Wedding Dress Shopping – Tips and Stories

Wedding decision

My favorite part of wedding planning is without a doubt wedding dress shopping. I was never the sort of person who collected wedding magazines and dreamed of my wedding day. I just knew that I wanted to find the perfect dress. Who doesn’t? I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. I just wanted a chance to try on all of the dresses – the best and the worst of the bunch!

I scheduled two appointments with a small boutique called Wedding Inspirations in Asheville, North Carolina and David’s Bridal. My Maid of Honor came with me and we spent the afternoon oohing and aahing over the possibilities. I wasn’t planning on buying anything. I just wanted to narrow down my choices. From my online picture research, I was sure that I was going to buy a dress from David’s Bridal and that it was going to be made of chiffon.

My first appointment was with Wedding Inspirations which I expected to be quick. In my eyes, boutique meant ridiculously expensive and I was on a fixed budget. I wanted a point of comparison for David’s Bridal and wasn’t expecting very much. We walked in and met Amanda who gave us these adorable twisty ribbons. She asked both of us to wander around the shop and twist a ribbon on any dress that I wanted to try on. The amazing thing was that the shop only carried two dresses over a thousand dollars. For those of you who haven’t gone dress shopping yet, do your research. Unless you’re shopping at a trunk show or getting a cheaply made gown, wedding dresses start at $1,000.

It really was fun picking and choosing different dresses. Amanda brought them into the changing room and helped me get into each one. We were able to narrow down the choices and I realized that I don’t actually like chiffon dresses after all. I wanted satin – something that looked fabulously elegant. Amanda saw which ones I had liked and didn’t and made a few recommendations. She grabbed five dresses for me to try. They were all gorgeous! Three of them made it to my top five list.

I remember my wedding dress the most because I saw it on the hanger and didn’t like it at all. It had a lot of ruching and looked too busy. I walked out of the dressing room holding the dress up with a wrinkle in my nose prepared to quickly rule it out. As Amanda was synching the back and tying the corset, the busy ruching started to take shape. I couldn’t stop staring as the dress completely transformed. I loved it! I started calling it my wild card dress. It was very tight, emphasized my hips and reminded me of a classic 1930s bombshell dress. I wasn’t sure I could pull it off.

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I remember standing on the pedestal looking in the mirror and playing with the train. It was longer than what I wanted, but when I tossed it the skirt would billow and flutter beautifully. I couldn’t stop playing. I would swish the train around treating it like a bat wing attached to my arm and then would release it at the last second just to watch it float and flutter. Yes, I have been known to get a little ADD, but I couldn’t stop smiling. I knew that on the wedding day getting a chance to play with the train would certainly help with some of the jitters.

My Maid of Honor and I left Wedding Inspirations completely ecstatic. I had five dresses that I loved, tons of pictures and we’d even found some great bridesmaid dresses. However, I knew that we had an appointment at David’s Bridal and I was curious what they had to offer. There were several dresses from their website that I wanted to try. Their prices were about the same, but there were one or two dresses that were a little lower and I wanted to be able to compare.

When we arrived, our consultant told us that she’d missed her lunch break and apologized. We were happy to work with her and said we’d wander around while she was eating. No big deal. She finished her lunch break, she handed us a David’s Bridal catalog and told us to choose our dresses. She didn’t have any answers to our questions or any recommendations. She didn’t listen to what either of us had to say about what styles we knew we liked. Overall, the consultant was very distant, unhelpful and couldn’t wait to get us out of her way.

One important thing you need to know about me: I don’t like anything poofy. I mean it – poofy hair and poofy dresses are never going to be my thing. I explained this to the consultant, but she tried making me where an extra undergarment that would make the bottom of the dresses poofy. I wanted to see how the dress looked first without the extra undergarment and then adjust if I felt that it was needed. My consultant did not understand that and couldn’t get over me saying no. In the end, she gave up but reminded me every time I stepped out of the changing room how much better it would look if I’d done things her way.

Let’s discuss the changing room for a moment. It’s located in the center of the store where everyone gets to watch the brides and bridal parties emerge. When you’re getting in and out of a wedding dress, you’re not actually tied into it until you’ve left the changing room. So, you get to stand there, hold up the dress and hope no one is staring while you get synched in. I was ok with this, but not thrilled since the store was packed with people popping in and out of the changing rooms. The privacy Wedding Inspirations had provided made the experience more intimate, not like I was a cow stuck on an assembly line.

