Your wedding dress is your statement piece - the declaration of you at your absolute pinnacle of beauty and rapture marrying the man you love. So shopping for it requires very different criteria to your usual techniques for the cosmetic and fashionable. You will never really have the same agenda ever again so make the most of it! Don’t let the pressure and stress stop you from enjoying the excitement and ecstasy of finding your perfect gown. Here are some tips for success:
SET YOUR WEDDING DRESS BUDGET
Your wedding dress budget should be between 10-15% of your total budget. You should also make allowances for alterations, fees, pressings, steamings and any sudden changes. Your budget should be the first thing you tell the salesperson before they start tempting you with exotic fantastic creations you cannot afford.
BEAR IN MIND THE LOCATION, TIME, PLACE AND SEASON
You may have your heart set on a floating organza gown but if you are getting married in November in Maine, it probably isn’t a good idea. Likewise, a velvet sheath in Alabama’s July is a recipe for heatstroke. Keep velvet and brocade for winter dates or cooler climates and linen, light silk and organza for summer. Also, will the wedding be outdoors for a lot of the time? Are you getting married in a stately home or a down-home barn? Are there staircases to navigate? Will the only restrooms be portable? All these things need consideration!
Literally! As in as soon as you have set a date, book a time and day to go to your first bridal dress salon. And make your appointment as early as possible - 9am on a weekday is perfect. Saturday afternoons are the busiest times and the one where sales folk will be tired, flustered and unable to give you real attention. It really is worth booking a couple of hours off work to do this.
ON THE DAY, EAT AND GET DRESSED UP!
Seriously, do not go out on an empty stomach. Wedding gown shopping is not for the faint-hearted, in every sense of the word. You will need your stamina. And put on your make-up, wear nice underclothes, have your hair washed and blow-dried. Anything to make you look and feel confident about yourself. Also, if you already have shoes or a style of the shoe you will be wearing, bring them along. A stiletto heel will make the hem of a full-length gown hang differently to a clunky shoe or big platform.
INVEST IN AWESOME UNDIES
Do not go wedding dress shopping wearing your graying, fraying bra you wore in college. Please! This is sacred territory. Go and get a well-fitted, sexy bra please - it will make a world of difference.
Read bridal magazines, browse websites, look at designers’ portfolios, check out the terminology, get to know your Wattreau train from your chapel-length train, the several shades of white, the fabrics and silhouettes...it is a whole new world and language so get to know it if you want something right. Create your own folder with styles, swatches, pictures from magazines and details.
HAVE A GAME PLAN
So schedule some weekday 9am slots at salons - no more than two in one day else you will die of Wedding Salon overload very quickly! Take a notebook and jot down dress details and sketches as no photos are allowed. Also, shop on your own or with an objective patient brother. Female friends may mean well but, when it comes to wedding gowns, too many factors are involved and too many opinions can really mash up your brain!
CHECK OUT SALES AND DISCOUNTS
Call stores and designer websites. Register for trunk shows where designers debut new lines and give you discounts if you buy on the day. Remember, wedding gowns and veils are non-returnable goods. Sometimes you can sell on your custom-made dress but it will be at a hundredth of the cost.
DON’T GET UPSET WITH A LARGER DRESS SIZE!
Wedding dresses are always two or three sizes bigger than your usual one so don’t take it personally.
CHOOSE FOR YOU - NOT FASHION
Make sure you choose a wedding dress silhouette that flatters you. Don’t get caught up by trends but rather think of what emphasizes your personal style and flatters your figure. Even if all the bridal dresses in the magazines are featuring lace and off-the-shoulder sheaths, it doesn’t mean that would be the best for you. It should be a combination of contemporary and traditional elements which make you feel real and wonderful - yourself at your most beautiful. Think timeless - you’ll feel the best version of yourself and not be dated when it comes to your grandchildren looking at those wedding photos.
KEEP AN OPEN MIND
This is a totally different kind of dress shopping. Go with how you feel in it as much as what you look like. You may be surprised at the style which finally accentuates the real you. Good sales assistants’ choices are not as arbitrary as they appear; matching wedding gowns with the right women is as much an art as the real marriage matchmaking! If you are a dancer or anticipate being quite active on your day, you want a dress that swishes, swirls and sways with your every twist and turn, possibly with some fringing.
BUT ALSO A MIND ON THE DRESS CODE
If you are getting married in a place of worship, remember some have rules about the type of gowns which can be worn and the amount of skin that can be shown. Try to honor these if that particular place of worship is important for your wedding ceremony to take place.
ASK AS MANY QUESTIONS AS YOU LIKE
Can I dance? Will I get sweat stains? Can you see my muffin-top handle? How do I go to the restroom? Will the beading snag my stockings or veil? It is your gown and you are going to be locked in it for the longest- but most important day- of your life. And if you constantly need reassurance, it is not the one.
GET THE CONTRACT RIGHT
You need to put down 50% deposit on your chosen dress but, before that’s exchanged, ensure you know when the gown will be ready, any fees for alterations estimate, policy regarding cancellations, damage to dress or wrong specifications. Also triple check the manufacturer’s name, style number, size and color - there are a lot of factors which go towards making a wedding dress.
MAKE SURE YOU GET AT LEAST TWO FITTINGS IN
...ideally go for three! And don’t be reticent once you get there. For your first fitting, make sure you have shoes, undies and accessories. You should also have your hair and make-up done and it should take place four months’ prior to your wedding. If there are any alterations to be made, now is the time to say something. Two weeks’ before the date, you should also bring along whoever will be helping you into your gown on the day and practice.