I spent last weekend in Arizona with my family, which is always so much fun! This trip was a little different though – we had a very important task to tackle. My sister needed to find a wedding dress! Okay, she didn’t NEED to say yes to the dress that very weekend, but since it’s rare that us gals (me, my mom and sister) are all together, we definitely wanted to go dress shopping.
She had made two appointments, one at Brilliant Bridal East Valley and one at Luv Bridal in downtown Phoenix. The last time we were all together (Labor Day weekend 2017) we went to a shop and she tried a few things on, just to get a sense of shapes and styles she likes. So, going into it she had a general sense of what she wanted. Armed with a mimosa she picked out several dresses to try on, and we were off!
Ultimately at the first appointment she ended up with two dresses she really loved – very different styles. She was having a hard enough time deciding between the two dresses when she learned that you’re unable to place a hold on dresses on the weekends. Brilliant Bridal is a shop that sells overstock designer dresses, so you’re actually purchasing off the rack. That’s when panic set in. She ended up choosing her favorite of the two, but she wasn’t quite ready to commit to that dress before seeing what else was out there. She didn’t want to lose the dress either. What’s a girl to do?
Talyn and the team at Brilliant Bridal were so wonderful, and they really helped put it into perspective. They asked if she would be devastated if she were to walk out the door and the dress sold to someone else, or if she would be okay with continuing her search. They told her not to make a decision from a place of fear or panic. When you say yes to the dress it should be because you feel calm, 100% confident and happy. It should feel right! They told her, more or less, to take a deep breath and just walk out of the shop as if we were leaving. If gut instinct told her to turn around and buy the dress, go for it! But if she felt okay walking out the door and taking a moment to regroup, do that instead. We could always turn right around and head back to the shop.
We decided to take the breather, and it made a world of difference. We headed downtown for lunch and a libation at Mother Bunch Brewing, and then made our way to the second appointment. At first glance so many of the dresses had the exact look Kristin was going for. We weaved our way through the racks and found a lot of great options for her to try on.
She tried on dress after dress, and while she liked several of them, she didn’t LOVE any of them. None of the dresses gave her the glow that THE dress did. When we asked her if she liked dresses as she tried them on, more often than not we got a halfhearted “yeah…?”. A couple of hours into the appointment she asked us to see photos of herself in the other dress. That’s when she decided to call it quits at stop number two.
After giving them a call we learned the dress was still available, so we booked it back to Brilliant Bridal. She put the dress back on, and when she came out of the dressing room all three of us were in tears. It was THE dress, after all. She said yes to the dress!
Dress shopping is so much fun, but it can also be a little stressful! Here are some tips to keep in mind as you begin your search.
BE OPEN MINDED
When you begin your dress search, chances are you’ve never tried on a wedding gown before. You may have an idea of what you want, but until you actually start trying dresses on you have no idea what looks best on your body, or what gives you all the beautiful bridal feels. Keep an open mind! Try on styles you had in mind but pull a few that may surprise you or grabbed your attention, and let your consultant add some as well. Maybe you thought you wanted a princess style dress but you actually love the way a fit and flare hugs your curves, or vice versa. There’s no harm in trying it on!
There’s a little thing I like to call “sash magic”. A sash or belt can make a dress look entirely different and can really complete the look! If you’re into a particular dress but feel it’s missing a little something, try it with a sash. Also feel free to try on your dress with accessories like hair pieces, veils or jewelry. It will help you to envision a complete look!
EXPRESS YO SELF
As Kristin was deciding between her two favorite dresses at stop number one, which were quite different, we heard a game changing statement. “A wedding dress is the most self-expressive dress you’ll ever wear”. At least I think that’s how she phrased it. So true! You should feel like yourself in your dress. Perhaps a fancier, more elegant, princessy, (maybe) white-clad version of yourself, but it should still feel like you. Whether it’s timeless and classic, sparkly, boho, romantic or a little sexy, let your personality shine through in whichever gown you choose. Don’t feel forced to choose something just because you think that’s what a bride ‘should’ wear or it’s how you ‘should’ look.
CONSIDER YOUR VENUE
While this isn’t the most important thing, do take into account where you’re getting married so your bridal look is cohesive with the locale. While Kristin’s wedding plans aren’t entirely nailed down after all, we do know that at least the ceremony will take place in Yosemite. Kristin wanted something that not only represented her personality but would be elegant in nature.
