The Ultimate Guide To Wedding Dress Shopping

Updated January 27, 2023

If you’ve never gone wedding dress shopping before, you may feel anxious about the entire process – after all, it’s different from regular shopping.

Fortunately, wedding dress shopping is usually different in a good way. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience.

From saving your favorites on Pinterest to making your first appointment and trying on exquisite gowns, each step of wedding dress shopping is nearly as exciting as the wedding itself.

However, bridal salons have some unspoken rules that every bride must follow. Bridal salon etiquette is meant to help both you and the bridal stylists choose the right dress.

Although bridal salon appointments can be intimidating and stressful, the feeling of finding that perfect dress is wonderful. You’ll know it was all worth it when you see yourself in your dream gown.

When to Buy the Dress

First, you should learn when to buy a wedding dress. The short answer is – the earlier, the better, but it isn’t always that simple.

Most pre-made wedding dresses sold in bridal salons require extensive alterations to fit your figure flawlessly.

Each body is different, and even if you get the sizing right, the gown may still be too loose or too tight in some areas.

You should allow at least four months for alterations, so you should head wedding dress shopping about half a year in advance.

And if you wish to make custom changes, schedule the shopping for at least eight months before the event.

Furthermore, bridal salons have new collections, sales, and increased demand seasons, like any other store.

If you’re a real fashionista and wish to buy a dress from the latest couture collection, schedule your appointment for March or September (but consider the wedding dress alteration timeline).

If your budget is limited, visit bridal salons during the sample sale season – usually about a month before new collections arrive, in February or August.

However, this option is mainly suitable for brides wearing size 8, as most samples are of this size.

Online wedding dress shopping is a whole other story. The delivery times can be unpredictable, and you never know whether you’ll be happy with the dress when you see it in real life. Thus, order your dress about a year in advance.

How to Find the Right Salons

Finding the right bridal salon is key to successful wedding dress shopping. The store price range should align with your budget, and the styles they carry should match your vision. But how do you find the right bridal salon?

It’s all about the research. Ask your friends and family about their experience – there’s no source more trustworthy than someone you know personally.

Ask whether they liked the stylist, the dress selection, and what the shopping was like overall.

If friends and family are of no help, check reviews online. Brides tend to be very vocal about their good and bad experiences.

A polite and welcoming salon staff is essential, as wedding dress shopping is an already stressful enough event.

Of course, you should also check the information on the salon website – find out which designers they carry, their appointment policy, and their price range.

After visiting the website, don’t hesitate to call the salon directly if you have any questions.

Location matters, too. You’d likely want to visit a salon close to your home, but sometimes, options outside of your town or even state are worth it.

And if you’re looking for a dress by a famous designer, you’ll likely have to visit New York.

Bridal Salon Appointments

Most bridal salons will require you to make an appointment in advance, but some accept walk-ins.

Therefore, don’t expect to head wedding dress shopping without any planning – the salon staff may not even let you in without an appointment.

Typically, you can make an appointment over the phone or on the salon’s website. Most salons will schedule you for an hour and a half, though some may have shorter or longer appointments.

Always attend your appointment on time and don’t stay for long after it’s over, as the store will likely have more appointments scheduled for the same day.

Respect the staff and other brides who, same as you, want to find their perfect dress without distraction.

Make multiple appointments for the same day to avoid wasting several days on your shopping. However, schedule them with reserve to allow enough time for unexpected delays.

If you’ve found that dream gown in the first store, warn other salons that you won’t attend the appointment. This will save the staff time and allow them to schedule another appointment for someone who needs it.

Research Dress Styles & Silhouettes

The variety of wedding dress styles and silhouettes can be overwhelming.

Even brides with a very distinct style who have no difficulty choosing clothes during regular shopping can become overly excited when surrounded by dozens of beautiful gowns.

Learn about different gown styles and cuts to determine which fit your figure and preferences best. Consider the location, season, and reception venue – these factors also affect your wedding gown choice.

Don’t forget about your style – your wedding gown reflects your perception of life and yourself.

You don’t have to choose a traditional gown if you love everything alternative – most importantly, you should feel confident on your big day.

Knowing what you want when coming to the bridal salon can save you plenty of time and reduce stress. It will help the bridal stylist, too, as they will understand which gowns to bring you.

Know Your Budget

Setting the budget before you go wedding dress shopping is vital. It’s necessary to choose the right salons, save time, ad avoid drama. You don’t want to try on gowns you can’t afford.

Don’t hide your budget from your entourage and the bridal stylist. They will all be trying to help you choose the right gown, but if they don’t know your limits, you risk getting upset.

Remember that the bridal stylist doesn’t want to sell you a gown out of your budget. They want you to be happy with your purchase and recommend the salon to others, so they will strive to find you the best gown within your price range.

When setting your budget, don’t forget to estimate wedding dress alterations and dry cleaning or preservation price.

Getting Ready for Your Appointment

Bridal salon appointments can be tiring and stressful, so you shouldn’t skip breakfast even if you want to maintain a slim profile.

You likely won’t spend your entire wedding day without any food, so pick a dress you feel comfortable eating in.

Picking the right undergarments is essential. Avoid too bright, dark, see-through, or provocative lingerie.

The best option is a nude bra with good support – remember that many wedding dresses are made from delicate fabrics that aren’t particularly opaque.

Incorrectly chosen undergarments can affect the entire dress look and prevent you from perceiving it adequately. If you want to wear shaping underwear for your wedding, wear it for the gown shopping, too.

Don’t wear too much makeup. Firstly, you’ll be trying on expensive, delicate white dresses, and you don’t want to ruin them. Secondly, clear skin will help you understand which shade of white is right for you.

However, don’t neglect your hairstyle. There’s no need to make an intricate updo, but your hair should at least be neat – you may have trouble feeling like one whole with your dream gown with a messy bun on your head.

Wedding Dress Shopping Etiquette

Every bride should know the wedding dress shopping etiquette – firstly, it’s basic politeness. Secondly, specific bridal salon rules will help you choose the right gown quicker.

Most bridal salons don’t mind you bringing friends along, but you should keep their number low.

Don’t bring over three people along, as too many voices will be distracting for you, the stylist, and other brides that may be around.

Find out about the bridal salon picture policy in advance. Taking pictures can be helpful, but some stores don’t allow it. And by no means should you transform the appointment into a full-blown photoshoot.

Don’t pull gowns off the rack and warn your entourage about it. Wedding dresses are delicate and must be handled with care after the bridal stylist allows you to.

Trust your stylist – they will pick the right gown for your preferences and budget.

You can and should express your opinions but keep them polite. Don’t call gowns ugly – that’s plain rude and can upset other brides.

After You’ve Found the Perfect Gown

Once you’ve found that dream gown, stop looking – that’s one of the most helpful wedding dress shopping tips you can get. If you feel like it’s your perfect dress, there’s no need to try on other options just for fun.

Ask the bridal salon about in-house wedding dress alterations. In-house seamstresses have already worked with your chosen gown model and know how to handle it.

You may also ask about the gown delivery and available payment plans. Some bridal salons have a free delivery option, whereas others will charge you a hefty fee.

Image credit: Unsplash

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