Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Wedding Gown Shopping: Tips to Keep You Sane Your first Time Out

You have gone through every issue of Brides, Modern Bride, and Elegant Bride published since you started dating your fiance.  You have clipped out between 2 and 50 pics of gowns you love. You have wrangled your girlfriends together and are on a mission to try on each and every one, possibly twice, before deciding which gown is perfect.  This is the custom.  And this often leads to frustration and sometimes tears.  Here are a couple things to keep in mind when shopping for your wedding gown.

Atelier Aimee

1) You may not find the dress in the picture.  And if you do, it may be shockingly expensive. This may be true especially if you live in a less populated area.  Instead of getting your heart set on a particular dress by a particular designer, try to disect what it is you love about that particular dress. Is it the shape, the bodice, the lace detail? Are you drawn to embroidery, beading, or a particular neckline?  Figuring out the elements you are drawn to will help your consultant find alternatives that may turn out the be "the one".

2) Do not get discouraged if the samples don't fit.  Samples usually come in a size 8 or 10.  The average woman is a size 14.  And wedding gowns run small (if you are a size 8, you may need a size 10 or even 12 wedding gown).  I am convinced it is a cruel industry joke. But even if it doesn't zip up all the way, you can usually get a pretty good idea of what the dress will look like.  You'll get an idea of the neckline and how it frames your face, if the waist is flattering or not, whether or not you like lace, beading, etc.

3) Come in with an open mind.  I know you've been studying gowns.  I know you think you know what you want, and more importantly, what will look the best on you.  Please keep an open mind.  Sometimes we are very, very wrong.  I don't know how many plus size brides were strapless-o-phobic when walking into my shop, insecure about their bodies and thinking the more fabric, the better.  I understand these insecurities.  But once they popped that waist cinching Maggie Sottero on, they were sold. 

4) You may not have the "this is it" moment.  Although we all think we will, it is rare. I'd say only 1-10 brides have the eureka moment the first time they dress shop. Finding the perfect wedding gown is an emotional experience, but it is also a whirlwind. By the time you are done in a shop, you may have tried on 15 different styles (because you walk in thinking you know what you want, but may have been wrong... see #3)  and narrowed it down to the perfect bodice style, neckline, skirt shape, what have you.  Don't feel like you'll never find "the one" just because it doesn't happen the first day.  If you have narrowed it down to the dress shape and style you should look for on the second trip out, you have made tons of progress and will more likely find "the one" on your next excursion because you know what to look for.

5) Do not purchase a gown anticipating to lose weight.  We all want to look our best on our wedding day, and often this means we plan to lose that Christmas ten (or in my case, twenty).  And you go girl!  But don't buy your dress more than a size smaller than what you are when measured.  If you lose more than a size, awesome! Your alterations person can take the dress in.  If you don't, they may not be able to alter it to fit without drastically changing the look of the dress (read a big white panel where beading should be continuous). The number on the dress is a number.  It says nothing about how hot you're going to look (and feel!) in it. When it fits, you're a hottie potatie. When it doesn't, you feel like a sausage.  I speak from experience.
6) Do not bring more than 2 trusted confidants.  The old adage, "the more, the merrier" is simply a load of crap when dress shopping. Be sure to bring people who will be honest with you, and who will be impartial about what you look like in a dress. Think twice about bringing your friend who is also getting married, unless you are sure she won't unintentionally make it about her "when I was dress shopping..." "I found the perfect headpiece (for me)"... you get the idea.

7) Don't be pressured into buying immediately. Sales people do work on commission, so they want you to put your money where your mouth is as soon as you have that "this is it!" moment. If you are sure, (read: you know from trial and error that this dress is perfect, and this is not just an emotional moment) by all means, make a deposit. I always recommend at least two shopping trips. It gives you time to be rational about an emotionally charged purchase. It might seem cool to have an American Flag gown for a July 4 wedding when you're all wrapped in the moment.  But you should sleep on it. Trust me.

8) Bring your own strapless, waist cincher, etc. These undergarments really do help give a good foundation, which in turn makes the dresses look their best when you try them on.  Often you can borrow one from the shop, but would you borrow gym shorts at the gym?  Gross.

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