Choosing Your Wedding Gown

Saying Yes to the Dress | Where to Start

There are many girls out there who have been dreaming about their wedding since they were 4 years old, and already have a sketch of the gown they plan to get married in…this post is for the rest of us.

I had no clue what went into searching for a wedding dress, and had not given it a second thought until I was engaged. Starting from scratch, I thought it best to go where I am sure thousands of brides go….Pinterest! I found lots of inspiration there, to get an idea of the type of dress I wanted to try on. Along the way, though, I learned some other things as I shopped for my own wedding gown, and those are shared with you here.

Before You Set Foot in a Bridal Boutique.

It’s a good idea to call the bridal boutique before you head over. Sometimes the shop is holding an event, or is already booked with appointments for the day, and you would end up standing around. They might prefer to know when you are coming so they can set you up with a stylist, and maybe have some bubbly ready for you. I’ve called ahead and been informed that if I waited until another weekend, there would be a sale or promotions taking place, too.

This is also the time to discuss budgets, if you have one, ask for overall pricing for their gowns. Calling ahead can sometimes save valuable time and money.

Get at least a general idea of your budget for the dress. If someone is gifting you your wedding gown, you still may want to know where they will max out. The same goes if you are splitting the cost, say, with your parents. Your preferred budget will also help the stylist when she is pulling out gowns for you. They usually at least try to start off there, before they try to pitch the “big guns” to you.

Wedding Gown Shopping

What to wear when trying on wedding gowns.

Obviously, you want to wear something that is easy to take off and on, but when you go to try-on wedding gowns, there are other things to think about. Some shops have the consultant come into the dressing room with you, so be prepared with the right under garments. If you don’t want to be seen in a thong, try full-coverage seamless panties instead that day. Some brides wear leggings so they don’t even have to worry about their pants coming off and on.

You also want to be sure to wear a strapless bra or petals so that you can get a more accurate idea of what the gown will look like. There’s all sorts of different designs going on on the backs of wedding gowns, so bring the strapless bra even if you don’t plan to wear it for the day.

Put on some socks, they always seem to keep air conditioning up in bridal boutiques. I assume this is because the dresses do warm you up with all the emotions and multiple outfit changes, but your feet might still freeze on those cold floors.

Bringing people with you.

Bring a friend or family member with you. I’ll be honest, I really enjoy shopping the best when I am by myself. I get in the zone and can take my time, and really make the best decisions when I am shopping alone. I feel like that still held true when shopping for my wedding gown. I suggest going to at least one boutique by yourself, just to be sure nobody else is in your head. That said, your friends and family are all part of the experience! They know you, and can see that gown from angles you just cannot. Their faces will give away a lot, even when their mouths don’t, and it’s great to hear other peoples’ take on something like this. They’ll be considering other parts of the big day that you might not, too.

Be forewarned though, too many people can easily exhaust you and become a downer. Multiple conflicting opinions can just leave you confused. Bring just 2 or 3 people with you for initial try-on, and if you need to schedule a time to come back with the bigger group to confirm you have found “the one”, most shops do not mind.

Wedding Gown Shopping

Try-on a little of everything.

I went to trunk shows to get a better idea of what I wanted. When I originally started shopping I had a certain shape in mind…the wedding gown I ended up purchasing looks nothing like what I had envisioned. (I wanted lots of coverage, sleeves, no bling, and a big and poofy bottom like a princess.) You never know if you are going to like something different until you see it on, so try things out, if for no other reason than to rule out shapes and styles.

The stylists are there to help you, too, so use them. They are there to make a sale but they’ve also seen hundreds of brides trying on these exact gowns. Ask if they have anything similar to what you are looking for (bring photos) and if they have something totally different that they think you should try.

Try it on with all the accessories. If you’re going to wear heels and a veil and a sash, go ahead and try some on with the gown. Most shops have plenty of accessories to help you decide. It’ll help you get the visual even though shapes and colors might be off. It will also make it feel a little more real for friends and family there with you, so that everybody can really get the vision.

