You definitely don't want to put this task off.

By Jillian Kramer
October 09, 2019
Hero Images / Getty Images

There are plenty of big-day details you might want to tackle before you start your search for the perfect wedding dress—choosing a venue and booking a photographer are among the most important. But believe it or not, if you wait too long to shop, you might not leave enough time to find your dream wedding dress. In fact, Valarie Falvey, owner and wedding planner at Kirkbrides Weddings in Cleveland, Ohio, says your dress search should ideally start 12 to 14 months before your big day. Here's why: As Falvey points out, it leaves plenty of time for the dress to be ordered and shipped, as well as wiggle room for any necessary alterations to be made, but it's not so far out that trends and styles would change.

This isn't a hard and fast rule, though: "It's never too late to find a beautiful dress to celebrate love," says Falvey, but she warns that brides with a particular style or designer in mind can't afford to wait too long to shop. The same goes for those who want to be organized in their dress search or simply want to have a plethora of styles and designers to choose from. For these brides, Falvey says, "shopping with only four to six months left in your wedding timeline may be too late."

Related: What Every Bridal Consultant Wishes You'd Do Before Going Wedding Dress Shopping

Unlike clothing you buy to wear recreationally—clothes you pick up off the rack and take home to wear immediately—almost all wedding dresses are made-to-order. When you find the perfect dress, the bridal boutique will place an order for the dress in your size, based on measurements they take in the store. But wedding dresses take a long time to construct; your dress won't even be shipped for three to four months after your order, Falvey says—and even when it does arrive, you could be facing months of alterations, depending on what's needed to make it fit perfectly.

If you're worried you've already waited too long, don't let it stress you out. "A bride can always shop off-the-rack for a beautiful dress," says Falvey. "There are also sample sales at boutiques occasionally and you may be able to find something you love in your size." (Even if you can't find a sample or off-the-rack dress in your size, you'd be surprised how much can be altered!) Wedding dresses are available for rent, too, through several different sites. And resale stores, such as Borrowing Magnolia, also offer previously worn and discounted wedding gowns.

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