• Leah

Dress Success: Leah’s Tips for Wedding Gown Shopping

Wedding gown shopping is an experience that most women begin imagining as little girls.  For many women,  gown shopping marks the transition to “Bride”.  Once you’ve got the dress, the remaining details seem to fall into place very quickly and the next thing you know… you’re a Mrs!

I’ve heard some wedding gown shopping horror stories in my day, and all of them could have been avoided if the Bride was truly prepared with professional gown shopping advice.  I’ve picked up some valuable gown shopping info during my years in the wedding industry, not to mention my own experience getting married in 2011, and I’m happy to share some recommendations with you here!

1. Budget!

Before stepping into those tempting racks of gorgeous wedding gowns, do some preparation at home.  First, determine how much you want to spend on your wedding gown.  This tip isn’t only for wedding gowns; I recommend budgeting before shopping for every item you purchase for your wedding day!

There are many differences between a $1,000 gown and a $3,000 gown… and between a $3,000 gown and a $5,000 gown.  The last thing you want to do is to fall in love with a gown that you truly cannot afford.  You’ll also want to consider how your gown expense affects your overall budget.  (When you spend more money on a gown, you’ll need to spend less on another element like food or flowers).

While determining your wedding gown budget, also consider that the gown price only covers the actual gown.  Not included in that price: alterations (often $500-$600), veil, shoes, jewelry, garter, and other accessories.  Those other wedding attire items have to be factored into the budget also, so be realistic about what you’re comfortable spending.

2. Prepare!

Once you’ve determined a budget, do some research to find designers that match your style and your price range.  When you find a few designers you like, check their websites for retailers that sell their gowns.

If you fall in love with the look of a certain designer’s gowns, but they’re out of your price range, don’t be discouraged!  Keep a list of those designers and share the list with the gown consultants you meet.  They will likely be able to suggest other designers that offer a similar look within your budget.

Pinterest is a great tool to keep a collection of gown images that you like, and the Pinterest app for your smart phone will even allow you to show your “Gowns I Love” board to the consultant you work with in each bridal shop!

Pay attention to the gowns that appeal to you, and which details they have in common.  Some of them may have the same silhouette (research different silhouettes such as ‘fit and flare’, ‘a-line’, ‘ballgown’, ‘mermaid’, and ‘modified mermaid’ to become familiar with these).  You may find that you’re attracted to beading, or texture, or a certain fabric (lace, organza, satin), or a certain neckline (‘sweetheart’, ‘halter’, ‘strapless’, ‘illusion’).

When you’re researching silhouettes, make sure you consider your favorite dresses that you love to wear and their silhouettes.  I’m amazed how many Brides never do this!  If you own a few cocktail dresses that look great on you, it’s likely that you’ll be fond of that same silhouette in wedding gowns, too.

3. Schedule!

You don’t want to be “that Bride” that shows up at a bridal shop on a busy Saturday expecting to stroll in and try on gowns without an appointment.  Gown shopping is a high stakes process that requires the focused attention of a skilled consultant, so call at least two weeks before you want to shop, and book an appointment.

Schedule appointments at 2 or 3 different bridal shops.  They don’t have to be on the same day, but it can be fun to have a day-long shopping extravaganza, especially if you’re bringing a few friends!

To decide where to shop, read reviews of the bridal shops that interest you.  Wedding Wire is a wonderful tool for researching and reading reviews from actual clients of each shop.  Also, ask married friends about their experiences with gown shopping.

4. Invite!

Invite the loved ones you’d like to have with you for your gown shopping experience… but use some caution before making those calls!  Here are a few recommendations for deciding who will join you.

Mom: It’s traditional, sentimental, and special to have Mom with you as you try on wedding gowns.  If Mom is paying for your gown, make sure you talk about your budget in detail before shopping.  Concerned that Mom will only want to see you in the gowns she likes?  Let her choose a few, and go ahead and try them on, but don’t be swayed into buying a gown that’s not your style.

MOG: Including the Mother of the Groom is wonderful if you’re close with her and feel comfortable doing so.  I recommend inviting her along to shopping trip #2, especially if you’re very close with your own Mom and want to make your first gown shopping trip a Mother-Daughter day.

Bridesmaids: I recommend a little caution here, since gown shopping isn’t necessarily “the more the merrier”.  If you’ve got a gaggle of Bridesmaids, it’s very unlikely that they will all agree on which gowns are best for you.  This can make gown shopping a little hectic, and too many opinions coming at you at once can cause you to be confused and second guess your instinct.  If you’re not sure, bring your Maid of Honor only.  Remember, you’ll have all your girls with you for Bridesmaids Dress shopping.

5. Shop!

But first… make yourself this promise:

“I will not buy a gown on my first shopping day”.

That’s important – trust me!  Have you heard about the Brides who purchased “The Dress” only to hate it a few months later?  I have too, and I’m willing to bet most of them hastily purchased their gown on shopping day one.

Here’s why I don’t recommend purchasing your gown on your first day of shopping:

If you’re overwhelmed with emotion, your judgement can be clouded, and you may make a “heat of the moment” decision to purchase a gown that’s more expensive than you’re comfortable with, or a gown that doesn’t really match your big picture vision for the wedding.  If you wake up the next morning regretting your gown purchase, it’s most likely too late as many bridal shops don’t allow cancellations on orders.  So, sleep on it before purchasing your gown, and avoid dress regrets.

For a successful shopping day, here are a few tips:

– Share your budget and favorite gown images with each bridal consultant.

– Tell your consultant about your wedding vision (A casual outdoor wedding on the lake?  A black-tie affair in a regal ballroom?)  You want to be sure that the gown you select fits perfectly into the environment you’re creating on your Wedding day.

– When you find a gown you love, spend time walking, sitting, and even dancing in it!  After all, you’ll be doing all of these things on your wedding day, and you want to be certain that you’re comfortable in the gown.

– Ask your consultant how the gown will truly fit when it’s altered to the correct size for you.  If the sample gown you’re trying is too large, the consultant will clip the fabric to fit the dress to your body.  Sometimes, this can make the gown appear to be a slimmer silhouette than it actually will be when it’s ordered for you.

– Ask how the gown can be bustled.  The consultant can show you, using pins, how the gown will look when the train is bustled, allowing you to move about more easily during the reception!

– Ask about alterations!  Alterations costs can vary greatly depending on the gown, your size, and the changes you desire.  Also, make sure you understand how the alterations process works within the bridal shop.  Do they complete alterations in-house?  When do they recommend scheduling your first gown fitting?

– Ask about timing.  If you order in the next few days, when will your gown arrive?  What happens if there is a delay in arrival date?  The more information you have, the more relaxed you’ll feel after ordering your gown.

These are my top tips for a successful and fun gown shopping experience!  I hope you found this post helpful.  If you have questions or comments about gown shopping, I would love to hear them!  Please comment below!



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