Photo: Heather Rowland
Soon after getting used to seeing that sparkling rock on their wedding finger, many brides-to-be immediately want to start wedding dress shopping. We don't blame you! Gowns are gorgeous and trying them on at the beginning when pressure is low can be insanely fun, like playing dress-up as adults. But how to get started? What should you be looking for? And is there such thing as the perfect wedding dress?
Before booking appointments at all the bridal boutiques in town, you should have your venue booked and know the season you'll get married, says Meg Keene, author of A Practical Wedding Planner. "Often, someone will find a dress she likes or a good deal on a dress and buy it, and then figure out three months later the dress doesn't match the wedding itself," Keene warns. "That fuels the used wedding dress market."
Once you have those two details nailed down, it's important to do your homework and look up gown prices online before and after shopping in stores. "The wedding dress industry isn't built on giving you a lot of information," Keene says. Make an informed decision when you're trying on a dress, and maybe buy it off the Internet if that's where you find the best deal. You can also do some research into what alterations should set you back and do a cost comparison between vendors.
According to Keene, there's probably not one perfect dress for each bride, despite what some movies have led us believe. So don't expect to strut out of the dressing room donning a white tulle wonder, stand on a podium in front of your mother and bridesmaids, and waterworks to commence. Deconstructing that myth is the first step in the right direction, Keene says. In fact, that "this is the perfect dress!" scenario often doesn't happen and brides-to-be end up feeling like there's something wrong with them or the styles they're trying on. "A lot of people don't have the personality where you put on something amazing and you cry," she says. "You're supposed to be in love with your partner. You don't have to be in love with your dress."
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On the topic of tears, don't let a weepy mom or bridesmaid steer you down the wrong path. Keene took her mother shopping for traditional wedding dresses at a place she knew probably wasn't for her, but her mom started crying when a certain dress made an appearance. "I had my wits about me enough to know she was having an emotional reaction to me having a big life experience and it didn't mean I had to buy the dress," Keene remembers. Of course that doesn't mean Mom can't come on any shopping trips. Just consider whether you want to bring along people who are going to be honest or people who will be supportive of your choices no matter what.
With that in mind, you should also give yourself permission to buy something that feels like you, Keene suggests. Her intention is to debunk the common worry that if you don't wear a traditional wedding dress you won't look or feel like a bride. In a similar vein, trust yourself and don't buy into the notion that the salesperson knows better than you do. You're in an emotional space and shouldn't allow yourself to be convinced to buy something that doesn't feel true to you.
Finally, don't fret if you never get that "butterflies in your stomach" feeling or if you don't care all that much about the dress itself. "There are people that just want something in their price range and that looks good," Keene adds. "Good enough is good enough."