10 Things No One Tells You About Wedding Dress Shopping

In an effort to keep myself in check and not talk too much about wedding stuff, I’ve decided to do Wedding Wednesday. Each Wednesday my post will (probably) be wedding related. If you don’t want to read wedding stuff, skip it and I’ll see you back here on Thursday. If you do, great! Thanks for letting me fully enjoy this special time in our lives.

10 things no one tells you about wedding dress shopping

1. Eat first!

Sure, you might want to be your skinniest self but it’s not fun to be starving while trying on dresses. The dresses are heavy and getting in and out of them can take a bit of effort. An afternoon appointment combined with an empty stomach led to a low blood sugar, grumpy version of me at one appointment.

2. And hit the ladies room too.

Nothing sucks more than putting on a gown and realizing how bad you have to pee. Plus, since you are generally going gown to gown to gown, pausing the whole process to put your own clothes back on and high tailing it to the ladies room is kind of a buzz kill.

3. Get used to getting (almost) naked in front of strangers.

Some salons asked nicely if I wanted them to come in and others, well they just came on in. I preferred when they asked vs. assumed that I was okay with this.

As a side note, I think this might have been proportional to how expensive the dresses were but I can’t say for sure. Having a consultant help you get in to the dresses does keep people from stepping on the fabric and ripping it etc. and in some cases it really was helpful.

4. Your consultant can completely change the tone of the appointment.

An enthusiastic consultant can start the appointment off right. A grumpy, snooty consultant can make things a little more challenging and caused more self-consciousness for me personally. At one salon I was told by the consultant that with my “lower budget” there were only about 10 dresses in the store I could try on. Okay, sure, I get that. But you still should treat me like I’m worth your time.

I found that my favorite consultants were the more “Mom like” ladies. At one store I had an older lady named Edna and I found I was most comfortable working with her vs. someone my age.

5. You might like exactly what you thought you’d like.

I was told by many people to “try on all different styles” and that “you might like something you never thought you’d like”. I heard story after story of brides trying on a dress they knew wouldn’t work and then ta-da! it was the one. And while that was true on some level (I liked the poofy dresses more than I thought I would), I still liked the dresses I thought I would like.

Nope. Nope. Nope. p.s. Fiance has been asked to not read this post. Obviously.
Nope. Nope. Nope.
p.s. Fiance has been asked to not read this post. Obviously.

6. The people who love you will shock you.

I texted photos of me in dresses to my Mom, Step-mom, and best friend and found that nearly all of them could pick the dress they knew I liked the best. I thought it was a fluke at first but they continued to surprise me. They really know me. Almost better than I know myself.

7. The person whose opinion you may want most can’t help you.

Every time I was almost convinced that this dress was the dress, all I wanted was my fiancé’s opinion. As I debated between an A-line style and something more form-fitting, I could hardly resist showing him photos to get his opinion. But if you are a little traditional deep down, this might be a no-go for you, as it was for me.

To me, this was by far the biggest challenge.

8. You might not be able to see the cost-quality correlation.

While there are some dresses that you can tell are made with cheaper materials, for a lot of the dresses, I just couldn’t tell. I’d look at a dress and think because it was simple that it might be cheaper and it would be $1,900. Then I’d see another that had elaborate detail and was sure it would be pricy and found it to be $699. Maybe some people can spot the higher quality items but for many dresses, I found that I couldn’t.

9. Try the boutiques and the chain store.

I had great experiences at both boutique type bridal salons and the big chain store (David’s Bridal). At the boutique salons, I found that the personal attention they gave you was nice, albeit a little much at times. They really focus on you. They are also more likely to have upcoming trunk shows which can get you 10-20% off that specific designer during the designated time.

At the chain store, I found that each consultant was working with 2-3 brides at a time. It was a lot less personal attention but I actually really liked that. It gave me time alone with my Mom to talk about how we really feel about the dress without feeling like we couldn’t be honest because the consultant was hovering. I also found the chain store to be a little less snooty.

Each experience was different and I would urge every bride to give each a shot because you never know what you might like.

10. Be honest with yourself about what you are self-conscious about.

Wedding dress shopping is the ultimate test of how well you dress for your body type and how aware you are about what you are self-conscious about.

I don’t love my arms so I walked in and insisted on sleeves (at the very least, a cap sleeve) because I knew I’d feel self-conscious in a strapless style. I feel like my back is just a regular back (i.e. it’s nothing special) so I knew I didn’t want an open back style. That said, I liked the styles that emphasized my waist and found that those that hugged my waist and hips made me feel best. You know your body and you know what you are most comfortable in.