Give some thought to who you want to join you for dress shopping, and don’t feel obligated to invite every single one of your friends. We kept it small for Kristin’s dress shopping experience, which was perfect. If the process is intimidating as is, it can be even more difficult if you have a lot of opinions coming at you.
DON’T LISTEN TO THE OTHER BRIDES
We heard bride after bride at both appointments say yes to the dress in front of their posse – that cliché moment we’re all waiting for. If you’re not finding what you’re looking for or you’re having a hard time making a decision that can be a little frustrating to hear. Tune it out! Every bride is different. Never feel like you need to move forward with a dress because everyone else seems to have found theirs. Let’s face it, how often do you get to try on fabulous gown after fabulous gown? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking your time. Don’t feel pressured to make an impulse decision.
TAKING A BREAK BEFORE YES TO THE DRESS
When the tears become tears of panic rather than tears of joy and excitement, that’s your cue to take a break. You may think you’ve found the dress but you’re not 100% sure. There are a LOT of dresses out there, and it can feel overwhelming trying to find THE perfect one. I get it! If you make the decision from a place of panic, you may always regret it because you’ll wonder what else was out there and whether you made the right decision. We left the first shop, relaxed over lunch and went to the next appointment, and Kristin was so glad she did that. She was really excited about the second shop from the beginning and was so happy she followed through to look at their options. It also just affirmed the fact that she’d already found her dress!
A LITTLE PRIVACY GOES A LONG WAY
At the first shop we had a lovely little vignette of our own, so we could chat with Kristin about the dresses as she tried them on. Yes, there was another party at a spot nearby, but we still felt like we had privacy. At the second shop, while it was gorgeous, there was a stage with six pedestals facing the entire shop, and a small cluster of seating in front of each pedestal. There was no more than two feet between you and the next bride when showing off the goods. While she ended up simply loving another dress, it probably didn’t help that there was a lack of privacy. It was difficult to have conversations about the dresses and hear her feedback. When you’re narrowing down options where you’d like to shop, consider ambiance and privacy – they make a difference.
WHEN YOU KNOW, YOU KNOW
When you find the right dress, you’ll know (much like finding your soon-to-be spouse!). It’s a gut feeling. You’ll feel beautiful, amazing, comfortable and confident. If you keep thinking about a dress while trying others on, or if you never want to take it off, that’s your dress. While I urge brides to take their time rather than make a decision they’re uncomfortable with, I also urge you to say yes when you know it’s the one! It’s okay to say yes to the dress.
A FEW LAST THINGS
- If you have a budget, be honest about it with your consultant. Unless you truly have wiggle room don’t bother trying on dresses that are totally out of range. Chances are you’ll fall in love with something you can’t have. And that’s no fun.
- Don’t be intimidated by sizes – wedding gowns are sized differently, and you’ll wear a bigger size than you’re used to. It’s only a number! Size up rather than size down. You can always have a dress taken in, but it’s a hell of a time trying to let a dress out.
- If the shop doesn’t have an in-house seamstress, get their recommendations on professionals they work with often and trust.
- I think every bride asks her fiancé which style of dress they like before shopping. And even if your fiancé has an opinion, I think we can agree that your fiancé’s ultimate goal is for you to choose something YOU love, to have the best day ever, and to get married! Choose for you instead of anyone else.
- Start your search about nine months in advance, especially if you tend to be indecisive. If you’re ordering a gown that will be made for you it will take several months before it even arrives at the store, and you need to consider the time you’ll need for alterations.
- Check out off the rack options! This was my first experience doing this, and it was pretty awesome. Great designer dresses that may be overstocked or last season, yet brand new, at a much friendlier price point.
- If you like certain elements of dresses but you’re just not finding it in a composed dress, create your own look. Don’t be afraid to try bridal separates, piecing a skirt with a top for the perfect look.
Know that every bride is different, and there’s no right or wrong way to shop. When I was shopping for my own dress, I went to one boutique and chose one of the first dresses I tried on (hey, I like fast, executive decisions). Kristin needed to see what else was out there before committing, and I know plenty of other brides who went to a dozen shops and tried on close to a hundred dresses. Exercise intuition in this process – enjoy it, and trust yourself.
[Here’s a photo of the happy bride after finding her dream dress!]
Do you have any other advice for brides going dress shopping for the first time? Please share your tips in the comments below!