11 Must-Read Gown Shopping Tips
Ready to hit the bridal salons? There are some things you should keep in mind when shopping for your wedding dress. Read our top tips before making your first dress shopping appointment.
1. Have a Price in Mind
Don't waste time trying on a bunch of gowns out of your price range. You're better off zeroing in on your price point so you can spend more time editing down the amazing options you can actually afford. Remember, your dress budget doesn't just include the gown but also the cost of alterations, taxes and shipping fees—plus your veil, shoes, lingerie and jewelry, which can add up quickly.
2. Start Early
You'll need at least six to eight months to get your gown—and that's if you're really decisive. If you're a picky shopper or don't really know what you want, start looking 8 to 10 months before your wedding. Custom gowns take six to eight months to create on average, and heavily embellished ones can take up to a year. Why so much time? A muslin version of a custom gown is created before the actual dress to guarantee a perfect fit. So give yourself a cushion—if you put dress shopping off for too long, your selection of dresses could be limited or you might make a quick decision you may regret later. Once you've found your gown, it will take at least eight weeks to make alterations.
3. Determine the Dress Code
You may need to consider religious restrictions when shopping for your gown. If your ceremony is in a house of worship, find out whether there are any attire guidelines you're required to follow, such as covering your shoulders or arms.
4. Figure Out What You Like
Take cues from your venue, the season and the time of day you're getting married to help narrow down your dress style. Rule out fabrics and silhouettes that won't work (for example, a bulky ball gown is probably not the best fit for a midday beach affair) and consider what styles will flatter your shape. To help you search, download the Wedding LookBook by The Knot app to browse thousands of gowns and locate nearby retailers that have the ones you like. If you love a particular designer, find out if they're having a trunk show in your area—you'll see a larger range of their collection, and you might even get a discount (usually about 15 percent).
5. Call in Advance
Just because a salon carries your favorite designer doesn't mean it'll have the exact dress you've been dying to try on. If you call beforehand and request a specific style, chances are the salon will be able to call in a sample of that gown especially for you. While you may get lucky and snag a salesperson just by walking in, scheduling an appointment guarantees you'll get a full hour of undivided attention. Plus, many salons require you to book an appointment in order to try on gowns, so you'll want to call ahead.
6. Let the Salon Make Recommendations
Don't eliminate anything at first glance. If the salesperson brings you something they say you should try, try it—even if you don't initially love it or think it's totally "you." It's possible to fall for a wedding gown you didn't think you'd like or want. Not every dress looks great on a hanger, so let go of any preconceived notions and keep an open mind.
7. Shop at the Right Time
Saturday afternoons are the most popular times to shop for a wedding dress, which actually makes them the worst. Instead, consider taking off a half day from work to shop on a random Tuesday or Wednesday morning when it's likely to be less crowded. Not only does a calm store mean a more personalized shopping experience, consultants will also most likely be fresher earlier in the day and able to offer you more of their attention. If you're shopping a sample sale, do yourself a favor and skip the first day. Call ahead to ask how many days the sale will run, then go a little later in the week—don't worry, there will still be plenty of inventory. Another shopping trick: Skip the entourage. It may be tempting to include all your friends in this experience, but too many people adds up to too many clashing opinions.
8. Buy a Dress That Fits Now
Even if you're planning on focusing on your health and fitness in a big way before your wedding, your body type isn't going to completely change. Besides, it's a lot easier (not to mention less expensive) to take a gown in than to try and make a too-small dress work.
9. Read the Fine Print
When you order your gown from a salon, it's important to triple-check the contract. Read it carefully, so you don't end up with the wrong size or color—and get the designer, style number, measurements, delivery date, price of the gown and number of fittings, as well as the deposit amount, all in writing.
10. Bring Your Accessories
While most salons will have shoes and a slip on hand for you to try on with your gown, you should still come prepared with a nude bra and underwear for the fittings.
11. Trust Your Instincts
If you have to be reassured the dress looks great on you, it's probably not the dress for you. If you can't see yourself walking down the aisle in it, move on. When you find the right dress, you'll know—you won't want to put on anything else.
Start searching for the perfect wedding dress here.