Your Guide to a Wedding Dress Timeline

The right timing to make everything go smoothly.

Finding the perfect dress for your big day is one of the most exciting parts of wedding planning. It’s no ordinary shopping trip – not only will this garment have a lot of sentimental value and be heavily photographed, but it also commonly takes longer to obtain a dress. Anyone who has watched Say Yes to the Dress has seen the concern in a bridal consultant’s face when a bride-to-be says her wedding is only three months away. It can often take at least six months for a gown to come in from a designer! Because of this unique situation, we’ve created a guide to the timing of everything that leads to your wedding dress looking perfect once you walk down the aisle. This is based on the idea of having a year – or longer – engagement, so those with shorter trips to the vow exchange should either start shopping as soon as you say yes to a proposal or focus on sample sales or off-the-rack options. 

top view of bride in wedding dress with tulle train on staircase, timeline for buying wedding dress
Photo by Roey Yohai Studios

- 12+ months. If you have time, it’s best to wait to start shopping until after you have a venue and wedding date selected, as those particular aspects of planning might affect the style of gown you choose. However, it’s always a good idea to start browsing and get a rough idea of what you want. 

- 9 months. If purchasing your wedding dress from a traditional bridal salon, this is really the deadline to order a gown in order to avoid rush fees and have plenty of time for alterations. 

- 3 months. Your dress should arrive around this time, so you should set up your first fitting appointment in order to see what alterations are necessary. Now that you have the gown in your possession, you can start finding accessories and properly compare to make sure they go well together. For example, if you are buying the veil separately, you may want to make sure that both fabrics are the same tone or that the lace complements each piece. In some cases, you might be able to find shoes that prevent you from needing your dress hemmed.

- 2 weeks. As long as there are no emergency last-minute changes, this is when your last fitting should be. Depending on how many alterations were needed, you may have met with your seamstress multiple times as this point, but that depends on the individual dress and scheduling. With two weeks to go, there should no longer be a worry about weight changes or different ideas to alter the dress. 

- Wedding day. Have a steamer on hand to make sure the dress and veil are wrinkle free!

For more advice and inspiration, get ideas for popular bridal shoes, discover dress tips for beach weddings, and read expert advice from bridal stylist Maradee Wahl of Dear Maradee on choosing jewelry to pair with your gown, tips for walking down the aisle, finding the perfect wedding shoes, and the first steps to take when selecting a bridal gown.

Authored by: Emily Lasnier