Wedding Planning Adventures: Dress Shopping

No matter how traditional or non-traditional you are when it comes to weddings, to all of you brides-to-be out there: Go dress shopping! Even if your wedding dress will be the first dress you even lay down your dollar bills on, I promise, it’s really fun. Well, in theory, it should be really really fun. I definitely have some feedback on dress shopping to all of your bride-to-bes and also to your bridesmaids, friends and family who decide they would like to give input.

If you didn’t know, I love Say Yes to the Dress. I am really really a sucker for it. It’s so fun to watch all of the brides shopping for their dresses, see all of the styles, and hear some great love stories. The drama many families bring with them dress shopping on these shows also makes me glad that isn’t my entourage. So on that note, one of my recommendations is to leave that drama at home. 

I tried on dresses for the first time in Virginia and the dress I found was a combination of many things I loved (btw – it also had a lot of things I loved from photos I took along). I definitely thought it was the one. But, it was unrealistic to order it in Virginia, so I made an appointment at the only store in Alaska that carried the wedding designer (Maggie Sottero – beautiful dresses!!) that I wanted. They didn’t have the dress in store, but I knew ahead of time that they could order it. Of course I love to try on dresses, so I had planned to try on more in a similar style that I was drawn to and was flattering on me and compare it to the photos of me in the first dress I picked in Virginia. At first, every dress I tried on was just as “nope, not as great as the other dress…”

But then I tried on this beautiful dress that made me feel even better than when I tried on the dress I found in Virginia. This was it. There was no other contender. I even compared photo to photo, and still, the one I had just picked was more than I could have wanted. In Virginia, I had chosen my top 3 of dresses. They each had something I loved. This dress has all of the things I loved in those dresses in one. This was the dress. I said yes to the dress! It was a bonus that it was $500 less than the other. I am so so glad I decided to try on more dresses. If not, I would have not found this more than I love even more than the one I thought was it.

I would post a picture but… that would ruin it for all of those coming on the big day. 😉

Tips for your wedding dress adventure:

  1. Do NOT wait until the last minute. Unless you want to buy something off the rack, its not in your best interest (actually its never in your best interest). When I ordered my dress, they said it should arrive in late April/early May. If you aren’t doing the math yet, its only December, so that’s 6 months away and 2 months before my wedding. Its just enough time to get my dress and get all of my fittings/alterations in. I live in a faraway land, of course, but it still typically takes anywhere from 4-6 months to order dresses.
  2. When you know you are ready find your perfect dress, make an appointment. You need all of that time committed to you.
  3. On that note, keep an open mind and don’t have your heart set on a certain dress you see in bridal magazine or pinterest. You may try it on and it looks nothing like the phone.
  4. Check out dress styles online and print some of your favorites. You’ll want them as a starting point when you get to the shop.
  5. Many say to bring a strapless bra. I recommend that or a white one, but I didn’t wear a bra when I tried on any of my dresses. Most have some built in support and its more accurate for you to go bra-less, but bring yours just in case.
  6. Wear a thong or low-profile underwear. It’ll help you to see how the dress will lay and what it will show. I tried on a couple of dresses that showed my low-profile underwear line – and that was a kicker for me.
  7. Bring along the shoes you plan to wear or ones with the same heal. If you are planning to wear flats (like me) or a small heal, see how much you would need hemmed and if you need to order a shorter dress (see below).
  8. TRY ON ALL THE STYLES! All different necklines, ballgown, strapless, mermaid – try them ALL on. First of all, its so fun to try on dresses and the dresses that look ridiculous are just as fun to laugh about. I promise, you may fall in love with something totally different than what you thought you liked.
  9. Set a realistic budget and STICK TO IT. When I started looking at dress prices, I realized my dress budget was not realistic so we set a new dress budget and definitely stuck to it.
  10. Leave your dramatic friends and family at home. You don’t owe it to anyone to tell them you’re going dress shopping or to take them with you. This is supposed to be a magical experience for you, so share it with those you love and those who will embrace the experience with you. These people will chose not to tell you that you look like a “peacock” or give you other notes of how unflattering a dress looks because lets be honest, they may be talking about the dress you’re trying on, but the reality in, it sounds like a bunch of judges telling you how you don’t fit that dress.
  11. And my biggest piece of advice from my experience: Go to more than one store, even if you think you’ve found the one. 
  12. Did I mention you should enjoy yourself? You should. It’s all about you, girlfriend. YOU need to love the dress and if you love it, your groom-to-be will too.

Questions to ask and things to talk about with your dress shop:

  1. Do they provide any free alterations?
  2. Discuss the alterations! For me, I live 6 hours from the shop where I ordered my dress, so we talked extensively about alteration options and they gave me a recommendation for my dress alternation in my town. Make sure you talk about what alterations you might need, pricing, if you are required to get alterations there, etc.
  3. Can you order a shorter dress? Many dresses come 3-4 inches shorter. It may have an extra cost and take a couple more weeks for the dress to arrive, but if you are short, you should really consider it.
  4. Did you order the color you wanted and can you see how all the colors might look to make a decision? Sometimes you can be shown a dress overlay on a different color you might want that can give you an idea of what it’ll look like.
  5. If needed, do they ship and for how much?
  6. The place you are buying your dress from is now one of your vendors – get a contract so you can ensure you get the right dress and everything is understood up front. Most places will already have one, so make sure you read over it before you sign your life away.