How to Shop for Your Dream Wedding Dress

All the Wedding Dress Shopping Tips You Need to Find Your Perfect Dress

Yay for getting to pick out a fancy new dress for your wedding.  And not just any dress, the dress of your childhood dreams that makes you feel and look amazing.

The dress that you’re going to fall in love with and still love in 30 years when you look back at your wedding day photo’s.

No pressure, right?

For many women, your wedding dress may be the most expensive garment you’ve ever purchased, so you want to have a plan to make the process go smoothly.  And don’t worry if you feel like you’re learning a foreign language while you’re shopping – the styles, the fabrics and the details all have their own lingo.

Wedding dress shopping is not just popping into a few shops and trying on dresses.  There are lots of variables to the experience and we’ve got some tips for you so that you’ll have an amazing experience while shopping for that perfect dress.

Read on for our best wedding dress shopping tips!

Set A Budget

We know, we know.  It always comes back to the budget right?

There’s a dizzying array of dress prices and knowing your budget before you start will help narrow down the choices.  And believe us, you’re going to want to narrow down the choices when you see just how many there are.

The average wedding dress will cost between $1000-$1700 but you can definitely go way beyond that number in a hurry.  Small details can make a big difference in the price.

Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by picking a dress that’s outside of your budget.

Give Yourself Plenty of Time (10-12 months)

Having a gown made can be a pretty lengthy process so you want to be sure that you have plenty of time to get it ordered and altered before your big day.  It may also take some time to organize your bride tribe to shop with you so you may need to factor that into your timeline too.

Don’t have 10 months?  That’s okay too. Many designers have a “rush fee” if you’re prepared to spend more on your dress.  Or you may find some dresses that are “off the rack” and just need some alterations to be perfect.

Use Pinterest

Let’s face it, we all have a wedding board on our Pinterest even if we’re not planning a wedding.  Make a few boards and save your ideas to them.  Not only will this help you figure out what types of dresses you are drawn to – princess, trumpet, sleeveless, etc.  These planning boards can also help you envision the type of wedding you’re dreaming of and communicate it to the rest of your team during the planning process.

Check out our Pinterest for some inspiration!

If you’ve pinned a lot of the same gown styles then you’ll want to be sure to let your salon know.  If you’re drawn to a certain designer, that’s also great information to have when you’re looking for bridal salons.

Set Appointments with Bridal Salons

Ask your friends for referrals and read reviews about bridal salons.  If a friend had a bad experience someplace you don’t want to spend your time there.

Most bridal salons serve on an appointment only basis, and that’s so that you’ll get the best experience possible while you’re there.  They will recommend blocking out an hour or two so be sure that your schedule takes into account the travel time between shops.

You’ll want to try to set all your appointments for one day, or one weekend, but leave yourself plenty of time for each appointment.

And Schedule Plenty of Time

You’ll be surprised at how long it takes to try on a single dress, much less 3 or 4.  This is why you need to block out time for all your appointments.

It can also be exhausting.  It’s a huge decision and it can be physically and emotionally draining.  We didn’t schedule enough time for lunch and had to break an appointment because we needed fuel in the middle of our shopping day!

So schedule in a lunch break and a coffee break too.

Choose Your Bride Tribe

Spend some time thinking about who you’d like to have along while you’re shopping.  If your bridal party is local you may want them all to join you and don’t forget about your mother and future mother-in-law.

If you enjoy your future mother-in-law bring her along, if she makes you nervous then plan another bridal event with her and leave her out of this trip.

Be sure that you’re inviting people that know your style and have a positive attitude.  You want this to be a fun and memorable experience, not stressful.  We all have that one friend that’s so much fun, but also exhausting.  Shopping for a wedding dress is about you.  This is the time to take your support people.

It really is a special moment when you find the perfect dress and there’s a lot of celebrating to be done!

Fix Your Face (and your hair)

Style your hair and wear makeup for this shopping trip.  You want to look your best so that you can picture yourself in the dress.  You don’t have to glam up for an evening out, but you also don’t want to look, or feel, like you just left the gym.

Wear Proper Undergarments (and bring shoes)

We suggest that you wear nude panties for your fittings.  You’re going to be dressing and undressing in front of an attendant that you’re not familiar with, so be sure that you’re covered as much as you need to be to feel comfortable.  You also want undergarments that aren’t going to distract from your dress.

Surprisingly the bra doesn’t matter as much since many gowns will have built in support, but may we suggest that you stick to nude just in case, or a bra with clean straps.  And if you feel like you need spanx then be sure to have those with you too.

We’re also going to suggest that you wear something that’s comfortable and easy to get into and out of.  You don’t want to have to button and unbutton and primp four layers at each appointment so keep that in mind.

Bring shoes that that have the heel height you’re planning to wear if you have some.  Even though you’ll be trying on samples, it will be much easier to picture them if you’ve got shoes that have the proper heel height.  This isn’t a deal breaker and most salons will have a few pair of shoes to borrow, but you really probably want to wear your own.

