LET’S MAKE WEDDING DRESS SHOPPING LESS STRESSFUL: How to Master the Wedding Gown Hunt like a Pro

Finding the perfect wedding dress is a special and significant part of the wedding planning process. As with everything else that comes with the big day planning, it can also be stressful. We sat down with Stella Jones, owner of the leading western New York bridal boutique, Stella’s Bridal to help you make the process as seamless as possible! 

“I’ve been in business for nearly thirteen years and I can assure you that the biggest mistake Brides can make is they forget to live in the moment,” Jones says. 

“Brides put so much pressure on how society has portrayed how they are expected to act when finding the one that it can oftentimes muddle the authentic experience they are having when connecting with a wedding dress. How could it be this easy, I have only been to one or two shops, what if there is a better dress out there?  

  1. Start Early:

Begin your wedding dress search well in advance, ideally 9-12 months before your wedding date. (Yes, that sounded wildly early to me too, but I did find it to be true!)  The further out you start, the more inspiration you can gather, giving you ample time to find the right store. 

Designers are only sold at select stores, so if you find yourself gravitating to one in particular be sure to find the local retailer and ask if they have samples of your favorite looks. If that sounds completely foreign, and you haven’t the first clue of what you want, you may want to visit different stores, many require an appointment, making it important to schedule this far in advance. This will allow time for fittings, and alterations, and ensures you have a wide range of options.

Our expert Jones shares, “All in all, it is ideal if you can allow yourself a solid year prior to your wedding to officially say, yes to the dress. However, we understand that not every bride has this time frame to special order a dress which is why more and more designers are now offering best-seller styles with in-stock availability in an array of sizes and colors available with an immediate ship time.” 

2. Set a Budget:

Determine how much you’re willing to spend on your wedding dress. Be sure to include alterations, accessories, and any additional costs as it can be hundreds more on top of the dress cost. Stick to your budget to avoid overspending, and consider if you’re looking to incorporate an expensive shower, Rehearsal Dinner, or reception look. Include all wedding outfits in your budget. As with any purchases related to a wedding, many white dresses are more expensive simply because they can be sold as “bridal,” so be sure to do some research before making any purchases. 

3. Do Your Research:

Explore bridal magazines, websites, and social media platforms like Pinterest or your favorite bridal designer’s Instagram to gather inspiration. A quick tip is to follow the wedding venues you loved (in addition to yours), as you’ll see a variety of dresses that may fit your personal style as well. It’s likely the brides that chose similarly to your venue, will have similar fashion sense as well. Create a mood board and folder to keep track of your favorite styles, fabrics, and details. Bridal boutiques will want to see your selections to help the process. 

4. Consider Your Body Shape and Your COMFORT:

Your wedding day is long, and you’ll want to be able to dance, sit, move, and most importantly BREATHE! Take all of this into account when looking at different materials and styles. Of course, different dress styles complement various body shapes, which can be super helpful to identify. Since wedding dresses are made of super high-end, luxe fabrics and quality, you may be shocked at which styles may fit like a glove on you! Step outside your comfort zone and try things that you may not wear, as the fabrics can completely transform the look. Understanding your body type (hourglass, pear, apple, etc.) can be key in finding the dress styles that flatter your figure and make you feel your best. 

5. Make Appointments:

Schedule appointments at bridal boutiques and stores that carry wedding dresses. Be sure to call ahead to confirm if they have the styles you’re interested in trying, as they may not have the style you’re looking for even if they carry the designer. 

6. Bring Supportive Companions:

Invite trusted friends or family members to accompany you to dress appointments, that really know YOUR style. Their opinions and feedback can be valuable but remember that the final decision should be yours!

7. Be Open-Minded:

While it’s good to have a vision of your dream dress, be open to trying on different styles. Sometimes, a dress you didn’t initially consider can surprise you and become the perfect choice. As mentioned, the fabrics used can be serious miracle workers, and you may be shocked at how they look on! Not all dresses translate on the hanger, so you’ll want to see them on your body, give them a chance. 

8. Know Your Venue:

Consider the location and season of your wedding. A beach wedding may call for a lightweight, flowy gown, while a formal ballroom wedding may require a more structured and elegant dress. While it is your day, and you can wear whatever you want, you’ll want to consider the temperature and how you want your bridesmaid and guest’s dress. 

9. Dress for Comfort:

Prioritize comfort. You’ll be wearing your wedding dress for an extended period, so ensure it fits well and allows you to move comfortably. We highly recommend sitting in the dress and walking around the wedding store in it to gauge the weight of the dress and or train, and other accessories.  Your wedding day is a marathon, not a print and you’ll want to be dressed accordingly! 

10. Try On Different Silhouettes:

Experiment with various dress silhouettes (e.g., A-line, ball gown, mermaid) to see what suits you best. Pay attention to how each style makes you feel and how it complements your body shape. Identifying the desired silhouette can help narrow the search. 

11. Pay Attention to Details:

Consider the dress’s neckline, sleeves, embellishments, and train length. These details can significantly impact the overall look of the dress. You’ll want to carry through the details in your train (if you choose to wear one), shoes or hair accessories. 

12.  Ask About Alterations:

Find out if the boutique or store provides alteration services, or if they outsource it. Proper alterations are essential to achieving the perfect fit. Many retailers will have a preferred tailor if they don’t do it in-house and it will be helpful to know the price range prior to purchasing the dress. 

13. Sleep on It:

Don’t feel pressured to make a decision on the spot! Take your time, and if you find a dress you love, sleep on it before making a final choice. Be sure you feel the same way looking back on the photos as you did the day of. 

14. Consider Accessories:

Think about what accessories, such as veils, headpieces, shoes, and jewelry, will complement your dress. Try them on with the dress to ensure they match your style.

15. Trust Your Instincts:

Ultimately, choose the dress that makes you feel confident and beautiful, reflects your personal style, and feels most like YOU. Trust your instincts and choose the dress that “feels” right for your special day.  Jones says, “When we can match your energy with the perfect gown that will be wrapped around you on such a momentous milestone in your life, then we have done our job. Trust the process and give yourself permission to show up as YOU!”

Finding the perfect wedding dress can be a memorable and emotional journey! As Stella Jones says, “Live in the moment, if you are a bride who is fortunate enough to find a gown that speaks to you early on in your hunt for the perfect dress then consider yourself lucky and honor the connection you are having and don’t second guess yourself.” Take your time, revel in the process, and remember that it’s about finding the dress that makes you feel your best on your wedding day.

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