If you just got engaged, congrats! Next up comes dress shopping, and we uncovered the best time to buy your wedding dress. Yes, that's right, there is a specific period throughout the year when the timing and designer selections are just right for every bride-to-be—and it's the entire month of January.
Not only does it bring about a new year and resolutions (that may or may not be kept), but January is also peak engagement season and holiday proposal time, meaning it ushers in a huge crowd of newly betrothed women. And, the bridal market has taken note, making the first month of every year wedding dress shopping prime time. Whether your fiancé popped the question yesterday or four months ago, we had bridal experts weigh in on why January is when so many brides splurge on "The One."
1. For Summer Brides, It's Crunch Time
Shareen Mitchell, owner of Shareen Bridal, says that January isn't just the best time—for brides getting married in the summer, it's critical time. "If you're getting married in June, July, or August, you need to make a lot of decisions in January," says Mitchell. "If you’re ordering your dress in January, that gives you four months to have your gown and shoes chosen. You also need to see a seamstress once a month for fitting. It's becoming the most important month in terms of timeline."
According to Mitchell, most independent bridal retailers require about 5-6 months to create and alter gowns. So, with so many brides still opting for summer weddings, January means it's time to get down to business in terms of dress shopping. But, more and more brides seem to be favoring spring, fall, and even winter weddings nowadays. "If you’re getting married in the fall, January's the right time to start looking," Mitchell added. However, Mitchell estimates that commercial wedding dress stores need 6-9 months just for the dress to be made and delivered. If you're shopping from a retailer that doesn't provide alterations, you'll also need to factor in extra time before the wedding to find an available seamstress, since many book up quickly.
2. New Inventory
The first of month of the year also calls for brand new wedding dress selections to shop from. "Some of the collections from April's Bridal Fashion Week will begin to arrive in stores in January, and many salons take year-end as an opportunity to remove any older styles from the previous year, so January is a great time to see a fresh new assortment in stores," says Gabriella Risatti of Gabriella New York Bridal Salon.
3. Post-Holiday and Engagement Season
January is also the best time to buy your wedding dress because it falls under engagement season, right after the holidays. "We do see quite a few brides in January—some of this has to do with wedding dates, and some has to do with holiday engagements," says Risatti. "Engagement season begins around Thanksgiving, so all of those women who get engaged in November and December are finally done with holiday obligations and are more than ready to start planning their weddings."
And, because January is typically a pretty bland month, there's no better way to beat the winter blues than by trying on gorgeous wedding dresses. "It's the perfect thing to do with your closest friend and/or parent on a gloomy January day," says Risatti. "Also, most people don't have a lot of travel plans in January, which means they are ready and available to come dress shopping with the bride."
However, Risatti advises to prepare for unexpected winter weather if you go shopping in January. Unpredictable ice and snowfall might lead to cancelled flights, public transportation shut-downs, and even some bridal shops closing early. "Always have a plan B, just in case," says Risatti. "This may mean reserving an additional day or weekend for gown shopping just in case you aren't able to make your original appointments due to weather." Also, don't be deterred if you gained a few pounds over the holidays. "Some women want to wait until they are at their peak healthiness to go dress shopping, but we recommend not waiting, as this may end up causing you more stress and even money in the long run."
4. Sample Sale Season
Most bridal retailers host two samples sales a year in major cities, typically in the summer and early winter. Wedding shops are trying to clear out their old inventory to make way for the new, so research retailers to find out their specific sample sale dates and confirm whether you need to schedule an appointment beforehand. You can score gowns up to 90% off, but brace yourself for a selection of last year's sample size gowns (wedding dress sizes 8-12), final sales only, no sales associates, and potentially no fitting rooms.
"My advice for shopping a sample sale is to do 'regular' dress shopping first to get a very good idea of what kind of gown the bride is looking for, including which silhouettes look best on her," says Risatti. "Then, when she goes to a sample sale, she can be extremely focused and critical in her shopping. It's also important that brides don't settle for a gown just because it's discounted. Chances are they won't be fully happy with it at the end of the day unless they truly buy a gown they love." She also suggests going alone or with just one other shopping buddy, since sample sales tend to get incredibly overcrowded.
5. New Year, New Dress
Mitchell also thinks the New Year helps give brides that extra push to kick dress shopping into high gear. "A lot of girls confront the New Year," she says. "Or, they’re aware that they have a 6 month window to their wedding, or they just got engaged." She added that "January is when newly engaged brides get on it and start to look."