The First Steps to Take When Choosing a Wedding Dress

Bridal stylist Maradee Wahl shares her expert tips on finding the perfect gown.

Maradee discusses a question often pondered by brides almost immediately following their engagement: how to get started finding their dream gown.

Photo: Petula Pea Photography

Last month, bridal stylist Maradee Wahl shared her first Dear Maradee post with Inside Weddings, offering helpful tips for brides desiring more information about bridal market and the timeline of a bridal gown's journey from the runway to the rack at your favorite bridal salon.

This month, she discusses a question often pondered by brides almost immediately following their engagement: how to get started finding their dream gown.

Bride in blush bridal gown wedding dress at wedding ceremony

Photo by KT Merry Photography

Read on to learn more about shopping for your wedding dress in the next Dear Maradee post, below:

Dear Maradee,

I’ve been engaged for a few months and haven’t made any decisions yet, but I know I need to start shopping soon. What do I need to consider in order to plan my perfect bridal gown shopping trip?

What is your advice on how to experience a meaningful and productive day?

Time to Shop Sarah


Dear Sarah,

Congratulations on your engagement! The first thing to do before you shop is to confirm the wedding location and date. Often, brides who buy before the venue is selected find they are no longer in love with their once-perfect gown!

If you have your heart set on a particular place, you may have to bump up your wedding date or plan for a later available day. I don’t recommend making any appointments until this detail is officially finalized. A good guideline is to order your gown six to nine months before the wedding, and add in two months for fittings.

Once you have the backdrop in mind for your perfect day, it’s time to research. Pinterest and Instagram are wonderful resources, but keep in mind they are more of an inspiration board than a bridal shop. Some options may not be available near you, or may no longer be in production by the designer. Be sure to buy a few bridal magazines, as the options shown are current and will often include store locations of where to buy and pricing information.

Next step: set a spending limit! I do believe you can find a beautiful gown at any price, so don’t put pressure on yourself to spend more than you feel is best for you and your family. The gown price range does not have to be indicative of your entire event budget, but the gown and all of the other wardrobe decisions should blend with the overall vibe of the celebration. You have picked your wedding location as the best option for your special day, so what everyone wears should make sense in this context.

One more note on budget: you may have to adjust once you start shopping, as you explore the design and details that you desire (and find out the true cost). If you do fall in love with something perfect at a higher price point, try to reassign money from another element of the wedding, so you don’t feel you have made an uncomfortable splurge!

When you are ready to make appointments (a requirement for most bridal boutiques), plan to visit no more than a few shops in one day, and schedule a break in between for lunch! If you have family or friends joining you, this first visit may be more of an information-gathering day than a time to commit to your perfect gown. You may feel overwhelmed with opinions and different advice, so stepping away for a day or two is usually a good idea.

After your first shopping day, review the pictures and take some time to think about which gowns best represent your style and those you felt most comfortable wearing. You may even find yourself dreaming of one specific gown! When you narrow your choice to the top three or so, make another day of appointments to see the favorites one after another. This time, just take a close friend or family member whose opinion you trust.

One last thought: you may want to consider hiring a bridal stylist to help you streamline the shopping process by providing special access to service and selection. You can also call in a stylist to coordinate the other wardrobe elements, or anytime you need some professional advice. This expert will be your style advocate and a worthwhile addition to your wedding team!

Happy Styling!


Dear Maradee blog post #2 Maradee Wahl bridal stylist