Shopping for your wedding dress is an exciting and overwhelming experience. After all, your gown will likely be the most important (and expensive!) item of clothing your will ever wear. check out our Top Tips for a successful and stress free shopping experience.

wanaka wedding kellylin couture dress
Kellylin Couture Real Bride Sammy – Destination Wedding in Wanaka, Queenstown

Location, Location, Location

Knowing the place and time of your wedding will help focus your search. Will you be having a daytime ceremony on the beach? You can rule out ball gowns with long trains and dramatic embellishments. Exchanging vows in a candlelit cathedral? Avoid short slip dresses or anything that looks like it could be worn to a cocktail party. Most fabrics are suitable year-round, but some are more appropriate than others for warm weather or the cooler months.

budget wedding gowns

Set A Budget

Figure out how much you want to spend, and tell the salesperson before she starts bringing out gowns. That way you won’t lose your heart to a dress you can’t afford. Typically, a wedding ensemble, including veil, undergarments, and any other accessories, accounts for 10 percent to 15 percent of the total wedding cost. Factor in extras, such as alterations—which can add a few hundred or a few thousand dollars depending on how many changes you want to make. Once the dress arrives, it may require professional pressing or steaming, which can tack on a hundred dollars or more.

wedding planning

Start Early

Begin shopping six to nine months before your wedding. It takes about five months for a manufacturer to make a dress and another two months to complete the alterations. Very elaborate gowns will take longer. Short on time? Many shops do rush orders for an additional fee, but your choices will likely be limited. They may also have a sale section with samples you can buy off the rack. If you’re lucky, you can get one that needs just minor alterations.

Do Your Research

Pore over bridal magazines, books, and websites to learn about silhouettes, styles and price points so you can better convey what you’re looking for. Start a folder with pictures of dresses or details that appeal to you, and take it with you when you shop.

suri plain satin wedding gown

Make A Game Plan

Decide where you want to go and call stores in advance to find out which designers they carry, the price range of their dresses, and if they sell accessories and provide alterations. Most salons require that you schedule an appointment. If possible, shop on a weekday but not during your lunch hour when you’ll be rushed. Don’t shop till you drop—limit yourself to two stores a day, so you don’t get exhausted or forget what you’ve seen. Carry a notebook and jot down dress descriptions (photos are usually prohibited until you buy a gown).

Cherish a-line wedding gown with natalia lace sleeves

Bring Backup

Take anything you know you want to wear, such as a special necklace or your grandmother’s veil. Boutiques won’t provide bustiers or strapless bras so you may want to bring your own. You’ll also need the advice of a few trusted confidantes, but not too many: An opinionated entourage can be confusing and frustrating. Invite one or two people who know your taste, will be honest with you, and whose judgment you trust.

Find A Dress for Less

You don’t have to spend a million bucks to get the perfect gown. Besides having sale racks, many salons hold big sales once or twice a year to clear out “gently worn” or discontinued samples (usually in sizes 6, 8, or 10). To find out when these are, call stores, go to designers’ websites, and sign up for mailing lists. Also register for trunk shows, where designers debut new lines. Sometimes boutiques offer discounts if you buy on the show day. This being said never buy a discounted gown simply for the deal. While a reduced-rate designer piece may seem irresistible, it’s best to find a gown a truly love – even if it doesn’t have a widely recognised label.

classic lace strapless wedding gown

Keep An Open Mind

This is the mantra repeated over and over by bridal consultants. So take their advice, even if what they urge you to try on doesn’t seem like your style. Some dresses don’t look like much on the hanger but look great on. On the other hand, never let yourself be talked into purchasing a gown you’re not in love with.

Focus On Fit, Not Size

Bridalwear often runs smaller than ready-to-wear; if you normally buy an 8, you may need a 12. So forget the numbers and don’t insist on a smaller size because you intend to lose weight before the wedding—order the one that fits now. A gown is easy to take in, but difficult and costly to let out.

Get It In Writing

Before putting down a deposit (usually 50 percent), go over the contract with your bridal consultant. Find out when the gown will be ready, the estimated fee for alterations, what the cancellation policy is, and what recourse you have if the dress is damaged or comes without the requested modifications. Finally, double-check that the manufacturer’s name, style number, size, and color are correct.

classic wedding gown with sleeves

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