Once upon a time, I was a bridal consultant at a salon. I helped brides, mothers, and bridesmaids for about two years find their dream dresses, and it taught me a lot about how brides think and feel in regards to their wedding (and, of course, their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, best friends, and siblings). As with any other retail job, some unspeakable things are now forever ingrained into my mind, but also I have the best memories of brides finding their dream gown(s) and learned how to solve problems and questions on the fly in a short time frame.
But one of the things I noticed was how mentally unprepared some clients were when it came to looking for dresses. Whether it was in regards to pricing, figuring out how bridal sizes work, how long it took for dresses to come in, or how alterations happened, at some point, I would catch a client trying to work out the process and "What's next?" in her head. So, now that I'm scheduling my own bridal dress shopping appointments and occasionally attending the appointments planning clients, I thought to share with y'all some knowledge that will certainly help in your nailing your dress shopping experience and making it one of the best parts of planning your wedding.
First and foremost, stick to your budget. Remember that sales tax, alterations, and accessories need to factor into this money you set aside for your dress. Even if you feel like you have an open budget for your gown, think on how much you would want to spend in total on your wedding day, and if you can see the money going into your dress (that being said, is it superior or luxurious fabric like cotton dupioni versus silk dupioni, hand detailed beading, chantily or alecon lace, etc).
Remember that bridal sizing is totally different than street sizing. If you already know what designers and styles of dresses you like, compare your bust (the fullest part of your chest), waist (two inches above your belly button) and hip (the widest part of your hips, usually across your bottom) to the size chart listed on their website, and determine what bridal sizes you need to try on when you visit the salon.
Speaking of sizing, know that the dress you may love online may not be in your size at the store or even in the store. Salons generally only purchase samples of what they have noticed as up and coming trends, what fits the location's climates, or to the tastes of their ideal client. Sizing of samples can be requested by salons, but generally the designer sends them whatever is currently manufactured and made.
With the time in takes to have a gown come in, make sure you book your appointment as soon as you set a date. Depending on the time of year and where the dress is being made (China, Spain, or even the United States), or if there are customizations you wish to add on from the designer, dresses can take 6-8 months to arrive.
I know, scary.
Always see if you can check with the designer if they have your current size in stock, and go ahead and order if you can rather than wait to order when you will be at a different size (which, if we're being truthful, may not happen).
And if you dress doesn't seem to fit exactly as it does on the model, or even another bride in the store, my biggest piece of advice is to remember that you are beautiful. Your body is beautiful. Your heart is beautiful. The love you have for your spouse is beautiful. And a dress that doesn't quite fit right on you, can and will with the proper sizing and alterations, will be beautiful too. And if that dress doesn't make you feel beautiful, and loved, and powerful, and all the other emotions that cannot be named when you find The Dress, then that dress wasn't for you anyway.
I hope you take these tips to heart when you start going dress shopping, Poppies! I know that by empowering yourself with knowledge going into this planning journey, you can never go wrong.