As the bride-to-be, your search for the perfect gown may seem like a means to an end…but it often becomes much more. Throughout the rest of the wedding-planning process, you’re dedicated to creating a perfect experience for future guests. Gown-shopping gives you a break from all those anxiety producing endeavors, with a part of the adventure that’s all about you. In the end, the days between your engagement and ceremony really will seem to fly by, so why not make the most of the dress-seeking journey? Below are a few can’t-fail, time-tested tips to speed you (and your besties) on your way to the ultimate in retail therapy.
As soon as the engagement ring goes on, start keeping a folder of inspiring magazine ads, editorials, photos, and notes that help you envision the dress of your dreams.
The Internet is your best guide to great bridal shops within driving distance. Always consider public ratings and reviews and remember that your favorite bridal shop may await in an outlying area. If you’re open to some drive time, less than an hour might stand between you and an amazing bargain on the
most fabulous frock.
Call ahead for appointments at the stores you’d like to visit. While most bridal salons are okay with your “popping in”, they usually keep staffing to a minimum. If you don’t reserve time with one of their few sales associates, you may not be able to browse—much less try anything on. Bridal shops are even busier at on the weekends, which means a weekday appointment could net more time and better service.
When you DO call ahead (as mentioned above), ask the right questions. Can you bring friends? If so, how many? How about cameras? What about water, sodas, and snacks? As I write this, I suspect that we’ve all seen Bridesmaids. Need I say more?
Enlist a trusted companion, or two--NOT an entourage. Since some of your best area shops may be short on space, you’d wise to bring one…two…OKAY, at most, three buddies who’ll support you and speak the truth with no “skin in the game”. Despite the sentimentality of this occasion, conflict-wielding future mothers-in-law (or mothers, for that matter) don’t necessarily apply.
In a world where technology reigns, Google Maps is your co-pilot. Use it to build an essential gown shopping itinerary. In the same way, let your Smartphone keep accessible hours and mapped locations at your fingertips.
The Shopping Day
Eat a healthy—but not heavy—breakfast, in a balanced combination of protein and carbs. Even if you’re dieting, you’ll need calories for energy and brain power. Trying on gowns and pondering vast choices are a workout in themselves.
Arrive in plenty of time. Not only will you win favor with those assisting you; you’ll probably need the full amount of time blocked off for you. Many bridal salons book appointments back-to-back, so when your time’s over, it’s really over. Grab a tote and bring the following essential items with you:
- A clean face. Makeup smears bring costly cleaning fees to bridal shops.
- Comfortable street clothes that you can easily take on and off. Think ballet flats and a stretchy top-and-bottom combo or maxi-dress.
- Minimal jewelry that won’t snag or catch on the dresses.
- A clip to pull hair back and/or up. Even if you’re already “married” to a hairstyle, it helps try different views with certain dresses.
- Neutral shoes, with a heel like the one you’ll wear on the big day.
- Helpful undergarments, including both well-fitting regular and strapless bras and support pantyhose or Spanx-like items. Since shop personnel might see a peek of you in your skivvies, your sultry g-string is best saved for another day.
- Any sentimental items you’ll be wearing on wedding day, e.g. a veil or shoes.
- A digital camera (or a phone camera), if you’ve got the go-ahead from the shops.
- Water and snacks—if they’re not welcome inside stores, you’ll appreciate the refreshments en route.
Listen to advice from shop personnel, who are often experts on the styles that truly suit you.
Don’t be afraid to try something different. You might look the most amazing in a style you hadn’t even considered.
Be flexible--but keep alteration costs in mind. Love the style, but not the color? Shops can often order other shades. Certain details--including skirt, sleeve, and train length—can also be altered. That said, even little alterations can cost quite a bit of money.
If you’ve got the okay from the shops, have a pal take plenty of photos. With so many dresses and so little time, pictures jog the memory at decision time.
Schedule stops for coffee and lunch to give brains and feet a well-deserved break.
Remember that it’s your day, and it’s supposed to be a fun one. Should you find yourself feeling pressured, ignored, or uncomfortable, you’re wise to move on to another store.
Credit: Leslie Hunt for Tony Hamawy