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wedding home > unique wedding ideas > planning > wedding gown shopping guide

Wedding Gown Shopping Guide

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The Search Begins

Searching for the perfect wedding dress can be the most exciting part of the planning process. For most brides, the wedding dress is a symbol of their childhood dreams and hopes for a fairytale-like wedding.

  1. Timeline

    Set a detailed timeline for doing your research, visiting bridal boutiques to try on dresses and purchasing your dress and getting fitted. Ideally, you should start 9-12 months before your wedding day. If you have less time, don't worry. It just means you will need to work a little harder and come to a decision a little sooner. For couture gowns, be sure to order 6 months prior to your wedding date. The dress will need to be altered so expect to be fitted at least two times and altered before the dress is ready to be taken home.
  2. Learn the Styles

    Learn about the different elements of a wedding dress. As you are learning about necklines and silhouettes, note the styles that you like. This will give you a starting point in looking for dresses. For more information on the different styles, visit the style guide.
  3. What Shape are You?

    Wedding dress styles are generally designed with a certain figure/shape in mind. To understand what dress styles are ideal for you, it is best to determine what shape you are. Knowing this will help you identify the dress styles that will be most flattering on you. To find out your body type and what styles are best suited for you, see the figure guide.
  4. Themed Weddings

    An important consideration in your dress search is to determine your wedding theme. Knowing this will allow you to focus your search on dresses that are appropriate for your theme. For example, if you are having a beach themed wedding, it may be awkward to wear a ball gown with a six foot train.
  5. Religious Consideration

    If you plan on celebrating your wedding in accordance to religious customs and traditions, it would be wise to learn the style of dress that is appropriate for your wedding.
  6. Establish a Budget for the Wedding Dress, Gown

    Buying a wedding dress can be an emotional experience that can lead brides to overspend. On average, a wedding dress will cost around $500-$1,500. Couture (designer) dresses can run anywhere from $2,000 - $5,000 (and up!). Research designers, styles and prices. This will help set your expectations and allow you establish a reasonable budget (including alterations and accessories) that you are comfortable spending.
  7. Be Open-Minded

    Start your wedding dress search with magazines and wedding related websites. This is a great way to preview different dress styles and designers. Be sure to make notes of dresses that catch your eye, but don't limit your selections to just one style or one designer. Dresses can look stunning in pictures, but it may not look the same on you. Pick out 10-20 dresses/designers and use this as a starting point to plan your visits to bridal boutiques.
  8. Making Appointments

    Once you have your wedding dress/designer wish list created, make an appointment with the local bridal boutiques. If you're unsure where to start, ask a family member or friend on their experiences at a bridal boutique. Perhaps they can refer you to a boutique that they had a great experience at or have heard great things. Today, there are many different way to purchase your dress. However, it is highly recommended that you start at a bridal boutique because of the opportunity to see and try on dresses and the advice a sales person can provide you on the type of dress that would look best. If you have a limited budget, it doesn't hurt to ask bridal boutiques if they carry dresses in budget. There is no point in wasting your time or your sales person's time if they do not carry dresses that are within your price range.
  9. Invite the Fashion Conscious

    Don't hesitate to ask a friend or family member with a great eye for fashion to accompany you to the bridal boutique. It can be helpful to have someone there to provide their opinion and tell you what dresses are most beautiful on you. Most bridal boutiques have dressing rooms that are large enough to accommodate 1-2 guests while you try on dresses. It is recommended that you invite no more than 2 people as space could become an issue and too many opinions can make your experience more difficult and confusing.
  10. Now You are Ready to Start Wedding Dress, Gown Shopping!

    This should be one of the most exciting times of your life. Relax and enjoy yourself. Make a fun day of it.
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