Monday, June 25, 2012

Wedding Dress Shopping (My Tips)

After three days of non-stop shopping, I finally found the dress I'll wear to our wedding!

The shopping could have gone on forever, but I felt certain I had found the dress I'd been envisioning. Plus, I wanted to find the dress in Austin, so that I'd be with my mom for the whole experience. I'll talk about my experience, and then give my advice for future brides to-be.

I started out with a Friday afternoon appointment, and thought I had found the dress with the second dress I tried on. I was emotional and a little teary when they added a veil. So sure was I that this was "the one" that I brought my Aunt Lisa (who came in from San Angelo for dress shopping) and maid of honor, Corley (who is in town from NYC) back to look at it the next morning. Lisa loved it, and Corley and I both started crying. I didn't think I would get so emotional, but seeing this dress, I felt like it was exactly how I had dreamed it would be as a little girl, only now, I knew who I would be walking down the aisle to meet. I was tempted not to go anywhere else, but I'm so glad I did because that wasn't my dress!

At my second appointment on Saturday morning, I already knew the shapes that looked good on me, so my consultant pulled many gowns with that silhouette. She worked at Kleinfeld before moving to Austin, and she even appeared on Say Yes to the Dress (all of the people from that show came to her wedding this past October). I felt I was in really good hands. She put this dress on me, and we both had this "wow" moment. It was everything I wanted: Beautiful, Elegant, Simple, and most of all, I just felt like myself. I was wearing the dress; the dress wasn't wearing me. My mom and Aunt agreed: this dress topped the first, and the photos we took showed it too. When we took it off, I looked at the price tag and cringed. The dress was topping my price range, and I knew it was more than we could spend prior to alterations. The consultant talked to the manager and worked out a 15% discount, and she even gave me 2 weeks to think about it.

Still, it was on to appointment number three. My Aunt picked out a beautiful ballgown, and the three of us had so much fun taking pictures of me in it. Though I loved it, and it was so fun to have on, and send my bridal party pictures of, the more I thought about it, the more it just didn't match up with the venue, the wedding I had in mind, or my picture of myself on the wedding day. I took two nights to sleep on it, and then went back to the 1st and 2nd store today (Monday). At each store, I tried on about 15 more dresses, and I ended with the dress I really felt was "the one" from that second store. Once my mom saw it again, she said, "Yeah, you were right!" I followed my instinct, and it had led me back to that dress. One thing I loved about it so much is I knew it was EXACTLY what Brendan would pick if he could. Brendan's mom cried at the grocery store when I texted her the picture.

So, I had my measurements taken, ordered my dress, and the consultant brought out champagne for my mom and I to celebrate! I texted pictures to Brendan's mom and my bridesmaids, but promised myself I wouldn't leak it to anyone else, and I'm even deleting the pictures so that Brendan won't accidentally see them when I'm scrolling through my iphone albums to show him something else.

Hopefully, my bridal party will "burn after viewing" too.

Here are the tips I have for future brides to be about wedding dress shopping:

1.) Don't bring too many people. The more opinions you have, the harder it is to find your own vision. I think bringing 1 or 2 people is ideal. 

2.) Share the experience with people who can't be there via photos. I was able to include my future mother-in-law and my bridal party by sending them some pictures, which was really fun. 

3.) But limit your sharing. I deleted all my photos. It would be too easy for me to constantly want to show people, and then, there would be no one left at the wedding (except Brendan) that hadn't seen! I think it could be really easy to over share in the excitement of the moment and then regret it later! 

4.) Think Budget. Prior to dress shopping, calculate your budget, making sure to account for alterations, which run (average) between $400-$600. Knowing what alterations will cost, make sure to tell your consultant what you can spend on just the dress. Remember to factor in: you'll need a veil and shoes too, plus the right under garments. 

5.) Ask for a discount. It never hurts to ask for what you want. Consultants can often offer a discount. I saved 15% just for asking! Also, truck shows, bridal shows, and sample sales offer excellent opportunities to find a discount!

6.) Don't worry too much about bringing pictures. Pictures are not a huge help. All dresses look great on a model, but you really need to try dresses on your body.  The first appointment is all about finding the shape that works for you and learning some of the vocabulary related to the silhouette, fabric types, detailing, etc. Having that vocabulary will help you explain what you have in mind at future appointments.

7.) Sleep on it! The dress is a big decision, and once you order it, there is no going back! Take time to really think about what you want. I changed my mind a couple of times over the course of a couple of days. 

8.) Don't over think it though. I think the last thing anyone wants is to try on every dress in the city (unless you just love shopping that much). Once you find one that nothing else is topping, it really tells you that is "the one."

9.) Be prepared-bridal sizes are incredibly different than other clothes. My wedding dress size is much bigger than my normal" size. Also, they want you to order based on measurements, but they add a little to your measurements. Why? Because taking a dress in is easier and less expensive than adding room to a gown.

10.) Think Timing.  For some gowns, it takes up to 6 months for the gown to come in (and that estimate can be slowed down during the holidays). Then, you really need at least 2 months to do alterations. Order at least 8 months in advance, or plan to buy a sample gown "as is" to ensure you have it in time. If you are an out of town bride like me, you may want to order even further in advance because it might take you awhile to be able to schedule your alterations appointment. I have one year, 1 week, and 2 days, how's that for advanced?

11.) Bring to your appointment: A good strapless bra, and shoes that are about the height you'll wear on the day of the wedding. Do your hair the way you envision it, or at least an approximation of what your hairstylist will do for you. Wear the jewelry you see yourself wearing on the day. For me, it was my pearl necklace and matching earrings. Don't eat too much beforehand, but also, don't starve yourself because you want to feel comfortable. 

12.) Research where to shop. Read all the reviews you can. In Austin, TX, I recommend Alexia Gavela and Serendipity. In my opinion, Belle Saison, is less than ideal. Those are the only 3 places I went.

 Okay, that's my story and all my tips!

Happy dress hunting!
<3 S (and B, L&Z send love too from Austin!)


  1. Such good advice! I'd even add, based on your experience and mine, to be willing to try dresses you wouldn't expect! I love that you thought you had IT, but were surprised otherwise! My dress wound up being one that I'd hated when I saw it in a magazine. It was out of my budget, too! My mom begged me to try it, and I did it to appease her! After it was on, it was.... fate. I was so surprised!

  2. Very true Sadie,

    I would agree that my dress was nothing "special" on the hanger. My consultant picked it out, but once I put it on, I loved it and it seemed like the very best one!

    Thanks for reading.

  3. It really pays to do some research first before going into action. Especially, when picking a wedding dress, the bride should have, at least the basic knowledge, of the different kinds of dresses. The bride should look up different magazines for here to be able to get a grasp of what her taste is in a dress. By the way, congratulations on your dress and on your wedding day! :)

    Danny Riddell


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