5 Tips for Successful Wedding Dress Shopping

First comes love…then comes marriage! 

Selfie of me and my fiance at my friend's wedding

After getting engaged a few weeks ago, we have begun the dreaded planning process... Like most girls, I planned my perfect wedding when I was twelve years old. I would be getting married in the same church my parents were married in. I would have a dropped waist ballgown with a corset back. It would be huge. I would have a tiara, white shoes, a cathedral train, and all my family and friends. In High School I had a bridal party picked out of, get this, twenty of my closest friends. The wedding colors would be purple and white, and I would have a full, Catholic mass along with my ceremony. Everything would run smoothly and perfectly, and the planning would be easy.

Fast forward to now, I have learned that the world costs money. My dream wedding is increasingly expensive. Photographers cost way more than I anticipated! Planning isn’t as easy when the thoughts and opinions of a Fiancé are involved. Families always have opinions about everything and will inform you of those opinions all the time. My fiancé and I were at separate places for Christmas. We had gotten engaged so close to the holiday that he didn’t really have time to buy a plane ticket at a decent cost, so I got to face my family alone 😊. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family—they are wonderful humans that just want to help make my wedding be the best it can be. Regardless, I was not expecting the onslaught of differing opinions.

We’ve decided to get married in Boise in January. I do not want a summer wedding. I know it’s an unpopular opinion, but everyone gets married in the summer. I want to do something a little different. And, I LOVE winter. The snow is gorgeous. People gather, and coziness is the name of the game. I love winter.

Rant aside—we decided that January 2021 will be perfect. Now that the date was picked, the next focus (at least for my sister) was the wedding dress. How do you prepare for wedding dress shopping? I prepared by collecting my entourage and revisiting my wedding Pinterest board.Years of watching wedding shows gave me many predisposed ideas about what wedding dress shopping would be like, but I learned a few things from my experience that every bride should go into her wedding dress shopping day with. Here is a wedding dress shopping guide to help you find your dream dress:

My Wedding Ring on My Hand

My Tips for Finding Your Perfect Wedding Dress:

1 - Don’t Bring a Giant Entourage

My entourage consisted of my sister (aka my Maid of Honor), my mom, my Nana, and my Tsitsi (Aunt). I picked family because I knew they would have my best interest at heart. They also know me better than I know myself really, so that, I knew, would be helpful as well. I knew that all of them would send me back on the right track if I came out in something ridiculous. That would be vital to my confidence in me picking the right dress as well. Be super selective about the people you bring! Do not feel bad leaving people out! Choose the people that will give you clarity in decision making rather than added confusion and frustration.

2 - Find a Small Bridal Salon in Your Area

On TV, we see women going to crazy expensive and overwhelming bridal “superstores” that have millions of dresses with ridiculous prices that nobody should be paying for a dress unless they are planning to resale. When I arrived home for Christmas, my sister researched bridal salons. It made sense to shop over the holidays as my entourage lives locally. Lucia’s main concern was whether they would serve Champagne 😊. Unfortunately for her, I did not splurge for a VIP appointment :).

She found a small boutique in downtown Coeur d’Alene, made an appointment, and gathered the troops. Choose a small, local boutique. This is a smart idea for many reasons. One, it supports the local economy. Two, you work with knowledgeable and passionate individuals who are striving to run the best business possible. My experience in bridal salon chains were far from pleasant. Three, they generally have a more focused selection with a more specific price point. We found a beautiful salon called Cloud Nine Bridal with dresses between $800 and 1,500 on average. This was right around our budget and their social media profiles displayed beautiful gowns that really spoke to me. We wandered into Cloud Nine Bridal and were greeted by Lisa. Lisa was one of those ladies that makes you feel great about yourself and takes away all your stress. She owns the boutique, and it is so comforting and fun to work directly with a passionate businessowner. I started the day with a lot of wedding dress shopping stress. Within minutes, my anxiety level dropped.

I cannot say enough for Cloud Nine Bridal! If you are in the area, definitely make it your first stop on the hunt for your dream dress! I was more than grateful for Lisa and her girls, their beautiful selection of high quality yet reasonably priced dresses, and the fun, high-end atmosphere that made me feel like the 10/10 bride I am! Lisa really listened to what I wanted in a dress, and she has such an eye for accessories! Additionally, they allow pictures which was so helpful! We were able to take home the pics of our favorites and show them to my dad and uncle for their opinions as well. It really helped me make my final decision.

3 - Try on Different Shapes

Beautiful Ivory, dropped shoulder, A-line ballgown
One of the first dresses I tried on.

