Destination Wedding Gown Shopping — 10 Tips to Make Finding the Perfect Wedding Dress a Fun Process

Hola Ladies!

Yes, this blog is for the ladies.  Men have it easy, whether the attire for the event is “formal” or “island cocktail attire.”  Brides, on the other hand, have to hunt down the most important garment they’ll ever wear.  For some girls, wedding gown shopping is a lot of fun.  Those are usually the girls who are skinny and love to see themselves in pictures.  You know who you are.  But for the rest of us, shopping for a wedding gown is a streesful, and maybe even traumatic, event.  My goal today is to provide you with 10 tips that will make wedding gown shopping more fun for my brides.

I’ve been watching those reality shows about wedding dresses — “Say Yes to the Dress” and it’s tacky-ass counterpart in Atlanta — and I’m a bit perplexed by what they’re showing to the real brides out there.  For example, is it possible that Kleinfelds and Bridals by Lori never have any fat customers?  Are all those brides really size 6?  NOT!!!  They’re showing off the fun and whacky brides, not the real ones.  It worries me that average girls are too tough on themselves in the bridal shop after seeing episodes of these un-reality shows.  Before you go shopping, remember that there is a dress out there for you and you will find it.  Just have an open mind.  And don’t forget to make an appointment — the better shops won’t even let you do a walk-in.

Here are 10 tips to help your dressing shopping experience go more smoothly:

1 — Look at gown styles in magazines or online before you go.  If you’re going to a real bridal boutique (rather than a discount warehouse), they’re not going to let you dig through the racks.  You need to come prepared with an idea of what you want to look at.  Have an idea of whether you want strapless or backless or halter-style.  Know whether you want full length or short or something with a train that bustles.  Know whether you want try on gowns with “bling” or whether you’re leaning toward something conservative.  You don’t necessarily have to stick with these criteria once you start trying on dresses, but you need to be prepared with a jumping off point for the bridal consultant.

2 — Don’t take a whole lot of people shopping with you.  Your mom and your maid of honor.  Or if your mom stresses you out, go looking with a couple girlfriends first.  Whatever you do, do not include the groom on this little shopping mission.  Even if you don’t believe in superstitions and you couldn’t care less if he sees your dress pre-wedding, leave a little mystery to your day and leave him out of the dress shopping adventure.  Did anybody see that awful Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta episode where the groom kept telling the bride she looked lousy in everything.  She wasn’t a small girl, but she wasn’t a cow either.  I’m pretty sure the groom was gay and they’re going to be divorced within a year anyway, but it was an excellent example of what we leave men at home when we shop for the wedding party.

3 — Be emotionally prepared for sample dresses to be size 8 and smaller.  Unless you’re at David’s Bridal (they carry a whole slew of different sizes on the rack), most of the time you won’t find any wedding gown samples bigger than a size 8.  That’s difficult for us bigger girls who would like a good idea of what our wedding gown will look like on us.  I’ll will never forget when the size 0 consultant at Hannelore’s in Old-town Alexandria pulled on my wedding gown over all of her clothing to show me what it would look like on — LOL — I was like “you must be kidding me.”  Since the average woman is a size 12, someday they’ll offer samples in a better array of sizes.  But for now, be prepared to be jacked up in a dress with big plastic clips holding it up on you and doing your best to guess what it’s going to look like when you actually put it on in your correct size.

4 — Do your hair and wear dressy shoes for wedding gown shopping.  Do not put on a whole bunch of makeup because that just makes it tricky getting the dresses on and off — the boutiques don’t appreciate your bronzer on their silk.  But if you do a nice job with your hair and bring some pretty shoes, it can make all the difference in the world.  If you look like hell and have your hair up in a clip, odds are the dress isn’t going to look as nice as you’d like it to look.  Don’t go shopping hungover.  Look good, be well rested and you’ll be amazed how much better you look in the mirror when you’re modeling.  If you’re planning to wear a family veil or headpiece, bring it with you.  What better way to get a view of the entire package?

