Wedding Dress Shopping 101 – Find the Gown

As you begin the wedding planning process, shopping for a gown can be one of the most memorable experiences. But sometimes, unnecessary pressure can get in the way of truly enjoying the journey, just like many other aspects that come with planning an important celebration. To help alleviate worry, I’m sharing some insights for those brides who may be in the early stage of this process, to help you feel more confident in finding your wedding dress.

Know the Basics

Your DateBefore making any appointments, have a date set or a general time frame to ensure your gown will be ready before the big day. Some gowns will take up to 6 months to produce and deliver, depending on the designer and any customization. Independent designers and handmade gowns can often have a longer lead time than mass-produced designs from large name brands. Also, keep seasonality in mind when considering various fabrics. Satin can be very heavy and I wouldn’t advise it for a summer wedding, but it’s wonderful for a late fall and winter wedding. Summer weddings usually lend themselves to chiffon, tulle, or organza which are light and flowy fabrics. Lace and silk are wonderful fabrics all year round.

Your VenueBeing able to visualize your venue while shopping for your wedding gown will help you understand how your dress can shine in that environment. For example, if it’s a ceremony on the beach and reception in a gorgeous estate on the water, a bride may want a light and airy gown that feels romantic and sexy. If it’s a garden wedding in a regal-like mansion then she may perhaps want more of a ball gown of tulle or silk for a more elevated look.

Your BudgetPrice range affects dress selection when it comes to fabrics, manufacturing, and location. A dress made of natural silk, hand-down beading or embroidery, and natural lace will increase costs. Add a designer name or custom measurements to that and the price can go even higher. However, there are great bridal designers that may use polyester and machine-made lace or beadwork that are just as lovely and fit very well. The best approach is to determine what price you’re comfortable in spending, then identify bridal shops that carry dresses within that range so you find your dream dress within budget. For most brides that visit my shop, I suggest budgeting between $3500-$4500 to have a good range of gowns to select from, plus abudget of $500-$700 for a veil or other accessories and  an additional $500-$800 for alterations.


Before heading to your appointment, research different designers, silhouettes, and overall vibe of different styles of dresses. Send photos or a Pinterest board to your bridal stylist ahead of time to make your appointment more efficient. Understand that bridal salon’s unique designer offerings ahead of time to enhance your experience and help you feel even more knowledgeable about what you can expect.

Bring the Essentials

On the day of your appointment, make sure to bring any of the items you know you’ll be wearing on our wedding day, including shoes, undergarments (full on spanx or a covered bum is needed in a nude or ivory tone), and accessories, to get a better idea of what the dress will look like on your big day.

Avoid bringing a huge group of supporters to your appointment – this will just make the process more stressful with all of the individual comments, questions, and concerns. Instead, bring a close group of friends and family members whose judgment you trust.

A Final Thought…

My biggest piece of advice? Even if it’s your first stop, be prepared to commit if your instincts (your gut, not your head) tell you you’ve found the gown. If you truly feel beautiful in a gown, whether it is the first one or the 20th you’ve tried, listen to your instincts.

Are you a newly engaged bride-to-be? Your Dream Bridal is a private bridal boutique, offering all brides a dedicated 90-minute consult with owner and stylist, Malinda. Schedule your one-on-one consultation today!