We all have a unique body, and specific body types generally look best in specific styles of dresses. Check out this link if you are curious what type of dress might look best on your body. Don’t be discouraged if the original shape you wanted doesn’t work with your body.

When should you start wedding dress shopping? Most people suggest you buy a dress around 6 months before your wedding. Initially, I was only planning on looking and seeing if I liked the style of dress that I anticipated. I never expected to find THE dress so early in the game!

My Mom, sister, Lisa and I walked around, pulling dresses we thought looked intriguing. I say intriguing because true to lesson number three, my sister was ensuring that I tried on all different styles to make sure that I knew that what I wanted truly was what I thought I wanted: a dropped waist ballgown. We pulled maybe twelve dresses, and Lisa helped me try on my first dress. It was a ballgown. We had pulled mostly ballgowns. It had straps, which is also something I didn’t anticipate wanting. Most notably for me was the lack of a dropped waist. For years, all I have wanted was a dropped waist. I put the dress on, popped out of the changing room, and I loved it. I didn’t mind the straps. It actually gave the dress more support. The lace was pretty, and the back was incredible. It had a deep low swooping back (thanks to the straps) and even without the corset back, I still was nipped in and felt skinny and beautiful.

My family all gave me the thumbs up, and so began our picking of the dresses. I did try on one with a mesh top. I tried on a mermaid, but, in the end, I was torn between three A-line ballgowns—none with a dropped waist. I had one ballgown on, and Lisa brought out an incredible Cathedral Length Veil. But the veil seemed to swallow up the dress. Lisa mentioned that there was a dress that went with the veil. I knew I had to try it on. I put the dress on, and Tsitsi said “That’s it; we are done.” She knew this was the dress. I wasn’t one hundred percent sure, so we decided to go back through and try on the other two favorites again.

4 - Keep an Open Mind 

Beautiful Satin gown with an A-Line shape and rouching
One of my favorites that I tried on that day!

Sometimes the dress you think you want isn’t the dress you actually want. From my experience, this is truly wedding dress shopping 101. Going in with an open mind most likely will make the process of finding the dress much easier. If you do end up liking a different shape of dress than expected, be open to that change! Embrace it!

It was so affirming to try on the other dresses and feel the difference. They didn’t create the same feeling I got from the one that matched the veil. I didn’t end up crying (which I was super surprised about as I am the emotional sister), but, when I had the veil and dress on and looked at myself in the mirror, I felt like a bride. I felt beautiful, and I felt ready for this next step in life. It was the one.

I thought that it would be hard for me to let go of my 12-year-old vision of my dress, but letting go of the idea of the dropped waist allowed me to feel beautiful and princess-like in my own body. Not in the body I imagined myself having as a 12-year-old. Which leads to my final tip:

5 – Choose a Dress for Your Current Body

Beautiful poofy ballgown with a sweetheart neckline
One of my top three dresses :) 

When I tried on the dropped waist ballgown, I felt insecure. The first thing I thought when looking in the mirror is that I needed to suck in and start a diet immediately. That is so unhealthy, and, to be honest, my body would probably not have changed drastically enough for me to feel good in that dress.

Right now, I am heavier than I want to be. After finishing the half marathon and starting the new job, my eating and exercise routine has been completely thrown out the window. Even being larger than normal, and definitely larger than what I want right now, I felt gorgeous in this dress. I felt confident. I know that over the course of the year when I lose the weight, I will feel even more gorgeous in it, but, in case I don’t, I know I’m still going to look and feel incredible. That’s what matters really: that you feel perfect and happy on your wedding day.

Check out this post Lucia wrote a while back all about finding a good workout routine if you are one of those people who hates hitting the gym. If you are more interested in running, like me, check out my Half Marathon Training Plan! Let's reach our goal weights before our big day! Just make sure to maintain your shape after your final dress fitting so that there are no wedding day catastrophes in which the dress doesn't fit!

Most importantly, have so much fun! Trying on wedding dresses is the best time! Choose people that you love and who will support you, go to a local boutique like Cloud Nine Bridal, try on all the styles, and shop for your body in the moment, and you will be successful in finding your dream dress! Once you find the dress, don't forget to go out for celebratory drinks afterwards! Share this post with your friends who are newly engaged and subscribe for more posts like this!

I’m not going to describe the dress too much because I don’t want my fiancé to get any ideas about reading this to find info about it... so stay tuned, next year the dress will be revealed! Stay tuned for more wedding prep advice on our Pinterest and Instagram!

Happy engagements everyone! Tell me about your dream weddings below! I love to hear everyone's visions, :) and I am a sucker for a cute engagement story!