The Dos and Don'ts of Shopping for a Wedding Dress

During my three years as Bridal Guide’s Fashion Advertising Associate, I’ve probably swooned over hundreds of wedding gowns. Each time I sat through a runway show, I imagined how each dress would look on me. When my fiancé, Steve, surprised me with an engagement ring in February, I immediately started thinking about what my wedding dress will look like (once I got over my initial shock!).

However, I forced myself to wait a few months before making my first bridal appointment since my wedding isn't taking place until October 2014, so I have plenty of time. I decided to start my dress shopping journey at Bridal Reflections in NYC; the salon not only carries gorgeous gowns, but also provides excellent, one-on-one service. Here's what I learned!

1. DON'T make your appointment on a Saturday.
I knew I’d be shopping with a pretty big entourage, so it was great that we arrived early on Sunday before the salon got too busy. It’s also a good idea to ask for the salon’s first appointment of the day. Our appointment was at 11 a.m. and we were the only people in the salon. I didn't feel rushed at all, and I was able to try on about 10 gowns!

2. DO bring people you trust (and who will tell you the truth).
I brought my mom, sister, aunt, future mother- and sister-in-law, and two of my bridesmaids. I know this sounds like it might be overwhelming, but I knew that they would all give me their honest feedback. For example, my soon-to-be mother-in-law told me that one of the glitzier dresses made me look like a Vegas showgirl!

Believe it or not, this was extremely helpful. All of the gowns are beautiful — it's easy to get swept up in the excitement of it all. Having people who will bring you back down to Earth is important.

3. DO have an idea of what you want.
My fabulous consultant, Jennie, let me browse the racks of beautiful gowns and then brought me into the dressing room to discuss what I’d like to try on. I told her that I love lace in ivory and blush tones, and I’m drawn to fit-and-flares and mermaid styles.

Have no idea what kind of dress you'd like to wear on your wedding day? My advice for brides who are unsure is to try on one ball gown, one fit-and-flare, and one A-line dress the first time they go shopping for their gown. It'll quickly become clear which silhouette works best for your shape.

4. DON'T rule anything out.
While I never thought a ball gown would work on me (I'm only 5'2''!), I fell in love with the laser-cut skirt on this Victor Harper gown. The A-line shape didn’t overwhelm me, and the belt cinched in my waist. I loved the eyelash lace at the top and how “bridal” the gown felt. 

5. DO add accessories.
This Ines di Santo gown (Style "Manye") was definitely a favorite with my bridesmaids. It’s an ivory Alençon lace mermaid. I thought it needed a little something extra, so Jennie tied on the dainty crystal belt. Accessories can change everything! The belt gave the gown the touch of bling I was craving and accentuated my waist. Jennie advised that the seamstress could even sew the belt directly onto the dress for me.

6. DON'T buy a dress if you can't see yourself walking down the aisle in it.
I could definitely picture myself walking down the aisle in this dazzling drop-waist Romona Keveza (Style "RK306") dress. The fabric is called “crystal lace” and it has thousands of sequins sewn into it. The sequins gave off a subtle shimmer as I moved, which made me think that it would have "wow" factor as I made my entrance into the ceremony.

Here's a tip: For brides who can't quite picture themselves walking down the aisle, ask your consultant for a veil. The veil really completes the whole look, and it can actually be very emotional when you try one on. During my appointment, everyone teared up once I put my veil on.

7. DON'T be afraid to hurt your consultant’s feelings...
You will make her job easier by being truthful about what you want. In the beginning of my appointment, I was scared to offend Jennie by saying I didn't like something she chose. However, I quickly learned that trying on dresses I wasn't in love with was a waste of both of our time. Why spend 20 minutes getting in and out of a gown you don't love, when you could spend it finding the gown of your dreams?

8. DON'T get your heart set on a dress that will require a lot of alterations.
Alterations are expensive and can add up quickly. If you want to change more than one part of a dress, you might just be better off looking for another one altogether. Originally, I fell in love a gown, but I wanted to change the neckline, the back, and add more tulle into the bottom. Finally, I realized that while I liked certain aspects of this gown, if I had to change everything about it, then it wasn't truly "The One."

Since I work in fashion, I vacillate between wanting to wear something trendy and something more traditional on my wedding day. I’m hoping to find a mix between these two elements. Which gown is your favorite? 

— Rachel Dichter

Rachel Dichter is the fashion advertising associate at Bridal Guide Magazine. She and fiancé Steve Capo met back in college when her sorority mixed with his fraternity. Now, they love spending time together at NYC's hotspots. Whether it’s a music festival or a night out on the Lower East Side, these two take full advantage of the city that never sleeps! Rachel and Steve describe their wedding as "a formal affair with a trendy twist."