Every wedding dress reality show talks about the feeling a bride is supposed to feel in her wedding dress. An intangible, indescribable bridal moment that leaves you certain you have found the dress of your dreams. Sounds hard enough to do once, but what happens when you have to find "the one" all over again? Between second marriages, vow renewals, and smaller COVID ceremonies, there is a multitude of reasons why women may find themselves shopping for a second wedding dress.
It is an inherently stressful and emotional process the first time around, leaving many overwhelmed at the thought of round two. I loved the dress I found for my small, COVID-appropriate ceremony this past June, but as I began the search for a gown for my larger wedding in 2022, I was stumped on where to begin. So, I turned to two bridal style experts for their wisdom on second wedding dress shopping.
Meet the Expert
Advice for the Dress
Don’t compare it to your first dress.
Mosteller jokes that this is “like comparing your current boyfriend to your last” and obviously not a good idea since they can be completely different. My first wedding dress was more casual since I was getting married in a quick civil ceremony, but the dress I picked for my larger ceremony next year fits the more romantic and grand setting. Your second dress can be as similar or different from your first as you like—just go with what feels right.
Try something totally different.
My second dress could not be more different than my first, from the length to the fabrication. “The second dress can be just as beautiful or even more amazing than the first. If your first dress was a ballgown, you may opt for a mermaid or A-Line,” Howard shares.
Go for what you love no matter what.
Some brides might have preconceived notions of what is “appropriate” for a second wedding dress, but Howard does not subscribe to any of them. In the past, tradition dictated that second wedding dresses were often less extravagant than the first, but not anymore. “There are no rules for shopping for a dress for your wedding whether it is the first time or the third time,” Howard shares. I personally struggled with the guilt of purchasing a new dress for my upcoming wedding, but this advice validated my desire for something more glamorous this time around.
Consider it a second chance.
Maybe your first dress left you feeling disappointed when you looked back over photos, or maybe there was a runner-up dress that you never stopped thinking about. Howard recommends that you “take the opportunity to purchase the runner-up dress that you couldn't decide between the first time.” For me, my first dress being strapless taught me that I wanted a dress with more support this time and I kept thinking back on some off-the-shoulder styles I tried on, which is what I ended up selecting for my second dress.
What to Expect
This shopping trip does not need to feel any less special than the first time you shopped. In fact, it can be an even more enjoyable experience since you know what to expect. Mosteller shares that brides shopping for their second dresses are more comfortable, explaining “I tend to notice that the appointment is overall more chill and relaxed - they’ve been through it once so they know what to expect.” Since I had been wedding dress shopping before, I knew the drill: dress in comfortable, easily changed out of clothes and keep the makeup minimal to prevent damaging the dresses.
If you did not enjoy your experience shopping for your first dress, take this opportunity to really pamper yourself. Howard recommends that you book a VIP private shopping appointment where you are the only one in the store, something many bridal salons offer. Mosteller agrees that it should be equally as important and fun as shopping for your first dress, adding “Just because it’s a second wedding does not mean your shopping experience needs to be toned down.”
I actually had a completely different experience this shopping trip because I opted to shop at a sample sale versus a bridal salon like I did the first time. I was lucky enough to have Mosteller on hand to help me and my guests navigate the sample sale racks and it was a completely different, hands-on experience compared to my first shopping trip.
You can also skip the whole shopping trip altogether and buy the second dress online—it can be whatever type of experience you want!
Who to Bring
Both experts agree that brides love an entourage—no matter how many shopping trips they have been on. If you are feeling conflicted about shopping for a second dress, the support of your loved ones could help you find that dream second dress. Mosteller encourages brides shopping for a second wedding dress to “bring their hype crew with them so they feel their most confident!” The first time I went dress shopping, I only brought my sister with me because I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted in a short wedding dress. However, the larger financial investment of the types of dresses I had in mind for my second ceremony made me anxious for more input, so I brought my cousin as well for the second dress.
Alternatively, if bringing guests left you overwhelmed on your first shopping trip, it could be a great time to try shopping solo. “They may opt to not bring someone this time based on how their first experience was with guests,” Howard explains. There is also nothing stopping you from bringing your spouse or fiancé either. Tradition often dictated that your intended should not see the dress before the wedding, but plenty of even first-time brides are bringing their significant other with them to their appointment. All that matters is that you feel supported and have fun while finding your dress.
How to Make It Special
The most important piece of advice I can give another bride shopping for their second wedding dress is to relax. There were so many restrictions I was putting on myself going into this process and it left me feeling defeated before I even began. Howard says “There are no rules for your wedding fashion experience. Brides should always go with what feels good because that's what will look the best.”
By embracing all the ways this experience would be similar and different, I found the perfect second wedding dress for my upcoming ceremony. I did not think it would be possible to have the same emotional moment that my first dress inspired, but this dress actually topped it. No matter if this is your first wedding dress or your fourth, you can and should feel like a bride.