11 Tips for Finding the Perfect Wedding Dress

Some girls dream of the perfect wedding dress since infancy, and they even go on TV shows to chronicle the intensity of this decision. I am not one of those girls.

Finding the right wedding dress is important, don’t get me wrong. It’s the one detail everyone notices, unlike which shade of pink you ultimately, painstakingly choose for the pocket squares. The dress ends up in almost every photo, and since you’ll have to look at it in picture frames for the rest of your life, it really should be something you love or strongly like. Even if you aren’t completely onboard with the hysteria that surrounds the selection process… you definitely don’t want to mess up the decision. There’s pressure to get it right, whether you’re a fashion plate or ensembly challenged.

That said, if Target had a wedding collection, I would’ve bought my dress from it while picking up burlap table runners and chalkboard signs for the reception. I very specifically did not want to look like a frou-frou princess, wear a tiara, spend my life savings or make a huge fuss over finding THE DRESS.

As far as the wedding was concerned, my priority was choosing the perfect beach venue to spend our special day and making sure everyone we loved was able to make it. (Lolz. You all know how that turned out!

Between researching the venue and frankly just finding THE ONE, I was overwhelmed with wedding planning and thus, I intended that the gown selection process would be a quick, simple endeavor. I come from practical, frugal stock, so it never crossed my mind to spend mucho budget on a one-time use garment. On the other hand, I’m also vehemently opposed to excessive shopping even if there are good deals to be had. You’d never find me at Filene’s scratching some other bride’s eyes out over a gown.

I knew what I wanted: a comfortable, lightweight dress that was beach appropriate and relatively inexpensive. And if I’m being honest, I wanted it to be the first dress I tried on.

errgggg. Nevermind. Next dress!

So if I learned anything during the engagement season, it’s that even frugal, simplistic wedding dreams don’t always come true. Real life is not always like Say Yes to the Dress or one of those romantic comedies where Jennifer Lopez bumbles around adorably until Matthew McConnaughey comes to her rescue.

Sometimes your destination wedding venue defrauds you and at least for me, the perfect wedding dress doesn’t just fall in your lap and make you cry happy tears while friends shriek and twirl around with overflowing glasses of bubbly.

I wasn't wild about the bow

I wasn’t wild about the bow

My wedding dress purchase experience went like this: (1) pre-entourage session with just my Maid of Honor, (2) entourage session, (3) solo shopping, (4) solo shopping, (5) solo shopping, (6) solo shopping and hesitant purchase.

I couldn’t believe it, but finding THE ONE was extra tough because I found SO MANY. I tried on at least 30-40 gowns at three different stores over the course of all those visits, and while there were some outliers that were just awful, almost all of them looked the same to me.

Wedding Dress Shopping Tips

Having now been through this bizarre process of shopping for THE DRESS, here are a few suggestions and lessons I learned. Enjoy!

IMG_7508

1. Prioritize fun over finding THE ONE

Most brides don’t have a hard time making a big deal out of everything during engagement season, but I downplayed a lot of big moments. I never wanted to coerce loved ones into celebrations or money-spending or fawning over me/us, so our fiestas were few and far between, or just outright surprises.

But choosing a wedding dress, if a bit of a dog and pony show, can be a really fun outing for a group if you go into it with low expectations. It’s a great way to involve loved ones – even if ultimately you’re going to pick whatever you want. Forget about finding THE DRESS on the big group visit, and lose those expectations for taffeta-induced tears streaming down grandma’s face.

Just enjoy playing dress up with your crew and don’t plan to make any big decisions on the first outing. It’ll take all the weight off your shoulders and you’ll make much happier memories.

Wedding Dress Shopping

2. Keep your entourage small and choose wisely

I brought my sister, mom, grandma, aunt and friend. With those five women, there were five very, very different opinions. One said a ball gown was the way to go, another wanted intricate beading. Which leads me to…

Perfect Wedding Dress

3. Do a secret pre-fitting before you go with the entourage

This will help you go into the fun group fitting with a more secure idea of what you like. You can try on your favorites from the first fitting with confidence about shapes and necklines that YOU like, and you can avoid trying on sparkly Cinderella ball gowns that Great Aunt Maude will insist you buy. “Honey, you look like a princess!” Ack.

