The ultimate guide on how to choose your dream wedding dress

February 08, 2020

Stunning mermaid wedding gown with beading

Whether you’ve known the exact specifications for your dream wedding dress down to the tiny details or you’ve been avoiding of even thinking about your wedding dress, we have got you covered on how to choose the perfect dress for your big day.


Finding your dream gown can be stressful as it is a daunting task for any bride to be. There is a lot of pressure while wedding dress shopping since it will be one of the centrepieces for your wedding and set the tone for the whole wedding. Also, you do not know where to start since you have no prior experience in shopping for one before. It may also feel like there’s a whole new language to decode, anywhere from A-line to sheath.


Wedding shopping can be overwhelming. However, no matter what your budget, timeline or personal style, these 54 steps wedding dress-shopping guideline are here to help you find the gown of your dreams.


Le Vow Bridal


  1. Do Research to Find What You Like

Magazines, bridal boutiques, Pinterest and celebrity brides, the list are endless to where to find and compile a visual file of your favourite designs. Then, connect the inspiration photos to come up with a common theme. This will help guide you in the direction of what dresses to look for. Bring your ideas to your bridal gown viewing appointments


  1. Be Open

Bridal consultants would advise brides to be to keep an open mind while wedding dress shopping. Many brides will come in with a set idea of the gown that they want, but when trying it on, they don’t actually love. Instead, they will be surprised they end up falling in love with a completely different design they have never considered before. You may never know what is your dream dress once you’ve started trying things on.


  1. Shop True to Your Size

Even if you plan to lose weight before your wedding, it is a good idea to shop for a dress in your current size. It is easier to work with and take the dress in compare to working with something that is too snug when it’s your last minute alterations closer to your wedding date.


  1. Shop Early

The average time for a gown to be made and delivered is four to eight months. But, keep in mind the time you need to factor in for alterations and accessorizing.


  1. But Not Too Early

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If you immediately shop for gowns once you got engaged, but your wedding isn’t until at least a year, you might risk buying one that is out of style by the time your wedding comes around or end up finding one that you like better closer to the date. Find the sweet spot of when is the right time to buy your dress.


  1. Figure Out Your Budget

Numbers is a touchy topic to bring up. But, it will save you from heartaches AND headaches further down the road. Before your first appointment, figure out who is paying for the gown. If someone else is paying as a wedding gift, then it is good to know your budget and stay within in. You can always pay the difference yourself to get the dress that you want if it does not fit within the limit.


  1. Know your Wedding Theme Beforehand

Before you book your first appointment, decide with your partner what wedding theme you are going for. Is it a casual garden party themed wedding? Or is it a formal, romantic affair? Or is it a fun beach theme? Keep the theme in mind when finding your dress to avoid your dress clashing with the overall wedding style.


  1. Plan Non-Obvious Cost Into the Budget

Even if you set your budget for fashion to be $2,000 – you shouldn’t buy a $2,000 gown. There are many other factors to consider such as accessories, tailoring and dry-cleaning your gown after the wedding


  1. Find a Great Bridal Salon

Do your hard research on which shop that carries the dress you like or have great customer service before you start making appointments. You can check online reviews for shops with solid reputations and/or get referrals from married friends.


  1. Call Ahead

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Call/message the boutique ahead of time to avoid the disappointment that they do not have the price range, style or designer that you have in mind.


  1. Make an Appointment

In most bridal stores, the dresses are not layout like retail stores where you can browse on your own. In some cases, they only offer certain dresses online or they offer customised dress. You need to book an appointment so a professional can assist you in selecting a dress and try them on.


  1. Start Inexpensive and Work Your Way Up

Make your appointments with adorable bridal shops first, then work your way up to the bank breaker. You may fall in love with one before then, and you may stay way under the budget that you set for yourself at the start.