5 — Lie to the bridal boutique about your wedding date.  Especially for destination weddings.  Always tell them your wedding date is at least a month earlier than it is so that you’re sure to have your dress finished — including all alterations — in time for your big trip.  During the busy wedding season, bridal shops get backed up and you don’t want to be crossing your fingers a week before the wedding, hoping that the dress shop will finish hemming your wedding gown.

6 — Don’t try on gowns that are outside of your budget.  It’s just setting yourself up for disappointment.  Although some of these reality shows have made it look like negotiation is key in dress shopping, most shops aren’t willing to negotiate much.  If you try on a gown that’s $3,500 and your top budget is $2,500, you don’t have a prayer of getting that gown without blowing your budget.  Why would you do that to yourself?  Beware of shops that try to put you into pricier dresses.  It’s okay to ask “how much” before you get zipped into a dress.  And it’s also okay to get angry if they show you dresses outside your budget more than once.  Be polite, but be firm!

7 — Be open to trying styles recommended by the sales consultants at the bridal shop.  Tell her what you want, but if she suggests you try a neckline that you hadn’t considered, give it a shot.  Remember — these ladies do this for a living and they work on commission.  It’s in her best interests to fit you as quickly as possible into a wedding gown that flatters you.  She does this all day every day and she can take one look at you and see your ass is too big to wear a mermaid-style gown, or that your boobs are too big for halter-style without breaking your neck.  Trust her judgment and if you don’t like a few of her picks, you can quit.

8 — Don’t let them sell you a headpiece or a veil the day you’re gown shopping unless they’re offering you an amazing deal.  See, you really need to think about what goes on your head with that dress you’ve chosen.  They ALWAYS want to sell you something with the gown.  But odds are the tiaras there are a heck of a lot more expensive than if you go online and look for the same thing.  Veils are really expensive, and if you have a friend who got married recently and is willing to loan you hers, go for it.  A borrowed wedding veil is considered seriously lucky and you’d be fortunate to wear it.  Finally, remember that a veil will come off of your head for the wedding reception.  Think about how it looks for the ceremony and what you’re going to do with your head/hair afterwards.  There’s no rush — don’t let a pushy salesperson back you into something that you don’t really want.  You can’t return it.

9 — If you’re going to try to get a discount gown — thinking trunk sale or clearance dress warehouse here– try that first before you even go looking at fancy boutiques.  Once you’ve put on a $3,000 designer silk gown, it’s going to be a lot harder to convince yourself you can live with the same gown made in an inferior fabric.  Don’t let yourself fall in love with an expensive gown and then try to find its counterpart on the bargain rack or eBay.  That’s a recipe for a broken heart if I ever saw one.  And trust me, I know.  I went to Hannelore’s first — then I went to look at the less expensive stuff.  $4,500 later…. well anyway, you can guess what happened.

10 — Don’t order your dress smaller than you actually are with the intention of losing a bunch of weight before your wedding day.  That’s not fair to you and it isn’t realistic.  Only a few special women can drop more than a dress size given the amount of stress and rich food you encounter in the months leading up to your wedding day.  Planning a wedding is supposed to be fun.  Remember — he didn’t say “Will you marry me after you lose 40 pounds?”  He loves you exactly as you are and you don’t have to change a thing.  I’m not saying you can’t diet — I’m just saying don’t order a smaller size of the dress than you can actually zip at the time you’re selecting it.  You can always have a wedding gown taken in — that’s not a big deal.  In fact, you should work alterations into the deal you’re making if you’re working with a reputable bridal boutique.  But you can’t really have a wedding gown taken out because there’s not enough extra fabric in the seams to allow for any expansion.  When you have your final fitting, they’ll adjust the gown to fit you exactly as you are at that time.  And once you’ve had your final fitting, the diet ends!!! Maintain, maintain, maintain until you get to your wedding weekend.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques.  And avoid watching those horrible wedding dress shows until after you’ve been through the process and gotten your gown.  Then you can laugh at them with me rather than developing Pre-Traumatic Dress Disorder.


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