Your wedding dress is arguably the most important outfit you will wear in your life. At least this was the case for me. Finding my dress was something I looked forward to before I even got engaged, so much so that I had booked appointments at bridal boutiques before I had the ring. What can I say, I am
crazy always one step ahead. You may not place as much importance on your wedding dress as I did, but for the purpose of this post, let’s say you do. I have had many future brides ask about my dress shopping experience and where to start, so I thought it would be the perfect thing to share here on As Told By Jules.
If you were like me and had been looking at photos of bridal gowns for years, then you probably already have some inspiration and ideas of what you want under your belt. If you haven’t gathered any inspiration, I recommend doing so to help ease how overwhelming wedding dress shopping can be. There are literally thousands of options, so keep in mind that your inspiration is by no means a strict guide of what to try on, or something that you must stick to. It will simply help you and your bridal stylist have a good starting point to help figure out what exactly your dream dress will be. There are so many facets of a wedding dress, such as material, shape, and embellishment, even just narrowing one of those down will help. Pinterest is always a great place to start, and even searching bridal hashtags on Instagram can yield inspiring results. A few of my favorite bridal designers include Hayley Paige, Enzoani, Berta Bridal (major splurge), and Limor Rosen, and Eddy K. Check a few of them out and see if they give you heart eyes like they did for me.
Set a budget, choose boutiques, + make appointments.
There are so many wonderful places to shop for your wedding dress that it can be incredibly overwhelming to choose just a few. If you’ve gathered your inspiration and you feel ready to begin the search, you may realize you literally have no idea where to go. The first thing that will help narrow your search for where to shop is by making a budget. Dresses can range incredibly in price, from $500 to well above $5000. Knowing what you can and are willing to spend is vital to having an enjoyable experience. Most boutiques will offer a price range on their website, something that helped me to quickly add or nix a boutique from my list. Nothing feels more disappointing than trying on your dream dress only to find that it’s way out of your budget. Don’t forget to also factor in alteration costs…these can get pretty steep!
Ask friends who have gotten married and gone through the dress shopping process about their experience, as they will likely have valuable information and a few boutique recommendations. Of course, if you don’t have any friends who were recently married, that’s what I’m here for! I ended up going to two boutiques in total, and had great experiences at both. The first boutique I went to is called BHLDN, Anthropologie’s bridal boutique. I love the aesthetic of all things Anthropologie, and it lends to their wedding branch as well. Their gorgeous, ethereal gowns did not disappoint! I went prepared by booking an appointment, and pre-selecting dresses I had an interest in that were show cased on their website. This allowed my stylist to already have a good selection picked out when I arrived, and an idea of my own personal style. Most bridal salons will require that you make an appointment in advance, and this is so you can receive the one on one attention that is vital when wedding dress shopping. After BHLDN, I tried one more shop, La Belle Elaine’s, a bridal boutique in Seattle. I chose this boutique after finding that they carried a dress I was interested in after seeing it online, and is ultimately where I purchased my dress.
Who and what to bring to your appointments.
This is where it can get a little tricky. I’m sure that most of us have seen Say Yes To The Dress (am I the only one who binged the entire series as soon as I got engaged?). You will often see brides who excitedly bring their whole crew of friends or family, sometimes even both, and become overwhelmed, or even disappointed, by the input they receive from their guests. For this possibility, I chose to split up who I brought with me to different appointments, and even then kept the groups small.
To my first appointment I brought my sister, my mom, and my now mother in law. These three women are all incredibly important to me, and I knew they would cherish sharing my first-ever wedding dress shopping experience with me. It was also the perfect amount of people to have so that I didn’t get overwhelmed. To my second appointment at the next location I brought my mom again, along with my aunt, maternal grandmother, and my cousin (who is 17 and I knew would just really enjoy the experience). These women are also very special to me, and they got to see me in a whole new set of dresses, making my experience with them just as unique and special as my first one. To my third and final appointment when I made my decision, I brought my mom and sister again, along with two of my bridesmaids and my sister’s girlfriend, who I have a great relationship with. This time I got a varied range of opinions on the three different styles I had narrowed it down to, but again, because of the smaller amount of people, I never felt too overwhelmed.
