Purchasing a wedding dress should be fun! Here are my tips for ensuring that it is!

I want people to see the dress, but focus on the woman.VERA WANG

The notion of shopping for a wedding dress usually affects brides in one of three ways. They’re either excited about the experience, uncertain and hope to get through the ordeal without getting their feathers ruffled, or they’re a pile of nerves and expectations so much so that the mere mention of “gown” causes a visceral sense of dread. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, these tips should help you to cross the threshold of the dress shop with confidence, ready to have the best shopping day of your life!

Research only if it eases the wedding stress, but know that research isn’t really your job.

Perusing and compiling vast albums of wedding dress pictures can certainly be fun, but it absolutely isn’t a requirement. In fact, I would advise you to avoid this step if thinking about it stresses you out. When you arrive at a dress shop, whether they sell custom made to order dresses or gowns off the rack, bridal stylists are there to assist you. By hearing about your love story, listening to you talk about your wedding plans, and yes, even looking at how you’ve dressed yourself that day, they will have plenty of information on which to base their suggestions. While style is absolutely subjective, a good stylist will be able to select dresses for you to try on that flatter your figure, no matter the circumstance.

Prepare to articulate what you do or don’t like about a dress.

While you don’t need to have a complete vocabulary of fashion terminology, it’s helpful to be prepared to critique the dresses you try on. Your shopping experience will be immeasurably more successful if you can say something like, “This dress has too much detail and has more sparkles than I am comfortable with,” rather than saying, “This just isn’t me.” Bridal stylists are capable of working absolute wonders, but they can only sort of read your mind! Don’t be afraid to ask the stylist specific questions such as what a certain element is called that you do or don’t like, so that you can narrow down your specific likes and dislikes to help you find “the One”. Your stylist will be good about asking you questions, but it will be helpful if you can critique gowns you try on with specificity.

You don’t need to have a venue selected, or really even a date set, to start shopping.

Theoretically, it’s nice to feel that your venue, the season, and your dress are all on the same stylistic wavelength. Ultimately, this is too much pressure to put on yourself. If you don’t let yourself jump into the dress shopping experience, you could miss the dress of your dreams. It’s important to remember, and oh so easy to forget that the wedding, the venue and the dress already have an implicit matching cohesion. Why? Because you selected them! You saw beauty in them, and no matter how eclectic your tastes, there will be a thread of continuity throughout each aspect of the wedding by way of you. Sure, feel free to aim for a tea length dress if you’re having a casual wedding, or venture toward longer hemlines if you want to be more conventional. Scale the amount of drama you want in your dress according to the time of day. Don’t feel stressed to force any “Pinterest perfect” theme since your natural, honest proclivities will guide you around dresses that simply don’t suit.

Lower your expectations.

Taking a laundry list of dress demands is about as effective as searching the world for a husband by using a “My Perfect Man” criteria list. In theory, it’s a sure way to succeed, but the real experience may leave much to be desired! Instead, it’s best to have an idea of how you want to feel in your dress, supplemented with mindfully chosen ideals about how you would like to feel on your wedding day. If I’m asking a stylist to find me an off the shoulder sweetheart gown with buttons up the back and lots of bling and a long train, no satin only lace, ivory only, chances are very good that she can me find that gown. However, the odds are unlikely that the dress which is perfect on paper will come anywhere near what I’ve envisioned and dreamed of. Instead, communicating that I want my figure to be accentuated without being immodest, that I don’t want sleeves, and that I choose to describe my favorite aesthetics as romantic and ornate, improves my chances of finding that wedding dress bliss.

Trust your stylist.

Bridal stylists see women in wedding gowns on a daily basis. With each passing day, this parade of women in gowns continues to hone their knack for evaluating objective merits of one style or another. Meaning, you can trust your stylist to help guide you towards flattering dresses, something that you may miss if you force your appointment to adhere to a laundry list simply because it makes you feel safe. There is zero risk in trying on a gown. Why not humor your stylist and try something they suggest? For every bride I meet who walked into the appointment knowing precisely which dress she wanted to marry her husband in, I meet at least three who wound up rocking a gown they never would’ve picked for themselves. Stylists are worth their weight in gold when it comes to helping us find our most flattering styles, but that isn’t their greatest superpower. Stylists understand how sensitive we can become when dress shopping and they’re familiar with the hopes we hang on wedding gowns. They’re accustomed to the turmoil borne from the dissonance between how we aspire to look what we see in the mirror. When you get so invested in the dress shopping process, it becomes difficult to see the truth staring you in the mirror: that you are already exquisite and beautiful, and the dress only assists in making that more apparent! Not only can stylists recognize how you feel about a gown but they have a knack for helping you express your most beautiful self. 

Be prepared to see yourself through new eyes.

While you likely know your stylistic preferences for daily wear, putting on a wedding gown is a different animal altogether. The gravity of seeing yourself in wedding dress of any sort will likely be quite the shock, but a good kind of shock. You don’t shop for a wedding dress the way you shop for a pantsuit or a pair of espadrilles. Even with a binder clip at the small of your back and safety pins dangerously close to pricking your two best friends, its likely to fit you better than many garments that might already be hanging in your closet. Things that typically lead to insecurity may either become quite apparent (NEXT!!!) or fade entirely into the background. Ultimately, there’s no feeling like seeing yourself in a wedding dress. It makes the whole engagement feel that much more real. At the same time, wearing a wedding gown is so far outside our daily experience that there is a touch of the surreal to it as well. This is even more true if they serve champagne! Don’t walk into the appointment wishing your weight was different, desiring to hide your arms, or on the warpath to show off your waist. Let the dress show itself to you, or moreover let yourself appear to your own eyes. If you don’t like what you see, that’s no fault of yours. It’s simply not the right dress.

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