Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about finding the perfect wedding dress, bridesmaid dresses, groom’s and groomsmen attire, flower girl and ring bearer attire, wedding rings, and wedding day hair and beauty.
THE WEDDING DRESS
With inspiration in hand, you’re ready to start trying on dresses. If you’re still not sure what you’re looking for, don’t sweat it. Sometimes trying a on few different styles is what you need to figure out what feels most “you.” Before you head to a boutique find out if they carry dresses within your budget and size range, whether you’ll need an appointment to browse gowns, and if there’s anything you need to bring like shoes or lingerie. Then schedule your first fitting and prepare to play dress up.
As you shop around bridal boutiques, you’ll probably notice that most wedding dresses require extensive alterations (sometimes in the hundreds of dollars) – ask your boutique attendant to help you factor in these costs when choosing a dress that falls within your budget.
If you’re working with a smaller budget, or if the idea of having an attendant pull ten pounds of tulle over your head sounds about as fun as a day at the dentist, visit boutiques or websites that carry off the rack dresses, like J. Crew, Ann Taylor, BHLDN, BCBG, or even department stores like Nordstrom’s or JC Penny (who said looking fabulous has to cost a fortune?). Etsy is a great stop if you want to have a dress made to your specific measurements. Once Wed will let you browse second hand gowns that still look like new.
FINDING THE RIGHT FIT
You won’t know which dress is right for you until you try it on, but there are a few tips to help figure out what shape and style will look best on you.
Wedding dresses come in several silhouettes as listed below:
If you plan to wear shapewear or a specific bra, wear them to your appointments at the bridal salon and to every fitting after that. And even if you don’t already know what shoes you plan to wear on your wedding day, bring a pair with a similar heel height. Doing so will help you know how the dress will fit on your wedding day.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IT’S “THE ONE”
The right dress is the one that makes you look and feel the best. Don’t pressure yourself to find it on your first outing. It’s OK to visit more than one boutique before finding the dress for you. Once you’ve found it, you’ll know it. If there’s a dress you can’t get out of your head or can’t wait to try on again, it’s the one.
ALTERATIONS + FITTINGS
Depending on how many alterations your dress needs, you may have to schedule more than one fitting before your wedding day. If you purchase your gown from a full-service bridal boutique, they will likely handle all of the alterations and fittings. You’ll arrange to try it on again several weeks before your wedding day. If you know your dress size will change significantly between your first fitting and your wedding day, you might want to schedule a second fitting at least two months before your wedding day for any final alterations. Otherwise, you’ll have a final fitting two to three weeks before your wedding.
If you’re buying your dress off the rack it will often need fewer alterations. Just make sure you have it back from the tailor at least two weeks before your wedding date so you can make sure it fits well and that all of your accessories work.
As you’re browsing for dresses keep your accessories in mind. Sashes, belts, veils, shoes, shrugs, and jewelry help to personalize your wedding dress look. You don’t need to make any decisions, just get a feel for what you’ll need and what you like. Some bridal boutiques can serve as one-stop shops, but if you want a more unique or custom look, browse independent designers on website like Etsy to find accessories that work for you.
Also, don’t forget to buy the right undergarments for your dress. If you want to make sure panty lines or straps aren’t showing, ask if your tailor can either sew bra cups into to your dress or sew snaps to keep your bra straps in place.
Bring your shoes, undergarments, hosiery, and accessories to your final fitting and inspect the dress in a 360-degree mirror to make sure no pantylines are showing and the hem is even. Walk around for a minute to make sure you can move well. If you plan on changing after the ceremony or reception, talk to you mom or Maid of Honor about taking your wedding dress to be cleaned while you’re on your honeymoon (and don’t forget to thank her like crazy afterward!).
THE BRIDESMAIDS DRESSES
If you decide to go with a bridal boutique, collect all of your bridesmaids’ measurements beforehand to coordinate with the boutique or designer. Just like with wedding gowns, a lot of bridesmaid dresses won’t go by standard sizing so be sure to have exact measurements for each bridesmaid’s hips, chest, and natural waist and schedule a second fitting a couple weeks out from the wedding day, so all of your maids have a chance to try it again.
If you bought your wedding gown at a bridal boutique, you might qualify for a discount on bridesmaids gowns that are purchased there. You can also check off-the-rack bridesmaid dress vendors like J. Crew or Ann Taylor. Even department stores and the dress departments of your favorite stores are good places to scout when you’re looking for casual, off-beat, or unique bridesmaids gowns. Solid cotton or silk gowns look great with necklaces or fun belts, and who doesn’t love mix-and-match gowns in similar colors but different styles?
WHO PAYS FOR BRIDESMAID DRESSES?
When it comes to paying for bridesmaid dresses, usually the bridesmaids cover the cost of the dress. If that’s the case, make sure you’re taking price into consideration – these are your favorite people after all! If you have your heart set on a dress that seems like a stretch for one or more of your bridesmaids, you might want to chip in even if it’s just between the two of you.
