10 Tips for Finding the Wedding Dress of Your Dreams

Here's what you need to know before you go shopping for your big day.

Things You Need to Know Before Wedding Dress Shopping

If all goes according to plan in the whole "happily ever after" thing, you're only going to wear one wedding dress in your life. And that means you're probably freaking out over picking the perfect white gown. Deciding on the dress is likely the most stressful part of being a bride-to-be, after securing the wedding date, guest list, venue, decor, DJ, menu, cake, wedding party, etc. etc.

But the process of finding the dress you've been dreaming of since you were Bride Ariel for Halloween in kindergarten (my mom wouldn't let me wear the shell bra to be Mermaid Ariel) doesn't have to be as taxing as you think.

I recently went wedding dress shopping with my BFF in Boston at three very different bridal stores and together we learned these important tips. And yes, she did find THE dress, and yes, she did look like a stunning bride, and yes, her mom cried.

Here's what you should know before you embark on the wedding dress journey:

Shop Early and Make an Appointment

If you're planning on going wedding dress shopping at a bridal boutique on a whim, here's a word of caution: You might be rejected at the door. Most of these shops only allow you to try on dresses by appointment, especially when it comes to busy weekends. You might luck out at 1pm on a Tuesday, but if you're planning to bring your mom, sister, five of your friends, plus your future mother-in-law and sister-in-law and your grandma on a Saturday afternoon, you're going to need an appointment. It's best to set these up a month (or more) ahead of time.

Plus, custom dresses can take four to six months to arrive once you do say "yes" to the dress. If you start looking for dresses a few months in advance, you're seriously limiting your pool of possible gowns.

Select Your Posse Carefully

Even though it's your big day, all of your friends and family members might feel like it's their big day too — and they should be able to have a say in what you wear. While different opinions are great, if you bring a giant entourage, you're going to go nuts when all of them give you advice you didn't ask for. And, inevitably, someone will loathe your favorite dress and it will be awkward.

Select 3-5 people who know you best  — and will give you honest and supportive feedback.

9 Things You Need to Know Before Wedding Dress Shopping

Stick to Your Budget

Unless you have a Fairy Godmother waiting in the wings, your budget is your budget. If you're honest with your salesperson (and yourself), you'll spare the heartache in the end.

And if your budget is $2,500, don't even tempt yourself by trying on a $10,000 dress. Inevitably, you'll decide that one's the ONLY dress for you in the entire universe and your life and marriage are doomed without it. And if you buy that $10,000 dress, then you won't be able to invite Aunt Sally and you'll have to go with the cheap DJ AND ditch the videographer and things will quickly become ugly.

We promise: No matter how small your budget is, there's a beautiful dress out there for you.

Go In with Some Ideas, But Keep an Open Mind

You've probably assembled a Pinterest board (or 85) filled with amazing dresses. That's great! When you go shopping, you'll be able to tell your entourage and the salesperson just what you have in mind, which is super helpful when you're at a place stocked with literally thousands of dresses. You'll find yourself explaining that you want a gown with a sweetheart neckline with some sparkle (but not too much sparkle) and it should be curve-hugging (but not give grandma a heart attack), and you have to be able to dance in it without passing out or the zipper breaking. You know, the basics.

And Let Your Stylist Make Suggestions

But what if the dress that knocks your socks off is actually a beaded trumpet gown with lace detailing and an illusion neckline that you never pictured yourself in? You don't even have something remotely like it on your Pinterest board! Well, you'll only find this dress if you keep an open mind and let your stylist make suggestions for you.

Things You Need to Know Before Wedding Dress Shopping

Oftentimes, you'll be pleasantly surprised if you venture out of your comfort zone a little.

That said, it's probably not going to be great if you don't feel like yourself at all on your big day. It's a delicate balance. The ideal wedding dress for you should make you feel like the best and most beautiful version of yourself.

Don't Buy a Dress Two Sizes Too Small

We know, you're totally going to lose that 15 pounds before your walk down the aisle. It's great to have fitness goals and we hope they pan out. But if they don't, you don't want to be physically unable to fit into your wedding dress. That would be bad.

Instead of ordering a dress that's too small, order a size that fits and then plan on having a few fittings leading up to your big day. That way, if you do drop the weight, a seamstress will be able to take the dress in and make it work. It's much harder to make the dress bigger if you tend to pick pizza over the gym on your wedding countdown.

If you pick a dress that's too small and you go on the lemonade diet a week before your wedding so you can squeeze into it, you might pass out while walking down the aisle. That would make for some really unfortunate wedding pictures — especially after you also had to pick the crappier DJ in order to afford said dress.

Wear Decent Undergarments

Fact: People are going to see your undies while you're trying on wedding dresses. And you're probably going to have to take your bra off too. This is not the day to wear your granny panties and the bra you keep meaning to throw away. Wedding dress stylists often advise brides to wear underwear they'd want to wear down the aisle. This will help determine how the dress will actually fit and you'll be able to gauge what kind of undergarments you'll need.

Don't Say 'Yes' to the First Dress — Yet

It's super easy to think that the first dress that you love is THE dress. After all, this is probably your first time wedding dress shopping and the natural thing to do is get insanely excited about wearing a gorgeous white gown — especially one that makes you feel more stunning than you ever have. But don't get too carried away just yet.

Things You Need to Know Before Wedding Dress Shopping

It's always a good idea to keep trying on more — even at a different bridal shops. At best, you'll find another dress that makes you feel more amazing, and, if not, you'll realize that the first one you loved is definitely for you.

Think about it like dating: You probably aren't marrying the first person you fell in love with, right? Even though, at the time, you thought you'd be together forever. The same rules sort of apply to dress shopping, except the dress probably won't shatter your heart into a million pieces (unless it's five times your budget).

Just Try on the Veil

Even if you're not the kind of bride who thinks a veil is your style, just do yourself a favor and try one on with a dress you love while you're shopping. I've seen enough Say Yes to the Dress to know that the veil is the finishing touch that often brings the bride and entire entourage to tears. Yes, it's old-fashioned, but it makes the whole fairytale look come together. It'll be the moment when you truly feel like a bride. You don't have to buy it, but it's a special memory to have and share with your girls.

You Don't Have to Listen to Anyone Else

This might be the most important rule of wedding dress shopping: Do you. It's your big day and no matter how much your future MIL loves the all-silk dress that you think is just okay, you're going to be much happier if you go pick the gown that you feel best in. No one's wearing it but you, even if someone else is picking up the tab. If you're not in love with your dress, don't buy it. And, again, especially don't buy it two sizes too small.

The Director of Editorial Operations at Livingly Media and lover of all things sprinkles.
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