Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Planning to Say "Yes" to the Dress

Wedding season is in full swing! I mentioned to Brandon the other day that I was feeling kind of nostalgic - this is the first summer in a long time where I have ZERO weddings to attend! To be fair, we have been invited to 2 weddings since we got married, but the reality is that our single friends seem to be quickly diminishing.

This is really a disappointment because I love weddings! And so, I live on my wedding love via this blog and passing on my own wedding planning advice. 

Finding the Dress

I’d bet that almost every little girl dreams of her wedding dress at some point. I have pages stuffed into a scrapbook somewhere full of dress design doodles and various pictures of me trying on my mom’s wedding dress. And from a very early age I remember being exceedingly jealous at my Catholic neighborhood friends who made their first communion and got to, in my 7-year-old opinion, dress like a bride.

Actually shopping for a dress though may not be as easy as you once thought. In fact, my dress shopping included being rear-ended by a semi truck and a bridal store staying open late so I could have a last-minute Cole family wedding dress approval meeting (yes I needed my dad and brothers to help seal the deal). 

But there are some steps you can take to help your dress shopping adventure flow as smoothly as possible....

1. Make an appointment. Most bridal stores aren’t like any old clothing store - you have to have an appointment set up in advance. A consultant will meet with you, pull some dresses, and help you narrow down what you’re looking for. 

Think about the timing of your appointment when making it! My first appointment was on a Thursday morning (I think), where I was the only one in the shop, had the full attention of the 2 consultants working and the alterationist, and didn’t feel rushed at all. When I visited the shop on a later Saturday afternoon date, things were much busier.

Obviously there are tons of bridal stores out there. I found it really helpful to do some research before I made an appointment. I talked with local friends about their experiences, read reviews online, and spoke with a couple of consultants over the phone. Not every store is the same. If you have a lower price point, you aren’t going to want to head to a couture shop, and likewise, if you are looking for something completely unique, David’s Bridal probably isn’t the place for you. Finding a store whose consultants have a good reputation will help a lot as you begin your search!

2. Know your price point going in. You will be asked for a price point when you go shopping for a dress...and if you are wishy-washy, you are more likely to fall into the category of bride's who spend much more on their dress than they intended/could afford. It’s true what they say about stepping into a dress and knowing it’s the one - and if that dress doesn’t match your price point it is either going to be frustrating and disappointing as you try and find another dress you like as much, or you will end up caving and spending more than you should have.

I had a price point going in, but I also had a number of what I knew I would really be willing to spend (remember to take into account other dress expenses - see #3). I told the store about my original price point, but sure enough, I fell in love with a dress that was a little higher than that number, but still within my overall budget. 

Another tip along these lines - don’t try on any dress that you can’t afford. I loved several dresses by one designer - but they were also way out of my price point. When I had it narrowed down to 2 dresses I pointed out the dress I’d originally had my eye on to my consultant. She wisely told me not try it on because she has seen way too many girls try something on “just for fun” and then walk away disappointed because they fell head over heels but couldn't afford the dress. 

3. Be prepared for hidden extra costs. The cost of the dress is one thing, but unless someone is making the dress for you (and even then I could tell you an incredibly stressful story of how I stood up for a bride whose custom dress didn’t fit right 2 days before the wedding....), you will have a significant alteration cost. Many bridal stores will also have an alterations department - but they also tend to be more expensive. I did some shopping around and found several less expensive seamstresses, but in the end I really loved the alternationist at my bridal salon and really trusted her (plus my dress was still covered while it remained in the shop and I didn’t have to worry about what would happen if something went wrong during alterations). If you have a friend/mom who you trust to do the alterations - even better! (in my earlier story the bride’s mom someone managed to reconstruct the top of the bride’s dress in the 36 hours leading up to the wedding - amazing!)

Other costs to be prepared for - a veil, shoes, jewelry, any hair accessories, etc. Think about what you can borrow from family and friends or ask the bridal store what they might be willing to throw in or give you a discount on if you purchase your dress from them, pay the total cost up front, or pay in cash. I ended up borrowing my veil, and my earrings and shoes were a gift.

4. Have an idea of what you are looking for. Obviously this isn’t a necessity, but it can help the process. Yes, trying on wedding dresses is a lot of fun - but I also found it to be exhausting and overwhelming! I worked with an amazing consultant (Jessie at Bella Bridal if you’re from the Metro Detroit area) and ultimately fell in love with the first dress I put on. I came into the store with about 4-5 pictures of dresses that had elements that I liked (i.e. not strapless, lace, fitted, etc.). Jessie put the elements together and found my perfect dress!

Some things to think about as you start shopping:

- What are you comfortable in? For me this meant no strapless. I wanted something more modest, and I definitely didn’t want to feel like I had to be hiking up my top all night.
- What is your venue? A ballgown on the beach may not be the ideal choice...
- What is important to you? For example - are you a girl who wants to spend the night tearing up the dance floor? I’ve heard that mermaids/trumpets can be more limiting in movement.

5. Be flexible and willing to step out of your comfort zone. Unless you have some absolute nos, be open to what your consultant might suggest. You might not be aware of what style looks good on you or what elements you disliked on a model, but love on yourself.

Even if you started out with absolute “nos” don’t let them totally limit you - alternationists can do some amazing work to meet your needs!

6. Go with your gut. I bought the first dress I tried on at the end of 1 day of shopping. Even today it sounds crazy. But I just felt it. I tried on 15-20 dresses at 2 different stores, but ultimately returned for that first dress (and yes I was pulled into the “if you buy it today we will give you ‘X’ off” deal). But ultimately, I have absolutely no regrets.

Have fun!


  1. Hi, Julianne. Well, it may be crazy but it worked. You were simply a beautiful bride. And it may be crazy but to someone who hates to shop it sounds perfect to get the right dress on the first try. A whole day of shopping and trying on 15-20 dresses sounds like sheer torture to me. Some day I will have to dig my wedding dress out to show you. I bought it off the rack, on clearance at the end of prom season. Just $80 bucks. Minus the train, it is awfully similar to yours. And no, I didn't even try it on until I got it home. Yeah, I hate shopping that much. No regrets even all these years later.

    This is a great list of practical suggestions that I am sure will be helpful to future brides.


  2. My daughter is getting married in December so we've been wedding dress shopping recently, too. It's such a special time. Emily knew she wanted a fit and flare so that helped but many times the sales lady pressed her to try on something else -- always a full tulle which she said made her look like a marshmallow. :-) She's short and they did overwhelm her tiny frame. Yours is beautiful and your tips are right on. Minus being rear-ended. Yikes! ~Pamela