Angie Away Wedding Dress

4. Go in with a game plan

Who knew 10,000 white gowns can fit into one tiny store? They’re all smooshed onto racks and covered in plastic so you can’t tell what is what. You certainly can’t just stroll in and browse willy-nilly. Unless you factor in extra time for a Carrie Bradshaw meltdown (oh yeah, I had one), do your research in advance.

Perfect Wedding Dress

Figure out what necklines and silhouettes are most flattering for your shape. Not everyone looks great in a silk sheath; not all venues are appropriate for plunging necklines; the beach is no place for a 20-foot long train. If you show up to bridal boutique without doing any research, you’re at the mercy of your saleswoman, and that can go really wrong, really quickly.

Um, nevermind. Show me more.

Um, nevermind. Show me more.

I don’t recommend over-using Pinterest during wedding planning, but it’s absolutely ok to have a board where you pin dresses you like. Then you can show it to your saleswoman at the beginning and have a great place to start the search.

Just have fun on the entourage visit!

Just have fun on the entourage visit!

5. Stick to your budget

Be assertive about your financial decisions and don’t try anything on that’s out of your price range. You don’t want to agree on $1,000 with your fiancé and then change your mind when you “accidentally” fall in love with a $4,000 gown. Stick to your guns. There are gorgeous gowns in every price range, and spending less on THE DRESS means you can spend more on your honeymoon!

And don’t let the saleswoman (or entourage) pressure you into buying RIGHT NOW. Sometimes you need to sleep on a decision, so see if they’ll hold a gown for you for 24 hours so you can make absolutely sure it’s THE DRESS.

How cute are this little Rick-on-a-stick props my sister made for wedding dress shopping? I'd come out of the dressing room and my entourage would show me either Happy Rick or Frightened Rick depending on their opinion of the dress. So clever!

How cute are this little Rick-on-a-stick props my sister made for wedding dress shopping? I’d come out of the dressing room and my entourage would show me either Happy Rick or Frightened Rick depending on their opinion of the dress. So clever!

6. Research store policies before show up

Depending on the boutique, you may or may not be able to bring Champagne, or any beverages at all. For our 9 a.m. appointment, we had to leave our Starbucks at the front of the store on a shelf. Just know what you’re getting into before you go so you aren’t let down when you don’t get the full rom-com experience.

Wedding Dress Shopping Tips

7. Be polite but don’t get pushed around

I wasted a good deal of time at one store because the saleswoman clearly wasn’t listening to me. She brought me all sorts of dresses that were in no way what I asked to see, and because I’m polite, I acquiesced. It was a time waster though, and I got out of there quickly and took my business elsewhere.

Fine, but not what I asked for

Fine, but not what I asked for

I ended up purchasing my dress at Alfred Angelo, which was a wonderful experience from start to finish. My saleswoman Alyse was so sweet and so patient with me. She never pushed me into a purchase and her opinions were always spot-on. Her salesmanship really was the key for me in the end. They handled my alterations and I bought my veil there last-minute. too. (And no, I didn’t get a discount for saying this. Just an opinion on a business that’s doing a great job!)

Angie Away Blush Destination Wedding Dress

8. Keep an open mind

I was adamant from the beginning that a mermaid silhouette was all wrong for me. I’m all hips and I thought accentuating them would just make me look enormous. Once I tried on my first mermaid gown though, I never went back – it was perfect! So don’t rule anything out – especially if you trust your saleswoman to make a few suggestions outside your comfort zone.

Angie Away Destination Wedding Dress

9. Stop looking at dresses once you buy

Once you’ve plopped your credit card down, don’t ever look at wedding dresses again. You will second guess yourself to death and that’s one thing you don’t need to do when you have make a million other wedding-related decisions.

