You said Yes! The ring is on, the day is set and now you are ready to bring your dream to reality. Top of the list, the dress. As a former wedding dress stylist, I have seen brides turn into glorious huntresses questing for the perfect gown. Every bride wants to feel elegant and dazzling on her wedding day and the dress is the key to bringing her look and dream all together. Your stylist will unlock your dream, but you have got to give to get. Here is what every bridal stylist wishes you knew before you came shopping.
First up, make an appointment. Most shops will take walk-ins, but an appointment guarantees you a better experience. I would suggest 2, maybe 3 boutiques, at the most. It is easy to get captivated with the love of the hunt and the idea of dress up (who doesn't want her turn to actually be Barbie), but don't forget you are out for a purpose. Look for boutiques that fit your ultimate goal. Do you want a fashion-forward, designer based boutique; cost-effective selections or the boutique that creates the best experience? Each offers something distinct, along with a slightly different stock. Be prepared for an appointment to take about an hour and a half to 2 hours. Pro Tip: for a more intimate experience, consider a weekday appointment. The weekends are always super busy, especially weekends January- March, the largest bridal gown season. Also, take time between your appointments to think through the dresses you tried on. Running boutique to boutique will make you feel like you are swimming through lace and tulle. Give yourself time to think.
Once you have your appointment, next is who you take with you. The Entourage can quickly go from you and your Mom to the whole bridal party, Grandma Bee, Aunt Mae and that cousin that has always hated you but seems to show up at absolutely everything. Pro Tip: BE SELECTIVE. The hearts in the room should want nothing more than for you to be your happiest. It is incredibly tempting to make the dress appointment a precursor to the bachelorette party. Wait for it. I've seen so many appointments crash and burn because the entourage has made the appointment about them and not the bride. Women can get wrapped up in the fun and forget for the bride it also has to have function. Take those who know your style and a good sense of who you are. But you have the final say. It is your dress, if you love it, say it. They will love you in it too.
Next is something you will have heard me say before, Budget! Make a budget for your dress, but be sure to understand there will be extras. Pro Tip: Alterations, undergarments, veils, and shoes are usually not included in the price of your dress. Prices for these vary, but can run several hundred dollars. Make sure you remember them in your all-in budget.
Today's is your appointment day! Yeah. I'm going to say it ladies, Nickers. Yes, panties or drawers. However, you call them, wear them. This is every bridal stylist's nightmare because it happens, often. Please. If it is the only day you wear them your whole life, make it the day you try on wedding dresses. It will make the day go so much more seamlessly and less awkward. And take time to eat. Hangry, fainting bride is not going to make for a fantastic appointment.
Okay, the hunt is on! Your appointment begins with a greeting from your stylist. She will be the best wing woman you've ever had, I promise. Great stylists want to hear all about your special day. Let her know what you have planned, your venue and your vision. It helps in figuring out what dress will fit your wedding. If you have any pictures of dresses that you absolutely love, bring them. Don't be shy about showing them. Let them see the dress dancing in your head, but be realistic about your budget. The $12,000 dress in the magazine is not possible in a $2,000 budget. But... details you love in the magazine dress might be possible in a dress available to you. Pro Tip: Tell the stylist what you love or hate about anything you try on. Mark Scher of Scher’s Bridal Shop suggests “Don’t worry about what you do like. Eliminate what you don’t and be open.” Be open to the shape, the fabric, lace or beading. Your voice is your biggest asset in bridal dress shopping. The dress is in the details, make them known. Now a warning. Your stylist needs to know if there is a dress at another store you are in love with. The dress to top. Nothing derails an appointment like a secret dress you haven't shown the stylist. Honestly, it’s like looking for an unmapped, deserted island in the middle of a giant, foggy sea. Nine times out of ten, a stylist wants the challenge and is thankful for a starting point. Give her a chance to show you similar items in her stock or find the dress that you never want to take off.
Being a wedding stylist was one of the most rewarding occupations I have ever had. I loved watching a bride’s heart fill with joy at the sight of the dress she will become a wife in. Love is the heart of a wedding. Remember your love in every aspect of your planning and it will be smooth sailing. Good luck ladies and happy hunting.