to avert the cold. Colors also play a big role in different seasons.
- Think About Location
The wedding location matters when choosing your wedding dress. You don’t want to wear a sheer dress for farm weddings or lace dresses for desert or rocky locations.
- Traditional or Fancy?
Cement your style and distinguish your taste. If you are a more traditional bride, lace is the best bet. For a fancy, modern or trendy bride, you can play with fabrics from lace to silk, organza, and the whole nine yards. This makes it easy to choose your dress.
- Choose Your Silhouette
Think about the silhouette of your dress in conjunction with your style, body type, wedding mood, and even height. For instance, sheath dresses will suit tall, willowy brides while mermaid dresses are for dramatic tones.
- Choose Your Decollete
Ensure that you choose a décolletage that will sit comfortably on you throughout the wedding day. Another reason is that it flatters your body and shows the most in pictures, so take extra care.
- Consider Different Length
You don’t have to wear the traditional floor-length wedding dress, especially if your wedding isn’t formal. Wear tea-length, cocktail, or mini dresses for a sexy, romantic, or quirky look.
- Consider Your Shoes Heel High
Wear heels to your bridal dress appointments, the same height you’ll wear at your wedding. This will give you a better view of how the dress looks on the big day.
- Do You Want a Long Train?
Decide if you want a long train so that you can research what bustle you want to attach early on, the bustle allows you to handle.
- Try On Not Only Snow-White Dresses
Your wedding day is a time to show your uniqueness and that includes your dress choices. We see more bold brides leaning towards colored wedding dresses. You could try colored dresses too and see how much you like them.
- Do Not Be Afraid To Experiment
Don’t be rigid or afraid to explore. Attend your bridal dress appointments with an open mind and trust your consultants to give you only the best. Being rigid makes you miss out on your best dress.
- Do Not Limit Yourself To Just One Dress
Test as many dresses as you love so far they are within your dress budget. Don’t limit yourself to one dress because dresses have a way of flattering the figure than you can imagine.
- Can You Move and Dance in It?
Move around in the dressing room because you don’t want to be uncomfortable. On your wedding day, you will kneel, stand, dance, maybe run and jump, depending on your wedding type. We are talking about religious elopement, cultural, civil, and every other dressing type. You also don’t want to miss out on giving them a good time on the dance floor. So, go for comfort, or relative comfort as the case may be.
- Take Some Time To Think If You Need
It’s okay to ask for some time; if you are not feeling up to it about a dress. Don’t let anyone pressure you, no matter their good intentions. It is your dress, big day, money, and choices. Let the decision to buy be solely yours.
- Make Sure It’s Your Dream Dress Before You Buy It
One thing you don’t want to do is forfeit money in the middle of planning a wedding. So, if you are not entirely convinced and at peace with yourself about the dress, don’t buy it. Buy only if it sings to your heart and budget.
Wedding Dress Shopping Mistakes
While we have tons of wedding dress shopping tips, many mistakes could mar the bridal experience. The wedding dress is one of the special attires you will wear in your lifetime. So if you want to look back on this time with a smile, here are some wedding dress shopping mistakes to avoid.
- Don’t buy a dress before without a concrete wedding date. Having a wedding date helps you and the professionals decide the best course to finding and perfecting your dream dress.
- Don’t buy a dress for your future or dream body type. Buy what suits you in real time and alter it to suit your new body type when due. Buying a dress for your future body type puts you under pressure to either gain or lose weight which could be detrimental.
- Don’t go dress shopping without having a vision or clear expectations of what you want. Such indecision will give your consultants a tough time choosing dresses and you will end up dissatisfied.
- Don’t shop for your dress with too many people. Differing opinions will make you hesitant in choosing your dream dress. You will more likely tilt towards their choices when it should be all about you.
- Don’t match your dream dress to an unrealistic budget. Do a market survey and map out a clear and firm budget with little flexible room for your dream dress. This way, you will not end up disappointed or get something you don’t really like that suits your budget.
- Don’t buy your dress in a rush. Your first appointment must not be your final one unless you are very convinced or saw your dream dress at once. Otherwise, move slowly, visit other stores and enjoy the shopping moment.
Wedding Guest Dress Shopping Tips
Attending weddings as a guest is fun when you get the invite. But going wedding guest dress shopping is another matter because you want to get it right the first time. There are no do-overs. So to ensure you look your best and nail your style without offending sensibilities, here are some shopping mistakes to avoid.
- Avoid white or cream color dresses unless that is the dress code defined on the invite. Depending on your taste, lean towards soft colors or simple patterns that make you pop without going over the top.
- Stick with the theme and don’t stray from the dress code, for instance, opt for something more casual if it is a beach wedding or a formal ensemble for black tie events.
- Although this may be hard to avoid, try not to match the bridesmaids or maid of honor, especially if you are not very close to the couple. Spruce up your look with something different because you don’t want to get engaged in uncomfortable conversations.
- Don’t upstage the couple by wearing anything too loud. It doesn’t have to be white. Think about an all-red, sequins, or bling ensemble and imagine the attention they draw.
- Don’t buy dresses that need assistants, such as lengthy trains, broad capes, or designs that will make other guests uncomfortable. It is not the Met gala.
Wedding dress shopping is fun, whether as a bride or guest. But there are many hoops to cross, from budgeting to timing, fitting, or mistakes in general. We have curated a list of vital information you should know before stepping out to shop. So read through and learn about the best methods to get your dream dress without leaving a trail of errors or regrets.