How to say "YES" to the Dress

The DC Ladies has quickly become one of my favorite local blogs for just about all things that involve women in DC. When they asked us to guest post for #TheDCLadiesWeddingWeek, I had to say yes! In case you missed our post over there last week, here it is again in its entirety:


So you’ve got a ring and now it’s time for the moment you’ve really been waiting for: finding that dream gown of yours!

Some of you may have already pulled out your notebook of wedding dresses you’ve been sketching since age 6, and others may be dreading the bridal salon experience the most of all. Big or small, tomboy or fashionista, you should expect to find a gown that you are comfortable in and have fun doing so! Here are some tips so you can make the most of your memories saying yes to the dress without all the stress.

1) Research before Budget Planning

Most bridal salons will ask you upfront what your budget is. If you have an answer, that’s great! But most brides forget to include all the “extras” in their bridal attire budget. How much will your jewelry, veil, undergarments, shoes, and alterations cost? When you talk about your bridal gown budget, have you considered how much all those necessary “extras” will cost? Without considering these elements and doing your research, you will likely underestimate realistic spending goals. Avoid the frustration of feeling you are over-budget down the line by planning appropriately now. Find out the price range of bridal salons before making your appointments and ask about undergarments, accessories, and alterations while you are standing in your favorite gowns to get the most accurate estimates.

2) Research Your Bridal Salons

This one is a bit tricky because it’s hard to do, and I only mention it to make a point. Choosing which bridal salon to visit is a lot like choosing a restaurant: while they are all carry wedding gowns, each salon offers a different atmosphere and ambience which will create completely different experiences for you. Do you prefer a more up-scale salon specializing in couture fashions or would you feel more comfortable in a more casual, down-to-earth environment? While this aspect of bridal gown shopping is worth considering, you likely will not find the answer until you physically visit each bridal shop. Bottom line: don’t let “bad” bridal experience keep you down for the rest of your adventure. There are plenty more salons out there to fit your attitude and style, so there is nothing to fear!

3) Know Your Timelines

We like to advise brides to plan 6 to 8 months for bridal gowns to arrive in our store after they have been ordered, if not more! The exact time frame may vary by designer, time of year your order is placed, and time of year of your wedding. You should also plan about 2 months for alterations after the dress has come in, ideally ordering your bridal gown at least 9 months prior to your wedding. Rush orders may be available for certain styles at an additional cost. The more time you allow yourself, the less stress you will feel; it always better to order sooner rather than later. But don’t let this time frame scare you! We know that not every bride is able to allot this much time; know that it is possible to complete the entire process much sooner. If time is really an issue for you, consider purchasing a sample gown off-the-rack, or calling local salons to ask your expert consultants what your options are.

4) More is Not Always Merrier

Many brides want to bring some family members and/or friends to the appointment. We encourage you to have no more than 2-4 guests, as it may become overwhelming. A larger crowd tends to bring a larger range of opinions. Remember, this is your dress for your day—don’t let anyone tell you differently. One to two highly trusted opinions is usually a nice accompaniment to the experience. If you really need “everyone” to be there, consider making a separate trip after you have chosen your gown and invite the rest of your loving entourage to the big reveal at a separate appointment or during your fittings (when the gown is brand new and in your size anyway).

5) Window Shop from Home

You’ve been eyeing wedding dresses online and in magazines since before you were even engaged. I know it, you know it, we all know it. That’s a good thing though! Feel free to collect photos of all your wedding inspiration in a bridal binder or on Pinterest to give your consultant a better sense of your taste and style. This is not necessary by any means, but certainly is a fun step that you’ve probably already started!

6) Have an Open Mind

After all that hard work putting all your ideas and inspirations together, you must have your wedding day look pretty narrowed down. Don’t be so sure about that! Gowns always look different in a magazine vs. on a hanger vs. on your body so you never know what you might end up loving. Trust your consultant if she wants you to try on something a little different than what you envisioned. What’s the worst that can happen? Either the gown immediately gets tossed to the veto pile, or you are pleasantly surprised when suddenly you find yourself saying yes to the dress!