If you get a good stylist who writes down all of the style numbers for wedding gowns you like, great. Sometimes this won’t happen, so try to remember to at least snap a picture of gowns you think could work. It’s helpful to be able to go back and look at those, at the very least to pick out pieces of the gown that you loved. Plus, if you end up picking one, you’ll be able to refer back to it for other parts of the wedding planning process.

Your timeline for the wedding gown.

Your gown will take quite a bit of time to be constructed for you, based on your measurements. Because of this processing time (plus shipping time) it will be months before you actually get your dress. Start shopping early, at least 6-8 months ahead of the wedding. Those with longer engagements do tend to wait in hopes that the trends have not passed by the time the wedding arrives, but don’t wait too late either. If you’re ok buying off-the-rack, timing won’t come into play as much, but brand new gowns take time.

Wedding Gown Shopping

Finding budget-friendly options.

There are always the bigger box stores (David’s Bridal, BHLDN, Nordstrom, etc.) and Etsy shops, but quite a few online retailers (Still White, Lace & Liberty, Pre-Owned Wedding Dresses, Grace Loves Lace, etc.) have been emerging as well. Bridal conferences and expos will often have referrals for shops and boutiques holding promotional deals for those who attended, too.

Trunk shows are also great resources for discounted wedding gowns. Generally the shop will order samples for an entire line or from one designer. They have plenty of sizes and colors so that everyone can see what they need to. If you purchase during this event the boutique is usually offering things like free shipping or alterations, a percentage off upfront, no tax, etc. Confirm what you can afford before you go (just in case you fall in love with something) and ask what payment options there are. Most places want a certain percentage to get the order started, and the remaining is due when your wedding dress comes in.

Wedding Gown Shopping

Consider your wedding location.

The venue plays a huge part in the dress you choose because they need to match up. If you’re going to have a court house wedding, a gigantic ball gown just would not fit the setting. The same goes for an extravagant venue or location, you don’t want to look under-dressed at your own wedding. Be careful to look at wedding gowns that will work with your venue. There’s certain styles that just “don’t go” with a waterfront beach wedding, so you want to at least have the type of wedding settled before you start to truly shop.

Be cognizant of your shoe preferences while you shop for your wedding gown. Are you planning on getting married in your favorite pair of beat up sneakers? Are you willing to wear heels in grass or sand? An indoor wedding means that you have more freedom with shoes and heel heights, but us outdoorsy brides need to think about the potential for falling with wonky terrain.

Finding “the one”.

Not everyone has some teary-eyed moment in which they find their dress and hug someone special in a heartfelt embrace. Sometimes it is a very practical moment. You love the way it looks on you, budget works, it matches up well with your fiancé’s attire and the venue, and it’s overall just a “yes”. Or maybe you’ll see it on someone else and know instantly that you’ve finally found it. Every bride is different, and so is each wedding gown shopping experience.

I knew I had found my dress back in Honolulu about half-way through a day of wedding gown shopping with my friends and family in San Diego. I kept comparing everything back to the one I had tried on three weeks prior. Nothing was as good, and by the end of that day I had tried at least 20 dresses on at 4 different bridal shops. My bridesmaids found a bridal boutique that carried the gown I had fallen in love with back in Hawaii, and once we all saw it in person, it was decided. I knew when I stood in the gown and looked into the eyes of my mother, grand-mother, best friends, and favorite great-aunt. I think we all knew.

My wedding gown finally came in, so I got to try it on yesterday. I can’t wait for the big day!

Special thanks to Curtis G. Photography for capturing my wedding gown shopping escapade in San Diego, CA.
You’re the greatest.


  1. December 20, 2017 / 9:53 am

    Omgosh! Can’t wait for this day to come! You look stunning in all these dresses! ☺

    • December 20, 2017 / 10:08 am

      Thanks Dionna! It’s more fun than I thought it could be. 😉

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