Shopping for a wedding gown is like nothing else you've ever done before. There's the personal attention you'll get from a salon consultant, the crowd-sourced opinions from your crew, the magnificence of every gown's fabric, shape, and style—it'll take your breath away! As the great shopping expedition gets underway, you'll need some help navigating all the hoopla. To get you on your way (and to ensure the process is easy-peasy), we've compiled a list of must-dos. So go ahead and start checking off the list—you'll have your dream dress in no time, we promise.
Decide if you want to buy off-the-rack or have your gown custom-made
This usually depends on your budget and time frame. High-end made-to-order designer gowns cost in the low to high thousands, while many stunning off-the-rack dresses are less than $1,000, and when there's a sale, you could snag one for $100!
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Make an appointment at a bridal salon
Do this nine months to a year ahead of your wedding if you're going the custom route; for off-the-rack, make an appointment several months before.
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While you don't want to disappoint anyone, it's best to bring only one or two friends who will give you honest but kind feedback; a larger group means more opinions, which could get confusing and overwhelming. And, of course, bring Mom!
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Bring printouts of dresses you've seen on designers' websites, on Instagram, and in bridal magazines that will clue in the consultant.
More than one bride has rolled her eyes when the salon suggests she try on a dress that wasn't really her style or shade of white, only to be thrilled that that dress was the one! By the way, the sample size for wedding dresses is a 10, but that's the equivalent of a ready-to-wear six or eight.
It may seem crazy that a designer needs your custom order six to 10 months before your wedding day, but it takes time to make, ship, and fit the dress. You could do a rush order, but that can be pricey. Your dress should arrive at the salon about four to 10 weeks before the wedding. For an off-the-rack dress, however, you can take it with you, unless you're getting it altered by the salon.
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Whether it's shapewear that holds you in or a bra that holds you up, you'll need special pieces to wear with your dress since everyday lingerie won't work. Ask your stylist what to get.
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Most salons will schedule your first fitting for a custom dress about four to six weeks before the wedding; the first off-the-rack fitting is about four weeks before. Bring your wedding undergarments and shoes, and expect to have two or three fittings total.
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Ask for a swatch
If you're trying to match your headpiece or flowers to your gown, it's a good idea to have the salon take a swatch from your actual dress. Don't worry—they won't cut it out from an obvious place!
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Unless it's a special order, you can usually order it at your first fitting.
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After your last fitting, you'll take the dress home from the store. Ask your salon for storage tips, but in general, you'll want to keep it in the original packaging or garment bag in a low-trafficked area (no people or pets) until you're ready to wear it on the big day!