Lots of my clients ask me for advice before they go shopping for the wedding gown for their destination wedding. There are no hard and fast rules, you should really get what you want, regardless of whether it’s what your mother thinks is appropriate on the beach. 🙂 With that said, there are a few tips that I give anybody who asks.
1) Don’t take more than one or two people with you. And only take two if your mom insists on dress shopping with you (or if you want your mom along). Take your maid of honor, or another bridesmaid who will be kind but honest with you about the way you look in the dresses you try on. This is not the time to choose the friend who ALWAYS says nice things about everybody no matter what. You need honesty.
2) Don’t start out shopping at the most expensive boutique on your list — start at the opposite end. Most brides find their dress in the first 10 they try on — even if they go try on 50 more before they actually make up their mind. If you start out at the most expensive boutique in your area, that’s probably where you’ll end up buying your gown. Who wouldn’t? Everybody looks fabulous in a silk designer gown.
3) Tell the dress shop that your wedding date is four to six weeks ahead of when it actually is. Some dress shops cut it too close. You don’t want to deal with that. You want to be able to decide to ship your dress ahead if you have too much luggage. And even if you’re carrying it on, you don’t want to be running back and forth for dress fittings in the two weeks prior to your departure.
4) Wear flat (or almost flat) shoes when you have the dress altered. Yes, I know you want to wear heels to dance in, but you’re not going to wear them all night. Trust me. Every single one of my brides has eventually taken her shoes off at the wedding reception. The girls who have dresses that are a touch too long are absolutely miserable.
5) Less is more. If you absolutely must have that layered confection you saw on the cover of Modern Bride, be forewarned that you are going to sweat your ass off underneath it. Big dresses have many layers in order to achieve that huge effect. More layers means more heat.
6) If you are wearing a strapless dress, get it altered properly. There is nothing less attractive in the whole world than the site of a bride hiking up her strapless dress repeatedly during her wedding reception. Muy tacky. Before you buy the dress, ask the salesperson if it will be altered so you can be sure it doesn’t slip. Don’t get cheap about the alterations. You will regret it on the big day.
7) Remember that choosing ivory versus white will determine some of the color scheme for your wedding. If you’ve always wanted to carry ivory Vandella roses down the aisle, you don’t want to be wearing a bright white dress. They used to say white-white was for spring and summer and off-white was for fall and winter. That’s simply not true anymore, anywhere. And certainly not in the Caribbean. You should choose whatever makes you happiest.
8) Look for cooler fabrics. Traditional silk-satin or poly-satin are hot as hell down here in the tropics. Instead, consider organza, eyelet, dotted swiss, and other sheer options. The more your dress breathes, the happier you will be halfway into your reception.
9) Don’t dilly-dally about choosing your dress. Your wedding gown determines a lot of other things in your wedding, from what kind of bridesmaid dresses you choose to how the groom needs to dress to compliment you. Wedding gown shopping can be scary, especially for those of us who aren’t a size 8, but you need to bite the bullet early and find the right dress for you. The harder you are to fit, the earlier you need to start.
10) NEVER EVER buy a dress too small for you with the intention of losing weight. A dress can always be taken in, but very rarely has extra fabric to let it out. You should order a gown in the size that fits you when you’re dress shopping and then have it altered smaller if you drop some pounds. Remember, planning a wedding can be stressful (even if you have an awesome wedding planner), dieting makes it even harder. You’ll want to be able to eat and drink at your bridal showers, engagement parties, bachelorette nights and other big events. Most importantly, remember that your future husband loves you just the way you are. He didn’t give you an engagement ring and say “now lose 40 pounds and I’ll give you the wedding band too.” If he did, you should dump him in a heartbeat. Find something that flatters the shape you are and wear it well.
With that last tip, I have to tell you a horrible story about a girl I know (not a client) and her horrible mother. This particular bride was a big girl when she got engaged, probably a size 18. Her mother went out and bought her three designer wedding gowns (money wasn’t an issue), all of them in size 14. Remember, wedding gowns run small so she really bought her the equivalent of a 10 or 12. She told her daughter that she had to fit into one of those size 14 dresses or there would be no wedding. Now, most of us would tell our mothers where to put those dresses, but this girl wasn’t that brave. She’s basically a wimp and her mother is a terrorist. Anyway, she lost the weight. She starved herself. Her friends helped her work out daily. She was grumpy, miserable and unhappy during the six months before her wedding. And she lost the weight, fit into one dress (barely), and got married. Six months later, she was twice as large as she was before she got engaged. All that suffering for nothing.
Alright, armed with my 10 tips above, you are now ready to go find the wedding gown of your dreams. Happy dress hunting from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra.