By Grace O’Neil
The moment I realized I had found the dress I would be married in is a memory I’ll never forget. As I twirled around on a pedestal in front of the boutique’s three-panel mirror I smiled because I knew the gown I was wearing was “the one.” I glanced over at my mom, who gave me a big hug, and together we cried a whole lot of happy tears. Everything felt perfect.
But, if you had backtracked one week prior, the scene wouldn’t have been as pleasant. In fact, you would have found me in a cramped, hot dressing room, feeling completely defeated and acting slightly melodramatic. After an afternoon of trying on dress after dress that just wasn’t quite what I was looking for, I can vividly remember the sense of being annoyed, anxious and confused.
That night I told myself that those emotions were all completely normal. My mom reminded me that there was no shortage of bridal shops and dresses to try. I tried to stay positive and held on to hope that, eventually, I would have that feeling that every bride beams while talking about.
After going full circle from feeling down in the dumps to on top of the world, I can share that finding your dress can be a whirlwind of emotions. Taking into consideration both the ups and the downs, here are five lessons I learned in saying “yes” to your dress:
1. Plan, Plan, Plan.
Just like all other aspects of wedding planning, it pays to do your research and plan ahead. Did you know that the average lead time for ordering wedding gowns is six to eight months? Even after your dress arrives, odds are that you’ll have one or more rounds of dress fittings. Factor this time in when deciding when to start shopping. Keep in mind that many bridal boutiques require appointments, especially on weekends.
When deciding where to shop, think about trying out a variety of different kinds of bridal boutiques. I can’t say enough good things about my experience at Alexandra’s Boutique in Fall River, Masschusetts. Stocked with thousands (literally!) of dresses, I loved the variety of gowns this store carried and being able to look through racks and racks of choices. On the other hand, my two best friends had great luck finding their dresses at Country Weddings in Hingham, Masschusetts, a much smaller boutique. I suggest making appointments at small and large scale shops, so that you can get a feel for both.
2. Know Your Price Range.
Before trying on dresses, know your gown budget. Factor in additional costs for undergarments and accessories like shoes, a veil and jewelry. I learned that alterations can cost upwards of several hundreds of dollars, so don’t be afraid to ask a staff member what you can expect to pay. It might also be helpful to look at your overall wedding budget beforehand and determine what areas you have the option to cut back on if you find a dress slightly more expensive than what you had anticipated. Find out the price range of dresses offered and the policies for down payments before you begin shopping, so that you aren’t hit with any unexpected surprises.
While there’s no right or wrong number of guests to bring with you while trying on gowns, cautiously consider who you want to invite. Too many opinions can be overwhelming and can make coming to a final consensus tricky. You’ll want to bring at least one person who can be completely honest with you and not someone who will just tell you what you want to hear. If you’d like to include more people, don’t forget that you can always bring others to a fitting so that they can see you in your dress before the big day. You also may want an extra set of eyes when shopping at different stores for your veil and accessories.
4. Take Recommendations From the Experts.
While it’s helpful to bring pictures of dresses and styles you have in mind to your appointment, be open to trying on different silhouettes. Trust me: Dresses look much different on the rack, and you never know how a gown will really look until you try it on. Keep in mind that bridal store attendants have lots of experience, so ask them what they think.
Picking out your bridal gown is a big decision and most likely the most expensive outfit you’ve ever worn. It never hurts to sleep on your decision and wait until the next morning before securing a down payment. I’ve heard a number of horror stories of brides-to-be who have become excited and later regretted the decision to overzealously say ‘yes’ without trying on a few more dresses at another location.
I hope these tips help to prepare you for one of the most memorable times in your wedding planning journey. Cheers to finding ‘the one!’