 With all that said and at least 50 dresses tried on,  guess who still doesn’t have her dress? This girl. But hey, I’m having a ton of fun with this process.

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  • Ah you’re already trying dresses on, sooo fun! I still haven’t even booked the venue…I should probably get on that lol

    • We recently booked our venue and I’m casually dress shopping. If I found the one, I’d buy it but I’m not really ready for this process to be over yet. It’s too much fun!

  • JC

    Yep pretty much all true. Also most don’t allow beverages, all i wanted was a cup of tea to help me relax!

    • You say tea, I say champagne! haha that’s what I wanted too when we were trying on dresses. Plus, champagne would maybe make you more wiggly with your budget.

  • Elizabeth

    This is an exciting process! What’s funny is I knew I didn’t want a poofy dress (I’m petite) or a strapless dress (didn’t want to be tugging at it all night). I was only correct on one thought: poofy dresses swallowed me, but so did the dresses with sleeves! So I ended up going with a strapless, but they tailored the dress so well, I didn’t feel like I need to pull it up the whole time.

    For brides who don’t want to purchase a dress for one day, there’s also Rent the Runway. I wish I would have known about it – even for my bridesmaids!

    • I’ve tried on some strapless dresses and while I feel like the full sleeve dresses do kind of overwhelm me, I love the 3/4 sleeve and cap sleeves.

      Also, we are definitely considering Rent the Runway for bridesmaids dresses and even bridal accessories. There are a couple other rental companies for bridesmaids dresses too that I’ve been checking out – Vow to be Chic and Little Borrowed Dress.

  • Ashlee

    Have you checked out Sabrina Ann’s in Ardmore? It’s a consignment bridal store (some once worn, some never worn, and some sample dresses) so the price range is very much in your favor. The store is better/nicer than the website makes it look. http://www.sabrinaann.com/

    • Thanks so much for the suggestion! That sounds right up my alley.

  • I agree with all of these. I wish I tried the boutiques though, my sister in law got her dress from a boutique and while we have different style I wanted to go dress shopping all over again when we went to see her at her fitting.

    Also definitely agree that I just wanted my husbands opinion. I wish he would’ve just went with me. You don’t look the same on the day of as you would in the store because you are super glammed on the day so I wish I would’ve just got his opinion.

    • That’s very true about your husband seeing you. I hadn’t thought of it that way. We are going to do a first look anyway (to get the pictures done before the wedding so we can enjoy the party). Still, I feel like I want it to be a complete surprise for him.

  • Liz

    It took me a very long time to find my dress. And to my entourage’s chagrin, I could not make up my mind between two different dresses. Which, of course, were at two different stores. Which, of course, I made them visit at least twice. I LOVED my dress in the end though, and that is what matters. It makes me sad every time I think about it that I cannot just wear it any old time I want.

    Keep in mind that alterations matter too. The dress I ended up picking was altered by the woman who owned the store and she made all of my fittings enjoyable. Getting your dress to fit like a glove is a fun experience, so it’s nice having a seamstress you like and trust. Also, if there’s one little detail that your dress doesn’t have, but that you think you would love, ask! Under the lace of my dress, it was a straight neckline. I really wanted a sweetheart neckline. They were able to do it for me and it made all the difference in the world! My dress was perfect, and somewhat unique with just that one simple change.

    Good luck!

    • Thanks so much for the alternations advice. My mom keeps reminding me that a dress that actually fits will look very different on me. All of the samples in the store are too big and I wind up having these huge clamps down my backside.

  • Totally agree with all of these! how exciting for you!

    • Thank you! I’m having lots of fun with this process.

  • This whole post just made me sooo excited for you!! And I think the hardest part would certainly be not being able to get the fiancé’s approval as well!! xoxo

  • I’m so glad you shared this post! I’m getting married in September and am about to start wedding dress shopping. These tips are so helpful! Thank You & best of luck in your wedding planning!

  • I 100% agree with all of these! The consultant really sets the tone. I ended up getting the very first dress I found and tried on – must’ve been fate! But even so, I’m really picky with my dress taste, and my consultant pulled two dresses – both of which were right up my alley, even given all of my criteria. I just got engaged, too, so it’s been one big whirlwind! Be sure to eat first and pee first – DEFINITELY! And make it an experience to remember.


