While wedding planning comes with a vast (and diverse) checklist of items to accomplish, selecting a gown is, arguably, one of the most important to-dos. And with so much attention and focus on the frock, it makes sense that indecisive brides may have an extremely difficult time finding their dream wedding dresses. If you’re unsure how to narrow down your choices—or you’re starting to second guess the ensemble you already committed to—Tina Wong, the founder and CEO of Grace + Ivory, says you’re not alone.
“It isn’t a huge surprise that many brides feel [indecisive] when you think about the fact that the dress is a big emotional purchase, there can be many opinions involved, and it will be in most of your wedding photos,” she explains. “Your dress really is front and center for your big day, and so the struggle to commit to a dress (usually nine to 12+ months in advance!) can be hard for some brides.”
Meet the Expert
- Tina Wong is the founder and CEO of Grace + Ivory, an online bridal boutique that specializes in made-to-order, customizable wedding dresses.
- Madison Blackburn is the owner of Bridals by Madison, a Georgia-based bridal shop that carries contemporary, bohemian, and romantic wedding dresses.
A major catalyst for the indecision stems from the fact that many brides grew up with a vision of what wedding dress shopping "should" look like. “Media and shows like Say Yes to the Dress have made many brides feel like if they aren't moved to tears, it's not the dress,” says Madison Blackburn, the owner of Bridals by Madison. “In reality, not all brides are criers!”
Considering how big of an investment a wedding dress is (and that most of them are final sale), the pressure is definitely on as brides head to the boutiques. “You start off knowing that—if all goes as intended—you'll only ever be able to wear one dress, one time, for one night,” Blackburn says. Talk about stressful! The good news, though, is that choosing your wedding gown doesn’t have to be such an anxiety-filled ordeal.
Whether you're having a hard time narrowing down your choices or can’t seem to commit to a gown, you’ve come to the right place. Below, experts weigh in on everything indecisive brides need to know about finding—and sticking by—their chosen dress for the big day and beyond.
What to Look for When Wedding Dress Shopping
First things first, Blackburn says the most important factors to consider when shopping for a wedding gown are your timeline, budget, and desired aesthetic. Unfortunately, if you have your heart set on a particular style, but it’s out of budget or won’t arrive in time for the big day, that particular option might not work out. Also, you want to order your wedding dress about a year in advance, so if you don’t have that amount of time, you may have to consider consignment ensembles or an buying off-the-rack look.
Next, as you begin trying gowns on, Wong advises brides to pay attention to the details, and not the fit, of a look. “Most sample dresses will never fit you perfectly, and that’s okay because a wedding dress is a garment that will be fitted to you,” she explains. “We generally take things to a fitting room to see how they fit, but try not to shop this way for your wedding dress.” While you want to select a general silhouette that feels flattering on your body, Wong says the details (such as neckline, fabric, sleeves, embellishments, train, etc.) are what you really need to focus on during the shopping process.
How to Prepare for Your Wedding Dress Shopping Experience
In the movies and TV shows, the bride simply waltzes into the boutique on a whim and somehow manages to find her dream dress in minutes. In reality, both Wong and Blackburn say you need to do your research before heading into any gown appointment, as the trip can quickly become frustrating if you are not prepared.
“Creating the perfect Pinterest board is not enough to alleviate the shopping stress,” explains Wong. “Since Pinterest gowns don’t usually list the price tag, it can be hard to get a feel for what the gowns look like in your wedding budget.” That’s why having a solid understanding of how much you’re able to spend—plus factoring in your wedding date—is essential.
To make the most of your shopping trip(s), Blackburn suggests being selective with the salons you choose to visit. “Always preview shops (via social media and websites) before booking appointments, so you know what the experience will be like,” she says. “This will make you feel so much more prepared, knowledgeable, and secure in your decision.” Also, getting a good understanding of the designers, styles, and price ranges bridal shops carry will allow you to have the best chance of finding a gown you love, while not veering too far off track.
How to Narrow Down Your Wedding Dress Options
With so many options, decision fatigue can happen easily and often during the shopping process. Blackburn says to help narrow down your choices, first figure out how you want to feel on your big day. Do you want to feel sexy? Classic? Edgy? Romantic? Try to find that one main aesthetic, and lean into it when selecting boutiques to visit and when pulling dresses to try on. There are many beautiful gowns out there, but having an idea of the vibe you'd like to embrace will eliminate the confusing “pretty-but-not-perfect” options.
Additionally, Wong suggests having a good understanding of your must-haves and keeping a list of details you love as you try on different styles. “Prioritizing the physical dress and lifestyle factors can help a bride hone in on what is truly important in a dress (and help her not get distracted)," she says.
Once you start seeing a trend in styles or details you like, eliminate anything else that does not align with those categories. And as you begin narrowing down your options, stop looking for new contenders and instead, focus on the gowns you already love. From there, consider the types of accessories you want to wear, your venue, the season, the number of alterations, and comfort. If you truly feel stuck, Wong says not to be afraid to go with your gut. “Intuition leads most [brides] down the right path,” she explains. “There are many options out there, and you could really shop and shop forever.”
Who to Bring to Your Dress Shopping Appointment
Even though you may want to roll up to the boutique with all of your VIPs, both experts stress that, oftentimes, less is more by way of shopping companions. “Indecisive brides should only bring their most supportive people,” Blackburn says. “More people means more opinions, and more opinions tend to make brides feel less secure in their decisions.”
This is why Wong suggests shopping alone, or with just one or two trusted friends, when you’re first getting started. “This really helps, especially because you only can try on so many dresses in the span of an hour-long appointment, and each dress takes longer to scrutinize with a larger group,” she explains. If a solo trip doesn’t make sense, consider trying on dresses at home with shops like Grace + Ivory, Azazie, and Revelry, to get an idea of silhouettes and details you gravitate toward, before heading to a bridal salon with your friends and family.
“Ultimately, the bride should feel supported to choose the gown that makes her feel like the very best version of herself, regardless of others’ opinions,” Blackburn says. Whoever you do invite, though, make sure to set clear boundaries and expectations of what you’re looking for in regard to feedback. If you’d rather they wait to voice opinions until you’ve had your say—or if you don’t want insight and just prefer their company for support—let them know ahead of time and don’t be afraid to remind them as the search continues.
In all, while dress shopping can be tricky for indecisive brides, it’s all about staying true to yourself, your vision, and your decision. Always remember that "finding your wedding gown is like finding your partner,” Blackburn says. “Once you say 'yes,' you have to stop looking, otherwise you'll get into trouble.”