Forget About Sizing

Wedding salons carry sample sizes and use a variety of clamps and clips to tighten them up when you try them on.  Your dress will be ordered and altered to fit you perfectly so don’t worry about the sizes.

The actual size of a wedding gown is nowhere near the clothing sizes that we generally wear.  It will likely be a couple of numbers higher and that’s perfectly normal.  If it’s alarming to you there’s no need to share it with anyone else.  It’s not you.  It’s the dress.  Yes, really.

If you’re a plus size, be sure that the bridal salon has plus size gowns.  Unfortunately not all of them do and that’s going to make a difference on where you set your appointments to begin with.

Keep an Open Mind

You may be drawn to a certain style of gown but go ahead and try on a few other styles.  It might surprise you to see which style is the most flattering when you’re trying them on.  Or even that you like a different style altogether.

You don’t want to have your mind set on a certain style only to find out that you don’t feel comfortable in it.  Your bridal stylist will be able to help you here.  And even if you don’t find a certain style appealing, there may be part of it that you love, like the neckline or the sleeves.  Knowing what you don’t like helps narrow down the choices too.

Listen to Your Bridal Stylist

Your bridal stylist is there to help you find the perfect gown for your big day.  Be sure to give her feedback about each gown that you try so that she can help you choose the perfect one.

She will give you an unbiased opinion on how gowns look and if you like certain things about one gown, or one designer, she can help find more gowns to try.

One of our favorite stylist gave us this wedding dress shopping tip – she said that she wouldn’t be offended by our opinion of the dress.  Your special dress will be different than another brides and she can only help you find the perfect dress if you give her feedback to work with.  So be sure to tell her what you like and don’t like about each dress you try on.

If you’ve got a Pinterest board or magazine ideas take them with you.  This will help your stylist narrow down your choices and find dresses that you’re going to love.

Stay in Budget

We can’t say this enough.

A bridal salon is going to let you try on almost any dress that you want to.  While that sounds like so much fun, it can also be dangerous because you may fall in love with one that’s completely out of your budget.

Our advice is, just don’t go there!

Be sure to factor in any extra costs when you’re looking at dresses, such as alterations or shipping.  If you’re adding straps to a strapless dress it’s going to cost a bit more and you’ll need to factor those dollars in.

Take Pictures

You want to remember the dresses that you like and the details.  Take a photo of the front and back, and if possible, walking in the dress.

The bridal salon will keep a list of all the dresses that you tried and your comments for later reference, but you will want to have your own information too.

Say “Yes” to the Dress

Don’t be afraid to fall in love with the first dress you try.  If you already have an idea of what you’re looking for the bridal salon may be able to pick out the best one for you early in the process.

On the flipside, don’t feel pressured to say yes to a dress you don’t love.  When you find the right one you’re going to know it and you’re going to love it.  Don’t let your bride tribe talk you into one that’s not perfect for you.

Bridal salons can be dreamy and overwhelming with so many beautiful gowns to try.  You might just feel like a fairy princess trying on dresses and drinking champagne.  You’re going to look amazing to your bride tribe in almost every dress but you want the one that feels perfect to you.

If you’re think you’ve found one but you’re not ready to commit, sleep on it and go back.  Sometimes just trying on one dress can be easier than spending an entire day looking for one.  A clear mind can tell you if it’s the perfect dress.

Lauren had chosen a gown she wanted in a catalog long before we ever went shopping.  It was the first dress she tried on and she knew she loved it.  We kept the rest of the appointments but ended up going back to that first gown to purchase it.

Surprisingly this is pretty common, according to the bridal salons.  Many brides pick out their favorite dress very early in the process.

Shop for Accessories

The best time to choose a veil is while you’re in the dress you’ve chosen.  Try on different styles and lengths there in the salon and ask if they will make you a deal on a package.

While you’re wedding dress shopping, it’s always worth asking if there are discounts or discounts that may be coming up.  If there’s a trunk show you might be able to meet the designer and get a discount.  If a style is getting to the end of its season it might be offered a discount.  Don’t count on this, but it’s always worth asking about.

Contracts and Questions

Be sure you understand your contract and what it covers.  There are no returns on wedding gowns but you may pick one out and not need to order it or pay for it until a certain date.

We picked out Lauren’s dress but didn’t pay for it until the order was processed, which was about 4 weeks after the shopping.  Victoria’s dress we purchased and took home on the same day, then we took it back with us to have it altered.

Your contract should have the designer, the style number, the size, measurements, delivery date, price and number of fittings.  Every detail should be included in that contract so be prepared to spend some time answering a lot of questions and making a lot of decisions even after you’ve picked out the perfect dress.

If you’re making a deposit it should be in the contract also and you should attach your receipt to that.  Be sure that you have your stylists name and contact information in case you have any questions later.


The bridal salon should let you know when your gown arrives and you can schedule your first alteration.  Most gowns will have between 1-4 fittings and alterations leading up to your wedding so that your dress will fit perfectly on your special day.

And there you have it, all the wedding dress shopping tips you need to have an amazing time.  Now go forth and shop!

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