I had the privilege of getting to attend (and photograph!) a new bride’s wedding dress appointment. She tried on several dresses and looked stunning in all of them! She did end up saying “yes” to the dress, but I won’t be posting any of those photos (in order to keep them from her fiancé’s prying eyes!). The experience reminded me of my days working as a Bridal and Bridesmaid Consultant. Now, this bride’s appointment went very smoothly, but that’s not always the case in my experience in the business. So, I have some tips for when it’s your turn to go dress shopping.
1. Most women go in knowing basically what they want, and most end up choosing the exact opposite.
It’s EXTREMELY common to go in with one type of dress in mind and come out with the opposite. I’m not entirely sure why this happens so frequently. Perhaps we’re drawn to the body type we don’t have. Whatever the reason, I saw this constantly both at the bridal store and when I was working in a theatre costume shop. So, my advice is feel free to go in with ideas you like, but be open to the fact that you may change your mind once you see how that style looks on you. I did the same thing when I went shopping for my dress. I told the consultant I wanted a sheath lace dress that had some sort of lacey straps on it, but I gave her full permission to pick out something completely opposite if I wasn’t loving the style. Sure enough, I didn’t love the style. So, what did I end up with? A poofy, strapless ball gown with not a bit of lace on it! And I loved it!
2. Wear the appropriate undergarments.
Part of my job was measuring brides and bridesmaids for their dresses. I’d ask the woman to undress down to bra and underwear, and then I’d come in to measure. One day, I asked the woman if she was ready, she said she was, and I came in to find her completely naked! I was shocked to say the least. I quickly looked away and told her she needed to put on undergarments before I could proceed.
Now, odds are you wouldn’t get naked, but you should bring undergarments that you feel comfortable in. The consultant will see you in these, so thongs are not the best option. The bra should also be a strapless of sorts so you can see how the dresses are supposed to look. They may also offer you a low-back corset, which is great for trying on dresses.
3. Never, ever, ever order a smaller size because you’re hoping to lose weight before the big day. Just don’t do it.
I cannot tell you how many times people would refuse my recommendation on size because they were planning on losing weight before the wedding (or would suck in as I measured them – they fooled no one). Most of the time, I was able to talk them out of it. The ladies I couldn’t talk out of it always ended up with a dress that was much too small for them. The truth of the matter is that it takes a lot to lose inches off your measurements, but you can always take in a dress. It’s very hard (sometimes impossible) to let it out. I understand people want to lose weight, but if someone orders a dress that ends up being too small, the only thing they’ll succeed in doing is drawing attention to their weight on the big day because the dress will be obviously too tight (if it zips up at all). There’s enough to worry about without worrying about if the dress will fit. So, just order the correct size. If you feel you are in between sizes, it’s usually best to size up (if it’s a corset back, you have a bit more wiggle room). Talk to your consultant. They want to help you look your best, so they’ll be happy to help.
4. Your size may be larger than you expected. That’s okay!
Many bridal/bridesmaid dresses are in European sizes, so it’s about 2 sizes higher than the US size. So, if you are usually a 6, you would be a 10 (the sizes are even numbers: 2,4,6,8…). Many women were furious at me when I told them their suggested size, so I had to explain this several times. My advice? Just cut off the tag. No one will know, and you’ll forget too.
5. Be nice. Yes, it’s your day, but you need to live with these people afterwards!
Yes, being nice goes a long way. Now, sure, you should be nice to your consultant, but that’s not actually where I saw the sparks fly. Where I saw the most heated arguments were between the bride and mother of the bride. One day particularly stands out. A mother of the bride came into the store already close to tears. My co-workers informed me that they had witnessed the bride chewing out her mother the day before because the mother wanted to wear an outfit that the bride didn’t approve of. The mother had come back in to pick one of the frumpy outfits her daughter had demanded she wear. I felt horrible for her, so I took the time to sit her down and have a nice talk with her. I was shocked the treatment she had received all because the woman was trying to look nice. The outfit she had chosen was very lovely, conservative, a muted color, and it even went with the bride’s color choices and what she had originally told the mother that she wanted. I ended up advising her to pick the outfit she (the mother) wanted. I told her that even though it was her daughter’s big day, it was a big day for her too, and she needed to feel beautiful as well. After all, the parents get a lot of attention that day too. She left with the dress she loved and a smile on her face.
The lesson? Don’t drive your mother (or bridesmaids) to therapy. Yes, it is your big day, but pick and choose your battles.
6. “Three’s a crowd.”
Three is actually fine, but the saying is suitable for this next piece of advice. If you’ve ever seen Say Yes To The Dress, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Bringing a small group with you is fine, but I’ve seen girls bring six or more people with them, and that’s a bit much. They always regretted it. In a group atmosphere when people are asked for their opinions, they tend to be more outspoken. This could be because they want their opinion to be heard or simply because the excitement gets the better of them. Regardless of the reason, if you bring a large group, be prepared for a lot of opinions – a lot of conflicting opinions. This is a big decision, and it’s very hard to do with a lot of different voices.
Now, this is also dependent on who you bring. If the people are generally introverted or calm, then you probably won’t have an issue. If you bring people that are loud and opinionated, you probably will have an issue. Basically, pick your company wisely, but less is more.
7. Don’t spend money on the veil unless you want something really fancy.
A veil is just tulle. That fabric is very cheap at fabric stores, and you can just sew it onto a comb (I did this for our wedding, and it only cost me 3 dollars!). If you want to add lace, you can buy those appliqués and sew them on too. This will be a lot less expensive than buying it. Now, if you have something really intricate in mind or something that is more complex to do on your own (piping can be tricky), then you may have no choice but to buy it. If not, make it yourself.
8. Shop well in advance.
Dresses can take 6-8 months to come into the store once ordered. Make sure you have enough time! If you don’t have this time, check the rack or non-bridal stores online.
9. Don’t forget to check the rack.
Many stores have the option to buy off the rack. These are usually sample dresses priced at a great discount. Not only could you save money, but you could also take home the dress that day! Even though I tried on a bunch of dresses that were order-only, my dress was eventually found off the rack, and it cost the same my mother’s dress had cost 30 years prior! Score!
10. Take pictures, and have fun.
This is a once in a lifetime event. Enjoy it. Twirl on the pedestal like a princess. Smile and thank those that compliment you. Soak it in!
You’re going to look gorgeous!
Photos by ShootAnyAngle Wedding Photography.