  1. Pick Three Adjectives to Describe Your Dream Dress

Wedding dress comes in different colours (white, off white, ivory, etc.). It comes in different styles, too (beautiful, glamorous, romantic, vintage, classic, comfortable, etc.). Choose three specific words to describe your vibe can help narrow down your dress selection. It is a good way to keep everyone on the same page – yourself, your consultant and the group of family and friends who are helping you on your journey of hunting down for THE dress.


  1. Shop on a Weekday

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Bridal boutiques are packed on the weekends. You may get less personal attention from your consultant, or some else might be trying on the dress you love. This way, it makes your bridal dress shopping more overwhelming then it should be. It might be worthwhile to consider taking some personal time from work to book your appointment on a weekday. Some bridal dresses are flexible with appointment times, so you can book in an appointment after work when it’s after hours.


  1. Make Shopping a Whole Day Affair

It’s time-consuming to put one wedding gown on and off, let alone three or four. Leave a few hours so you can take your time browsing, trying on dresses and don’t feel rushed to make a decision.


  1. Choose Your Shopping Crew Wisely

You love your mom, sister, sister in law, maid of honour and six bridesmaids. But it is tough to find consensus on a gown. Narrow the group down to two or three people whose opinions matter most to you.


  1. Bring the Right Undergarments

It can be difficult to see the full effect of a strapless gown when your hot pink bra straps are sticking out, or how a curve-hugging gown would fit once your hips are smooth. Come prepared and wear nude strapless bra and thong, and have your Spanx ready.


  1. Pick Your Silhouette

Your ideal gown’s shape must flatter your body. After all, your wedding dress will be one of the centrepieces of the day. Here is a little tip on the different wedding dress styles out there:

  • Mermaid style shows off curves like your favourite pencil skirt. It is perfect for the bride who wants to look elegant and sexy
  • A voluminous ball gown, also known as a princess dress, adds a dramatic flair. However, this dress should be treated with caution as it can overwhelm a petite frame.
  • A fit and flare look works on many body types, and it is both contemporary and tradition
  • A simple, minimalist sheath silhouette looks best for tall and willowy brides.


  1. Consider Less Traditional Lengths

It’s 2020, and new wedding gown styles are constantly released. Also, there is less pressure to go for a more traditional dress with a cathedral length, especially if you are planning a more beach, rustic or casual wedding. People will more likely to remember your wedding with a gown that screams personality. A quick tip:

  • White mini dress has a rocker chic party vibe
  • Tea-length is fun for a quirky bride.


  1. Pay Attention to Fabric

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Silhouettes contribute to the big picture, but the colour, embellishments and fabrics will bring the whole look together. It’s all in the little details that give your dress the “wow” factor. Unstructured silk and filmy chiffon are less flattering for those brides with curves. We recommend a heavier, more structured material will hold its shape, which will help smooth your figure.


  1. Wear Heels to the Appointments

Some bridal salons have communal high heels for you to borrow. But, come prepared by bringing heels of the same height and similar styles that you think you’ll likely wear for your big day to have a more accurate representation, both in the vibe and the dress measurements.


  1. Bring Dress Photos for Inspiration

Come armed with a photo collage, or a wedding dress inspiration mood board, of the wedding dresses you are searching for. This makes your shopping experiences easier on everyone.


  1. Bring Scene Setting Photos

Include photos of your ceremony and reception site in the photo collage to your appointment. Seeing the venue ambience can help your consultant help you select gowns that fit with your location, bringing the whole wedding theme together.


  1. Believe You Consultant That a Gown Looks Better “On”

Wedding dresses often have heavy details that can make it say on a hanger. The wedding dress can look totally different when it sits on different curves of your body. As we mentioned earlier, it is always a good idea to be open. There is no harm in trying on some dresses your consultant suggest since you might never know you might fall in love with it. After all, they are the experts in the field and have worked with hundreds of brides before you.


  1. Shop Trunk Shows for Savings

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You can often take 10% off a gown that way and get to meet the designer. Ask your local bridal stores if they host trunk shows soon. This way, you may also be able to waive or discount certain changes directly with the mastermind behind the dress, like raising or lowering a neckline.


