We asked Kleinfeld Bridal fashion director Terry Hall what brides should do before they set foot in the salon. “Shopping for your wedding gown is really about the experience. You’re essentially creating a lifetime memorable moment,” Hall said, “and you want to be sure it’s a good one.” Read on to discover the best ways to prepare for your shopping trip.
1. Know your wedding date.
The number of dresses you have to choose from will change depending on how many months are left before the big day. Some designers require four to six or even eight months to make a dress, so if you’re shopping just three months before your wedding, you may not be able to purchase dresses from those designers. “If she knows she has a year before the actual date, then she’s pretty good to look at everyone['s gowns],” Hall says.
2. Determine which styles and designers you like (and don’t like!), but accept that you won’t know what you love until you try it on.
To give your consultant a better idea of what gowns to show you, research which designers speak to your style and which silhouettes represent your own unique fashion sense. It’s also helpful to know the climate and venue you’ll be marrying in, although Hall said brides shouldn’t feel required to match the dress to the venue. “If she wants to wear a ball gown on the beach, she should,” Hall shares.
But many brides ultimately choose a dress that isn’t exactly what they expected, so keep an open mind while you’re shopping. You don’t want to leave the salon not knowing that a mermaid silhouette actually looks stunning on you, or that you love the lacy Claire Pettibone aesthetic.
“Be willing to try something out of the box, if for nothing more than to shift gears or to confirm whether or not you like something you tried on previously,” Hall suggests.
3. Research potential salons online before making an appointment.
Check the salons’ inventory online to see if they carry styles you like, and read reviews of other customers’ experiences. “I would look for a salon that’s warm and inviting,” Hall says. “And one that has a good reputation, and consultants who have been there for a while [and] who are interested in helping you find the dress – not sell the dress.”
4. Decide which of your most supportive friends and family to bring.
“This is a case of less is more,” Hall cautions. Only the loved ones whose opinions you truly value should get an invite. Too many people critiquing your selections only leads to confusion and frustration.
5. Wear the right shoes and undergarments.
It’s not necessary to know exactly which shoes you’ll be wearing on the big day, but it’s crucial to at least bring a shoe with the correct heel height, since that will affect which skirt styles and lengths work best. What you’re wearing underneath the gowns matters, too: undergarments like Spanx or a good strapless bra help you feel more secure and also ensure the dresses will be easy to slip on and off.
6. Factor extras like alterations and accessories into your budget.
Most brides have a good sense of their price range for the gown, but it’s easy to forget that other costs can add up, such as shoes, belts, jewelry, the veil, and, most importantly, alterations. “Regardless of the price of your dress, you want the best alterations possible because great alterations can make an inexpensive dress look like a million bucks and vice versa,” Hall says. Each change you make to your gown, from lowering the neckline to adding a sleeve or a lace scallop, will likely cost you. And if your wedding date is fast approaching, you may need to pay a rush fee in order to get the dress finished on time.
7. Be prepared to voice your opinions to your consultant.
If you don’t like a dress that your consultant brings you, speak up! Don’t worry about hurting her feelings. “The consultant did not design the dress. The consultant only wants the bride to be happy and buy what makes her feel beautiful,” Hall shares. This is the time to be forthcoming and completely honest about what you love.
8. Take the pressure off yourself.
Don’t feel like you need to live up to any expectations of what a bride “should” look like. Your goal is to find a gown that complements your personal style – you don't need to look like a changed person at your wedding. “This day should be no different [than any other day]. It’s just going to be the wedding-gown version of what you already wear,” Hall said. “I think [a bride] needs to look like the bridal version of who she usually looks like.”
Opening photo by Vue Photography