How to Choose a Wedding Dress According to Pros

Finding the perfect wedding dress is one of the biggest (and toughest) decisions of the entire wedding planning process. There are a seemingly infinity number of styles to choose from and so many factors to consider, from culture, to style, to budget.  To help, we’ve put together a list of the 7 factors to consider when choosing for your wedding dress based on our experience as pros in the industry. Keep these in mind as you begin your search, and you’re sure to find the perfect gown for your big day!

Start with the Venue

One of the main factors, and one of the first things to consider, when shopping for your wedding dress is the wedding venue. For example, a formal church ceremony followed by a reception in a grand ballroom would likely call for a more traditional and formal wedding dress. On the other hand, a laid-back beach ceremony might be more suited to a simple, flowy gown.  In addition, factor in the time of year, the weather and the temperature to make sure you’re not too hot or too cold.

A mismatch of the venue and the wedding dress can create some complications. For example, imagine dragging sand down the aisle with a big heavy train for your beach wedding or being told by a Catholic priest that your dress isn’t appropriate for a religious ceremony. Factoring in the venue will help to ensure that the dress is appropriate for the overall tone of the day.

lin jirsa CM Montalvo Art Center Saratoga Wedding Photography
Example of a Grand, Heavy Wedding Dress that Matches The Venue | Image by Lin and Jirsa

Research and Get Inspiration

Good research and inspiration will help you narrow down your style and vision. As you browse, save photos of the dresses you like to your phone, to a document, or to a Pinterest board to keep it all organized.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Wedding Venue Instagram – If you already know your wedding venue, then a great place to start is the Instagram accounts of your wedding venue or similar venues to see what wedding dresses match the style and vibe of the venue.
  • Photographer Instagram – If you already have a photographer booked, another great place to research is their social media accounts to see how they capture certain styles of dresses.
  • Magazines (both print and online) – You might consider browsing through bridal magazines or even looking at a few recent celebrity wedding photos.
  • Pinterest – Of course, all (wedding) roads lead to Pinterest, the hub of wedding planning and a great place to visualize various aspects of your wedding, including the wedding dress.
instagram dress shopping
Research the Photographer’s Instagram Account

Start The Wedding Dress Shopping Process Early

Most brides begin shopping for their wedding dress about six to nine months before their big day. However, it’s important to keep in mind that wedding dress sizes often run smaller than regular clothing sizes, so it’s best to leave yourself some extra time in case you need to have your gown altered. Once you’ve found the perfect dress, it usually takes four to eight weeks for the dress to be made and shipped. So if you’re planning a wedding, it’s important to start early and allow yourself plenty of time.

bridal shopping pexels los muertos crew
Image Courtesy of Pexels

Plan and Budget for Your Wedding Dress

By knowing how much you can realistically spend, you can avoid the heartbreak of falling in love with a dress that’s out of your price range. Additionally, understanding your budget will help you narrow your search to dresses that are within your price range, making the shopping process less overwhelming. So before you start scanning bridal magazines or browsing wedding dress websites, sit down and figure out how much you can realistically spend on your dream dress.

The average cost of a wedding dress can vary greatly depending on the designer, the style of dress, and the materials used. For example, a simple dress from a mainstream bridal store could start around $1,000, while a couture gown from a high-end designer could easily cost upwards of $10,000. If you’re looking for something in between, often in the $3K to $6K range, there are plenty of options available from midrange designers. Or you can save and get under $1,000 with online bridal retailers like AW bridal. Of course, the final cost of your dress will also depend on any alterations that may be necessary to get the perfect fit.

wedding dress and accessories
Budget for the Wedding Dress and the Accessories

Browse Online Catalogs, Call Ahead and Schedule Appointments

So that you don’t waste your time visiting a wedding dress shop, salon, or boutique that doesn’t have what you’re looking for, be sure to shop online and call ahead to inquire about their inventory. If it’s available, schedule an appointment, as many sellers require a pre-booked appointment.

st andrew pasadena catholic wedding photography

Choose Your Wedding Dress Shopping Crew Wisely

When it comes to wedding shopping, who you bring with you can be just as important as where you shop. Of course, you’ll want to bring along the people whose opinions matter most to you, but it’s also important to consider who will be the most helpful. For example, if you’re struggling to stay within your budget, it may be helpful to bring along a friend who is good with money. Alternatively, if you’re having trouble making decisions, it might be helpful to bring along a friend who is good at giving advice. Ultimately, the most important thing is to make sure that you feel comfortable and supported while not having too many strong opinions. With the right people by your side, you’ll be sure to find the perfect dress in no time.

how to choose a wedding dress loews coronado bay resort san diego wedding photography

Get Creative, Own it and Be Yourself

The most important tip, and the one we’ll conclude with, is to choose something that you love and something that represents who you are. As much as you can browse tips, get other people’s opinions, and factor in new trends, nothing is as important as loving the dress you’re in and feeling great in it. Don’t be afraid to get creative and do something different and completely out-of-the-box.  For example, consider different colors other than white and off-white.  Incorporate cultural elements.  Or even DIY your wedding dress if you want!

black wedding dress
Example of a Black Wedding Dress from AW Bridal

Your perfect wedding dress isn’t everyone else’s perfect wedding dress, and that’s perfectly okay. One of the best parts about weddings is the individuality, the creativity, and the expression of you as a person and as a couple.  Embrace and enjoy the process!

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