Thursday, October 9, 2014

Wedding Dress Shopping: Tips for a Successful (And Enjoyable) Experience, My Story, & The Dress I Almost Purchased

Wedding dress shopping is the part of wedding planning that probably 99% of brides look the most forward. While it is fun and exciting to try on gorgeous dresses, it can also be stressful and confusing. I was fortunate and had a great experience when shopping for my dress (more on that to come.) Since picking my dress, I have thought a lot about what made the trip fun. Here are a few tips that I think make the dress shopping experience better. Some of the tips were passed on to me while others are things I wish I knew. 

1. Go Early
Josh and I had a year to plan our wedding. I remember my mom and I kept saying "we have plenty of time" when talking about shopping for my dress. Little did we know that was not true. Most stores only keep a sample of each dress design on site. They then order a customer's specific selection after they have made the sale. It can take anywhere from 6-8 months to get your dress from the specific company or designer. While there are ways to expedite the turnaround time (IE pay more money), I suggest going shopping for your dress as soon as possible. I ordered my dress roughly 8 months from our wedding day, and it got to McAllen the day before my final dress fitting! EEK! Talk about cutting it close. Moral of the story: go shopping right away!

2. Shop With A Small Group (the less people the better)
I love the show "Say Yes to the Dress" but I cringe every time a bride shows up with an entourage. As with anything, the more people you have involved the more opinions you will get. Picking your dress should be about what YOU want. I suggest taking only one to two people max. Make sure that person is someone that will be honest with you and wants what is best for you. For me, that was my Mommasita. I knew she would want me to look like a Rock Star on Josh and my wedding day. She told me the truth when something wasn't quite right, and she also made me feel calm and comfortable. With a big crowd, too many personalities can end up taking away from the Bride's day. 

3. Set Your Dress Budget Before Going Shopping
This is one I got from Randy from "SYTTD" but he is so right. Know your budget before you go into the store. Then when you are there, DO NOT try on anything that is outside of your budget. Even if you have a small budget, there are thousands of beautiful dresses at every price point. You will find something you love that doesn't break the bank. By trying on a dress "just for fun" that is out of your price range, you risk setting yourself up for disappointment. You might fall in love with it and then nothing else will compare. 

4. Be Open Minded
Before going shopping I swore that I would NOT try on a ball gown. I did not want it. Don't make me. Foot stomp. Hmph!!! Then my mom found a ball gown that had a removable skirt. I LOVED it and it was almost THE dress. Even though, I didn't pick it, I am so glad my mom encouraged me to be open minded to all styles. What you pictured in your head, might end up being completely different than what wows you when you have it on. 

5. Pick A Dress
This might sound like a duh statement, but it is the most important tip. Americans have the luxury of tons of choices for everything in life, but with too many options, it makes it harder to make a decision. There are THOUSANDS of dresses out there, and it is easy to think "maybe I should keep looking. I haven't seen everything just yet." Well, that is because you won't. It is impossible to see all the dress options that are out there. There are just too many. When you find a dress you love, pick it, stick with it, and stop looking. That initial reaction to loving a dress is your subconscious telling you this is it! Just say yes! 

I used some of these tips when shopping for my own dress and wish I had used the others. But all in all, I had the best experience. Here is my story:

A month after Josh proposed, I flew down to Texas to go to my cousin's wedding. On a whim, my Mommasita and I decided to go try on a few dresses at the bridal store near our house.

My mom had sent me a picture of one dress in particular that she had seen at the store. It was a ball gown that had a removable skirt. I DID NOT want a ball gown, but I tried it on anyway. I loved it. I tried on about 7 more dresses, and then we went home for happy hour.

I did not come back to Texas again until Christmas. I had yet to look anywhere else because I wanted my Momma with me. While I was home for the holiday break, we made three bridal gown appointments: one for the same store from the summer and then two in San Antonio.

Our appointment at the McAllen store was on New Year's Eve. I tried on the two piece dress from the summer first. I had been pretty sure it was going to be the dress, but this time when I tried it on I realized I didn't love the dress. I just loved that it was a two piece (perfect for getting crunk on the dance floor). We moved on. I tried on about 5 more dresses before trying on another one from the summer. Right away my mom went "this is it" and I knew she was right. Not only did the sample fit perfectly (which is rare), but it was lightweight, beautiful, and the style fit the theme of the church and our venue. I did some dance moves to make sure it fit my "getting crunk" criteria, and I could dance easily. It was perfect!

We added the veil, and there was no going back. This was the dress! I called my dad while still wearing the dress and veil to tell him the great news. We canceled our two appointments in San Antonio and made the purchase. It was such a special day for my Momma and me, and I was so thankful to have her with me. 

Flash forward 7 months later, my dress finally arrived (see what I mean on going shopping asap). I wanted my bridal fitting to be intimate as well and only brought along my Daddy, Linda, and my Momma. That day will always be one of my favorite memories! 

At my fitting we discovered that my dress also came with a little bolero jacket. It was no where to be seen when I first purchased the dress, but I ended up loving it and wore it during the reception.
Dress Fitting with Daddy & Linda
Momma and Me
Bridal Portrait w/ Bolero and Veil 
Bridal Portrait w/out Bolero

Here is the dress I almost picked. I still love it, but I could not be happier with my decision. The dress that became mine was beyond perfect. Plus when I showed Josh this one (after the wedding) he was also very happy with my decision. I am happy my Momma got a picture of me in it though because it is fun to relive the shopping experience. 
An additional tip: if the store lets you, take pictures of yourself in the dresses. It can help you make your decision when seeing how it photographs. I didn't want my Mom to take pictures of me in any of the dresses at first (I was being a brat), but I am so glad she did! (You were right Mommasita)

What tips do you have for someone going wedding dress shopping?

Did you have a good experience?


  1. oh wow, your dress is gorgeous and i especially love the veil

    1. Thank you Sienna! I loved them both so much. I feel like I might not ever get them heirloomed and just play dress up every now and then so I can wear it again ;) haha! Just kidding...kinda.

  2. while I like the runner-up (it looked amazing on you, but I'm not surprised!), I loooooove the dress you chose! I really do think the two-in-one style is awesome, though!

    1. Thank you Mary! I really love the one I picked too. I honestly want to play dress up in it soon. But yes, the two in one was perfect for dancing all night long :)

  3. Your tip about being open minded is incredibly true! I've seen it several times where a bride wants a certain, specific dress but walks out of the store with the complete opposite design or style. As you mentioned, certain dresses look completely different on! This mentality could lead you to "the one" sooner rather than later! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you Caryl Anne!!! My mom is the reason I had that mentality and I am so thankful she was with me!