Wedding dress shopping is one of the most exciting parts of planning a wedding! However, shopping for a wedding dress is not like shopping for any other type of clothing. Without proper consideration and strategizing, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed and stressed by the process.
You may be a bride with a clear aesthetic in mfind, or you may be a bride that has no idea where to even start. The struggle is real, and factor in potential COVID-19 delays and it all becomes that much more complicated.
To help demystify the process and ensure that you have enough time to find the style and fit of your dreams, we’ve put together this dress shopping guide.
This guide will cover everything from your very first bridal shop appointment to the final fitting and pick up.
Here is everything you need to be prepared for purchasing your dream dress and having a stress-free wedding day!
1. A year from your wedding date
The first item on your wedding agenda should be setting your budget.
A budget allows you to see how much money you can spend on each item. This means planning out costs associated with your dress, the guest list, meals, entertainment, and venue. When calculating the dress portion of your budget, do not forget to include or leave room for accessories, shoes, jewelry, taxes, multiple alterations, and shipping costs if needed.
Once you set your budget, you can begin to think about the theme and style of your wedding which will influence your dress choices. For example, if you are planning a boho wedding, a glamorous princess-style gown will look out of place.
While it isn’t necessary to have an exact dress in mind, it is a good idea to have a general idea of what you are looking for. Look at Pinterest, bridal magazines, celebrity weddings, and dress designer websites for inspiration.
When looking for inspiration, try to keep an open mind. Your bridal consultant may have some suggestions that you didn’t expect. Trust their experience and trust the process. At the very least, try on the dress! You may be pleasantly surprised.
Book your appointment
Typically, we recommend booking your appointment 10 to 12 months before your wedding. But, COVID-19 has lead to occasional shipping delays and other obstacles so you might consider booking even earlier.
The last thing you need to stress over is a wedding dress that has yet to arrive, so give yourself plenty of time for shipping and alterations. Call the bridal boutique you are considering to find out what types of delays they have been experiencing.
Unless you fit into the store sample sizes, your dress will be specially ordered for you. Once it arrives at the boutique, which can take anywhere from four to nine months, you will need to book an appointment for alterations. Most bridal salons have an in-house tailor that will help or they will be able to suggest a tailor to you.
A custom-designed wedding gown
Having a custom wedding gown can be a dream come true. But a custom gown requires a very specific vision and a lot of patience.
If you choose a custom design, know that it will take longer to get your gown so do not panic. Trust the designer and you will get the payoff you are looking for.
Choose your entourage
Your shopping companions can either make the shopping experience more enjoyable or add to the stress. Avoid making things more complicated by inviting only friends, family, and bridal party members that are honest but supportive.
Again, COVID-19 might mess with your plans. Call ahead and ask the bridal boutique what safety measures they are taking and whether or not they are limiting the number of people that can attend the appointment.
If numbers are limited to you and one other person, consider inviting the rest of the entourage to join you virtually. Collecting different opinions can be valuable so don’t give up on gathering them just because you can’t meet in person! Depending on the distancing measures in place where you live, consider hosting an outdoor brunch or cocktail party with those that were unable to attend the appointment. There are many ways you can still enjoy and celebrate this experience with your entourage!
2. Eight to ten months from your wedding date
If you haven’t purchased your dress yet, you should be doing so at this time. Once you order the gown, you are responsible for the deposit, which is typically over half the full dress price. If for some reason, you require a rush order, you may have to pay additional rush fees.
Now the waiting period begins. Once the dress arrives, you can make arrangements for alterations to the dress.
Remember, order the size for the body you have. Even if you plan to do lose weight or tone up, your wedding gown should be chosen for the way you look now. Dresses can always be taken in to accommodate moderate weight loss. But, when you order a smaller size, you risk not having a proper fit on your special day. Letting out a dress is much more difficult than taking one in.
3. Five to six months from your wedding date
Now is the time to start thinking about what you are going to wear with your wedding dress.
If you are planning to borrow some jewelry from a friend or family member, start trying these items on. Working your way through these smaller planning tasks will help you feel calm and organized as the day approaches.
Choose your undergarments
You are going to want to wear undergarments that suit the style of dress you have chosen.
Dark colors or patterned embellishments may be visible through the dress and serve a distraction. You will want undergarments that fit comfortably and do not produce visible lines. This is especially important when selecting a bra if needed.