The real problem was that my consultant wouldn’t let me take the dress into the changing room with me. I had to open the door to reach out for the dress. Now, I’m sure you’re wondering why this is a big deal. Most wedding dresses are HUGE! The dresses have trains, are bulky, hard to maneuver and you can’t let it drag on the ground. It won’t fit into a tiny door opening so you really have no choice but to open the door wide to get the dress and announce yourself in your underwear to the world. It’s mortifying! The best part, my consultant wanted to do a dress exchange at that very moment. So I had to open the door, give her the old dress, get the new one and hope that I didn’t know anyone at the store who could see me in all my glory. I was not happy.

The dresses were really poorly made. The material was really cheap and the dresses didn’t hang nicely – even with the stupid poofy undergarment. Some of the dresses didn’t cost as much as the ones at Wedding Inspirations, however considering the alterations you’d end up paying double the price of the original dress. I couldn’t find anything that I like and we were happy to leave.

A few weeks later I brought my Maid of Honor, best friends, and mother to Wedding Inspirations to show them my top five dresses. It was amazing watching their faces when I came out in my “wild card” dress. They all had the same reaction of scrutiny written across their faces. Then Amanda synched me in and the same magical transformation happened once more. Their faces lit up and everyone was speechless. They loved it! Any doubts I’d had before were washed away and I knew I’d found my dress.

DSCN0784Twirling

Looking back, these are my wedding dress shopping tips:

  • Avoid going to David’s Bridal on the weekends. If you go during the week, you should get more individualized attention and your consultant won’t feel so overloaded. If you have to go during the weekend, schedule your appointment early in the day.
  • Always go to two wedding dress shops. The other shop might have the perfect dress, better prices including alterations, better service or they might be a chance for you to laugh with your Maid of Honor. It never hurts to try something different. You could be surprised.
  • Be very careful who you choose to go dress shopping with. We’ve all seen the show “Say Yes to the Dress” and what happens when bossy siblings or family members get in the way. They won’t let go of their selfish ways and the dress shopping experience is ruined. You’re the bride. You’re going to be nervous and you need to have someone with you who will tell you the truth, but keep your best interests at heart.
  • Go dress shopping twice. Once with a very small group of one or two close friends or family members to narrow down your choices and then once with a larger group. This way you’re letting the large group pick between 3-5 dresses and not the whole store. With that many people, it would take even longer to decide. If the options are short and sweet then the answer is easy.
  • Always wait a week after your first time dress shopping before deciding on “the one”. If you have to put down a  refundable deposit to hold the dress, go right ahead, but don’t buy it until you’ve taken some time to think about it. After my first time dress shopping I was pretty sure I would choose a different wedding dress. It wasn’t until I looked at the pictures and got opinions from friends and family that I started to change my mind. I waited before buying and am thrilled I did.
  • Know your budget before trying on the dresses. I knew that I had to stay under $1,000 – including alterations. I didn’t even look at anything over $800. I didn’t want to risk falling in love with something that I couldn’t keep. Save yourself a little heartache.
  • Plan ahead. You want to give enough time for the wedding dress company to order your dress and for your seamstress to do the alterations. The last thing you want to worry about is whether your dress will be ready in time. Order your dress at least 8 months before the wedding day.
  • Remember – you can always take in a dress, but it’s hard to put material back in. Even if you’re going to lose 10lbs before the wedding, don’t be ashamed to order your dress based on your current body type. I have seen what happens when brides can’t fit into their wedding dresses – it isn’t pretty.
  • Expect to go get food after you go dress shopping. Dress shopping takes a very long time and after running in and out of the changing room you’re going to be starving when you leave. Make reservations if you have a large party or know ahead of time which place you and your group want to go to. Otherwise, pack a sandwich.

Did you have fun wedding dress shopping? How long did it take for you to find “the one”? Did you go to David’s Bridal to try on dresses or did you go to a small business instead?

I can’t wait to hear your stories!

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4 thoughts on “Wedding Dress Shopping – Tips and Stories

  1. Great write up. Makes me remember when you helped me with my dress! You ended up being responsible for the entire palette of the wedding.

    • I wish you could have been there to help me pick my wedding dress! I have always loved going shopping with you – wedding dresses or not. It was because of that great boutique in Bowling Green we went to ages ago that I decided to try Wedding Inspirations in the first place. I almost bought a dress very similar to yours until mine made an appearance. Great memories though. I’m glad you liked the post.

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