If there's one task every bride-to-be looks forward to, it's trying on the season's most beautiful wedding dresses. But before you make a shopping appointment at your local bridal salon, it's important to remember that the search for your perfect gown is a marathon, not a sprint. "Most brides visit anywhere from three to five bridal salons—and the more options the better, in my opinion!" says Nicole Miller, fashion designer and founder of her namesake brand Nicole Miller. She recommends trying on a variety of styles from multiple designers so you can understand what flatters your body and makes you feel great. "Always keep an open mind when looking at dresses," she adds. "Many women come in thinking they know exactly want they want and end up leaving the store with something completely different."
Although keeping an open mind is important, it's also essential to realize that the whole point of trying on a variety of looks is to help narrow down what you like—not to make your search more difficult. That begs the question: Can you ever try on too many wedding dresses? The answer depends on who you ask. Miller believe it's important to try on many different styles at the beginning, but once a bride finds a wedding dress she loves, the pro recommends calling off any future shopping trips. "Continuing to try on dresses after the purchase is made will make anyone second guess their decision, only further adding to the stress of planning a wedding," says Miller. "Keep an open mind, but don't be afraid to commit to a dress."
Gabriella Risatti, fashion designer and founder of the bridal salon Gabriella New York, agrees, adding that once you've tried on about 20 or 25 different wedding dresses, it's almost impossible to keep them all straight. Plus, they're probably all some version of white, so it's even harder to differentiate. "Trying on too many gowns can spoil the experience and make the bride feel overwhelmed and disheartened," she says. "Try to exercise restraint and focus on each gown that you put on, and determine exactly what you like and dislike about it so you can keep moving in the right direction."
In addition to completely confusing the bride, trying on too many wedding dresses is also very time consuming—and may stop you from doing other important wedding-planning tasks or spending time with your fiancé. Plus, you may not be the only person experiencing shopping fatigue. "Think of your family and friends who are sitting through appointment after appointment—it's exhausting!" adds Risatti. "They may just tell you they like one so that they can be done looking at wedding dresses!"
To ensure you see enough variety to make an informed choice but not so many different dresses that you're confused by the options, Miller stresses the importance of pre-shopping research. Start looking at photos of wedding dresses and making note of styles, designers, or details you like. This will save you time at each appointment—you can tell your consultant what you already know you like (or don't like) and go from there.
Another good tip from Miller: Pick your wedding venue before you start shopping. While it might seem like one would have nothing to do with the other, your venue's style—and the time of year when you're getting ready—will likely influence the style of wedding dress you choose. "Where the ceremony and reception will take place are very important factors in choosing a gown for functionality and accessibility," says Miller. "It is important to be comfortable in your dress and to enjoy yourself!"
You should also head into your very first shopping trip with a clear budget. Once you establish how much you can afford to spend, it becomes easier to narrow down your options, and ensures you don't run into problems later. "The last thing you want to do is fall in love with a gown that you can't get due to budget!" stresses Miller.
As for when you should start shopping, Miller says the earlier the better. It may sound counterintuitive (if you start early, you have more time to try on more gowns, right?), but the pros say that getting an idea of what you like and don't like early on makes it easier to only consider styles you might seriously purchase. If you're thinking about having something made just for you, you'll definitely want to start working on it as soon as possible. "If you're thinking about a custom gown, give yourself plenty of time, as custom gowns can take up to eight months to make, and that should be factored in to your decision," she adds.