14 Things to Know Before Your First Wedding Dress Shopping Appointment

Going in with the right mindset (and preparation) makes all the difference when looking for your dream dress.
Samantha Iacia - The Knot wedding style expert
Samantha Iacia
  • Samantha writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a speciality in wedding decor, trends, and fashion
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Samantha was a features and weddings contributor for The Baltimore Sun
  • She is based in Washington, D.C. and holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism
Updated Dec 04, 2023

Trying on wedding dresses is definitely one of the most exciting things about being engaged. But before you head to the nearest bridal salon with your folder of saved photos and your besties by your side, we've got a few hot tips for you before you begin your wedding dress shopping experience. Like, should you bring a bra to your appointment? And are there any hidden costs or other helpful wedding dress shopping tips to know about up front? The answer is yes, and we're sharing them below. Keep reading to brush up on the wedding dress shopping tips you need to keep in mind before you head off to the bridal boutique.

In this article:

How to Prepare for Wedding Dress Shopping

Before showing up at your local boutique to shop 'til you drop (or, say yes, rather!)—there are some important decisions you need to make first. Here's how to prepare to try on wedding dresses.

Look for wedding dress inspiration.

If you can't contain your excitement after getting engaged, the good news is that you don't have to wait until you're trying on wedding dresses in person to get an idea of what you want. In fact, it's better to do your research before your first bridal shop appointment so that you've established a baseline of likes and dislikes—for example, your preferred wedding dress neckline, dress silhouettes, sleeve type, fabric and gown silhouette. Check out wedding dress trends, save ideas to your Pinterest board and share photos with your stylist during the appointment so they know visually what you're looking for. Don't know where to start? I've got you. A great place to start is The Knot's wedding dress gallery, which has all the dress inspiration you need to help you prep for the big shopping trip.

Make an appointment.

Before you call to make your bridal salon appointment, you first have to decide where to shop. One way you can narrow down which boutique is right for you is by brushing up on the wedding dress designers they carry, which can help you figure out if their vibe will match your wedding dress aesthetic and if the salon carries dresses that fit within your budget. Familiarizing yourself with designers is also helpful when it's time to find a local bridal boutique—you'll want to choose a salon that stocks wedding gowns and dress designers that reflect your personal style. If you see a dress online that you know you want to try in person, call the bridal salon ahead of time to confirm that they have it in the store. Your bridal stylist might just be able to request a sample, especially for you, even if it's not a style they usually carry.

Another hot tip is to try to narrow down your appointments from one to three bridal boutiques. While it can be tempting to want to visit every salon in town, it can easily lead to decision fatigue, and more likely than not, you'll find your dream dress pretty quickly. After you find a boutique you want to visit, we always, always, always recommend calling or scheduling an appointment online in advance. While you may get lucky and snag a salesperson just by walking in, scheduling an appointment is the only way to ensure you'll get the full experience with the staff's undivided attention. You also run the risk of being turned away, as most shops are by appointment only. To help you avoid any unwanted snafou's, you can click below to easily find bridal shops near you, save your favs and easily access their contact information:

Choose your dress shopping crew.

When scheduling your appointment, take a moment to ask about the salon's guest policy and how many people you're allowed to invite to help you try on wedding dresses. Our tip: Bringing a big group to the salon is a shopping don't. Having your entire roster of bridesmaids with you might sound like an ideal experience, but it can quickly get out of hand with conflicting tastes or unnecessary distractions.

Enlist two or three VIPs, like your maid of honor, mom, grandmother or other close family member, to help you start your search without feeling pressured by too many opinions. And if going wedding dress shopping alone is more your jam, there is nothing wrong with that either. Do what makes you feel best!

Finalize a wedding dress budget.

Once you've created a wedding budget with your partner (use The Knot's Wedding Budgeter if you're still tackling this step), it's time to decide how much money you want to allot for your wedding dress. According to our company data, wedding attire accounts for 7% of the average couple's budget, and in 2022, the average cost of a wedding dress was $1,900.

It's important to establish a budget before you go wedding dress shopping for the first time because it will save some effort—and potentially help you avoid disappointment—in the long run. Providing your bridal consultant with a budget will allow them to choose wedding dresses that you'll love and can afford.

Tips for Wedding Dress Shopping

You've done your research, made your appointment, invited your crew and are finally ready to shop (anyone else feeling giddy?!). Here are a few tips for wedding dress shopping to help you make the most of your appointment.

Eat before your appointment.

We suggest saving the boozy brunch and heavy meals until after you've finished trying on wedding dresses for the day, but you don't want to go into your appointment with an empty stomach. Eat a light meal ahead of time—something that will hold you over for a couple of hours (and ward off any nerves or jitters you may have). Be sure to drink plenty of water and get enough rest in the days leading up to your appointment as well so that you're feeling your absolute best when the day arrives.

