One of the most important and exciting parts of the wedding planning process is searching for the perfect dress. Trying on intricate pieces from top designers is already an unforgettable opportunity, but slipping on a gown that fits like a glove and captures your personality is truly a cinematic moment. “Shopping at a bridal salon should be a magical and celebratory experience, where the bride truly comes into her own,” Keyerra Sims and Darla Daye of Suite Bridal say.
In this digital world, it might be tempting to browse for your ensemble online, but shopping at a salon has a host of benefits. Looking at gowns in-store provides a more personalized experience, sound advice from experts, a variety of styles to try on, and in-house alterations. But since you’re working with a consultant directly, rather than simply adding an item to your cart, searching for your ensemble in person does come with a few guidelines to consider. Ahead, keep scrolling to learn about the top wedding dress shopping etiquette rules all brides need to follow, according to the experts.
Meet the Expert
- Keyerra Sims and Darla Daye are bridal stylists at Suite Bridal, a bridal shop in Atlanta, Georgia.
- Michelle Cousins is the owner and principal designer of Michelle Leo Events, an event and wedding planning and design firm based in Utah. She has been running her company for 14 years.
- Jean-Ralph Thurin is the chief designer of the eponymous Jean-Ralph Thurin, a luxury bridal design house located in Raritan, New Jersey. He has over 20 years of experience in bridal fashion.
Schedule an Appointment in Advance
Although many bridal salons don’t allow walk-ins, the ones that do are especially difficult to snag on the weekends. Instead of taking a chance and being left with a potentially long wait time, schedule a pre-consultation and an appointment before any shopping excursion. Preparing for your session is not only considerate to the staff, but it also guarantees a more worthwhile experience for you. “Your bridal consultant will have an opportunity to talk to you about what styles and designs you’re drawn to and have samples pulled and ready for you to try on,” planner Michelle Cousins explains.
Do Your Research
To get the most out of your dress shopping experience, make sure you do your research beforehand. “You have to keep in mind the price point of the shops you visit, shipping times for orderable dresses, and the styles of the designers you will be visiting,” Sims and Daye note. Doing this prep work will also allow you to narrow down the best salons you'd like to visit. For instance, if you’re on the lookout for a glamorous beaded dress or have your eye on a certain designer, you'll likely want to avoid visiting boutiques that carry styles opposite to your aesthetic.
Stick With a Small Entourage
Trying on multiple dresses in front of a huge crowd is not only an overwhelming experience for you, but it’s also inconsiderate to the stylists and customers. Instead of inviting all of your bridesmaids, keep your circle small with just a handful of your closest family members, such as your maid of honor, your mom, and your future mother-in-law. “You’ll cut down on all the unsolicited opinions that automatically are generated with a larger group,” Cousins notes. “Too many opinions can cloud your judgment, and you may end up choosing a dress to please others and have regrets in the end.” If you don’t want to leave anyone out, bring them to your future fittings.
Shop With an Open Mind
Even if you’ve had your dream dress picked out for years, adopt an open mind once you step foot inside the salon. Trust the stylists’ expertise instead of being too quick to write them off. “Trying on a variety of dresses will confirm two things: You really do like the style you were thinking all along, or you realize the style you thought you wanted just isn’t right for your body type,” Cousins mentions. Maybe you envisioned an A-line silhouette for your special day, but you end up falling in love with a trumpet design. You’ll never know unless you embrace everything.
Be Upfront About Your Budget
According to designer Jean-Ralph Thurin, communicating your budget is one part of the dress-shopping process you don’t want to overlook. “Make sure you are prepared, and make your dream dress fit within your budget,” he says. By setting a price range, your stylist will help you find dresses that align with your vision without breaking the bank. If you do spot a more expensive getup, ask the store if they’re doing a trunk show or having a sale at any time in the near future, so you can better foot the bill.
Treat Each Dress With Care
Whether you try on five designs or 50, it’s respectful to handle each of them carefully. Since other brides-to-be will also be trying on these looks, the shop needs to keep them in top condition. “Dresses are expensive, and usually, the samples within a shop are the salon’s one and only of that particular dress,” Cousins shares. According to the planner, this includes being gentle with zippers and buttons and placing each gown on the hanger after you’re done changing. Additionally, while you’re looking through the racks, make sure to use a delicate touch.
Share Your Honest Opinion
If you aren’t a fan of a dress that a stylist has pulled, voicing your opinion in a polite way is actually helpful and encouraged. “Attendants don’t read minds, so if you don’t like something, say so,” Cousins advises. “They won’t take offense as their main goal is to understand your vision and help you find a gown.” Sims and Daye add that being honest will help stylists deliver ensembles that suit you better. “Please don’t be afraid to let us know if you aren’t loving a dress…We have others in the store we would love to show you,” they say.
What's more, if the appointment is coming to an end and you aren’t quite sold on a dress, don’t feel pressured to make any decisions just to please the consultant. Tell them that you still need more time to think it over, and don't give up on finding your dream gown.
Put Your Phone Away
There’s nothing more disruptive than a buzzing phone. With your head in your device, you won’t be able to fully enjoy the dress shopping experience or make the best choice. Instead of firing off text messages and checking your notifications, put your phone on silent, and bring your full attention to your stylist and the gowns in front of you. Since taking photos is an important component for many brides-to-be, though, have one of your guests take your photos, but remember to check with the bridal shop about their in-store photography policy.
Ditch Any Food or Drinks
Since bridal shops are filled with valuable dresses, the last thing you want to do is spill a bottle of soda or smear grease on a gown while thumbing through the racks. Before walking into your appointment, remember to throw away any beverages or snacks. Your session will probably last about an hour, which isn’t too much time to hold off on hydrating or munching. If you’re really hungry or thirsty, grab a bite before your meeting. Then, wash your hands before browsing.
Be Mindful of the Consultant’s Time
Finding the ideal fit for your big day takes time, but spending hours looking at gowns or contemplating your final choice is an inconvenience to the bridal salon and counterproductive for yourself. If you’re indecisive about your dress, Cousins suggests sleeping on it. “The salon's end goal is for you to be satisfied with your purchase, and they understand it's a big decision,” she shares. “If you need extra time to think about what gown is right for you, that's OK. But do respect the salon's time as you work through your decision-making process.”