  1. Hit Sample Sales

Bridal boutiques frequently have sales to move older inventory, especially at the end of a season or collection. You’ll find designer gowns for 25%-50%. However, the only downside is that the sample sizes often come in the standard sizes.


  1. Know that Embellishments Add Big Bucks

Hard work like embroidery or beading always adds to the cost of the dress. Of course, if a minimalist design is not your style, then those embellishments are worth it, but this needs to be considered into your budget.


  1. Don’t Try on Gowns Above Your Budget

If you can’t afford it, then there’s no point in trying it on. You’re just torturing yourself and making a standard that no dress you can actually have will live up to.


  1. Consider Shopping Online

It is okay to buy your dress online, there is a bigger selection and you can do it in the comfort of your home. But, it is wise to try the dress in person. If not, check the return policy – make sure you are entitled to a full refund if it doesn’t look as dreamy in person.


  1. If You’re Plus-Size, Call Ahead

Le Vow Bridal

Avoid disappointment by calling bridal salons ahead of time to ensure that your shop has plus size samples for the style and designer you want to try on. Many salons do sell plus size dresses, but only stock samples to size 10/12. By calling ahead of time, you are sure that you will actually have something to try on.


  1. Be Prepared to Try on a Lot of Gowns

Unfortunately, there will be a slim chance that you will find “the one” when you try on your first wedding gown. Stay patient and keep an open eye until you find the perfect dress for you. It is totally normal for brides to take their time to find the dress for them, so don’t worry if wedding dress shopping is spread out in multiple trips.


  1. But Do Limit Yourself

Make sure you stick to a few gowns per appointment to not feel overwhelmed. If you have hit this point, then take a break from shopping and start again when you have a fresh mind.


  1. Decide if You’re More Traditional or Trendy

Which type of bride are you? For the traditional brides out there, look into classic and timeless styles such as dresses that include lace. If you are more of a trendy bride and would like your wedding dress to reflect your inner fashionista, then try dresses with a more modern twist including short hems, detached sleeves and capes.


  1. Take Inspiration from Celebrity Styles

Even though you may not have a star’s unlimited wedding budget, you can still draw some elements within their dress to replicate on your dress.


  1. Stay True to What You Love

Le Vow Bridal

It is sometimes difficult to not please people, especially if you want to keep your mother, mother in law and bridesmaids happy. But keep in mind that at the end of the day, this is YOUR day, so find a dress that you love and feels like your dream dress, no matter what other people’s expectation is.


  1. Try on a Non-White Gown


In today’s age, fashion is evolving every minute. There is every design and colour of bridal dresses out there which fits everyone’s personal taste. Don’t be afraid to be unique and explore a coloured wedding dress, which is outside the norm. Subtle eggshell, ivory, romantic blush or even bold red, the options are endless, literally.


  1. Bring Family Heirlooms With You

If you want to incorporate a family heirloom, like a relative’s veil, then bring it to your appointments to find the perfect matching gown. After all, there is a wedding saying “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue”


  1. Target Salons in Your Budget

You’ll feel you have a wide selection if you choose a salon that caters for your budget, rather than feeling limited to a few gowns if you shop at a salon that carries dresses out of your range.


  1. Be 100% Sure Before You Say Yes

All brides need to know it’s their dress before saying yes. Don’t rush into saying yes to the dress if you are unsure or feel pressured in choosing the dress because your crew all loved the dress on you but you don’t. We recommend sleeping on it before making the big decision.


  1. Pose for Photos in Various Angles

Le Vow Bridal

When trying on a dress, have your family member or friend to take pictures or videos from different angles – from the back and sides to shots of your sitting down in the gown from the top-up. Even if there is a mirror at the salon where you can view the dress, remember that every mirror can make you look different. It will alternate the true look of you in the dress. This is why it is important to rely on photos and videos of you in the dress from different angles to get an authentic sneak peek.


