My mother initially convinced me to go to a few nearby bridal shops just to try on a few things and figure out which styles I like. Of course, I ended up not only finding the perfect dress -- one of the consultant's picks that I didn't even want to try on -- but I buying it two days later. As luck would have it, the store was having a trunk show for the designer of my dress, and it was 15 percent off. Who can argue with a sale? I had the best case scenario -- my dress shopping experience was short, sweet and relatively pain free. The second wedding gown I tried on turned out to be "the one," and, thanks to a trunk show, the dress ended up being close enough to my original budget that I didn't feel guilty about splurging a little. For those of you who are beginning the dress finding process, here are some tips and tricks I picked up along the way.
Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images for NFL
Eric Ryan, Getty Images
Gerardo Mora, Getty Images
Eric Ryan, Getty Images
Tim Boyles, Getty Images
Dominique Charriau, WireImage
Carlos Alvarez, Getty Images
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images
Julien Hekimian, WireImage
- Plan ahead: Finding a dress isn't the first thing to do on a wedding timeline, but it's still good to start looking sooner rather than later. Depending on where you purchase your dress, it could take several months to come into the store. After that, you have to take into account the time it will take to complete alterations. Experts say you should try to pick out a dress a good six to nine months before the wedding. Of course, some people don't even have six months to plan their weddings, so that's not a hard and fast rule. There are plenty of opportunities for a bride-to-be to buy a dress off the rack, but if you have the time you should explore all of your bridal gown options.
- Don't go to high end stores first: I made this mistake. I tried on dresses at a higher-end bridal store before going to a store with lower-priced dresses. The dresses at the more expensive store were made of materials that were higher quality, and the designs were more intricate. This spoiled me for the dresses at the more affordable store, even though some of them were gorgeous and much more wallet friendly. I think if I had started out looking at less expensively-made dresses, I would have been more receptive to them.
- Trust your salesperson: I walked into the store with a list of specific dresses I wanted to try on, and I really wasn't trying to hear her suggestions. I know my taste, I know my body type and I knew what I wanted. If she hadn't insisted that I try on this one dress that she thought would be perfect for me, I would still be out there looking. I thought I knew what was best, but she actually knew better. Trust in your salesperson's expertise -- she knows what she's doing.
- Don't try on dresses that are outside of your budget: I broke this rule, but thanks to a handy trunk sale it all worked out. Still, you should make it a general policy not to try on a dress that you can't afford. You'll fall in love with something you can't have, and nothing else will measure up. Avoid dresses that are outside of your price range and you'll save yourself a lot of frustration.
- Don't be afraid to buy used: I didn't go this route, but I was definitely giving it some thought. In these tough economic times, more and more brides are turning to eBay or sites like OnceWed.com and PreownedWeddingDresses.com to find gently-used designer gowns at slashed prices. These sites are also something to consider if you do fall in love with a Vera Wang and you have a David's Bridal budget. After your wedding, you can sell the dress to recoup some of your losses.