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How to Find Your Perfect Wedding Dress

Updated on July 24, 2018
VVanNess profile image

Victoria is a stay-at-home mom, author, educator, and blogger at Healthy at Home. She currently lives in Colorado with her family.


This may be the single biggest clothing decision you ever make in your entire life. It would be a shame to go into such an important choice with a blind-fold and be surprised. I'm here to share some tips with you for navigating the world of wedding gowns and come out on top in the end.

There are so many topics we can cover when it comes to wedding gowns. Some of those that come to mind are wedding dress vocabulary, styles to suit your figure, the meaning behind wedding gowns, the different wedding dress accessories, all of your dress and shopping options, and even how to save money on your wedding gown. We'll try to cover as many of these topics as possible over the next handful of articles. I want you to walk down the aisle on your wedding day looking and feeling exactly like you've always imagined. It is possible and we'll get you there! Let's start at the beginning.

Do Your Research

Before you ever step foot in a bridal shop, you'll want to do your research ahead of time. What kind of dress do you like? What is your wedding style? What kind of weather are you expecting on your wedding day? All of these questions will factor into the dress you end up purchasing.

The absolute worst thing you could do would be to go visit the first shop you find without knowing anything about dresses beforehand. First of all, you'll need an appointment before anyone will help you at a bridal shop. Secondly, you'll have a heck of a time finding the right one without pictures, styles and ideas in mind, and in hand, when you walk in.

Spend some valuable time perusing wedding dress websites like David's Bridal, Alfred Angelo, and theKnot among many more. Flip through your share of wedding magazines to get a good look at all of the wedding dress styles, colors, and options available to you. I suggest cutting out, printing and collecting all of your absolutely favorites! Even if you like the color of one, the skirt on another and the sleeves on a final one, that's perfectly fine. The key is finding out what you like.

At this stage of the game, don't worry too much about your budget. Once you find the dress you truly like, there are always tons of ways to find it in your price range.

Bridal Shops vs Buying Online

Whether you end up buying your dress in a shop or online, borrowing or even renting your dress, I always suggest going and having fun trying on dresses in bridal shops anyway! Nothing replaces this one of a kind experience that all brides deserve, and there's no real way to know what kind of dress is going to look great and give you that "feeling" you're looking for without trying them on.

Both bridal shops and online stores have their advantages and disadvantages. Let's look at some:


Bridal Shops

Advantages - You can try on and pick out the exact dress that will become yours in person. You can take pictures of yourself in each dress in the company of friends and family to contemplate later. Everyone you choose to bring with you can share their opinions of each dress. Someone else can be responsible for the ordering, delivering and fitting of your gown.

Disadvantages - It can take up to 6 months for your dress to come in. Ordering a dress with a bridal shop usually involves tons and tons of hidden fees and charges you weren't expecting. Most shops don't have a return/refund policy. Everyone you choose to bring with you can share their opinions of each dress. Someone else can be responsible for the ordering, delivering and fitting of your gown. lol Yes, these can be good and bad.

Online Dress Shops

Advantages - No hidden fees. A great return policy. Much quicker delivery. Customer service access. Package tracking availability. No young uneducated consultants. No busy shops. Much better prices! Opinions without direct criticism from others, if you choose to share the pictures.

Disadvantages - Not able to try on specific dress ordered ahead of time. Not an expensive designer dress. You may have to search for a while before you'll find your dress. (So you can tell I really support buying online! I did and my dress only cost $100 or so. Check out my gorgeous dress above!)

Quick Poll

Would you buy your wedding dress online?

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Making an Appointment

So you've been looking at dresses for months now and have THE perfect dress in mind. You considered the style of your wedding and even the weather on your wedding day. You've got tons of pictures in hand to take to bridal shops with you! Now you're ready to visit some shops!

The very first thing you'll want to do is schedule an appointment. Most shops won't give you the time of day, or any attention, without an appointment. Where and when you ask? Sit down and research all of the bridal shops in your area. If you have the time, you'll want to try and schedule appointments one at a time. Unlike any other wedding vendor you work with where I suggest you schedule to meet with several a day in order to compare them. You'll be spending a great deal of time at each bridal shop and will likely be tired after each appointment.

David's Bridal and Alfred Angelo would be my top recommendations for your first visits. Consider the day of the week and the time of day before scheduling your appointment. Weekends are the busiest times for bridal shops as this is when most people are available. If you schedule to visit during this time, you'll likely get horrible service and little attention. The shop will likely be be mass chaos as well.

