Wedding dress shopping: It's one of the first (and most fun!) tasks on your wedding-planning to-do list once you're engaged. After all, you might need tobuy your dream gown as many as nine months before your big day. But with so many options, where do you even start? Here's how to shop for your dream wedding dress.
Step 1: Set your budget. Once you know you've got, say, $2,000 to spend, you can figure out which stores carry gowns at that price point.
Step 2: Book your venue, and keep the season and site in mind when picking your gown. (A goddess dress on a sunny Cali beach? Perfection. A cleavage-flaunting fit-and flare in a Baptist church? Not so much.)
Step 3: Do your research. Flip through this issue and the dress galleries on Brides.com to help you zero in on gowns and designers you like so you can narrow the list of shops to visit.
Step 4: Find your shopping personality. For more on that, keep reading:
Want to turn dress shopping into a weekend getaway? Go to a destination salon. Spots like Kleinfeld Bridal in NYC and Lovely Bride, with shops in NYC, Philly, D.C., and L.A., offer a variety of designers. Tip: Beat the crowds by booking a weekday appointment.
Don't want to travel? Go to a local bridal salon. These intimate mom-and-pop boutiques provide a range of prices and made-to-order styles. Tip: For a more familiar experience, try hitting your local department store; many have in-house bridal salons.
Into instant gratification? Go to a wedding megastore. Find chic off-the-rack gowns at shops like David's Bridal, which carries elegant, affordable styles in tons of sizes. Tip: David's does alterations and can even add touches like sleeves, sashes, and more.
Obsessed with Monique? (Or Vera? Or Reem?) Go to a designer salon. Hit your favorite designer's outpost—generally found in a large city—for the best selection of her gowns. Tip: Expect to pay upwards of $3,000. If it's in your budget, you can even have a dress custom made to your specifications—right down to the sequins.
Want to try your dress on at home? Go online. Net-a-Porter, BHLDN, and other sites offer gorge gowns that will land on your doorstep in days. Tip: Read return policies carefully, and beware of scam sites. To make sure yours is legit, install the Brides Wedding Genius app on your phone and use the Brides Against Counterfeiting function.