How to Handle Anxiety About Wedding Dress Shopping

It's normal to feel nervous—but you don't have to.
Wedding dress shopping selection of dresses on a rack
Natalia Bostan / Shutterstock
Naoimh O'Hare - The Knot Associate Commerce Editor
Naoimh O'Hare
Naoimh O'Hare - The Knot Associate Commerce Editor
Naoimh O'Hare
Associate Commerce Editor
  • Naoimh writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, specializing in shoppable roundups from gift guides to wedding fashion
  • Before working on editorial content, Naoimh wrote storefront descriptions for some of The Knot Worldwide's many wedding vendors
  • Naoimh studied creative writing at the National University of Ireland, Galway
Updated Jul 27, 2022

Planning a wedding has lots of fun parts, and for many, shopping for a wedding dress is one of those highlights. That said, it's perfectly normal to experience worry and doubt before you find the right outfit (and for some, even after purchasing an outfit). Wedding dress shopping stress is a lot more common than you might think, but it doesn't have to stop you from having a good experience. If you're feeling anxious, overwhelmed or even just a tad nervous about finding your dream wedding attire, there are things you can do to help. We've tapped mental health and dress shopping experts for advice on how to combat stress before your salon appointment, what to do if you're feeling nervous on the day, and how to deal with anxiety after you've made a decision.

How to Reduce Stress Before You Go Dress Shopping

Everyone experiences stress for different reasons and in different ways, but there are a few common sources of anxiety for couples who are shopping for their wedding attire. Krysta York, owner of popular Portland bridal salon Charlotte's Weddings, says that often there are fears that get in the way. "Fear that they won't find something they love, fear that their budget isn't enough to find the one, fear their family and friends won't like what they are wearing, fear that nothing will fit them while shopping, and so much more," shares York.

But you don't have to let dress shopping nerves stop you from enjoying yourself. We're sharing tips below that'll help you prepare for a relaxed shopping experience.

Make sure you and your fiancé are on the same page.

In a relationship, communication is key, and that fact remains in the leadup to your wedding. "Prior to the actual shopping day, couples should get a sense of what a shared style/aesthetic for the wedding would be," says Rebecca Sachs, therapist and founder at CBT Spectrum. "They can do this by looking at pictures or taking quizzes (like on The Knot) of dresses, suits and tuxes," she continues. Sitting down with your S.O. to make sure you're both aligned will help direct your focus while shopping, so you don't feel as overwhelmed.

"It would also be practical to decide on a budget together for outfits, including accessories," advises Sachs. Having an agreed budget should help to ease any financial anxiety you might be feeling about dress shopping and empower you to take control of this meaningful purchase. Plus, just knowing your fiancé is fully on board should help relieve stress too.

Nail down the logistics of the day.

"Before the big shopping day, make appointments when you can, figure out how you are traveling from point A to B and decide how long you want the day to be," advises Sachs. Having everything organized in advance will really help ease your mind on the day and remove additional stressors (like ordering last-minute transport for your crew).

If you're following the typical wedding dress shopping timeline, you should start making salon appointments around 12 months out from the wedding. (Psst, you can find bridal salons near you on The Knot.) And as soon as you've got a time and date, start reaching out to any close friends and family members you'd like to join you. It's much more likely they'll be free to attend if you let them know sooner rather than later. Plus, it's one less thing for you to worry about before you go shopping.

Talk to your salon attendant.

During or after booking your slot, a consultant will likely connect with you about your appointment. At Charlotte's Weddings stylists reach out to brides before their appointments to talk about their wedding planning journey, their love story and what to expect from the dress shopping experience. "We love to educate our brides on timelines, how to prepare for their appointment and what the experience will be like when they get here so that it eases their mind about the shopping experience," says York.

This is a good time to share any worries you might have, but it's also perfectly acceptable to call ahead before making your appointment to voice any concerns. You could ask if there's a stylist who is experienced in assisting anxious brides, or bring up any other questions with your bridal consultant that might dissolve your worries. Asking what sizing is available to try on, how the salon accommodates friends and family and what the standard deposit is in the store could help to reduce stress.

Brush up on the lingo before you go.

Knowing how to express what you like and don't like will make dress shopping easier (read: less stressful) and it'll boost your confidence to speak candidly with your stylist. If you're not sure where to start, it's helpful to browse styles from different wedding dress designers online to get a feel for who and what you love. When you come across something you like, pay attention to the wedding gown's fabric, silhouette and any unique details like sleeve style and embellishments. Trust us, you'll have a lot less anxiety about wedding dress shopping when you know how to communicate your preferred style.

Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques.

You know what they say: Practice makes perfect. Working on mindfulness techniques in the leadup to your salon appointment will leave you much better equipped to cope with feelings of stress or anxiety on the day. "Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, and is a skill that mental health professionals can help you strengthen over time through breathing techniques and other advantageous tools," says Rebecca Roberts, LMSW and experienced psychotherapist at Create Outcomes.

Addressing Wedding Dress Shopping Stress in the Moment

It's normal to still feel a little nervous about wedding dress shopping even after you've organized all the details, researched your favorite styles and expressed any concerns to your stylist. Luckily, you're not in it alone and can lean on your friends, family and salon attendant for support and guidance. Read these tips to make shopping for a wedding dress less stressful on the day.

Lean on your stylist for guidance.

In advance of an appointment, the stylists at Charlotte's Weddings aim to talk about any hesitations or fears the bride has so that they can offer reassurance and make the experience an enjoyable one. "We continue to do that throughout the appointment, and we celebrate all of the decisions they are making," says York. Your stylist is there to help you find your dream wedding attire. If you're nervous about any part of the process, let them guide you through it step by step and trust that they'll support your decisions. Knowing that someone has your back should help ease anxiety and boost your confidence.

Avoid things that might trigger anxiety.

Little things can have a big impact, especially if you're already feeling nervous about wedding dress shopping. If there are certain things that you know are a trigger for you, it's worth weighing the pros and cons carefully. For example, if you know that alcohol has worsened your anxiety in the past, it might be best to skip that glass of bubbly at the salon (or even better, ask if there's a non-alcoholic option in advance). On the flipside, some brides might feel that a glass of bubbly helps them loosen up and be more present in the moment. It's about knowing what works for you.

Be direct with your crew.

Having an entourage is part and parcel of wedding dress shopping tradition, and your crew is there to offer support and cheer you on. But it's also good to have a plan in place for when opinions start flying around. Whether or not you're open to your crew's opinions is entirely up to you, but you should let them know exactly what you expect from them before the appointment. "It is critical that friends and family accompanying the couple on this journey know what kind of commentary (if any) is welcomed and how they can best support the couple," says Roberts.

If you don't feel comfortable asserting boundaries or you're not sure how to go about it, Roberts recommends working with a trained professional to practice assertiveness skills and techniques. You could also designate a trusted friend or family member to help you navigate unwanted opinions. Sachs suggests having a code word to indicate when you're feeling stressed so that person knows when to step in.

Acknowledge your feelings.

Sachs encourages soonlyweds to accept feelings of stress as they arise. "When we try to control or eliminate a thought or negative emotion, they often paradoxically rebound," she says. Look out for signals your body might be sending you that you're experiencing stress or anxiety so that you can check in with yourself and seek reassurance. "One of the most effective ways to recognize stress in the moment is by bringing awareness of physical sensations throughout the body," advises Roberts. She recommends taking time before big events (like shopping for a wedding dress) to identify how stress manifests in your body.

Don't be afraid to take five.

Acknowledging your feelings is just the first step of addressing wedding dress shopping stress or anxiety. From there, know that it's totally okay to take a break if you need to. This is a good time to practice any mindfulness techniques you've been working on or turn to your crew for support. Letting someone know what's going on can help validate your emotions and make you feel understood, says Sachs.

You can also take advantage of quiet moments in the dressing room before you step out in front of friends and family. Sachs suggesting creating a sensory soothing kit that can be used for a few moments at a time to help ground you and direct your attention away from stressors. She recommends things like calming scents, relaxing music and small fidget toys.

Dealing With Anxiety After Purchasing Your Wedding Dress

Maybe your dress shopping journey was smooth sailing, but now that you've decided on your attire and put down a deposit, you're having second thoughts. First things first, it's normal to feel some hesitation after making such a big decision. That doesn't mean it wasn't the right decision. You should feel empowered about the choice you've made for yourself, and if that's not the case, you might just need to work on building confidence in yourself and your ability to make good choices.

Of course, if you've given it some time to sink in and your instincts are telling you something just isn't right, listen to your gut. There are options available to those having second thoughts about their wedding attire. Your first port of call should be to contact the salon and ask a consultant if there's anything they can do. It might still be possible to exchange it for another, especially if they haven't completed the order yet. There's also a lot you can do with wedding gown alterations to make the dress feel more like you. Whatever the case, don't let anxiety derail your wedding plans—you'll look great no matter what.

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