What Any Fashion-Loving Bride Would Do First—Wedding Dress Shopping!

Real Weddings
Wedding Dress Shopping, Guest Blogger and Weddington Way CEO Ilana Stern

Photos: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? Well, it's not all happy tears at the bridal boutique and indulgent cake tastings. Over the next few months, guest blogger and Weddington Way founder and CEO Ilana Stern will share the ins and outs of planning a California wedding, running a business, picking the perfect wedding planner, and customizing your dream dress.

As I've already shared, my fiancé Jeff and I took a decidedly unconventional approach to our wedding planning process. When it came time to think about the wedding, we each decided what aspects of the planning process we were most excited about. Jeff reached out to his groomsmen to ask them to be in our wedding and started dreaming up his surf-themed Puerto Vallarta bachelor weekend. I did what any fashion-loving girl would do and headed straight to the bridal salon. For me, a little retail therapy was the perfect way to ease into our wedding planning. Plus, I was able to include some of my favorite women in this exciting journey.

To start my wedding dress shopping experience, I took a trip down to L.A. with my mom and grandma. My phenomenal wedding planner, Allyson Levine of BobGail Events, suggested that I go to 'bridal row' on Melrose Place for a whirlwind marathon of dress shopping (Monique Lhuillier, Vera Wang, Oscar de la Renta, and Carolina Herrera all line the famous street—swoon!).

Weddington Way CEO Ilana Stern Wedding Dress Shopping With Mom and Grandma

Photos: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

A few months later, Jeff's parents visited San Francisco. It was the perfect opportunity to get his mother, Anne, involved in the process. I invited her and a few of my future bridesmaids for a second round of dress hunting. As a mother of two boys, Anne really appreciated being included in the girlier side of wedding planning. It was such a nice way for us to connect, and also a great chance to for her to meet a few of my closest girlfriends before the wedding.

My final round of dress shopping happened when I traveled to New York City to scout the latest trends for my company Weddington Way during Bridal Fashion Week. The team at Monique Lhuillier was generous enough to schedule an appointment for me at their gorgeous new Manhattan boutique where I was able to check out their Fall 2013 line—fresh off the runway! The collection was absolutely stunning, and I was thrilled to try on the gowns. Lucky for me, Vanessa, the head of our stylist team at Weddington Way, was there to give me valuable feedback. I also brought my best friend from college (and bridesmaid!) Claire, who lives in New York. The experience was phenomenal, to say the least. Afterwards, we stopped for some wine and girl talk at a cute café—I couldn't have thought of a better way to kick off my wedding planning process!

If you're recently engaged and a little nervous about where to begin, pick something fun that will calm your nerves get things started on a positive note! If you're like me and want to start with dress shopping, here are a few things I learned while searching (I tried on nearly 30 dresses!) for the perfect gown.

Be honest. Make sure to be honest and straightforward with the specialist you work with as you're trying on gowns. The gown specialists are there to help you find THE one, and they are much better equipped to work with you if you tell them what you like and what you don't like.

Bring trusted advisors. I brought my mom, grandma, future mother-in-law, girlfriends, and bridesmaids because I knew they would be honest with me and supportive. Also, all of the days I spent trying on dresses ended up being filled with moments I will always treasure. Shopping with my mom and grandma was an incredible day with three generations of women and I'll never forget it.

Champagne at Vera Wang Wedding Dress Shopping

Photos: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

Drink champagne! At Vera Wang they offered us some champagne and it was a really fun way to celebrate the experience. If you get the chance to sip some bubbly, do it. It will help you relax! After Oscar de la Renta, which was store #3 for the day, we took a 'coffee and cake' break, which was another awesome way to re-energize and satisfy our sweet tooth.

Look at the dresses you love in natural light. Bridal salons are often lit with bright lights, so you might look different in the store than you will in natural light on your wedding day. Go near a window and take pictures of yourself in the dresses you love. Sometimes you'll discover that the white, ivory, or other color of your dress looks quite different in natural light.

—Ilana Stern

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