Alright I have a fun post for you today… let’s talk about WEDDING DRESSES!!! Throughout our (very long) engagement, I got so many requests for wedding dress shopping tips, or to see dresses I tried on – but I just felt so weird sharing photos of me in a bridal gown before my wedding. Even if it wasn’t THE dress! But now that we finally got to have our day, this topic is totally fair game. So, let’s dive in!
When it came to wedding dress shopping, I followed a few bridal shops in Chicago to get a feel for their style. It became really clear that Alice in Ivory carried the types of dresses I was gravitating towards. They had a few designers I had been swooning over for months, plus a ton of other feminine, unique, and flat out gorgeous dresses. So I made an appointment! I’ll never forget my sister asking me if I wanted to set up any other appointments that day. I told her to hold off until we saw what Alice in Ivory had.
We didn’t make a purchase right away because I wanted to wait for my sister-in-law who was coming into town soon (plus, try on more dresses because when else do you get to try on wedding dresses?!), but even still, as we were walking out of that first appointment, Jennie said “HOW did you find a place that is so perfect for you?!” It was just meant to be!
My Dress – The Luna Gown by Flora
Speaking of meant to be…. the dress I chose is called the LUNA gown. Is that fate or WHAT?! I discovered Flora, an Israeli bridal designer, through Alice in Ivory and immediately fell in love with how romantic her dresses are. Each dress has a ton of unique details, and I love that they are really feminine and sexy without being too over the top. As soon as I put this one on, I gasped. The subtle embellishment on the mesh bodice! The lace overlay on the skirt! What about the dainty beading on the waist and straps?! And scroll down for my reaction to the back…
I love that my mom snapped this photo because I remember this moment so vividly! This dress was obviously too big on me, so they pinned the straps together in the back to hold everything in place. As we were going over what alterations would be needed, I asked my consultant to pin me differently so I could see how the back would actually lay… and well, you can see how I felt about that below!
There was one other dress that I considered, but ultimately this one had my heart – and I’m so glad it’s the one I wore on our wedding day!
12 Wedding Dress Shopping Tips
So now it’s YOUR turn! Whether you just got engaged or you’ve started shopping and you’re feeling frustrated, let’s talk about some wedding dress shopping tips! Obviously everyone’s experience is going to be different, but I hope these at least get you started in the right direction 🙂
1. Plan ahead
I know it seems crazy that you need to think about buying your wedding dress 9-12 months ahead of time… but you actually really do! Production and delivery times will vary, but ultimately, the farther ahead you can shop, the better.
2. Set a budget
While you might not have your entire budget flushed out a year before your wedding, you need to solidify your dress budget before shopping. This will help you narrow down what bridal salons you should go to, which designers you want to try on, and so much more. Make sure you don’t forget to factor the cost of alterations and any accessories (veil, hair piece, etc) into your budget, too!
3. Research dresses, designers, and bridal salons
We are living in the age of google and social media. Use them!!! If you live in the city, I’d start with this list of where to shop for wedding dresses in Chicago. Go to their websites to see if they have a price range or list of designers. Follow them on social media and save any dresses they post that you like. You could even make Pinterest board or keep a folder of screenshots. You’ll be glad you have some inspiration photos to show your consultant at your appointment.
4. Invite people you want there
I know it might be tempting to invite everyone who wants to come, but I am here to give you permission not to do that. Picking out a wedding dress is a really personal experience, and it’s okay to set boundaries in order to make sure it’s everything you ever dreamed of. Don’t worry about hurting feelings, especially if you know someone might be really vocal/opinionated or you don’t think you’ll be 100% comfortable making this decision around them.
I wanted to keep my appointments really small so the people pleaser in me wouldn’t come out too much. That meant my mom and my sister for the first appointment, adding in my sister-in-law (who is also one of my best friends) for the second.
5. Make appointments at bridal shops
Once you find a few bridal shops (or just one, like me!) and you’ve selected your crew, get appointments on the calendar! Some salons will ask you what you like beforehand, but if they don’t – feel free to reach out and let them know on your own! I think this is especially important if you have a specific dress or designer in mind. How sad would you be if that one dress you’ve been coveting isn’t in their shop when you go? Or what if they are having a trunk show with the designer you love just a few days later?
6. Bring undergarments and shoes
This should go without saying, but don’t wear hot pink underwear to your bridal appointment!! You don’t necessarily need to wear full on shapewear, but I’d recommend wearing a nude thong and strapless bra. As for shoes, you definitely don’t have to worry about bringing your exact wedding shoes (who has those a year in advance anyway?!). Instead, just bring any pair of heels that you can easily slip your feet into. We all carry ourselves differently in heels, so if you plan on wearing any heel height on your wedding day, don’t forget to bring a pair with you.
7. Try on different styles
I was pretty sure I wanted dress with straps or sleeves, a defined waist, some sort of back detail, and a skirt that flows away without being too poofy. And while I landed on exactly that (minus the sleeves – didn’t love those on!), I’m still really glad that I tried on some other styles while I was there! Not only is it fun, but whether you love it or hate it, it can help you feel more confident in your final decision knowing that you gave other options a chance! The two dresses below DEFINITELY weren’t for me, but it didn’t hurt to give them a whirl!
8. Don’t try on anything over budget
While trying on different styles is helpful, that doesn’t mean you should try on different styles that are over your budget! Just say no! Weddings are really expensive and the last thing you want to do is fall in love with a dress that will require you to shift the rest of your budget.
9. Trust your gut
Of course it’s nice to be validated, but make sure you are listening to your gut. Before listening to what your crew thinks, take a moment to look at yourself in the mirror. Imagine your wedding day. Can you picture yourself wearing this dress? Maybe? Great, that’s a contender. No? Take it off and move on to the next one!
10. Walk around in the contenders
Standing on the pedestal is lovely, but you can get a much better feel for the dress if you move around a little. Go for a walk to another mirror. Pay attention to things like how the fabric feels against your skin or the way you feel when you catch a glimpse of yourself in a different mirror from a different angle.
11. Take pictures and videos
10/10 recommend asking your crew to take both photos AND videos during your appointment. You might be stuck between a few dresses in the moment, but when you look back afterwards, you realize that one really stands out to you. Shopping can also be really overwhelming for some people! Being able to take a breath and then review how each dress photographs, how it looks on you from different angles, and how it moves from an external perspective can be really helpful.
*This Alexandrea Grecco Sienna Dress was a contender!
12. Don’t worry about picking a dress too quickly!
Just like you shouldn’t feel pressure to make a decision if you aren’t ready, don’t feel pressure to try on more dresses than you need to. If you love the first dress you try on, then you love the first dress you try on! Embrace it! That being said, if you love a dress but you’re having trouble committing – do what I did! Make sure you have lots of photos and videos, and then sleep on it.
Maybe ask someone else that you trust to join your crew and then set up another appointment. When you’re back, you can try on some other dresses for fun – but chances are, you’ll feel more confident saying yes to the dress as soon as you put your favorite on again. That’s what happened to me!