Confessions of a Bridal Consultant: Do's and Dont's of Wedding Gown Searching

Maybe I am a little bias but when it comes down to wedding planning, finding the dress is definitely one of the most important factors. For most of us, we’ve never had a wedding and more than likely never put on a wedding gown. Mermaid, trumpet, ball gown, fit-to flare…how do we really know what looks good on us? As bridal consultants, we understand how overwhelming the gown-finding process can be, and we know what possible questions are running through your mind when you step into a store with hundreds of white dresses. As much as we see brides who quickly find the "one" and are completely certain of their decision, we also see brides who exhaust themselves in the process. To us, we think finding the gown you will be wearing when you say "yes" to the man of your dreams should be easy and most of all...FUN! So here are some key questions brides ask when starting their search and some do's and don'ts to make the process just a little bit easier.

How do I know where to start?
Do: Do little bit of research. Online has done amazing things for the wedding industry. Browse around on Pinterest, in magazines, or online for inspiration on your spare time. Many times, you end up with something completely different, but it good to have somewhere to start even if it is choosing a particular fabric, silhouette or just a feeling that goes along with a gown. 
Don’t: Be afraid to try something different from your initial vision. Go into appointments with an open mind. You may miss out on your dream gown by limiting yourself to only a specific style. This is particularly true if you haven't tried on before, and you spend your entire process replicating an image you pinned or ripped from a magazine.  Also, have a little faith in your consultant. They have seen their gowns on many different body types and will be able to make suggestions that will accentuate your best assets. A wedding gown not only looks, but also is constructed, like no other garment. And you will be surprised on what you end up liking!

When should I start looking for my gown?
Do:  Allow yourself enough time. Gowns typically take 4-6 months to arrive. Then add 1-3 months of alterations. Bridal portraits happen at least a month before the wedding. Then plan for any changes that may happen (i.e. shoe change, extra cleaning, extra alterations). We always recommend brides purchase 10 to 12 months before the wedding. 
Don’t: Start before you are prepared to choose but also do not start too late. Getting started on knocking things off that long wedding to-do list is a great thing and we highly suggest it, but if you aren't prepared to purchase a gown, wait until you are ready. Starting early so you can see "everything" out there can really turn out to be a disservice and all those white gowns will start to run together. Wedding gowns are so beautiful and falling in love with a gown will be natural, so when you do...say yes! On the other side of things, starting too late can accumulate stress such as rush fees, limit on gowns dependent production and/or choosing a sample that may not be your size. 

Who should I invite to my appointment?
Do: Be selective of who you choose to bring with you to appointments. Bring a small party of supporters who you value their opinion and more importantly, they value yours. Your closest family and friends will be on the same page with you when it comes to your feelings and your taste. My favorite thing to hear is when a party says, "that's so you!" The last thing you want to do during this amazing time is convince your party why the dress you have chosen is for you. If there are people you want involved in the process, invite them to your first dress fitting or your pick-up appointment. Pick-up appointments are a whole celebration on their own.
Don’t: Ignore your instincts. You know yourself better than any one. On such a special day, you want to walk down the aisle in the gown you love and feel good in. This will definitely show on the day and when looking back, you want to know your final decision was all yours. Along with the man, you're the one marrying the gown and no one else. 

What if the sample gowns don’t fit me?
Do: Keep an open mind when looking at the gowns that don’t fit properly. I always tell brides right off the bat that they have to be a little creative when looking at the samples. More often than not, the gowns are too big, too small, too stretch, etc. Bridal consultants have tons of tricks to show you what your gown will look like when it comes in but there will be some things you’ll have to use your imagination for, so try not to stress over those few wrinkles or loose crystals.
Don’t: Hesitate to ask any questions that concern you. Consultants know what gowns look like in their newer form so they tend to see the gown that will come in rather than the gown you have clipped to you. We’re always happy to address any questions you have. Unless you’re taking a gown off the rack, keep in mind your gown will be much brighter, newer and more fitted to you.

Should my gown match my venue?
Do: Focus on how you feel in the gown. If you’ve fallen in love with a gown, close your eyes and imagine yourself on your wedding day. You will find that many gowns will fit in most venues. Who is to say you cannot pull off a ball gown on the beach?
Don’t: Rule out a gown because you think it won't fit into your wedding. If you love the way you look in a lace sheath but you think it won't match your grand ballroom reception, consider throwing on a sparkly Swarovski belt, earrings and a cathedral length veil. Accessories will top off your final look. At the end of it all, you will be the main focus of the entire extravaganza not the venue or even the gown.

What if there are more out there I haven't seen?
Do: Open yourself up to other options, but stop when you’ve found the one. I love to tell the story of a bride I’ve worked with for her very first appointment. We pulled about 15 gowns but as soon as she slipped on Watters “Kerry,” she declared it the one. One appointment, one gown…it can really be that simple. I hate to be cliché, but when you know, you know. And why not keep that momentum going and knock this very big TO-DO off your list? Making the jump may seem hard, but it will make the rest of the planning much easier. You won't think of other gowns that are out there. You will be too busy with your other 100+ decisions you'll have to make. You can then focus on the bridesmaid dresses, decor, etc. 
Don’t: Be afraid to purchase when you've found it. You've made a bridal appointment to narrow down your options and ultimately make a purchase decision. We always say, "there is such thing as trying on too many gowns." If you need to try on more, 3 bridal salons is a good number. Just think: 3 salons and 10-12 gowns at each salon is 30-36 gowns! Do you keep dating after you’ve found the one? If you’ve found your dream gown, enjoy that weight that was taken off your shoulders. Not to mention, waiting can result in disappointments such as discontinued styles, samples being sold and price increases.

What do I bring to my bridal appointment?
Do: Come prepared. When making your appointment, ask if the salon has shoes, strapless bras, or anything else you think you will need to help you see the full look. If they don't, bring a few things along. If you want to wear super high heels, bring a pair with a similar height to the ones you plan to wear. If you're wearing your mother's veil as your something old, pack it neatly with you. Wear the proper undergarments as you will need help slipping in and out of these gowns. Also, consider coming with hair and makeup done. Looking good and feeling good come hand-in-hand. When you have all the same essentials as you will on your wedding day, choosing a gown will be just a little bit easier. Plus, you'll want to take a ton of pictures of you in your gown when you say "yes!"

        How do I know when it is the right time to say “yes”?
Do: Say “yes” when the gown feels right. Close your eyes in the gown and imagine your fiancé at the other end of the aisle. Do you see his face lighting up when he sees you in the gown? Do you feel beautiful and comfortable? If the answer is yes and you're in a sample gown, can you imagine how you will feel on the day of your wedding? Also, tears are a definite indication it is your gown but....
Don’t: Wait for tears. This goes for both the bride and the party. We've all heard someone in the party say, "You'll know it's the one once you have it on." While this is true for some brides, it just isn't the case for all brides. If you aren't a cryer in your everyday life, the tears that will tell you a gown is "it" may never come. The same in true for the company you've brought with you. Waiting for your mother to cry can make you lose focus on how much you like a gown. High expectations of the clouds parting when you have a gown on can often lead to disappointments. Sometimes, the best indications are simply when a gown makes you happy, you feel beautiful in it, you want your fiancé to see you in it and you do not want to take it off.

Tina Le, Bridal Consultant & Social Media Manager

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