  1. Consider How You Feel in the Dress

The gown that makes you feel the most beautiful is the gown you should choose, which can help when you are indecisive between a few dresses. It makes a huge difference, and lead to that magical moment when you’ve finally found “the one”


  1. Think About Your Current Favourite Pieces of Clothing

Reflect on your favourite pieces you already own that makes you feel most beautiful or confident. Envision the best components of your current wardrobe that you KNOW you love, and translate those elements to your wedding dress


  1. Order Early to Avoid Rush Fees

Wedding gowns are a masterpiece to construct. This means that you should place your order 8-12 months in advance to save you from the last-minute rush fees, which can be as much as 30% of the price of the dress


  1. Have a Professional Take Your Measurements

Even if you are ordering online, have a professional take your measurement. A wedding day is an important and grand day, so you want to make it perfect for the millimetres. Measuring an inch down or up from the industry-standard can throw off your results.


  1. Order Too Big Rather Than Too Small

Le Vow Bridal

Even if the measurement isn’t as perfect as you like even if you had a professional take your measurement, it is best to get a dress one or two sizes up. Most gowns are easier to altered down when it’s too big compared to being stuck with a zipper that won’t close.


  1. Test to Make Sure You Can Move

No bride wants a dress that will be pulling it up or constricted by it all night on her wedding day. If you’re planning a religious ceremony where you may need to kneel or sit during the ceremony, practice doing that in the gown. If you are planning to bust out some moves on the dance floor, then try it out before to make sure your dress flows the way you wanted.


  1. Keep the Season in Mind

If your wedding is in a tropical location such as Bali during the summer, then choose lightweight fabrics. But if you’re tying the knot during the winter in locations that are cold and famous for having snow like Boston, then select heavier and lush fabrics like suede or satin.


  1. Pay Attention to the Top of the Dress

You should love every aspect of your wedding dress, but pay more attention to the top of the gown where it will appear in most of the wedding photographs. Ensure that the dress is a perfect fit for you and feels comfortable. Plus, the neckline won’t require adjusting throughout the day.


  1. Tweak a Gown in Tailoring, But Don’t Re-design it

It is fine for your tailor to do small adjustments to your gown such as taking the dress in, changing the hemline and adding straps. But it is risky, costly and irreversible if you are looking into customizing your dress and re-designing from scratch. It requires the tailor to change the structure and inner support, hence potentially ruining the gown.


  1. If You Don’t Love It, Don’t Panic – You Can Salvage It

Le Vow Bridal

If your dress arrives but you don’t immediately fall in love with the dress like you have imagined you would, you do not need to scrap it. Try on your gown with different accessories or re-purpose the accessories by styling it in a different way. If you are still on the edge and re-styling the dress does not help, then consult with your tailor to see how they can fix the dress for you.


  1. Think about Adding a Bustle

If the dress of your dream has a cathedral length train, consider having a bustle sewn into the gown. This will help you to pick up your train when you walk, making moving from your ceremony to your reception super easy. Not to mention it will avoid anyone from stepping on your dress when you hit the dance floor. Research the different bustle styles to see which bustle style match with your dress before undergoing the alterations.


  1. Decide Your Dress Preview Policy in Advance

Of course, you do not want the groom to see your gown, but what about friends and other family members? Be clear of the rules of how widely you’ll share a picture of you in the dress. If not, you could feel trapped later into showing everyone and losing the magic of the big reveal on the wedding day.


  1. Keep the Dress Away From Home

If you live with your finance, you do not want him or her to accidentally stumble upon your gown. Ask a relative or a trusted friend if they are willing to place the dress at their place until the big day. This person can perhaps be your designated person you want to bring with for gown fittings and tailoring appointments.


  1. Relax and Stop Looking

Now, once you’ve found the gorgeous dream dress, stop shopping – whether it is online or in person. All you have to do left is to look forward to showing everyone on the big day and receive compliments coming your way because yours is great!

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