    LATEST: Our Love Story, Part 2: http://cominguprosestheblog.com/love-story-part-2/

    • I feel like every bridal store I go in to doesn’t have a ton of options with sleeves. Since that is what I’m pretty picky about, it’s been hard to find. Let me know if you want me to add you to my wedding group pinterest board.

  • My sister tried on over 50 dresses and my best friend tried on over 100! With my sister, she had one particular dress in mind but none of the stores had it so she kept trying on dresses which were similar but not the one she wanted. FINALLY one store ordered it for her and guess what? It was perfect. Because she knew exactly what she wanted and it was gorgeous. Although it was exhausting for my mom and I.

    • That does sound exhausting but honestly, I’ve for sure tried on 50 dresses. I’ve taken a variety of people with me though so hopefully no one is annoyed by me yet. haha

  • Even though I am nowhere near planning a wedding (see also I don’t even have a boyfriend) I found this post super interesting! You make a really good point about eating before an appointment and trying larger chains as well as small boutiques. I hope you find/found the perfect dress and I’m looking forward to more of your wedding Wednesday posts (:

    • Aw yay thanks! It’s a really fun thing and I’m not ready to be done yet.

  • I did not try a single dress before getting married. Like, not a single one. I was stuck in Yemen so I trawled the internet for hours and found one I thought would look nice. I then called up every stockist near anyone I knew anywhere in the world and I managed to find it in a little town in Saudi Arabia (no joke) and the guy kindly FedExed it to me in Yemen. About 10 days before my wedding. It fit, and was beautiful. I still can’t believe I risked it but I figured, hey, if the dress doesn’t arrive, I’ll wear whatever. All I cared about was getting married at that point haha.

    good luck with the dress shopping!

    • That’s such a crazy story! You’re a brave woman. I’ve seen a lot of dresses online that I think I would love but in person, sometimes I don’t.

  • A great post, I didn’t buy my wedding dress I couldn’t afford too so I borrowed my aunts wedding dress it was ok I looked ok and I was happy

  • These are great tips!! I definitely didn’t show my fiancé the dress types… I was terrified he would hate it and I would worry incessantly. Fortunately that didn’t happen!! I also ended up with sleeves/off the shoulders… and I wouldn’t change a thing about my dress!! I definitely took advantage of the trunk sale discount!!

  • Spot on! Well… I mean, I haven’t personally gone wedding dress shopping, but I noticed a lot of the same things when I went to my sister’s consultations. She definitely liked the ones she knew she’d like the best, and also her friends and fam could pinpoint right away the ones she liked best 🙂

  • Great post! Funny enough, I think that first dress may be the one I choose for my wedding. The sleeves were really uncomfortable for me so I’m having them make it into a sweetheart neckline top and then I’m adding cap sleeves like this: http://davidtuteraformoncheri.com/accessories/shoulderpc/

    I found the easiest way to find my dress was to figure out what i really wanted first so i would know when i saw it. I know it’s risky to totally change a dress, but I loved everything else and don’t even have to have it hemmed (I’m 5’11”) so I’m saving a little money there. And the seamstresses are so talented these days, they can pretty much do anything.

    Good luck and have fun!

  • Trying on dresses was so fun! Also stressful! I felt like it was some kind of life or death situation (at first) but once I tried a few on I was able to loosen up and have some fun. I actually had less luck at David’s Bridal, I felt like my consultant wasn’t really listening to me when I told her what style dress I wanted – I knew what I wanted/what would look good on me at that point. After the fourth dress of a similar style (that I didn’t like/didn’t compliment my body) I was finished and didn’t try on any more dresses! In the end I actually ended up getting a bridesmaids dress (VERY budget friendly) from a boutique and altering it a little to fit my style. Good luck in the rest of your search!

  • Ha! Weirdly I wrote about this yesterday 🙂 I have my dress (thank goodness, we are getting married in 3 weeks!) but it was stressful, and i was so overwhelmed and uncomfortable until i just realised that a virtual stranger was going to be talking to me while my boobs were on show. And then the hook of the dress got caught on my underwear and ripped those down too… and then we were friends for life 🙂

  • The try on every kind of dress thing actually worked for me. I ended up falling in love with a dress I never would have expected to like. It wasn’t a total 180 from what I liked, but I didn’t like it on the rack at all. My mom made me try it on. Moms sometimes really do know best.

  • Oh, to go back and dress shop again! I came back the same day and bought the first dress I’d tried on, but I secretly wish I’d held out and kept shopping just for the fun of it! These are all excellent tips. Thanks for sharing!

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