Most women have a vision of how they want to look on their wedding day. For some it is the fabulous sparkly shoes, for others it is the traditional cathedral length veil, and for most it is the perfect wedding dress. Here are 5 things you need to know when starting the search for your wedding gown.
1. Try on Lots of Wedding Dress Styles – Even If You Think You Know Exactly What You Want
When I was a bridal stylist, I know most of my clients came to their first appointment with a pretty clear idea of what they wanted (usually armed with Pinterest pictures). But the success of the appointment depended on how open they were to trying on different styles and shapes. Sometimes, brides walked out of the appointment with the exact dress they wanted when they walked in the doors. But more often they left pleasantly surprised that they’d chosen something totally different than what they’d imagined.
My advice? Have fun! This is your one and only chance to wear some of the most gorgeous or most outrageous dresses ever made. Experiment. Be playful! You just might surprise yourself. And even if you end up with the dress you’d always envisioned, you can be comfortable in the knowledge that you made the right choice having tried all your options.
2. Boutique Stores Carry Limited Designers and Sizes
Before scheduling your wedding dress appointment, make sure to do your research on the store you are visiting. Most boutiques will list which designers they carry, so you can look into what styles of dresses you will be able to try on during your visit. But even if a store features your favorite designer, they don’t have every dress from the collection in the store. If you have a particular dress you are interested in, don’t be afraid to call or email the store and ask if they have it on site. Often, if they don’t currently have it in the store but they carry the designer’s collection, they can get the dress on loan for your appointment. Usually this will involve a small fee for you to pay to cover shipping the dress, but many boutiques then deduct this fee from the overall cost of your purchase if you get your dress in their store.
Similarly, wedding dress boutiques don’t carry each gown in every size. Each store has a certain range of sizes they keep in stock, so this is another great question to ask. But even if the store doesn’t have your exact size, your stylist will help you envision what the dress will look like in your size by using clips to pull the fabric tighter or extra material to fill in gaps between zippers. Trust your stylists! They are the MacGyvers of the wedding dress world.
3. Designer Dress Sizes DO NOT Reflect Your Size
This might actually be the MOST important thing you take away from this post. When shopping for your wedding dress, you should go two sizes above your normal dress size, because designer sizes differ so much from those in department stores. Too many brides walk into their first bridal gown appointment full of excitement and expectation. They announce their average dress size, and then one of two things happen: 1) the bride tries on her very first wedding gown…and the zipper won’t close all the way, or 2) knowing that designer sizes run small, the stylist brings larger size dresses into the room, and the bride’s heart falls when she sees the tag. In both situations, all the bride’s worst insecurities creep up and the glitter and glam of the experience is tarnished.
Not to worry! You haven’t gained any weight, and you are still perfect in your own body. Ignore the silly little number on that tag and focus on the anticipation. Because soon you will be walking down the aisle toward the love of your life, and your partner won’t care if you are in a size 8 or 18. All they will be seeing is how beautiful you look in your perfect wedding dress.
4. You Don’t Have to Take Everyone on Your First Visit
When trying to schedule your wedding dress appointments there is so much pressure on who you bring with you. Your mom, your sister, your best friend, your roommate, your future mother-in-law, your cousin, your grandmother, your sister-in-law, your aunt, your godmother, and the list goes on. Everyone wants to come! And you want people who love and support you there with you as you search for the perfect wedding dress. Right?
That first visit encompasses a whole lot of emotion, expectation, and nerves. Not everyone loves the attention of being put up on a pedestal (literally) and parading in front of a huge group of people, and not everyone can handle a big posse with even bigger opinions. And that’s okay! You don’t have to have every single person who is important in your life at your first bridal appointment. There will be plenty of other moments for them to be part of as you plan for your wedding day.
For your first appointment, only bring a couple of your most trusted loved ones. Bring people who will be calm and supportive, excited and enthusiastic, and who won’t overshadow your opinion. Because what matters most is not that every person you love approves of the dress, but that you feel amazing in your wedding gown.
Then once you’ve made your decision, schedule an appointment with all the people you want to share the moment with. Make a day of showing them your perfect dress! This will take the pressure off of you and the people you love. They still get to be part of the experience, but you have the peace of mind that you picked your own perfect dress.
5. Pictures At the Appointment Won’t Do the Dress Justice
I once worked at a dress boutique that wouldn’t allow photos during appointments, and there was a good reason behind this rule. Photos at the appointment, especially cell phone snapshots, don’t capture just how beautiful you look in the perfect dress. The lighting might not be ideal, which casts shadows in unflattering places. Or you might be clipped into the dress, making one section or another pull and ripple in a strange way. Whatever the case, even the most level-headed of brides can look back at the pictures after thinking she’s found her perfect dress and panic.
If you need to take pictures to help you make your decision, that’s perfectly fine. Just don’t put too much stock in exactly how the dress looks in those low-quality photos. And don’t worry! The dress you found and fell in love with is absolutely still the perfect dress. On your wedding day, when it is in your size and fitted to you, when your hair and make up are done, and when the lighting is perfect, your wedding dress will look just as stunning as when you envisioned it that very first time you slipped the fabric over your skin. The dress, the day, and the moment will be perfect.
Have you found your perfect wedding dress? Comment below with any tips you have for other brides or questions you still need answered about the dress shopping process.
Photos courtesy of Bianka Bridal, a premier wedding dress boutique in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can book an appointment online or call the salon directly 616-235-9300. Appointments are 90 minutes, and Bianka Bridal knows how to create the dream wedding dress shopping experience! The bride gets her own robe, fitting room, and bridal consultant. The entire staff is knowledgeable about inventory, designers, silhouettes, popular venues, and latest trends in wedding planning and gowns. They offer bridesmaids dresses as well! For bridal gowns, prices range from $1200-$7200. Check out their website for a full list of designers for bridal and bridesmaid styles.
All photos by Kelly Sweet Photography, a destination wedding and portrait photographer based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.