Whatever the case, don’t let this stress you out. Finding a great dress is awesome. Having your besties standing next to you, excited to be there and feeling valued is even better, no matter what they’re wearing.After you find dresses that everyone feels good about, place your orders and scratch that off your list.
GROOM + GROOMSMEN ATTIRE
Once you know what the groom will be wearing – and whether he’ll be renting or buying – zero in on the color of choice, spread the word to the groomsmen, and hit the ground.
If you’re buying, leave time in the schedule and room in the budget for alterations with a good tailor (if you’re renting, they’ll make last minute adjustments when you pick it up). In this case, groomsmen will be responsible for buying their suits, but some grooms will gift the men with cufflinks, ties, or accessories.
Speaking of accessories, once you know what the groom and the rest of his team are wearing, you can begin to zero in on those items that they will need to round out the ensemble – cufflinks, pocket squares, ties and bow ties, socks, and shoes. You don’t have to make any big purchases right now, but use this time to figure out what accessories the guys will need and where you’ll get them.
THE GROOM + GROOMSMEN FITTINGS
Almost every suit, no matter how expensive it is, should be tailored to the man wearing it. GQ’s guide to suits can’t be beat when it comes to finding the right suit for your groom and his groomsmen, and a few of our favorite tips are below:
- Buttons: A two-button suit is classic and looks good on everyone.
- Shoulders: The suit jacket should fit snugly across the shoulders with no extra room. If there is extra room, try a suit one size down.
- Length: If you put your hands at your side, the jacket should hit no lower than the beginning of your fingers. Most designers make short versions of suits. If the length of the jacket, sleeves, or pants appears long, try on a short suit. It can give a more fitted appearance.
- Sleeves: A good tailor can take the sleeves in so that they’re more fitted to the body. In addition, your sleeve should show a bit of cuff at the end and should never extend past your wrist.
- Pants: Go short and slim here but not too short. An ideal pant leg hits right at the shoe with no puddling.
If you’re renting, collect all the measurements for the groom and groomsmen, find out what’s included in the rental, and inspect every item at the store to make sure all buttons and zippers work and that there are no major stains or holes. Also, double check the size before you leave the store!
FLOWER GIRLS + RING BEARERS
When clothes shopping for young attendants like a flower girl or a ring bearer, look for age-appropriate outfits that work well with the wedding party. For example, young flower girls could wear white dresses and young ring bearers could wear white button ups with khakis or dark pants, or shorter suits called eton suits. The older the children are, the closer their outfits should match the members of the wedding party.
THE WEDDING RINGS
Brilliant Earth’s wedding ring guide is a great resource for figuring out what style of wedding ring each of you would like, whether you’d like matching bands or not, and what metal (gold, white gold, or platinum) is best for you. Place your order in time to receive them before the big day and make sure they’re safely stored until the time is right. Your Maid of Honor and Best Man will be responsible for holding onto the wedding rings until the big exchange, so you’ll want to plan to hand them off the week of the wedding.
It’s also a good idea to look into jewelry insurance before the wedding to make sure that your investment is safe and sound. Look into whether or not the policy covers both loss and theft. Sometimes you can save money by packaging your jewelry insurance with homeowners or renters’ insurance. If you’re not sure where to start, visit the companies below:
HAIR + BEAUTY
If you plan on getting your hair and makeup professionally done on your wedding day, you know the drill. Find a stylist or stylists whose work reflects what you’re looking for and schedule a trial run to see how things click. When you’ve found the one for you, review the contract to make sure it includes the information below.
- Who: name and contact info (your’s and their’s)
- What: everything they’ll be providing (bridal hair, bridesmaid hair, bridal makeup, bridesmaid makeup)
- Where: the location of your events
- When: dates and times of service
- How much: cost per service
- Receipt: the deposit paid, the balance due and due dates
- Uh oh: cancellation policies and emergencies
Once both you and your stylist(s) have signed the contract, file it with your additional contracts so that you can easily access it before your wedding day.
DIY BRIDAL BEAUTY
If getting your hair or makeup done is out of the budget, but you still want a professional look, you have plenty of time to learn how to do it yourself.
Most department stores or makeup boutiques are happy to give free tutorials and makeovers to customers who are considering dropping a little dough at the end of the session. Call ahead to make an appointment and let them know that you’re looking for a simple look to apply to your wedding day. We like MAC and Bare Escentuals.
While you’re there, don’t be afraid to ask your makeup artist to work slowly so you can ask questions along the way. Be upfront about what kinds of products you’re actually planning on using. Her job is to sell you stuff you like, but if you already know that you’re not going to spend $100 on creams and wrinkle reducers, skip it and stick to the basics that you will use.
Overall it’s a great way to learn how to do your makeup yourself while still looking like it was done by a pro, and whatever you do spend on the initial makeup purchase will last far beyond your wedding day.
The same goes for doing your own hair. Bobs, wavy ponytails, and braids are easy enough to do yourself, especially with a little practice at home. With the right accessories, no one will know you did it yourself!
Want even more tips for planning your wedding? Our weekly countdown walks you through the entire wedding planning process from beginning to end, telling you exactly what you need to do and when you need to do it. Check it out HERE.