How To Survive Bridal Gown Shopping


The Dress.

The Other “The One”.

The Most Important Dress In A Woman’s Life.

Let’s face it, from the first time we saw Cinderella or Beauty & The Beast as little girls, one of the first things to pop into our heads was “I want her dress, mommy!”. And from then on, visions of extravagant ballgowns danced in our heads. Or, if you were like me, you wanted your OWN version of Belle’s gown, something different and unique. Something…you. But how in a sea filled with tulle, chiffon, and organza can you navigate to your dream dress? It takes patience, persistence  and most importantly, research. Here’s Dearly Beloved’s tips and tricks from their resident bridal fashion expert, Julie.

  1. The number one piece of advice I can give any bride is to DO. YOUR. RESEARCH. Going into a bridal salon and telling your consultant “I have no idea what I like” is a nightmare to both her and you! Browse through bridal magazines and tab pages of gowns that you like, even if it’s just the neckline, or bodice (top portion of the dress), or back detailing. A little hint can go a long way for the consultant. Look up different designers and see how they design, each one has a different aesthetic. Going into an appointment with a game plan is your best option!
  2. Your consultant is a real person, treat them as such. As a former bridal consultant myself, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been disrespected and treated as a puppet by a bride or family member…and couldn’t say or do anything about it. But, what they forgot is that the consultant ultimately holds the power in the appointment. That special discount consultants are able to offer select brides? Not to you if you fail as a customer. Special attention to you and your family? Don’t count on it. With that being said, this person is here to help you find the gown of your dreams! Why jeopardize that? Also, please don’t forget, a bridal consultant is not a mind reader. This goes in with #1, go in with a plan. Otherwise don’t get mad if a consultant keeps bringing you gowns you hate if you gave her nothing to feed off of!
  3. Don’t cram more that 2-3 appointments in one day. You may be geared up to run a bridal gown shopping marathon but I’m sure your mom, MOH, and MIL aren’t. Give yourself plenty of time in between appointments for a light lunch (don’t want you to be stuffed when trying on gowns!) and travel. Plus, going to numerous places will start to get confusing to you. It’s best to try a few on, go home and mull it over for a week or so before you head back out!
  4. In keeping with the philosophy of mighty tip #1, research the stores you will be going to. Make sure they carry the range of designers/brands you’re most eager to try on. But remember, most stores do not carry that designer’s complete line. Write down the gowns’ stock numbers and give stores a call and see if they carry those dresses in-stock. If not, they may be able to order it for you at a later date, or they may suggest you visit during that designer’s Trunk Show. What’s a Trunk Show? It’s a weekend or 2 day event when a store puts on display one designer’s (usually) complete collection for brides to try on. Most of the time the brand’s head designer is also there to offer advice and help. A lot of stores also have special sales during Trunk Show weekends as well. So it pays to book an appointment during one! But mind you, appointments for Trunk Shows can book VERY fast. The sooner you book, the better. Even the largest bridal store in the country, Kleinfeld’s, doesn’t have every designer’s dress in-stock!
  5. Don’t bring more than 5 people to your appointment. Seriously. You don’t need all those opinions on one couch. Bring the important ones: your mom, gramdma, MIL, MOH and a couple of close friends or family members. This can not only annoy you, but also confuse you with so many comments flying at you at once. Why not make it a surprise for everyone? I showed everyone and their mother my dress so when the day actually came, most in attendance had seen my dress already. Can you imagine the gasping and awes of your guests if you save the big reveal of your dress to the Big Day?
  6. Bridal dress sizes are different that your “regular” sizes. So if you’re usually a 6 in jeans, don’t be shocked when a 10 fits. That’s just how bridal is.
  7. With having #6 in mind, be prepared when you go to your appointment. Sample sizes are usually a 8, 10, or 12 (aka a 6, 8, or 10). So you girls who are a size 16+, you might want to call ahead and see if plus sizes are available. Otherwise the appointment might be miserable for you. I can’t stress this enough: do your research!
  8. Don’t think that a top-designer gown is out of reach in your budget. Many designers are offering lower priced collections so many more brides out there can wear a runway-worthy dress! Vera Wang has White by Vera available at David’s Bridal. Most gowns are around $1000 and have her distinct style we’ve come to know as a Vera. Monique Lhuillier has her less expensive line, Bliss by Monique Lhuiller. And for you former Melissa Sweet/Priscilla of Boston lovers out there, David’s Bridal now sells Melissa Sweet, at a fraction of what PofB used to sell her gowns at! Or check out bridal consignment stores! There’s also eBay (but be careful when buying designer), criagslist, and discounter bridal stores that can sell a gorgeous $22k Kenneth Pool for just $2200. The catch at one of those places? They’re sample sizes. Alterations will be a must at one of these. Don’t forget about sample sales! Places like Filene’s Basement, Kleinfeld’s, and other retailers need to get rid of old samples to make room for the newest collections, which means huge discounts for you! Be prepared to have these dresses be worn, some torn, and kinda dirty. Again, alterations will be your lifesaver here.
  9. Be prepared to put a chunk of change down if you “say yes” to a gown. Most places will require at least 50% down right then and there. Some stores (like David’s Bridal) will require full payment. But, you may have options. Some stores (like DB) have layaway, and many others can help with a payment plan if you’re pressed for cash up front. Look into financing your dress, too. Just be careful about racking up that debt!
  10. I can’t stress this enough: do your research. For #10 this means research how long it may take for a dress to come in. Most designers take at least 5-6 months! That’s not including time for alterations! If you’re getting married in, say…September, a good time to buy and order will be in January. That will give the designer 6 months to ship (July). And then 1.5-2 months for alterations. Think about the “what-ifs”. What if the designer accidentally sends you the wrong gown? Or the color isn’t exactly what you had hoped for? Or that extra detailing you ordered wasn’t enough? If you order your gown with a small window of time, these little hiccups can be devastating. Plus, you need to give your seamstress at least 2 months to alter your gown (not to mention that last minute diet!). The least stress you have or that you put on others, the more at ease everyone will be.
  11. Don’t be afraid of the add-ons. So you love your dress and your consultant says she has something for the dress and she comes back with a veil and headpiece…something you hate and have no intention of wearing. Try them on anyways! Your consultant has done this way more than you have, she knows what looks best. Who knows, that cathedral veil might just be the thing that truly puts the whole look together!
  12. Last, but not least. Besides #1, this is the other most important piece of advice I can give any bride going into a bridal gown appointment: KEEP AN OPEN MIND. You say you hate “poofy”, but have you even tried on a full ballgown before? You say you hate lace, but that touch of lace on your dress might just be what makes you love it! Listen to your consultant and what they’re recommending. Don’t judge a dress by what it looks like on the hanger, judge it by how it looks on you. You might just be surprised with what you see!

With these words of wisdom I wish every bride happy shopping! Remember these tips and you’re sure to have a stress-free, perfect bridal appointment!


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