Mar 01, 2018
So, you’re getting married and you need a dress! You may have a million ideas about what you’re looking for or not a clue, but either way you will eventually need to commit to a dress you can proudly call your own. For a lot of brides this hunt can be extremely stressful, trying to figure out “who they want to be” on their wedding day, and turning fantasy into reality.
I know firsthand just how much pressure finding the right wedding dress can be. Two months after joining the team at JB my boyfriend got down on one knee and popped the question, and suddenly I joined the sisterhood of brides-to-be. You would think as a bridal consultant and a full-on wedding nerd that choosing my dress would be easy, right? Wrong. I ended up going to ELEVEN different stores before finally making a choice, and from that process I’ve come up with my top ten tips about how to find your own dream dress.
1. Do Your Research
What is a fit and flare? What is a bateau? What on earth is an “illusion”? The bridal industry, just like any industry, has its own jargon. This can be confusing if you don’t know it, but if you equip yourself with some knowledge before that first appointment it will be a whole lot less overwhelming and go much more efficiently. There are lots of great infographics on the web that help simplify and break down the primary terms used to distinguish dress styles.
Also take a look at bridal designer sites and see who’s styles you gravitate towards. This can be a helpful reference for your consultant as well as help you narrow down which shops to go to. Make sure when you do this that you also look into ballpark costs of these dresses. Most bridal dresses at our shop are quite affordably between $1500 and $2300 (though we carry under and over that as well), but your Pinterest faves could be upwards of $10,000. If you’re cool with that, no problem, but just make sure you know what you’re looking at ahead of time so there are no price tag heartbreaks in store.
2. Look Nice, Be Comfy
This one is relatively straightforward. On your wedding day, you will have your hair done, your makeup done, and this is part of the whole look. If you feel like a hot mess it will be harder to envision that whole look, no matter how lovely the dress is. You don’t need to go to a salon every time you have a dress appointment, but do yourself a favour by primping just a little so that you feel great regardless which dress you’re trying. Also, wear something comfy to change into afterwards and make sure you’re wearing undergarments that will help with the fit (I accidentally wore boy-short underwear to an appointment and let’s just say it made for a new kind of silhouette that I like to call lumpy-glam.)
3. Sizes Are Weird and Your Consultant Is Your Friend
Samples come in only so many sizes and colours. Typically, they’re going to be around a bridal size 10, which is about the equivalent of a Canadian street size 8 or even 6. Women come in every beautiful size and shape and sometimes the sample for your perfect dress is not going to be in your size. When this happens, use your consultant. They will clamp/clip/squeeze to get the dress looking as close to perfect on you as possible and they know how the dress should fit when ordered and tailored to you. This is really important on both ends of the spectrum, whether the samples are too large or too small. Ask them about cup size. Ask them where the seams will hit. Ask to see product pictures if it’s too tricky to envision. Want a sleeve or a strap or that extra cleavage covered? Ask if and how that might be possible in alterations. They want you to find your dream dress and a good consultant will know how to help you get all the information you need to determine if this one is it, regardless of how the sample fits.
4. Be Prepared to Be Surprised
Maybe you’re the extra-prepared bride who knows she wants a fit-and-flare with illusion lace and cap sleeves. You have your list of fave designers. You have your pictures that all run in a similar direction. You know what you want. Be prepared to discover that, when you put that dress on, it is no longer what you want. I, for example, love silky sheaths, but silky sheaths on my body, I discovered, make me look less like a 1930's Hollywood starlet and more like a shiny potato. A consultant put me in a dress with more structure in a style I wouldn’t have chosen for myself and suddenly my shiny potato body turned into a glittery hot tamale. You never know what will look best on you until you see it on your body. Also, dresses look different on the rack than they do on the hanger. This can be especially true of dresses with them best shape. If your consultant has a recommendation and it looks odd on the hanger, give it a shot!
