When I was shopping for my wedding dress, I hadn't been in the industry so I didn't know any of the bridal shop owners that I know now. Looking back, there would have been a whole different course of events.
I bought my dress before Adriel actually ever proposed. That's how much I knew it was happening soon. I was 19 years old and completely clueless about wedding dress shopping, and the "dos" and "don'ts". And my bridal consultants knew that I didn't know much, and were probably not happy with me that I was wearing the wrong bra for the appointment.
When I was shopping I went to three different bridal stores and tried on 20 dresses. I ended up buying the dress in the photo above and it was way under my budget. Which was perfect because I was taking the zipper out of it and adding a corset back to the dress.
Shopping for a wedding dress is the BIGGEST purchase in a woman's lifetime. And there are so many shopping expectations most brides-to-be don't know about.
It can be a magical experience, but keep in mind it's not always the case.
During the off season I work at a bridal shop here in Ottawa, and I have learned quite a lot about choosing your wedding dress from a bridal consultants perspective.
Here is some of my best advice from my experiences as a bride, a wedding photographer, and a part time bridal consultant.
1. Leave your entourage at home
For some people wedding dress shopping turns into a full day experience with brunch before or after your bridal appointment. It also seems to include all of your bridesmaids, all of your sisters, mom, mom in law to be, and every important woman in your life. And while it is all and good to have your besties with you at your appointment, it can get a bit confusing for you when you have multiple opinions being voiced while making a decision. Only bring along the people that will give you quality opinions and help, not hinder you.
If you want to make it a whole day affair, set up a lunch reservation afterwards to hang out with your friends and extended family. I would definitely recommend keeping the crowds to a minimum as most bridal stores can't fit huge crowds.
2. Don't just show up with no appointment
This is the biggest rule, and if you disregard everything from this post, don't forget about this one!! Don't show up at a bridal store with no appointment and expect to be seen the same day. Most dress appointments for other dresses can be seen the same day, like prom dresses or mom of the bride/groom, but definitely not a wedding dress as a bridal consultant can't help more than one client when dealing with a wedding gown appointment. When shopping for a dress you need a consultants undivided attention, so make sure to make an appointment. Make your appointment as far out as possible, especially if you are dealing with schedule problems. On weekends, most bridal salons book up and don't have room for walk ins as well as they book up far in advance.
3. Have an idea in mind of what you want
You don't need to know exactly what kind of dress you want, but you do need to know what styles look good on your body as well as what design elements that you personally love. Your bridal consultant will be able to pull dresses that fit with your vision. So be prepared to discuss your venue, colour scheme, flowers, or the shoes you’re dead set on wearing down the aisle. We will ask you questions about which fabrics you like or which neckline that you prefer. We also will ask you if you have any specific designs you want, like a beaded front, or an interesting back, open or covered back, lace or no lace etc.
4. Be flexible with your vision
Knowing what you want from #3 is important, but don't be stubborn on what you are trying on. Just because you don't think you want a ball gown or a mermaid dress doesn't mean that you shouldn't try it on. A lot of my clients end up falling in love with a dress style that they didn't think about beforehand. Knowing what you want before your appointment will give your consultant a lot of information and insight into what you like so they can start pulling dresses. BUT don't have your heart set on anything that you aren't even willing to take your consultants advice as they are trained to know their gowns. Being open minded to try on a few dresses that might not look as good on the hanger may turn out to be the perfect dress on your body.
5. Know when to say no and to back away
For goodness sake, do not try on dresses that you can't afford and are out of your price range. Depending on the bridal salon (small boutique salons are different) but some times a stylist may pull some dresses that are out of your price range but you shouldn't try them on because then you will fall in love with them and not be able to afford them. I don't suggest it, and definitely recommend to stick in your budget. Some people claim that bridal store employees are going to coerce you to break your budget, but it depends on where you go. No store openly will advertise that they are going to push brides beyond their budget, but sometimes they won't know a budget if you don't tell them. Remember that the power to stay out of an overpriced dress is all on you.
6. Shopping at smaller boutiques will pay off
While I know that finding the right place will be hard to find, I definitely recommend that you do some research on which stores will be best for you. Smaller boutiques are all for customer service and are able to give you better attention when you are shopping for your dress. When you are doing your researching your silhouettes, don't forget to also research which bridal salon will be best for you with the best staff and business model that will support your wedding dress shopping.
7. Pay attention to the other accessories
When you are shopping for your wedding dress and trying to stay within your budget, don't forget about the accessories and how they will fit in your budget. When I bought my dress I spent xx amount on my dress, and it was in my budget. Right before my wedding I realized that I also wanted a veil and a belt to go on my dress because it was a simple dress. What I didn't think about was how much a veil cost or a crystal belt cost. Also keep in mind alterations. I took the zipper out of my dress and added a corset back, which was another expense I had to think about; as well as a hem because the dress was very long.
8. Don't wait to start shopping
If you are waiting to shop for your dress until a couple more details fall into place, you are just setting yourself up for failure. Or rush fees to get your dress in on time. Maybe you're waiting till you lose a couple more pounds or until you figure out your venue. Your dress is one of the first things you should buy. Not only does it set the tone for your wedding, as well as takes longer to come in after it's been ordered. You may think a few months is enough time, but it isn't because a wedding dress can take 6-9 months to come in. You also want your dress to come in at least 2 months before your wedding so that you can have a fitting 2 months before the wedding, just in case you need more than one fitting.
9. Consider going shopping on a weekday instead of a weekend
Brides that are looking for a one-on-one experience with a bridal consultant should really consider coming in on a weekday instead of a weekend. Weekends can be extremely busy and the stores can get swamped on Saturdays and Sundays. There have been a couple times when I am serving multiple clients at a time because we are way to busy and don't have enough staff to help everybody.
I hope these tips help, I definitely didn't know these tips when I was shopping for a wedding dress. If these tips can help anybody when they are shopping, then that makes it all worth it. It's something that you don't do very often and should be prepared for it.
Some of my favourite bridal salons in Ottawa are:
All That Glitters Bridal Salon