If you are wearing a wedding gown that requires a strapless bra, try a variety and wear them for extended periods. Find one that is most comfortable and flattering. Avoid anything that tends to fold or roll, and anything too tight across your back. Remember, you want to be comfortable when walking down the aisle, eating, visiting, and dancing!
Your wedding dress is a significant investment and your undergarments should not get in the way of your picture-perfect beauty.
Find a pair of shoes
Perhaps you want to add a pop of bright color to your look or rock a pair of sky-high heels. Maybe your style is a little more casual and you’re thinking a kitten heel, wedge, or fancy flat.
Whatever shoe you choose, wear them before your wedding so you know that you won’t be in excruciating pain all day long. If you simply cannot pass for the stylish or cute heel, have a more comfortable pair on hand to slip into after the pictures are taken!
Select your jewelry and hair accessories
Do you want to wear a veil? Does your dress need a jeweled belt? These things should be decided around this time.
Have these items ready to try on with your dress when it arrives at the boutique. If you are not entirely sure what will work with your dress style, have the bridal consultants lend a hand. Most bridal shops have a variety of options on hand to try with your dress.
Once you have determined your hair accessories, you can decide on your other jewelry or vice versa.
Remember to consider the style of your wedding, the neckline of your gown, and the hairstyle you will choose for your wedding when choosing your accessories.
4. Three to four months from your wedding date
At this time, you will want to book your first wedding gown fitting.
For your gown fitting appointments, you will want to ensure that you bring your undergarments and shoes with you. This is important so that the tailor will see what length your gown should be and you can determine if your undergarments are appropriate for your dress choice.
At the first fitting, you may decide that you want to alter the look of your gown. Adding sleeves or changing the neckline are items that are frequently requested by brides at this first fitting.
You will want to find out what your bridal salon charges for alterations, as some may charge for each individual alteration. If you need major alterations, you can expect a hefty price tag due to the delicate nature of the fabrics. Simple alterations (such as a hem alternation) may cost $200-300.
If you have yet to choose your shoes, bring some shoes of similar height you plan to wear so that your gown is hemmed or let out to the correct length.
5. Six weeks to two months from your wedding date
At this point, your wedding is close enough for your second dress fitting.
The second dress fitting is to ensure that your dress fits like a glove. You will want to sit down in your gown, lift your arms over your head, and generally move around to get an idea of how it will move. You want to also look for any pulls, bunching, or areas that do not sit correctly on your body.
It is very important to be honest with your tailor about how you feel in your gown. Remember that you will be performing a variety of different activities during your wedding day. You want to be as comfortable sitting and eating as you are dancing and welcoming your guests.
6.One month before your wedding
Your wedding day will be here before you know it, and following this timeline has left you with only a few final items to cross off your checklist.
Book your final fitting
This fitting is designed for you to see how your gown is going to look on your wedding day. You will not need an entourage for this trip to the tailor, but consider bringing one special person to share the moment with you. It can be a profound experience!
Pick up your dress
Once your fittings are complete, your dress will be ready to be picked up. Store your dress in a safe spot, away from pets, children, and any other dangers, so that there are no surprises on the day of your wedding.
7. The day before your wedding
This is the best day to gather all of the things you will need for your wedding day. Pack a bag with some essentials: deodorant, lipstick or gloss for touch-ups, bobby pins, hair spray, mouthwash, bandages, and kleenex, and on the day, give these items to a trusted friend or your maid of honor for safekeeping.
You will want to gather your jewelry, shoes, and accessories to be brought wherever you are getting dressed.
You may want to borrow or buy a steamer to ensure that your dress is free of wrinkles.
An evolving timeline
Rarely does life go perfectly according to plan and because of this, you need to be a little bit flexible with your timeline. Give yourself as much room as you can!
Using the above guide to create a timeline can help move your preparations forward and help create a smooth wedding planning process.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may find your timelines need to be especially flexible. Remember, you are not alone. Whether you are looking for couture wedding gowns in Chicago or visiting all the best bridal shops in Las Vegas, you will find compassionate and supportive consultants that can help you navigate these particularly complicated times. Do not be afraid to call and ask questions or seek clarifications.
At Viero Bridal, we understand how important it is to find the right dress. We have flagship stores in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, and New York full of stunning designer gowns at affordable prices. View our collections online and when you are ready, reach out to book an appointment. We are standing by and ready to help you find the perfect gown, for your perfect day!