5. Don’t Go Everywhere
This coming from a gal who practically did the Toronto bridal shop tour in full may sound a little rich. I mean it though. It was too much. At first it was great but then all the choices became too confusing and I got stressed out trying to sort through all the possibilities. In hindsight, I wish I’d made a shortlist of boutiques and stuck to it. To make your shortlist, figure out who carries your favourite designers (that research comes in handy here), read their reviews (if you have a negative experience you will attach that to the dresses so don’t waste your time if the reviews aren’t good), and keep an eye on what their price ranges are to make sure they’re not going to put you in something your wallet will say no to. Also, if you are fuller figured also ask ahead of time to see if the shop carries sample sizes that you can try (the industry is slowly getting better at this, but some shops are more accommodating than others). Try to keep your list to three shops if you can, and a good consultant will know where to send you if they don’t have what you’re looking for.
6. Don’t Bring Everyone
I only brought one person to most of my appointments. Not always the same person, and I sent lots of pictures to my other “advisors”, but it kept it more intimate in the moment and took the pressure off of appointments where I wasn’t finding what I liked. It was still important to me to include everyone, I just didn’t do it all at the same time, and that helped a lot. If you still want that special moment with all your dear ones seeing you in the dress, bring them after you’ve decided on it by booking another appointment to show it off. Just make sure they know you’ve already decided that this is the one!
7. Take Pictures
I took pictures of almost every dress I tried on (why yes, my phone storage space is crying), used these to narrow down to my top three, and then put these pictures side by side using Layout. It helped a LOT. It showed me what the similarities were, what was different, and how they compared directly to one another. I didn’t end up choosing any of these three, but what they had in common led me to my number one. I showed my consultant the three pictures and said what I liked about each, what I didn’t like, and she ended up picking the perfect one for me.
8. Remember Your Venue
Maybe you’ve found two dresses that both make you happy, that both call to you. If you’re really stuck, think about your venue and the tone of your wedding. This, in the end, is what broke the tie for me. One of my favourite dresses, that made me feel AMAZING, was quite nearly the one so I pictured myself in it at my venue. I realized that this dress, while a great dress, was not right for my wedding. It was great for my reception, great for my personality, but too much for my sweet church ceremony and I knew I would second guess it as the one.
9. Know Yourself and Trust Yourself
Only one person will be wearing your wedding dress, and that’s you. You also know yourself better than anyone else in your life, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. Your partner also loves you because you are you. This means that your dress should speak truly of you, and only you can say 100% that it does. So, when you’re considering a dress, ask yourself: How do you feel? Do you feel like yourself or does it feel like a costume? Are you underwhelmed? Are you overwhelmed? Are you happy?
As a consultant, I know when a bride loves a dress. I don’t mean when she thinks it’s pretty or really appreciates the design, I mean when she really loves it. How? Her face changes. Her body language changes. When she is in the dress she loves her energy shifts. It’s because she’s happy. It’s because in that moment she really likes herself. When I found my dress, I loved it the second I saw it in the mirror. In a strange way, I felt proud to be myself. If a dress really makes you happy in your own skin you will feel it and you will know.
10. When You Find It, Stop.
So, you’ve found the one that makes you feel dreamy and joyous and like your own beautiful self… but you have an appointment booked at another store. Cancel it. That next appointment you will spend the whole time comparing to the one you love and, most likely, nothing will beat it, so you will not enjoy the experience. When you find your dress, know that it’s the one, celebrate that high, and commit. Bridal shops know this will happen and it’s okay. If you cancel that appointment, maybe they’ll get a walk-in they can now take and that bride will find their dream dress because of it, and you’ll have the rest of your day to celebrate and enjoy your betrothed bliss. Everybody wins!
Well, that’s all I’ve got, and I hope it helps! Whatever your dress-hunting journey may be, I hope it is a joyful one. After all, whichever dress you choose, you’re still on your way to your “Happily Ever After”.
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