Monday, August 10, 2015

What Every Bride Needs To Know Before Wedding Dress Shopping

I'm insanely picky. Making decisions, that's not my forte. I just want to be absolutely, unequivocally sure that I'm choosing the correct option. Yes, the correct. Not the best.

And therein lies my problem. I can't pick an option that works. I have to pick the one that is right. And since I can't know what is right until I exhaust every option and then make a decision, well, decisions are difficult.

I'm not like this with every decision. If you ask me if I if I want coffee, I will say yes regardless of the time. Chocolate? Count me in. But deciding on a wedding dress? It took me three cities, 50 dresses, and an overnight stay in a cheap hotel.

Part of the problem (besides my indecisive nature) was that no one told me anything about wedding dress shopping before I went besides the cliche, "When you find it, you'll just know." Not only was that poor advice, it also never happened. More accurate advice would have been, "If you're trying on number 50, just buy it and stop dragging your mom around to dress shops."

To prevent you (and your mom, maid of honor, whoever) from that same fate, I put together a list of what every bride needs to know before wedding dress shopping that will hopefully help.


What Every Bride Needs To Know Before Wedding Dress Shopping

Appointments are required. And long.
You can't just show up to a bridal shop to try on dresses. You need to make an appointment. See, it's not like a regular store where you can pick up a few items, head into a fitting room to try them on, and then decide. You need a consultant. She knows the store and where specific dresses are located, she knows the inventory, and she knows just how to lace up that corset back. And since that consultant will be with you during the entire time, you need to make an appointment to book her.

An appointment will generally take between 90 minutes and two hours, so block that time out. If you're booking appointments at multiple dress shops on the same day, be sure to block out a couple hours for the appointment and travel time.

When you make an appointment, be sure to ask if you have to pay a fee. There are shops that will charge you (as a way to deter the people who are trying on dresses because they're bored). Often, that money will be applied to your dress purchase, if you choose to shop there. Definitely ask first.

Bring high heels. Or don't. That's okay too.
This is pretty well known if you've been in a wedding party before, but for some reason, I just completely blanked. You're supposed to bring your wedding shoes with you to try on dresses, but that's pretty impossible since you usually don't choose your wedding shoes until you know the style and color of your dress. Instead, you'll want to bring heels that you're comfortable in and that are pretty much the height of the heels you anticipate wearing on your wedding day.

If you walk in the bridal shop without heels, it's okay. You don't have to feel completely inadequate to dress shop (therefore getting embarrassed and having your decision making thrown off). Every bridal shop I went to had heels that brides could use when trying on the dress. It just gives you an idea of how the dress will change with heels.

When you go for your fittings, though, you definitely need to bring your wedding day heels.

You sort of have to go in with an idea of what you want, but there's a good chance that will change once you start trying on dresses.
I was sure, absolutely sure, that I was going to have a ball gown. I wanted a huge princess bottom. Indecisive Lisa had that narrowed down. "Are you sure?" the first consultant asked me. "Yes, I'm sure," I told her. So she walked me through the store and we picked up a few ball gowns for me to try on. They were heavy. Really heavy. There's so much material to them that the dress weighs a lot. I was willing to make the sacrifice until a consultant offered up this tidbit: You'll be wearing that dress all day, walking in it, dancing it, and just wearing it. It might weigh you down.

I was still set on a ball gown when I was in another store. A consultant laced me into the corset, then had to grab the phone or help another customer or go to the bathroom. I'm honestly not sure where she went, but she told me and my mom that she'd be right back. So there I stood in this pretty ball gown for three minutes, five minutes, ten minutes. And that's when my breathing started to get labored. "I can't stand anymore," I said to my mom as I sat down -- very properly -- in this dress. The corset made it so I couldn't hunch my shoulders even one bit. After a few minutes, I was over. "Can you actually wear that all day?" my mom asked me. "Nope," I said. And my dreams of a ball gown turned into a less-heavy A-line.

