I knew wearing an extra fancy wedding dress was not something that particularly mattered to me, but once Mike and I had determined our wedding date and location, it was hard to resist the urge to spend hours flipping through bridal magazines and blogs in search of the perfect dress. But I soon found myself a bit overwhelmed - not only by the seemingly endless amount of dresses on the market, but also by the fact that is seemed like every dress was four times my budget.!I began to fret that I just wouldn’t find anything in my price range that would also look beautiful and classic. After a Friday night of vegging and watching Say Yes to the Dress, I called to cancel my appointment at that same store - their starting dress price was more than the top end of my budget!
But, at the advice of someone much more in the know than me, I made my dress appointments at three stores that carried a few dresses that I liked. My parents traveled to Manhattan for a weekend and we spent most of the day Saturday shopping for wedding dresses. That day is one that will remain very close to my heart, even with the moments when I felt confused by too many choices or angry at bad customer service.
Here are a few things I learned from shopping for the perfect wedding dress:
Make your appointments well in advance and be flexible on your availability. This is one of the few times that you (and your dress shopping entourage) will need to adjust your schedule to that of the stores you wish to visit.
Do your hair and makeup. I scheduled blowouts for my mom and I - partly because I knew there would be no room in our apartment to get ready and partly because I wanted us to feel really beautiful for the day.
Wear conservative undergarments. This was the very good advice of the same person who helped reassure me that I would find something in my price point. You will be dressing and undressing all day with a stranger (and potentially in front of your entourage and other customers).
Bring a list or photos of the dresses you like from the store. It will help the salesperson not only help pull those gowns quickly, but also make other suggestions based on your preferences.
Be open to at least trying on dresses of all shapes and materials. I went into my day adamant that I wanted all lace and absolutely no strapless, but I felt matronly in every gown that fit this description. I decided (happily) on a strapless gown with no lace.
Don’t feel as though you need to have “the moment”. I thought I was going to have that moment; I’ve cried watching other people and their families have “the moment” on TV. I didn’t cry (Daddy was fighting back tears though!), but I knew it was the one.
Be prepared to feel overwhelmed at some point during your appointment. For me, it was when I found an equally jaw-dropping dress at my second appointment. It was much fancier and I began to question if I should be more “dressed-up” for my wedding day.
The dresses will start to blur together. When it gets to this point, it’s time to finish your appointment and take a break.
Schedule a really delicious lunch between your dress appointments. You will be hungry and need time to decompress. Order a glass of wine. Don’t worry about fitting into the last dresses of the day.
If you are stuck between a number of dresses, consider both your ceremony and reception venues. For me, I ended up having a tough decision between two beautiful dresses - one a bit more casual than the other - but either would have been perfect for the chapel. But I knew I wasn’t planning to change into a second dress for the reception, which was in a casual atmosphere. If I chose the fancier dress, I knew I would be worried all night about having people step on it and ruin it - not exactly how I wanted to celebrate!
Don’t be worried that you will be pressured into “saying yes to the dress”. I was - I had nightmares about it! Your salesperson should not (and in most stores will not) pressure you to make a snap decision; even if you do, there is a big chance you will have second thoughts about your choice. Have them write down the information for the dresses and any accessories you liked, then leave and take the time you need to make your decision.
If you are treated badly by a store - LEAVE! I chose to stay and have my appointment just to be positive my perfect dress wasn’t waiting for me there. In hindsight, I NEVER would have ordered my dress from this store anyway, so staying and being frustrated was quite pointless.
Write thank you notes (or emails) to the sales people who helped you during your appointment. Those ladies spent a lot of time helping you button and pin numerous dresses!