You may want to bring one big group, or no one at all, but if I learned anything, it’s that you will want to share this special time with those closest to you, and you will feel more relaxed if you keep your groups small. Don’t worry about including everyone involved in your wedding, they should understand that this is a time for you, and ultimately they will see how stunning you look in your dress on your wedding day! Always, always, always keep in mind that the most important opinion is your own. If you find a dress that you absolutely love, but your friends and family aren’t entirely on board, ignore that and go with your gut. More on this and my own experience in a bit.
Another important thing to remember is what items to bring to your appointment. Always bring some kind of undergarments, as a courtesy and also to get an idea of what will work under the gown(s) you try on. To each of my appointments I brought a shape-wear thong, as well as a pair of heels. Having the heels was helpful to get a better idea of what the final look would be like, and the boutique had veils and accessories to help with this as well. It was basically my childhood dress up dream come true.
Listen to yourself.
Circling back to making your own opinion your priority! I was lucky to have a pretty seamless experience with my friends and family when it came to their input on the different gowns I tried on. However, that doesn’t mean they didn’t have opinions, and they certainly didn’t always match with mine. While they always pointed out how lovely each dress was, they had their ideas on what was the most “me”, or even the most practical choice. In fact, the dress that I ultimately chose initially only won two out of five votes that day (not including my own), but I felt the most myself and beautiful in that final one, which was actually a curve ball and eventual game changer!
As I mentioned, by my third and final appointment, I had narrowed my choices down to three different gowns. Halfway through the appointment, we were down to two, and I was feeling slightly hesitant on making a final decision. Feeling unsure, I had the stylist take me on a final lap around the store to see if anything else caught my eye. Only when I was walking back into the fitting room, did I see one that really excited me. The dress was actually on another bride who was also shopping for her dress. The stylist noticed my interest, and asked if I’d like to try it on, noting it had just arrived the day before. Taking note of how lean and lithe this particular bride was, I declined, telling myself it wouldn’t suit my shape. A few minutes later, I shook this thought from my mind and asked to try to gown on. Before my stylist had even finished zipping it, I knew it was the one.
When I walked out of the fitting room, my friends and family were surprised, as they hadn’t expected another dress to be thrown into the mix. I told them all I would think it over at lunch, but as I said, I knew from the second it touched my skin it was the dress. In the end, it didn’t matter that my sister and mom preferred a different dress, they were just ecstatic that I had found my dress and how happy it made me.
Understand the dress timeline.
Since being a bride, I’ve gotten a lot of questions from future brides about when they should start looking for their dress, and this was also a question I had myself before I started the process. The answer is, it depends! If you’re searching for something more casual and not so specialized (ie: direct from online, think Lulu’s, Reformation, etc.), your search can begin a little later. If you’re going the route of a traditional bridal boutique, I would encourage you to begin your search ten to seven months in advance, and no later than six, which would have made me a little nervous to be honest. I began shopping for my dress in October, and my wedding was in September. It took nearly two months until I decided on my dress, and another six months for it to be made and sent to me. After initially receiving my gown, I had two alterations appointments scheduled based upon the seamstress’ and my availability as it was a very busy wedding season. I picked my gown up, pressed and ready, ten days before my wedding. As you can see, it is a lengthy process! You do not want to add anymore stress than necessary, and allowing yourself ample time to find a dress and get it perfectly fitted will help with this. Trust me!
This has been quite a long post, so if you made it all the way through, I hope that you’ve gained some valuable knowledge on finding your wedding dress. If you have any questions at all, please please reach out. I absolutely love talking dress shopping!
Thank you so much for reading!