Don't forget about additional costs.

By now, you should have an idea of how much money you're comfortable spending on your dream wedding dress, but remember that your budget doesn't just include the gown itself. Add-ons and accessories, such as a veil, sash, jewelry, wedding shoes and undergarments, will also add to your bottom line. You'll also need to plan for wedding dress alterations, which range in price depending on the service. Factor in these costs before you give the salesperson your final shopping budget, or ask for their estimate during the appointment if you're not sure how much of your budget to set aside.

Ask about trunk shows and sample sales.

Whether you're looking to maximize your budget or you're on a short timeline and need a last-minute wedding dress, there are plenty of perks to shopping at a trunk show or sample sale. These events give you the opportunity to score a designer gown at a reduced price.

Trunk shows, which are in-store showcases when the designer's entire collection is available, usually include a discount on dresses purchased during the sale. If you're interested in shopping a designer's trunk show, make an appointment with the salon as soon as possible—they're usually highly popular events with limited availability.

Alternatively, you can save money by purchasing the floor sample of a bridal gown you love, rather than having it made to order based on your measurements. If your local boutique is hosting a sample sale, it can be tempting to get there as soon as the doors open, but shopping on the first day of a sample sale can be overwhelming and crowded. Call ahead to ask how many days the sale will run, then consider going on one of the later dates. Otherwise, come prepared and know exactly what you're looking for.

Shop on a weekday, if possible.

If you're the type who hates being rushed when shopping (relatable), try to make your wedding dress appointment on a weekday morning or afternoon instead. Saturday is the busiest day at bridal salons, so if you can swing something during the week, you'll thank yourself later when you're trying on wedding dresses without the crowds.

Trust your stylist (and your instincts).

We've preached about the importance of knowing what you want before heading to your first appointment, but it's equally important to trust your consultant and keep an open mind for their recommendations in the dressing room. Shopping for wedding dresses is totally different from buying clothes for your everyday wardrobe, which is why the stylist's expert opinion is so valuable. Remember: They do this all day, every day!

A professional bridal consultant will be able to suggest the best wedding dress options that capture your personal style, complement your body type and are miraculously within your price range. And if you don't find a wedding dress you love right away, remember that it's completely normal to take your time. There are hundreds of bridal designers out there with thousands (yes, thousands!) of designs, which makes the odds of finding a fantastic gown pretty darn good. We know that coming up empty-handed on your first trip can feel like a letdown, but don't give up.

FAQs About Trying on Wedding Dresses

Still have questions? No problem. Trying on wedding dresses is a big deal, so it's understandable if you want all of the information ahead of time. We're debunking some of the most common questions below.

When should you try on wedding dresses?

In most cases, the sooner you try on wedding dresses, the better. Ideally, you should start shopping for dresses about 12 months before your wedding day, or shortly after you have your wedding date and venue finalized. It might take you a few appointments to find your perfect wedding dress, but ultimately, you should aim to purchase your gown about nine months before your wedding. This leaves enough time for the dress to be made, plus time for tailoring and customizations.

How long does it take to try on wedding dresses?

The standard wedding dress appointment lasts one hour. Depending on the salon, you may be able to extend your appointment for an additional fee, or you can plan to return another day if you need more time to shop. Your consultant most likely has other appointments booked before and after yours, which is why it's important to show up on time—otherwise, they might have to cut your appointment short or may not be able to accommodate you at all.

What do you wear to try on wedding dresses?

Coming to your appointment prepared with the right accessories and undergarments can make your experience even better. Neutral-toned underwear (like a thong or seamless panty) is a must-have when you're trying on wedding dresses, but don't worry so much about bringing a strapless bra or fancy lingerie. In most cases, a bra won't be compatible with the dresses you're trying on, and your stylist can temporarily clip the dress to make sure it's providing enough support and coverage when you step out of the fitting room.

Shoes are another important item to bring. You might not have your exact wedding shoes picked out yet, but we recommend bringing shoes that are similar to whatever you think you might wear on the big day, whether that means your tallest stilettos or a comfortable set of flats.

Can you try on a wedding dress without buying it?

Yes, you can try on wedding dresses without committing to a purchase, but we don't recommend going into a bridal salon unless you're seriously looking for a gown. No one expects you to find your dream dress on the first try (but if you do, congrats!), which is why you may need to schedule more than one appointment. If you're not prepared to actually make a purchase, avoid scheduling an appointment to try on wedding dresses just for fun—it's disrespectful to the stylist and other customers.

Is trying on wedding dresses before you're engaged bad luck?

Contrary to superstition, trying on dresses before being engaged is not bad luck. However, it is important to note that it can be a pretty big deal for the salon's stylists and consultants, who spend on average an hour and a half to two hours with a bride. (Plus, let's be real, they are trying to make a living too!) Simply be curteous and mindful of their time.

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