Shopping for a wedding dress should be one of the most fun experiences of your engagement, yet it can be stressful. However, with some planning and research in advance, you’re more likely to enjoy the process. Here’s expert advice on how to nail down the perfect dress.
Have the date and destination saved
Why? “They can dictate the type of gown a bride selects,” said Mark Ingram, owner of Mark Ingram Atelier and the designer behind Mark Ingram Bride.
The season, time of day and the type of venue can impact your choice. According to designer Jenny Yoo, a bride getting married on the beach will want to find a gown that is light and breathable, while a couple having a ceremony in a cathedral may opt for a more elaborate gown that feels equally as grandiose.
You also want to keep in mind how many months away your wedding date is. Made-to-order or couture gowns can take up to 20 weeks to be delivered to a bridal boutique, and then you have to factor in two to three months of alterations.
“When selecting a couture bridal gown or ‘made-to-order’ gown, the shopping process should start as early as eight months to a year out from the wedding date,” added Ingram.
Stay on budget
“A bride should know her realistic price range for what she wants to spend,” said Ingram. “Falling in love with a gorgeous super-expensive gown can result in some heartache. Don’t do it to yourself unless you are willing to give up or tweak something else in the plan.”
For inspiration, there’s a plethora of places to look: Wedding Wire, Brides and Vogue all feature real wedding inspiration as well as trends.
“With social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest, it is simple for a bride to find and save posts which capture the dress she envisions for herself,” said Kelly Cook, president, brand, technology and finance at David’s Bridal. “She can also look to bridal shows for the current trends.”
Additionally, “Celebrities can influence a bride’s style,” said Selina Howard, a bridal stylist and owner of Vainglorious Brides. “We often get clients who show us pictures of celebrities at awards shows or on the red carpet. With all these sources at their fingertips, brides have the chance to truly make their special day a reflection of their personalities and dreams.”
It’s also important to know your own personal style. According to Mark Ingram, relying on your own instincts is truly the best way to start.
Have a wing person
Make appointments at several salons and decide who you want to bring with you. The list should be limited to the people whose opinions mean the most to you, and the people who know and appreciate your style, are positive and truly happy about your upcoming wedding.
“Limit your guests to one to three people who can keep the process uncomplicated and fun,” advised Ingram. “I suggest not involving everyone in this process, as it is so personal, and no one but you will truly know when you find ‘THE’ dress. Too much chirping in your ear will cause confusion and stress.”
“Don’t forget to wear or bring the right undergarments for a seamless fitting experience,” said Howard. “A strapless bra, nude panties and any special shapewear can make a huge difference.”
Add finishing touches
Pull together any heirlooms you plan to incorporate, such as your mother’s veil or grandmother’s jewelry, as well as accessories you want to pair with the dress.
However, remember you can also finalize accessories at a later date. “Given finding her dream dress can be quite an emotional experience, allowing time to revel in the moment and revisiting finishing touches at her alterations appointment is another great time to shop for accessories to complete her look,” said Cook.
Know when you’ve found it
You may be wondering, how do you know if it’s “The One”?
“It may sound clichéd, but you know if you’ve found “the one” when the gown you try on makes you feel confident, beautiful and brings a certain kind of emotion, whether a tingle, tears, excitement or loss of words,” said Jenny Yoo. “ I find most brides can’t stop smiling and don’t want to take the gown off.”
Here’s a selection that may do just that.
Viviana, from Jenny by Jenny Yoo, has a structured cowl bodice with flattering angled pleats, draped off-the-shoulder sleeves and a thigh-high cutaway slit in the skirt. $1,395, Jenny Yoo, 139 West 35th St., 9th Fl
A silk white satin off-the-shoulder trumpet gown, Allure by Monique Lhuillier, features a draped neckline and skirt. $5,990, Monique Lhuillier, 818 Madison Ave
FIT AND FLARE
Watters’ Linney fit-and-flare Mikado gown with V-neckline features layered beaded chrysanthemum motifs in varying sizes. $1,825, The White Gown, 62 Grand St., 4th Fl
Lenita by Vera Wang Bride features a fit-and-flare silhouette with a fishtail skirt in soft tulle and a deep halter neckline finished with a macro organza bow. $2,570, Pronovias, 45 E 58th St.,
LITTLE WHITE DRESS
Wonderful Tonight is a knee-length dress by Anne Barge with a V-notch neckline, faux wrap bodice and self-tie grosgrain ribbon straps. $495, Anne Barge New York, 766 Madison Ave., 2nd Fl
This short jacquard A-line dress from David’s Bridal has removable shoulder-tie straps in blue or white, or can be worn strapless. $129.95
Tempest, an A-line gown by Mark Ingram Bride, has a one-shoulder diagonally seamed bodice with a split skirt, and finished with a bow detail at the shoulder. $5,940, Mark Ingram Atelier, 515 Madison Ave., 2nd Fl
A minimalist design, Tatum by Mac Duggal is a maxi column silhouette with a sky-high slit and one-shoulder neckline with a modern knot bow at the shoulder. $348, Anthropologie, 195 Broadway,
Amsale’s fit-to-flare strapless gown, Orion, has a draped bodice and sheer back. $5,995, Amsale, 150 Wooster St
Lark, a strapless sweetheart neckline dress by Theia, is adorned with pearl accents, while the back is finished with traditional covered buttons to the hem. $1,998, Kleinfeld Bridal, 110 W. 20th St
Disney Fairy Tale Weddings’ Aurora Platinum tulle-lined ballgown with a sweetheart neckline, from Allure Bridals, is accented with Chantilly lace briar rose floral appliques. Detachable bishop sleeves included. $4,600, Kleinfeld Bridal, 110 W. 20th St
A traditional ballgown, Vivace by Ines Di Santo has oversized floral lace appliques throughout the soft-draped bodice and full skirt. Detachable puff sleeves sold separately. $7,890, White House Bride, 667 US-22 East, Whitehouse Station, NJ