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 Hey y'all! Guess what? After four long months, my dress finally came in!

Last Tuesday, as I prepped (and primped!) for my first fitting, I got to thinking about my overall shopping experience. See, all of the ladies in my life had these fabulous stories about their dress hunt, but honestly, I wasn’t feeling it. I’ve always been a worrier, and the big dress decision? It left me exhausted, rather than exhilarated. So how does a nervous girl go about finding the gown of her dreams? With that question in mind, I made a list of advice that helped me go from stressed out to super-excited about the process (and of course, the dress!).  I have a hunch that there just might be a few kindred spirits out there who’ve also struggled with the nerve-wracking aspect of the hunt. I hope these pointers will ease your mind and help make your search for the perfect dress as awesome as you are. 🙂

Wedding Dress Shopping Tips

1. Expand your horizons: I found my dress at a boutique, which really surprised me. My amazing parents purchased my dress, with the caveat that I keep the price below $1200. Done! Although their gift was amazingly generous, the wedding gown industry is not exactly famous for its budget-friendly options. As a result, I began my search under the impression that a boutique would not have styles to fit my budget or sizes to fit, well, me. I was SO wrong on both counts. There is honesty in the phrase “You get what you pay for”, and in my case, I received attentive, personalized service, a designer gown that was within my price range, and a relaxed shopping experience. I think it’s important to note that I walked into the boutique on a whim and was paired with a consultant without a second thought—something that would rarely happen at big-box store, where walk-ins are frowned upon or outright turned away. It reinforced my belief that it pays to shop locally!

2. Explore your options: Even though I found my dress at a bridal salon, I started off by checking out every option,  from big-box to online, to discount stores. Like my fellow BSB blogger Abby, I was ultimately unwilling to purchase a gown online (see her post here.) Big-box stores yielded few results— a really bad experience at David’s Bridal in my hometown, followed up with a very good experience at Alfred Angelo—but at the very least, both stores have an extensive range of styles and sizes, which is integral if (like me) you need help nailing down a style. Plus, their hours are convenient, and their product is consistent.  That goes double for discount stores. I spent a very fun afternoon with my bestie, scouring racks and trying on armloads of dresses!

3. Know thyself (and be upfront with the pertinent details!): Having even a rough idea of your ideal style will help guide your interactions with a sales consultant, which should result in an efficient and relaxed shopping experience. For example: our wedding ceremony will be held outdoors, and the reception is a relaxed, family-style affair.  So, aesthetically and practically, any dress up for consideration needed to be adaptable to those elements. My everyday style tends toward modesty with a 1950’s-era flair, so I knew immediately that my ideal gown would have a retro, party dress silhouette—no veil or train for me, thanks! Finally, don’t be afraid to shout your budget from the rooftops, because a savvy consultant will be able to pick options that won’t leave your wallet crying.

4. Be honest about what you don’t know: Over the past couple of years, I’ve lost a significant amount of weight. As a result, my body has changed dramatically, and I was terrified that I would be walking into these shops clueless, and then walking out frustrated because I simply didn’t know which styles complimented my frame. I scoured Pinterest like a lunatic, but the sheer number of styles and industry terms left my head spinning. For example, part of my dress is Dupioni silk. Who knew? Who cares? Not me, but the bridal consultant I worked with knew, cared, and was able to explain what made that fabric different from others. With that in mind…

5. Keep an open mind: The perfect-for-you dress is out there, but maintaining a laser focus on what you want (or don’t), or nitpicking your perceived physical imperfection  will frustrate and complicate matters! A knowledgeable salesperson should be able to pick options for/with you that will flatter your silhouette and make you feel amazing, even when you can’t properly vocalize what you’re searching for. And if they can’t? Be honest! If a style isn’t working for you, let the salesperson know. They don’t want to waste your time (or theirs!)  getting you in and out of dresses that don’t interest you.

6. Ignore the darn label: Let’s all pause here and take a moment to acknowledge the la-la land that is couture sizing. Crazy, right?  For example, I’m a street size 6/8. My wedding dress? Size 16. What?!  My point is this: It’s not news that gown sizes and street sizing differ greatly. Take a deep breath and let it go, because it means nothing. Regardless of the size on the label, gown sizing correlates with specific body measurements, and a dress that is cut to your measurements = AMAZING fit. I am happy to report that my gown won’t need alterations, which is a), a huge savings and b), great segway back to the budget.

As I mentioned above, budgets are relative. While $1200 is a king’s ransom to me, it may be a drop in the bucket for a fellow bride. I am very, very lucky to have such amazing parents, because, when it came down to it, The Dress was $1125.

And you know what? I bought it without a second thought. When you know, you just know, right? 🙂

You can see the gown here, but you’ll have to wait a little while to see it on me…I don’t want to spoil the surprise for Matt!

So…what do you think of the dress? Were/are you nervous about dress-shopping? Tell me, tell me!


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About Shannon

Shannon is a sales representative, photographer, and student living in tiny Rhode Island. She and her fiancé, Matt, have been inseparable since they met in the fifth grade. In their spare time, they are working to update their tiny bungalow, and of course, plan their wedding, set for May 31, 2014!

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  • Alex

    I am so glad I’m not alone! I am an absolute psychopath as it relates to wedding dress shopping. I’m planning a June 2014 military wedding and finding the right gown that fits my frame and style without clashing with his formal dress blues has left my head spinning! I’ll definitely keep these tips handy when I venture out again in a few weeks and look for “the one” 🙂

  • These are great tips, Shannon! I can relate with the first tip. I wasn’t feeling dress shopping (my most dreaded wedding task thus far), and I went in thinking that “x,y, and z” wouldn’t look good on me and yatta yatta. And #6 couldn’t be more important. I was really worried about what size my slip would be, and my sister (the MOH)said, “Only you are going to see the tag…no one else.” That little piece of advice really made me feel better and realize it’s about what fits ME and how I feel in it that matters. Thanks for the post!

  • Hey ladies! Thanks for the feedback! Alex, keep us posted, and Laura, you are absolutely right…no one sees the tag but you, and you deserve to feel fabulous! 🙂

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  • Sukh

    Thanks for sharing these tips Shannon,

    Feeling beautiful from inside is more important than looking at the price tag of the dress. Yes! Finding a budget wedding dress can be hard but I’m sure you’ll will find one.

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