The same goes for evenings. More brides will be visiting at these times and consultants, having been working all day, will be tired and will probably be rushing you to make a decision so they can go home. This is a good time to take the time needed to set aside a day during the week where you can go visit earlier in the day when consultants are fresh and their schedules are open. This way you will be treated with respect, get genuine attention, and will be given the time you need to make an educated decision.

Quick Poll

How long did it take you to find your PERFECT dress?

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Trying on Dresses

This process would be so easy if there were only 15 dresses to choose from. You would simply walk in, try on your 15, pick one, and be done with it. But the truth is there are more like millions of choices available. This is why it's so important to have an idea of what you like before you enter a bridal shop, and bring plenty of pictures with you.

By showing your consultant your pictures, she'll be able to peruse through the plethora of dresses they have on the racks and in their storeroom to find dresses you might like. If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to keep your mind open. The consultants working at the bridal shop are around those dresses everyday. They get to know their dresses in detail and get to see them on a variety of body types all day every day.

Although they will most certainly pull dresses with the characteristics that you are looking for. If they get a little off track and pull a few extras, they are trained to do just that. Trust your consultant to know what dresses will probably look smashing on you.Just like all of the clothes you'd truly like to purchase at the department store, not all of them will look like you'd expect once you're in the dressing room.

Your consultant may have some other ideas, and it's wise to give them a shot. Your goal should simply be to find a dress you LOVE, and not just to find the dresses in your pictures. Without those pictures your appointment will be more like a scavenger hunt, but don't be surprised if the one you fall head over heels for is completely different.


Ordering Your Wedding Dress

Please don't make the mistake of buying a dress just because you've had enough and you settled. You'll quickly regret it. Eventually you will find it, even if you're not looking and the inner battle will ensue. You should have a dress that you fall in love with. Too many brides simply think this is just a saying, that there really is no one perfect dress, but it's true!

When you put the right one on, you'll feel like a bride. You'll feel beautiful and elegant. You'll feel exactly like you always dreamed of when walking down the aisle. BINGO! That's how you want to feel. I know bridal shops can be stressful place. They may pressure you to buy something that day, but if you don't feel that way, don't buy it. Always go home and sleep on it. No purchase is that dire.

However, once you find that perfect dress, make sure that it falls within the budget you've set aside for it. Don't forget you still have accessories to purchase, like a veil, shoes, a bra, a petticoat, possibly a tiara, and the inevitable wedding dress fittings. Each of these extra items is going to cost a little more. A veil will likely be about $100, shoes about $20, a bra could be up to $50, a petticoat about $100, a tiara about $20, and the total for your fittings may range $200 to $300. The total for all of these items could be upwards of $600. (They don't have to be, but that's another article.)

Finally, if you're determined to buy your from a bridal shop, make sure you are aware of all of the hidden fees and charges, you get a signed contract with delivery dates and the details of your dress and/or accessories, determine their return policy, and pay with a credit card. If at any time, the bridal shop fails to come through on their side of the bargain, they go bankrupt before your dress comes in and they close, or any other problems you may have with them, your credit card will give you a full refund even if they won't. If you pay with cash, check or any other form of payment, and something terrible happens (God forbid!), you will have lost your money. Just be smart about it. Things like that happen to brides everyday.

All Other Options

In the end, if you find your perfect dress, but have no desire to spend the kind of money they are asking of you, remember that you have tons of options at your disposal to get that same dress for so much less! Visit my article on Saving Money on Your Wedding Dress for details on all the ways you can save the most money in this area.

For the time being, know that you can find your dress online. Tons of brides are selling their wedding gowns for cheap cheap on sites all over the internet, there are online wedding dress outlets selling wedding gowns for less than all other competitors allowing brides the same designer gown they're looking for for much less, and plenty of online bridal gown shops will make the gown personally for you and ship it to you more than likely from another country for super cheap.

You could even consider having a seamstress make your dress for you. (There are wonderful seamstresses out there that can replicate your chosen dress perfectly and will do so for you for a meager $600 or so.) You could also consider shopping around at consignment shops in your area or even borrowing a dress from a friend or family member.

Most wedding dresses on the market are selling for really high prices. Don't think you have to pay this amount simply because that's what's available. You have so many options available to you now, that you no longer have to pay anything you're not willing to. Remember I bought my gown online at a shop that made it for me and sent it to me in 6 weeks. It was amazingly gorgeous, the dress was only $100 or so, and the fitting was only $70. SCORE!

Quick Poll

Where did you end up purchasing your dress?

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© 2013 Victoria Van Ness


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