It should be one of the most magical experiences in your life, but, for many, shopping for a wedding dress is far more stressful than ethereal. Here to ease the stress, though, is bridal gown guru Lanie List, founder of Lovely Bride (aka the wedding dress boutique of your dreams). For Lanie, there’s no problem too great or bride too difficult — and she’s here to answer all your questions surrounding the wedding dress shopping process.
I mean, we get it. You’ve barely even shopped for something in a physical store lately, let alone made an appointment to shop. Wedding dress shopping, with its planning and timelines, can be, at best, a mystery and, at worst, highly stressful. Never fear, your wedding dress doula is here! Here are Lanie’s top five tips to help you get better prepared for the shopping that lies ahead.
1. The best time to start dress shopping is about one year before your wedding.
Probably the first thing on your mind after getting your stunning rock is finding an equally stunning dress. However, I encourage newly engaged brides who will not be getting married until a year out (or more) to pause and enjoy their engagement. If you start looking too early, you will allow yourself too much time to second guess your decision. Also, new dresses are released about every six months, during Bridal Markets, so you want to make sure you have the latest options available to you.
2. The best time to buy your dress is six to nine months before your wedding.
When you buy a dress at most bridal shops, that dress is put into work specifically for you (Isn’t that the sweetest!). In addition to the four to six months needed to make the dress, you want to factor in about two weeks for shipping and two to four weeks for alterations. Note: Alterations are almost always necessary to make a gown fit you 100%. It’s also nice to have the dress in your closet and checked off your to-do list at least a month before the wedding since typically there are lots of other last minute details that will be pressing toward the finish line. Per usual, there ARE exceptions to the above and you can get a dress in a shorter timeline, but if you want ALL of the dress options available to you to choose from, six to nine months is a good rule of thumb, with couture or more intricate gowns possibly taking even longer.
3. Almost all salons are by appointment only, so book in advance.
Many brides don’t realize they are getting a VERY specialized service when wedding dress shopping. A stylist is allocated to work with each bride individually, and there is both prep work and follow-up that the stylist does for each bride she works with. It’s really like being pampered! Make sure to find an appointment time where you will be focused and able to soak in the experience, with the intention of finding your dress. Also, because bridal salons are by appointment only, be conscientious of arriving on time to take advantage of the full experience and cancel in advance if you can’t make it. Not ready to have all that attention for an hour or more in a one-on-one appointment? Most salons will allow you to browse before you make an appointment to see if the dresses they carry are right for you. Just call in advance to inquire about the best times to browse.
4. You should spend time getting to know your local bridal salons to determine which ones are right for you.
It’s so easy to make online appointments at bridal shops, but that doesn’t mean you should go to ALL the shops. You would do yourself a major disservice by overwhelming yourself with options (read: paradox of choice), or the discouragement that comes with visiting salons that aren’t right for your aesthetic. The surest way to have a pleasant, low-stress bridal shopping experience is by narrowing down your shopping to a few bridal shops (I recommend three, tops) that carry designers you admire. If you can’t find a dress that is a serious contender at all three shops, you can certainly try more bridal salons. However, if you do find great options, stay loyal and see it through with your chosen bridal shop. They can even offer to show you more gowns from the designers they carry via trunk shows (weekend events when a designers’ entire range is available) or calling in samples from the designer just for you. By partnering with a shop, not only will they bend over backward to find you a great dress, but you’ll build a nice relationship that will give you positive vibes during your wedding planning experience.
5. Bridal shops carry samples, not the actual gown that you will buy.
At most bridal salons, you can expect to try on gowns that are sampled in a size range from 8-12. After you find the one, you are measured by your stylist and a gown is ordered in your size, just for you. Call the salons you are visiting or look on their FAQs page to see what size range they sample, as it can vary by shop. Lovely Bride has just launched an ‘all sizes’ strategy, which means in addition to our current range, we now have over 50 stylish gowns sampled in size 18-24 for our brides. We are stoked to finally offer bohemian, cool designers to all of our brides.
I hope these tips take at least some of the mystery out of how the bridal shopping experience works and when and where to do it. Still stressed about shopping? Lean on your sales stylist at the bridal shop. We can help you tackle any anxieties or insecurities you may have about the entire process. We’ve got this!