Wedding Dress Shopping Tips

10. Don’t forget to factor in extra budget for alterations

If you’re short, wide, thin – whatever – you’re going to need some nips, tucks and maybe some sewn in boobs. I really liked everything about the dress I chose except that it was a corset. When I found out I could take that out and add a simple zipper, it made the dress much more attractive to me!

11. You might never find THE DRESS

Don’t think you’ve done something wrong if you don’t feel butterflies or sob hysterically when you try on THE DRESS. The wedding industry is worth $50 billion+ per year and why do you think that is? Because they do a fabulous job of selling us all on the perfect wedding experience — something that is about as real as J. Lo rom-coms and reality TV.

Wedding Dress shopping

Eventually, I did make a hesitant choice and though I worried about it way too much, I stuck within my budget and ended up very, very happy with THE DRESS on the big day. It was one of the few things that went right!

What do you think of the final choice out of all the options?

Photo via The Lilypad Agency

Photo via the Lilypad Agency

Photo via the Lilypad Agency

So even though I was a pretty low-key wedding dress shopper, I still worried and stressed and fretted over the thing… and where’s my all-important perfect wedding dress now?

Don’t tell anyone, but it’s crumpled in the trunk of my car!

Make me feel better… tell me your wedding dress is stuffed in a suitcase somewhere! (If not, tell me a fun wedding dress story!)

COME AWAY WITH ME!
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  • February 07, 2016

    I love the mermaid silhouette on you!

    Don’t feel bad about your dress being crumpled in the trunk of your car. I had the princess dress and I couldn’t bear the thought of toting that thing back home on the plane with me from my destination wedding. So I left it with my mom.
    Jennifer recently posted..5 Reasons to Choose Bibione for an Italian Beach HolidayMy Profile

  • February 09, 2016

    I remember stressing about traveling on the plan with my dress. Don’t worry. I think you’ll find that the airlines are actually very helpful once you get to the airport.

  • February 12, 2016

    I’m going dress shopping in two weeks and dreading it. It’s so nice to see this post which doesn’t make the dress seem like the biggest deal ever! I LOVE dressing up, but weirdly enough I have never been a fan of wedding dresses and am secretly hoping to find the dress in the first day.
    Julia recently posted..A Lakeside ProposalMy Profile

  • February 16, 2016

    All the 11 tips are awesome and helpful. With the help of these tips I can find the perfect dress for my wedding. Thank you for sharing these amazing tips with us.

  • February 16, 2016
    Marty

    Girl you could make a paper bag look good!

    Don’t let Craig Roberts and his minions get you down. You made a beautiful bride no matter how hard he tried to screw your over. Hold your head high andknow you’ve helped countless couples avoid the same fate at Bahama beach club!

  • March 04, 2016

    I had a fairly easy time finding my dress. I looked through some pictures, showed the saleswoman, tried it on and it was the one. Some people I know do have a difficult time though, so you have provided some great tips to help. Thanks for sharing!

  • March 21, 2016

    Thanks for the helpful tips, Shopping for a wedding dress is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But with so many gowns to choose from, it can also be incredibly overwhelming.

  • March 23, 2016

    The dresses look so beautiful! Great post, should definitely give any bride-to-be a good start to find her own perfect wedding dress 🙂

  • March 24, 2016

    Thanks for sharing your experience with getting a wedding dress. I have a friend who is going through the same process right now. She’s very picky! I’m going to tell her about your first tip. She needs to have more fun searching for her dress. She’s too crazy about finding the perfect dress.

  • April 29, 2016

    Oh, I think the one with the deep back looked amazing!

  • May 31, 2016

    My daughter is going to be getting married soon, and I’m going to buy her the dress she’ll be wearing. I’ll make sure that she chooses a dress that she knows she’ll love wearing down the aisle. I’ll also let her know that she needs to keep an open mind when trying them on. That way she can be sure she’s getting a dress that she loves, and will love being in for the rest of her night.

