Most little girls dream of their wedding day. They imagine the flowers, rings and of course their white dress with lace and frills, train and veil. Well, not me. I guess somewhere between playing in the mud and fishing in the pond I forgot to daydream about it. So, when I went wedding dress shopping I had no clue what I was looking for or how the process worked. Here is a bit of what I learned.
When to Shop
Start shopping for your dress as soon as possible. You may find your dress at your very first appointment or you may need to go to several places. Be sure to leave time for both scenarios. Depending on the designer/brand, your dress can take several months to come in. So I suggest shopping at least 6+ months out so you don’t limit your options. Alterations can take months too depending on what needs to be done. The dress is a great item to mark off your to do list early. However, don’t panic if you’re running short on time, just be sure to tell your consultant exactly what your timeline is.
Also, avoid shopping on the weekends if at all possible. You will get more attention and time from your bridal consultant if the store isn’t crowded. With fewer brides in the store most, if not all, the dresses will be out so you don’t miss anything. You will also have more privacy. I’m telling you ladies, those bridal salons can get crazy…it’s really hard to concentrate, trust me.
Where to Shop
The Reading Bridal District in Cincinnati is the place to go if you want lots of options in a condensed area. There are 44 different wedding related businesses within a two mile radius. My sister and I found our dresses at Bridal and Formal in the Reading Bridal District. Their bridal consultants are fantastic and they have a huge selection of dresses. If you would prefer a more local option just be sure to check their website and call ahead be sure they carry the brands and styles of interest to you.
If you are looking for a non-traditional shopping option, consider:
- Most bridal stores will have dresses that can be purchased at a discount “off the rack”, meaning they are sample dresses that you can take home that day. This is perfect if you are on a tight timeline and are near the sample size. Keep in mind, these dresses are usually stretched, a bit damaged and in need of a good cleaning, but totally usable!
- Meant To Be Boutique in Lexington, KY is a great option if you are looking for an upscale bridal consignment and sample dress shoppe. Their inventory is constantly changing so you can see their selection on their Pinterest page before making your appointment.
- J.Crew and BHLDN have some more affordable options alongside their higher end dresses.
- Tradesy and OnceWed are online marketplaces where you can purchase a gently used dress directly from the bride who wore it. Nearly Newlywed is similar; offering new, sample, used and preowned designer wedding dresses.
- Wedding dress rentals are a growing trend. A New York TImes article titled “The Dress Is Temporary, the Memories Forever” discusses several different companies in the industry including Borrowing Magnolia and Rent the Runway.
- You can go for a non-traditional dress to save money too. Try a short dress, non-traditional fabric or even a color other than white or ivory.
How to Shop
Have fun! Don’t stress!
- Wear flesh tone undergarments. You don’t want to be distracted by your leopard print skivvies showing through your beautiful dress! And even though you may not actually wear a strapless bra under your dress on the big day, wear it to your appointment so that your bra straps aren’t distracting from the look of your dress.
- Be clear about your budget. Is your limit just a suggestion or do you want to be strict? Does your dress budget include the cost of alterations and shipping? Don’t forget your accessories!
- Share information and images about your wedding with your bridal consultant so she/he can get a feel for your style. It is helpful to bring in images of dresses you like. But, be sure to keep an open mind.
- Ask for photos to be taken of you in dresses you are seriously considering. Sometimes dresses don’t photograph how they appear in person. (Disclaimer: Some bridal salons don’t allow pictures so be sure to ask first.)
- Try to articulate what you do and don’t like about dresses as you try them on. This helps guide your consultant to exactly what you want.
- Keep your entourage to a minimum. I know it’s hard not to include everyone, but the more people you bring, the more opinions you have and really the only opinion that matters is yours!
There is a dress out there for you no matter your size, budget or style. Be patient and have fun!