7) Use Your Imagination

The whole point of trying on bridal gowns is so you know what you will look like on your wedding day, right? Unfortunately, it is typically not as simple as it sounds. Shopping for a wedding gown takes a lot of imagination. As beautiful as you will look in your gown while standing in the salon, just imagine how infinitely better the whole look will be when you place yourself with the appropriate hair and makeup, surrounded by beautiful flowers at your venue. Don’t forget to account for jewelry, veils, and other accessories that will have to compliment your gown as well. For example, if you know you want big, sparkly bling to accessorize with, you may not want to be so quick to dismiss that gown that feels “too plain” on its own. Many of our brides end up customizing many aspects of their gowns from the way it was originally designed. It may seem scary at first, but we promise you won’t regret using a bit of imagination once you see your dream truly come to life.

8) Beware of the Marathon run

Are you making appointments weeks in advance so you can perfectly schedule six different bridal appointments on a Saturday? If so, you are going to be absolutely exhausted. If you have yet to try on a bridal gown, I can almost guarantee that you are underestimating how physically exhausting getting in and out of wedding dresses non-stop for a full day will be. And as much as you would like to have a “moment” when you put on THE gown, unfortunately the enthusiasm wears off by the end of the day when the exhaustion sets in. Gowns and boutiques start to blur together, and while the day was tons of fun, experiencing it in this may will be overwhelming. Instead of finding the perfect gown, you will likely need a break to clear your head and revisit the favorites the following week. For the most effective and enjoyable experience, avoid going to more than three salons in a day. Better yet, avoid going to more than three total (unless you really have disastrous experiences–see #2).

9) Location, Location, Location

It really does break my heart a little to hear a bride say, “I love this gown but I’m getting married on a beach.” At the end of the day, it really is your decision so if that is how you feel then I can only be happy for the gown that you end up choosing. However, if I can put in my two cents… I think that’s nonsense. You are the bride. It is your wedding day.

Whether you are getting married on a beach, in a courthouse, or in your backyard, that should not exclude you from wearing the gown that makes your heart sing. The fact that you are a bride makes the event formal enough to wear a ball gown no matter where you are. That fact that you are getting married is all that anyone will think about, not that you are too dressed too for your wedding day.

10) Don’t make decisions from your photos.

Have you ever wondered why most bridal salons do not allow you to take photos? This is one of the reasons. If you do happen to sneak a few pics, just remember that the dresses look 1000 times better on you than on your phone/camera. Many salons have less than optimal lighting (to be honest, our boutique is one of worst for photos), which does nothing to flatter either you or the gown. We want you to remember the way you felt standing in the dress looking in the mirror, falling in love with all the details that your phone was not able to capture. Sometimes a bride will love a dress when she is standing in it but is less than impressed when she gets home. On the day of your wedding your dress will only be remembered by people seeing it in person or from the photos from the professional photographer that you hired. Trust your instincts when you are gown shopping. If you love the dress but can’t make a commitment that day, then take time to think it over for a few days and go back and try it on again. Seeing it in person once more versus seeing it on a phone is far more beneficial.

Most importantly, relax and have fun! Whether you are shopping alone or with your whole gang, don’t worry about others’ opinions. Your day. Your dress. You deserve to be happy in your gown; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Let us know what you think! Did doing any of these things help you during your wedding gown search? Do you have any additional advice for other brides-to-be beginning their search? Comment below or email us your thoughts!

For more from The DC Ladies, see some our favorite wedding features. You can also find them on facebook, twitter, and pinterest. They've got a lot of great information to offer: 

- Wedding Beauty Timeline 
- Finding a Venue: What to Know Before You Go 
- Finding a Venue: Questions to Ask at a Site Visit 
- Using Sparklers at your Next Event 
- Tips for DIY Flowers 
- Engagement Session Beauty