Pictures help, but might not always be allowed. 
My mom was taking photos of me in every dress so we could compare them. Without those, the dresses would have started to blend together. There were two boutiques I went into that wouldn't let us take photo though. It was to protect the designers, they told me, but I honestly think they were worried customers would try on expensive, high-end dresses, take photos, and then order cheap knock offs online. So before your mom turns into the paparazzi, be sure to make sure the shop will allow it.

Dress shopping will make you feel fat, which isn't the best mentality to shop.
I wanted to feel like a princess on my wedding day. I think everyone does. But I didn't feel like that when I was dress shopping. See, in real life, I wear either a 0 or a 2. Dresses are cut slimmer, so I wear a 4. But when I tried on wedding dresses, the consultant was grabbing sizes 10 and 12. I thought she would use every clamp in the store to close the dresses, but I was wrong. So many of them fit perfectly. I was feeling bad, but then a consultant told me, "You were made for a wedding dress." They were fitting perfectly and I started to focus on that rather than a number on a tag.

Sample dresses don't necessarily save you money.
The Internet is filled with wedding dress advice that says to buy a sample dress because it will be offered at a discount and will save you money. It's been tried on, sure, but the discount is alluring to brides who are spending thousands of dollars on a wedding. But I'm here to debunk that once and for all. See, at the first shop I went to, I sort of loved a sample dress. I almost bought it, actually. It was discounted to $2,750. It was a big big price tag, so I said I had to think about it. I texted a bunch of people to find out how much they paid because that sounded ridiculously high to me, but it was the first shop I went to so I didn't have much to gauge it on. One of Pete's sisters told me to get it because my boobs looked incredible and his other sister told me to sop around. Basically, it was a split vote.

When I was shopping in another town, I mentioned the dress to a consultant. That shop carried the designer but not that dress. She could, however, order it for me for $3,000. That store offered a 10% discount if you ordered the day of your first appointment, making the dress only $2,700 -- cheaper than the sample. The motto? Shopping around may save you more than buying a sample and you get a brand new dress.

Don't shop by the price tag.
I set my wedding dress budget really high. It wasn't that I wanted to spend an exorbitant amount, but I didn't want to limit myself. I wanted to let myself fall in love with a dress and then worry about the price later. That's how I ended up trying on a $4,800 dress that, according to the consultant, could be changed into the dress of my dreams with about a grand worth of alterations.

I didn't buy that dress, but I didn't buy a bargain dress either. For my veil, belt, and dress, I spent less than 25% of my wedding dress budget. And I got a really pretty dress that people just loved. I also lent my veil to my brother's wife on their wedding day, so that stretched my money further. But, honestly, when I was trying dresses on, I never looked at the price tag until after I decided if I liked it or not. I didn't want the price to influence the amount I did (or didn't) like a dress.

Buying off the rack is okay.
I bought my dress off the rack. I was in a small boutique in Raleigh (about two hours from home) on day two of our impromptu overnight shopping trip. It was made by an American designer who, when the consultant called to see if there was one in my dress size of 10 rather than the 8 that was in the store, said no. That was the only one and there was no way he was going to make me another that was larger (so it was up to me to lose a couple pounds if it didn't fit right). I paid for the dress and took it home that night (and let it sit in my closet for ten-ish months).

When we did get home, I watched a news report out of Raleigh about a wedding dress shop -- that we had been in the day before -- that was taking money from brides, but not ordering their dresses. They'd say the dresses hadn't come in yet (which was true, I guess, because a dress can't come in if it's not ordered) and they would make the bride scramble to pick something in the shop at the last minute. Those brides weren't safer ordering brand new dresses, so heed that warning and don't let the rack scare you. Plus, you can always get your dress steam cleaned before your wedding if you are concerned about it being handled.

It can be altered.
If you buy a dress, but it's missing some bling, you can have a blingy belt sewn in. If the top is just a little too big, you can add cups. If you want a bustle, a seamstress can make that happen. If it's too long, it can be hemmed. Don't let minor faults in the dress stop you from buying it.

BRIDAL BABBLE: What other advice would you give to a bride before wedding dress shopping?

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