  • June 29, 2016

    The dress always seems to be the most important part! Your article is so entertaining to read and I absolutely love all the pictures. Thanks for documenting your little adventure. I was dreading the thought of going dress shopping but your tips have definitely eased the fear!

  • August 06, 2016

    Hey Angie,
    Nice to meet you. 🙂

    You’re right every one wants a comfy, lightweight and more fancy in look wedding dress. You are really looking awesome wearing nice wedding outfits. Each one is looking more fabulous on you. The pics of you wearing wedding outfits is captured very well and looking gorgious.

    Your tip to find a perfect wedding dresses on a budget is awesome and great useful for every women who are interested to marriage. I enjoyed lot looking well captured images with wedding outfits. Thanks for making this post interesting and presenting it in front of us.

    Have a fantastic day ahead.
    Keep sharing.
    – Ravi.

  • October 27, 2016
    Bridal Expo & Trade Show

    Wow!

    What a lovely post.

    All the dresses looks very pretty. Everyone wants the perfect wedding dress to wear on your perfect wedding day.

    It’s a one of the most important day of their life.All the tips are very excellent and amazing and will help me in choosing the perfect dress for my daughter’s wedding.

    Thank you so much for sharing the tips.

    Keep posting and keep sharing.. 🙂

  • November 21, 2016

    Thanks for sharing your dress buying experience! It looks like it can be quite the adventure, but not every part will be like the movies. Sticking to your budget and doing a little research before hand is great advice!

  • December 08, 2016

    The pictures described here are just alluring and the wedding dresses give an rich and elegant look. Each and every tip is unique in its own way and much useful for a bride to be. Many wishes can be fulfilled of girls by reading your blog. Really wonderful post 🙂

  • December 09, 2016

    Hey Buddy,

    Nice Post!

    The collection of photos provided by you in the post is very nice.I like the content of your post too. The wedding is one of the most important days of everyone’s life. So the dress you are going to wear on that special day should also be special.The collection of dresses provided by you is very nice.

    When you are choosing a wedding dress for yourself or your friend, you need to be sure about certain things. So before you go for buying the wedding dress, you need to take care things. The tips you have provided in the post are just awesome and I am sure it would be useful to everyone out there.
    Thank you for sharing this post! 🙂

  • December 12, 2016

    Hii,

    Such a great post, I just wonder It is so tough for a girl to choose a dress for her wedding. A big day for her and she want to look the best.
    After so much struggle finally you get the dress and you are looking adorable. Although I like all the dresses but my daughter like the last one very much.
    My daughter also wants the same dress, she is now 12 yrs old only and she is so excited to wear the bridal dress. All the best for your new start of your life.

    Regards,
    Jennifer Taylor
    Jennifer Taylor recently posted..Elegant and Timeless Wedding | Sarah + NicMy Profile

  • January 23, 2017

    Hii!
    Great Post.
    All tips are really helpful in order to make the wedding function good. Deciding the wedding dress is one of the most challenging tasks. A wise budget should always be the focus on the big day, otherwise, it is very difficult to manage all these things simultaneously.

    Thanks, for sharing this valuable information with us.

    Keep up the good work!

  • January 23, 2017

    I love the little signs made to show if the “entourage” was eh or yes! SO fun! And these are all great tips, and I think you ended up with a dress that met what you wanted. Congrats, and thank you for sharing!

  • April 03, 2017

    Sometimes it’s better to alter that dream dress that doesn’t fit well than to get a new dress. I found you can save about half the cost by this method. Thanks for writing!

  • June 05, 2017

    Thanks for providing this realistic account of wedding dress shopping! Keeping an open mind is definitely one of the most important tips – you never know what’s going to end up looking good on you, especially if you’ve never tried that silhouette before!

  • August 28, 2017

    I agree with you that you should make the wedding dress shopping experience fun. Brides who go in with too much of an expectation to find the perfect dress can often experience a lot of stress. Thank you for sharing!

  • September 12, 2017

    Choosing your wedding dress is one of the highlights when planning a wedding, however, it can also be a source of stress with the pressure of finding the perfect dress. I really appreciate you sharing this.

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