Find Your Dream Wedding Dress

Before you find your dream wedding dress, you’ll need to collect a bit of inspiration. For many brides, this is one of the most fun pieces of wedding dress shopping. Let yourself get lost in Pinterest and see what kinds of dresses you’re drawn to. You might find that you’re drawn to several different styles, and that’s OK. The first step is just getting a good idea as to what you like.

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.

FIND YOUR DREAM WEDDING DRESS ON A 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.

FIND YOUR DREAM WEDDING DRESS SHAPE

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:

  • A-line: fitted at top with a slight flare below the waist. A-line gowns are classic and look good on every body type.
  • Ballgown: fitted at top with a bigger-is-better skirt. Ballgowns are a great choice if you’re heavier on bottom than on top.
  • Empire: similar to an A-line, however an empire dress has a high waist falling right below the chest. Empire dresses are a great way to create the illusion of height if you’re petite and can also help create the illusion of curves.
  • Fit-and-Flare / Mermaid: fitted through the hips with a flared skirt below. Fit-and-flare or Mermaid dresses can add curves if you’re lacking them or accentuate curves if they’re your best feature.
  • Sheath: fitted throughout with no flare. Sheath dresses look great on tall women or women with fewer curves.
  • Both David’s Bridal and BRIDES Magazine have good tips for finding the right dress shape for your body type.

    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.

    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.

    MAKING YOUR DREAM WEDDING DRESS FIT

    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.

    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!).

    And of course what matters most is that you find your dream wedding dress, regardless of whether it’s from a bridal boutique, off the rack at your favorite department store, purchased online, or passed down from a friend or family member (or none of the above!). As with all aspects of wedding planning, find what works for you.