Finding the perfect dress always seemed SO incredibly important to me. Growing up — and as an adult — I always loved watching every possible wedding show and movie I could find, “Say Yes to the Dress” was of course my favorite. Then suddenly, life happened (as it does) and I was looking for a dress of my own. EXCITING, right? Well, yes and no. While the process is cute and can feel every bit as magical as you always dreamed, what if it doesn’t? Here are my Top 5 Tips for Wedding Dress Shopping now that I’ve done the damn thing AND lived to tell the story.
1. Only invite those who you TRULY want there (no invites out of perceived “obligation” should ever be extended).
Smaller is better because that’s less opinions to deal with and less personalities, but also, just because you only invite a few people does NOT mean things will go off without a hitch. So, absolutely do not use this time to “bring people together” who may be experiencing tension or flat out not getting along. That tension will transfer into your appointment and I promise you that isn’t the feel-good energy you’ll want. If you know two of your best friends aren’t getting along, you may just need to leave them out of the process. If your family members aren’t quite in love with each other right now, leave them out. I know that sounds so harsh but it’ll be worse when you didn’t love every minute of your day because you were busy playing peacekeeper instead of excited blushing bride. Additionally, the people you feel most loved and supported by should be in the room helping you choose… even if that means straying from the “traditional” invite list.
2. Go with your gut.
As cool as it is to hear that everyone in your party likes a particular dress, if you don’t LOVE it, don’t get it. You know your style and what feels good, so don’t question it. Trust me, there are tons of beautiful dresses but not every dress will feel like and speak to you, even if you look stunning in it. Additionally, if you try on a dress and have reservations right away, those same concerns will probably return even when it is in your size (assuming some dresses won’t fit because that’s how it goes in dress fittings unless you’re a very small human)… So, say thanks for the compliments, and politely move on to the next dress until you look in the mirror and feel like yourself (but maybe a little better because you’re in a freaking wedding dress!)
3. Pick out a dress that you adore at your current size (and then don’t spend the coming months trying to lose half your body weight.)
I know this sounds a little odd, but it is really just a reality check. I was not trying to lose a bunch of weight but because of medical problems, I did. Not even going to lie, I was happy as hell that this was happening, but quickly realized what a huge problem this was. You know why? My dress was 3 or 4 sizes too big by the time I got it because I’d lost so much weight and my gem of an alterations lady had to reconstruct the dress as much as she could. But here’s the thing, not all parts of a dress can be reconstructed (like the built in corset that was under 6 layers of fabric). So even though she did a fantastic job, it just didn’t fit quite right… and I was conscious of that my entire wedding day. I had back fat spilling over in places that truly aren’t THAT fat, my stomach looked like a tire even though that’s not truly how I look… but that’s just how it was fitting because it was built for a much bigger body and suddenly we were trying to shrink it down which throws the proportions off. Moral of the story, even though I lost weight because of medical issues, I would have wanted to anyway. BUT, I should NOT have picked a dress from jump that made me feel like I needed to lose weight in order to like it, because that’s simply setting yourself up for failure. And say you do crash diet and lose a ridiculous amount of weight, you may not lose it how you expected and then you’ll have a dress problem on your hands. There were dresses I tried on and felt beautiful in that day even at 20 lbs heavier… that probably should have been a sign. FYI, I’m not saying not to put in some time in the gym to tone up or eat more healthy to feel your best (or not, whatever you prefer), but just don’t pick a dress that you know you’ll only like if lose weight. You should enjoy the lead up to your wedding, not be stressing about how your dress will look.
4. It is 100% okay if you do not have an “ah-ha” moment.
I did not start crying. I picked a dress and unlike the blubbering mess TV shows made me believe I’d turn into, I didn’t shed a tear or even have some out of body “THIS IS IT” dress moment. I’ve been in other people’s wedding dress appointments and cried when they chose a dress, I’ve cried many times watching brides choose dresses on TV, but for some reason, that just wasn’t my reaction. For me, picking a wedding dress felt like picking a very expensive dress for a very important event. While I knew it was the dress I’d walk down the aisle to my husband in… it somehow still just felt like a dress. Even now that we’ve gotten married, I feel no strong sentimental connection to it. So, if you end up like me — and shockingly so — don’t worry. You are not broken. We just react differently than we would expect sometimes and that’s okay. To be honest, I didn’t even cry on my wedding day and that was the biggest shock of my life, but I think I was just SO happy (and at peace) my eyes couldn’t even cry happy tears… and maybe that’s what I experienced in picking out a dress, just happy and at peace knowing I had chosen the dress I’d wear as I married my future husband??
5. Don’t rush into the decision.
Now this advice counters my entire relationship with Haroon. We rushed into our relationship. Rushed into moving in together. Some people said we rushed into getting engaged (strongly disagree!) And I rushed into my dress buying decision. I booked appointments at multiple places but I honestly figured I’d find my dress at the first place (and I was right) because when it came down to it, I was a lot less caring about my dress than I had always assumed I’d be. But here’s the truth, once I thought I’d decided, I should have left the shop, gotten coffee with my family, sat on the decision, and waited until that afternoon (or even next morning!) to make the final decision. If you know, you know. But if you’re at ALL on the fence, press pause immediately. Do not sign on the dotted line. I would never have been one of those brides who changes their minds months later and ended up paying for two dresses, but if you could see yourself doing that, save yourself the headache and just give yourself some time to think outside of the somewhat pressure-filled atmosphere of a bridal dress appointment. By the way, in my case, it wasn’t that my bridal consultant was pressuring me at all and I certainly hope none of you experience that, but it was just the whole environment of my family being there and loving a dress and presumably wanting me to say, “yes.” Pretty positive if I said I needed some more time to think about it, that they still would have loved me lol.
If you live anywhere near Oregon State — or would be willing to take make a short trip out of it — head there to get your dress. Portland has many dress boutiques (I went to The White Dress) and you can make appointments at multiple places in the same day. PLUS, the biggest reason to go is that there’s no sales tax… so on a $2000 dress, you could save $200 which isn’t a ton (especially since you’ll spend that on a hotel, etc.) BUT if you’re getting an even pricier dress, it could be quite a bit of savings. And who doesn’t want an excuse for a quick getaway?!
So that’s it. Those are my top 5 wedding dress shopping tips (well kinda 6 but that just doesn’t sound as good!) My dress was special to me because my mom bought it for me, and I will forever be grateful for that memory (plus it was totally beautiful). That being said, I wish I had considered all of the above when making my decision… so I hope my experience will help you!
If you have any wedding questions, ask away! I’d also love to hear any other dress shopping tips you may have, so please comment below!
Photos by Lionlady Photography.