Finding the perfect wedding dress can be the most stressful part of planning a wedding. The pressure is on to find the fairy tale gown that will cause everyone, including future generations, to ooh and ah. While perfection is hard to attain, here are some tips to help make the process easier.
by Pam George
Consider the venue
Luba Campbell, owner of Anastasia’s Bridal in north Wilmington, says many brides have already booked the wedding and reception sites by the time they go shopping, and the venue can dictate the style. Is it indoor or outdoor? On the grass or on a beach? Not settled on a site? Try on dresses but don’t buy quite yet. It’s easier to match the gown to the venue than it is to match the venue to a dress, says Amy Hauser, co-owner of Jennifer’s in Hockessin.
Make an appointment
Because some shops limit the amount of brides they can serve in an hour, schedule in advance. Daytime hours are typically less crowded, Hauser says, while nights and weekends are busier.
Set a budget
Decide on how much you can spend and call area shops to ask about price ranges. Each salon is different, Hauser explains. “Some are between $1,200 and $6,000 and some specialize in $3,000 and under. It’s important to know how much you’re willing to spend and have plenty of options in that price point.” Share your budget with the consultant. “If their budget is $1,500, it’s not fair to ask them to spend $2,200,” Campbell says. “It’s hard to see someone fall in love with a dress and realize that they can’t afford it. We want to avoid that at all costs.”
Don’t bring a big audience
Because of Anastasia’s size, Campbell requests that brides limit their companions. Even when space is generous, there’s good reason to keep the group small. “It’s so much better for the bride to have less people airing their opinions,” she says. “If you have a crowd, they’re talking to each other and not paying attention. It’s harder to make a decision and you don’t get much accomplished.”
If you do plan to bring a large party, let the salon know in advance to make sure there’s enough room.
Keep an open mind
Not surprisingly, many women have already scoured the Internet and magazines for ideas before they visit the shop. “It’s not a bad idea to get an idea of what you like,” says Campbell, who’s seen customers come in with thick notebooks. Even so, let the consultants offer suggestions, and try on a few different silhouettes. “We often hear, ‘I ended up with a completely different dress than I expected,’” Hauser says.
Think twice about the trends
Worried about what children will think of the dress 30 years from now? “There will always be different looks coming up in the future,” Hauser maintains. “If you get married in 2016, you will look like you got married at that time.”
Admittedly, the chances of looking dated increase if the style is inspired by high fashion. She recommends following your personality. “If you love fashion and want to be on top of all that, go ahead,” she says. “If you’re classic, go classic. Stay true to yourself.”
Focus on the top and the back
Because many guests photograph the bride from the waist up, the neckline should be memorable. (Accessories are also important.) During the ceremony, the back of the dress is the guests’ focus, so it also deserves extra attention. At the reception, trains must look just as elegant when bustled.
Ask about the store’s photo policy
In the past, shops discouraged cameras because customers might take the style to a seamstress and have it copied. More recently, customers use their phones to snap the price tag and style number for comparison-shopping. Given the use of smart phones, it’s hard to police camera-use, and most stores don’t forbid them. But it is polite to ask.
Don’t stress out about sizing
Bridal fashions are generally smaller—up to two sizes—than street clothes, Campbell says. So if you normally wear a size 8, you might need to try on a size 12. “I’ve considered cutting the sizes out so people don’t freak out too much,” she says. The size can also differ depending on the designer, Hauser says.
Remember, all sales are final
Be sure. Walk around the store in the dress. Stand by the window to view the colors in a different light. Finally, picture the wedding. If the dress fits seamlessly into the scene, it’s likely the right choice.