Sometimes in the great search for that one perfect dress, you don't even know where to begin. The answer? With an appointment at a top-notch bridal salon. In our new August/September 2015 issue (on newsstands now!) we call out the best 50 bridal salons — big and small, luxury and budget-friendly, boho and traditional — across America. How did we go about creating such a list? We asked more than 1,100 real brides nationwide to weigh in on the best spots to find that dream wedding dress by rating and submitting their own gown-shopping experience. From precious, personalized boutiques in the South to giant wedding dress meccas in the Northeast to intimate indie shops in California, we found them all. So take note, brides-to-be! These are our readers' favorite bridal boutiques in the South.
Ivory & White Bridal Boutique, Birmingham, Ala.
Been to a few shops but haven't found the One yet? On request, this Mountain Brook salon will reach out to its designers (including Monique Lhuillier and Hayley Paige) and set up a private trunk show of dresses that are exactly your style. "All my friends told me I had to come here, and now I'm recommending it to every bride I meet too!" says a reviewer.
Carine's Bridal Atelier, Washington, D.C.
Take it from D.C. wedding planner Caroline Dutton, who bought her own gown here: "Carine, the owner, treats you like gold, whether you're there for a sample sale or to buy a $15,000 custom gown." Also a draw: the well-curated selection of styles by haute designers like Angel Sanchez and Carolina Herrera. Says one bride, "Every dress in the store was on trend but still timeless."
Joan Pillow Bridal Salon, Atlanta and Houston
Both locations earned stellar reviews for gorgeous gowns (Romona Keveza! Mira Zwillinger!) and bend-over-backward sales consultants, who brides say are pros at finding the best dress for your body.
The Sentimentalist, Atlanta
Housed in a cozy cottage, this shop specializes in vintage gems and airy gowns from indie designers like Sarah Seven and Leanne Marshall. One bride liked the owners so much, she hired them to plan her wedding.
Chic Parisien, Coral Gables, Fla.
This glam salon features the sexy, close-to-your-body gowns that are all the rage right now. "Everything about planning my wedding was stressful except shopping here," says a fan. "I changed my dress three times, and they never once questioned me or charged a fee."
Ever After, Miami
Fashion addicts flock all the way from South America to this famed salon to try on dresses by the likes of Oscar de la Renta and Inbal Dror. "I wanted to look unique, so they used the fabric left over after hemming my dress to trim my veil. I couldn't believe it!" says one bride.
The Collection Bridal, Winter Park, Fla.
Pulling from the area's largest selection of in-demand designers, like Vera Wang, stylists here know what they're doing. "They pushed me out of my comfort zone and into the perfect dress," says a bride. "It's not what I'd imagined, but it's exactly what I needed."
I Do Bridal Couture, Baton Rouge, LA.
Have a momzilla on your hands? "Ramsey, the owner, responded to all my mother's 4 a.m. texts and emails with kindness and patience," says a grateful bride, who loved the salon's fairy-tale vibe and killer selection (including styles by Austin Scarlett and Amsale).
Wedding Belles, New Orleans
Reviewers rave about the friendly staff at this Magazine Street shop, where you can browse dresses by Jenny Yoo, Lula Kate, and Dolly Pearl. "Everyone was so nice, and they pointed me toward great vendors and websites I'd never heard of!" says a bride. Tip: Walk-ins are welcome on weekdays.
Hayden Olivia, Charlotte, N.C.
Not only are all the dresses made in the U.S.A., but sales consultants are totally open to customizing them. Getting married in the cooler months? The salon has a selection of fur stoles and shrugs you can rent for the big day.
Maddison Row, Charleston, S.C.
This downtown boutique has all the designers label-conscious brides are looking for, as well as cost-conscious lines like Monique Lhuillier's Bliss. "The gown I wanted was going to be at a trunk show, but I was out of town that weekend. The staff made a point of getting it in early so I could try it on," says a bride.
Maggie Louise Bridal Boutique, Collierville, Tenn.
Molly Farrell, the salon owner — a former wedding photographer and a recent newlywed — asks her clients to fill out a questionnaire and talk to a consultant before their appointment, then has a rack of handpicked gowns by the likes of Anne Barge and Liancarlo waiting on arrival. "I've gone dress shopping with many friends in many cities. But I've never seen anyone go to one salon and pick out her dress in two hours the way I was able to," says a bride.
Julian Gold, Austin, Tex.
Reviewers couldn't gush enough about Judy Dupre, the bridal manager at this boutique department store. Says one, "I went to a ton of salons in Houston, but after just 20 minutes on the phone, Judy sent me a link to my dream dress." Bonus: There's a lingerie department, so you can do your honeymoon shopping too.
Warren Barrn Bridal, Dallas
Brides in this city take their wedding dresses very seriously, which makes this haute salon's near-perfect reviews even more impressive. (Raves one: "The place is amazing, and the service is from the heart. It looks like a palace but feels like home!") Expect chic styles from Reem Acra, Lela Rose, and Watters, plus an insane selection of luxe lace veils.