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Shopping for a wedding dress is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But with so many gowns to choose from, it can also be incredibly overwhelming. Here’s how to hone in on the right style for your big day.
Start your search about nine months to a year prior to your wedding date, if possible. If you want to customize your dress by adding beading or lace or by modifying the neckline or train, it can take even longer, so plan accordingly.
Familiarize yourself with wedding gown silhouettes prior to going shopping.
Bridal gown silhouettes fall into six broad categories: ball gown, empire, A-line, sheath, fit-and-flare, and mermaid. Try on one of each the first time you go shopping for your gown — it’ll quickly become clear which works best for your shape. Selecting the silhouette you want to wear will help narrow down the huge range of gown options. From there, you can decide on secondary criteria, such as neckline, sleeves, embellishments, etc.
Consider scheduling your appointment on a weekday, when there are fewer crowds, and you may get more time to shop. If you have a personal day to spare, or even a half day, it might be worth taking off work to go gown shopping at 1 p.m. on a Tuesday or another off-peak time. That way, you can get the best service and attention possible from the sales staff. Schedule appointments at bridal salons that are within your budget and offer your preferred designer.
Limit your dress shopping entourage. Although it might be tempting to poll everyone on what will be the most important fashion purchase of your life, the more people you invite, the greater the chance that you’ll end up overwhelmed or confused.
Envision how you want your dress to make you feel. Do you want to look sexy, understated, modern, chic, traditional? Or perhaps you want your dress to have a more vintage feeling? Once you find your story, I promise you will find your dress. Share your vision with your gown consultant, who can help you pull styles that match the feeling you wish to evoke on your wedding day.
Keep an open mind when trying on gowns. A dress that seems so-so on the hanger may end up looking spectacular once you actually try it on your body. On the flip side, a gown that you’ve been pining over online might fall flat in person.
Give your gown consultant constructive feedback and your dress-shopping experience will remain exciting, rather than becoming exhausting or stressful after the first five or six dresses. Don’t make the mistake of keeping your thoughts to yourself out of fear that you’ll hurt their feelings. Your stylist needs to know if you dislike poufy ball gowns or if you love the skirt of one dress but not the bodice so they can choose options that are more on-target for your style.
Test how comfortable a prospective gown is by moving around in it — sit down, dance, and walk up and down the store aisles. Follow your gut: Choose a dress that is flattering to your body, rather than what is trending. If you have to keep pulling up the top because you’re worried about a wardrobe malfunction, do yourself a favor and skip it. If a gown is so tight that breathing seems like a luxury, ditch that too.
Don’t get hung up on the dress size, which may be two sizes bigger than your normal, everyday clothing. Bridal sizing runs small. Period. When it’s time to buy, you will order the dress that comes closest to your size and have it altered or custom-made for you. It’s always safer to order based on your current bust, waist, and hip measurements, rather than sizing down and counting on the fact that you’ll slim down in time for the big day.
In the end, choose the dress that feels right for you, no one else. This is YOUR day and YOUR dress! You should feel beautiful and confident in your wedding gown; only you can make the right choice, not your maid of honor, Mom, or whomever else. Unsure if it’s truly “The One?” Try adding a veil to help get yourself in the wedding-day mindset and see if you could imagine yourself walking down the aisle in this dress. If the answer is “yes” and you don’t want to take it off, that’s a sure sign that your search is over!