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How to Find that Perfect Wedding Dress

Saturday, May 25th

How to Find that Perfect Wedding Dress

Your wedding day is something you've dreamed of for years. Whether you're planning a formal affair with hundreds of guests or a small beach wedding you'll want to look your very best and be confident in your appearance. But, finding that perfect wedding dress can be more difficult than one might expect; with limited local bridal stores and over inflated price tags brides may start to panic as the big day approaches.

General Rules:

  • Give yourself plenty of time. Start your dress search at least six to nine months ahead of your wedding date. If you're having a dress made or special ordered it can take months and you should allocate additional time for any alterations that need to occur.
  • Identify your budget ahead of time. You need to sit down and sketch out how much you're willing to spend for the entire event and where the money should be allocated. Many brides first buy the dress and then realize they have very little budget left for the rest of the expensive affair. Often that leads to cutting guest lists, flowers and tasty food. Don't forget to add in alteration costs as they can add up as well.
  • Do your research first. Buy a stack of bridal magazines and identify looks, styles, fabrics and colors that you like most. Cut out pictures and keep them for your reference when it's time to begin shopping. Make sure you choose a style that is appropriate for your ceremony. For a formal wedding a floor-length dress in ivory or white with a train is generally considered most appropriate, less formal affairs allow for more flexibility but keep in mind the season, your shape and the venue when choosing material and style.
  • Have your measurements taken. Have a skilled seamstress take your measurements and make sure you don't lose that information. Having your correct measurements will help you order a dress that will fit you best with the least amount of alterations. Remember to order a size that will fit all aspects of your body as it's easier to take in a dress than to let out.
  • Consider shopping online for your dress. With the current economy it's hard to find many bridal shops around town and even then the selection is limited and the mark-up steep. Shopping online gives you the greatest amount of selection to sort through quickly and effectively. The internet also brings you the greatest amount of price savings opportunity as overhead is very low in comparison to a typical bridal shop.
  • Comparison shop. Quickly compare and contrast a few top rated bridal stores in prices and policies before you make your purchase. The internet allows you to line up two companies with the click of a mouse and decide which one you can feel confident with and which one also provides the best price. If you were to compare prices of a dress at several different bridal stores in your local area it may take days, weeks or months to get through the process. Bridal stores are notorious for being swamped on the weekends and sales help are often irritated if you aren't there to buy.
  • Know the return policy. If you are shopping online or in a retail store make sure you have a copy of the return policy before making your purchase. Many online wedding dress companies allow for returns and exchanges with no questions asked. Others have limitations on returns especially if special ordered.
  • Solicit feedback. Before ordering run your ideas by your closet friend or relative and see what they have to say. Once your dress arrives try it on and make sure you both agree that it's what you expected. If it's not what you expected for any reason, return it right away and try again.
  • Read independent reviews: Unbiased reviews of different bridal shops will make sure that your experience is positive. The internet allows you to find these reviews quickly and with little effort. We find these reviews flush out customer service issues, return policies and who is offering the best product for the price. If you decide to shop local instead, check with friends and the Better Business Bureau for any customer satisfaction issues that may prevent you from getting your wedding dress on time and as expected.

Following some simple rules will help you find the perfect wedding dress. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to plan and locate a wedding dress that will fit you, your style and the theme of the wedding. Shopping online will provide you the largest and most convenient selection to consider.

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Wedding Dress Store FAQ

Congratulations! You can start looking for your dress whenever you like, but a good rule of thumb is to have your date and venue arranged first - so that you'll have an idea of the season, look and theme for your wedding. (For example, a beach wedding in August requires a very different dress from a cathedral wedding in January!)
Most off-the-rack dresses will fall somewhere in the $500-$3000 range, but you can find options priced much lower and much higher. You'll likely need alterations as well, so don't forget to factor in those costs (which will depend on which service you use).
In today's world, you can buy anything on the web - including a wedding dress! In fact, as many as 20% of brides in the US get their dresses online. If you've had a hard time finding one that you love locally, the internet may be your best option. Online retailers of wedding dresses make it much easier to find the right sizes, hottest trends, and all of the accessories to match.
That can be tricky, but almost every single online wedding dress store has a helpful sizing guide. You can usually reach out to the store's customer service team for extra help in taking measurements and finding several dresses to choose from that should be a good fit. Keep in mind that wedding dresses tend to be sized differently from regular clothes, often 1-2 sizes higher than what you wear day-to-day. (So unfair, we know!)
For wedding dresses, it's usually free. (Good luck finding anything else about your wedding that will be!) A few retailers have a minimum order requirement, but let's be honest: with as much as you'll spend on a wedding dress, you probably won't have a hard time reaching that amount!
That's probably the biggest fear brides-to-be have when buying their wedding dress online, but rest assured that most stores let you send it back - as long as it's still in new condition with all tags attached (no wearing it for your big day and then returning it!). Make sure you read the return policy of any store you're considering for your purchase, though: some don't accept returns under any circumstances!
When budgeting and planning for wedding attire, many brides forget that it's not just the dress. You'll need shoes, any desired accessories like a veil, gloves, and/or jewelry, and suitable undergarments!
Great question, because without preservation your dress may yellow or oxidize, experience mold or mildew, or be permanently creased in the wrong places. You can pay a professional to preserve your wedding dress; expect to pay anywhere from $250 to $700 for the service.
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