There are two main things that truly make you feel like a bride – your engagement ring and your wedding dress. As soon as the ring is on their finger, many brides start making their bridal appointments. We get asked a lot about whether every bride has that “moment” you see on TV. You know the one – Some brides know with the first dress if it’s the one and some brides try on many before saying yes; some brides cry and other brides don’t. We know it can be overwhelming, so read on for some tips and advice to help you have the best bridal appointment!
What to know before you shop for a wedding dress
Before you head to a bridal shop near you, make sure you look online to see if they are by appointment only” or if they take walk-ins. Even if they are by appointment only, you may want to pop in to get a look before you book one. Most at least prefer appointments so we can give each bride our full attention and that we have enough staff scheduled for everyone.
There are a few types of bridal shops: off-the-rack, re-order, and a combination of both. A re-order store will most likely be what you encounter the most. This is your traditional bridal shop where your stylist takes your measurements and orders the size that is closest to your measurements (or a custom dress if the designer allows for it). We recommend starting to shop for your wedding dress at least 9 months in advance if shopping at a traditional bridal shop. Every designers’ lead times are different in regards to how long it takes them to make and ship a dress. Your stylist should be able to tell you a time range for your specific dress and designer. The pros of ordering a new dress is that you get a new one and one that is closest to your size (minimal alterations) and you don’t have to get it cleaned before wearing. The cons are typically just the shipping times and some would say budget.
Some traditional shops (like ours) will have a selection of samples you can purchase off-the-rack and then you have stores that are fully off-the-rack. Gowns available for immediate purchase may be designer overstock, samples from previous seasons or even other stores. Some people think that off-the-rack gowns are generally cheaper and while they may be at a discounted price, some may be closer to just under their retail price. The pros of buying off-the-rack are that you don’t pay for or have to wait on shipping. The cons are that you may pay just as much for alterations as you did for your dress (because you can’t get just any size, but the size that’s on the rack) and you may want to pay for it to be cleaned before wearing it.
One other thing to know before you book an appointment is that some stores will either charge a fee for your appointment or charge a cancellation fee within so many hours of the appointment. This is because time and staff are limited and we still need to pay our teams. If they charge upfront, they may deduct that from your final purchase price. Also, they may offer upgraded appointments – celebratory or VIB appointments that include fun perk upgrades like robes, champagne, gifts, hair/make-up, treats, etc.
What to Expect at Your Bridal Appointment
As mentioned earlier, it is best to book an appointment to try on dresses as this allows you to have a personal stylist to walk you through the entire process. When you arrive for your bridal appointment, you’ll want to chat with your stylist for just a few minutes about any photos you’ve saved or styles you’ve tried on before. They should also ask you about your budget so they can be mindful of it while pulling styles for you to try on. Although you might not know all the fabric lingo, we can help you figure out your initial style by these photos. But don’t forget to keep an open mind. As you’re trying them on, you may realize you don’t like your initial style, and that is OK. After each dress, we’ll ask what you do and don’t like and begin pulling other gowns in styles you are leaning towards. Our brides are probably 50/50 on if the dress they say yes to is one they thought they would! It’s so fun to see what each bride chooses based on our initial conversations. You’ll want to think about past dresses you’ve worn that you’ve absolutely loved and ones you disliked. Considering your venue and the time of year is important, but we encourage brides to say yes to the dress they feel the most confident, beautiful and comfortable in overall.
Most bridal boutiques carry sample sizes and not all designers are the same. Some dresses are more suited for certain body styles, so keep that in mind when looking at the sample sizes. Wedding dresses also run about 1-2 sizes larger than what you wear on a daily basis (size 4/6=8/10 and 12=14/16), this can vary by dress shape and designer. Your stylist will let you know what is the best size to order for your favorite dress!
At the end of your appointment, we will take your measurements and talk with you about what size we will order. Remember, they aren’t the same as normal clothes and if you’re planning on toning up or losing weight, it is still best to go with your current size. You can always take it in. We will contact the designer and your dress will go into production!
Your wedding dress budget
Knowing your budget is so helpful because we don’t want to pull a gown you end up loving that is over your budget. You’ll want to consider all that goes into your final look – your jewelry, shoes, veil, alterations,* and even taxes! If your total dress budget is $2000, let us know if it includes everything and you need to look at dresses around $1500. If your budget allows for a $2000 dress with everything else separate, then you can look for dresses up to $2000.
*Veils and alterations can run $200+ each depending on how much detail you have on the dress or veil.
Who to bring with you to your bridal appointment
Let’s talk about your friends and family. We recommend only bringing 3-4 trusted opinions for several reasons. First being that it is your dress, so only a few people’s opinions should really matter. Second, the more people you have, the less time you’ll have to try on dresses as they each may want to give their thoughts on each dress. If someone whose opinion you really want can’t be there, try to face-time them in or re-schedule for when everyone can attend. This keeps you from waiting for that “yes” moment when you know a dress is “the one”. Plus, saying yes to the dress over the phone later isn’t quite as celebratory as saying it in person with your favorite people! Take the same people with you to each appointment, if possible, since they’ve seen the other dresses and help you compare dresses. They’re the ones who’ve seen your reaction to each dress, not just a photo.
What to bring to your bridal appointment (and what to wear)
When heading to your bridal appointment, you’ll want to make sure to bring a few things with you. Most dresses come with cups built in, but just in case pack (or wear) a strapless bra. We recommend wearing neutral color undergarments so that your favorite hot pink pair doesn’t show through! If you’re leaning towards a fitted gown, you may want to bring some type of slimmer but its not necessary – our standard is to encourage brides to get the size they currently are so that you don’t even have to worry about a slimmer on your wedding day (or dieting during your engagement season – it’s a party time after all!).