As little girls, many of us dream about that special day when we’ll walk down the aisle to say, “I do.” And, whether you’ve fantasized, obsessed or have only given a few passing thoughts to what you’ll don the day of your wedding, the gown you choose will likely be the single most significant of your lifetime.
Sure, some brides experience an idyllic moment when a dress drives tears of joy to spill forth—while others don’t experience such an overt emotion. But no matter, your wedding dress is a big deal. Photographs and memories last a lifetime, and although your gown isn’t nearly as important as “the one” you marry, it certainly enhances your moment when two become one.
Bridal gown options abound in bridal boutiques, magazines and online—and like dating, the choices are endless, and perhaps even overwhelming. Regardless, you have to try again and again before discovering the best fit. In the end though, finding your gown takes patience and an open mind, and it’s a sure bet—that in time—every bride will find that single, perfect gown to wholly accentuate her shape, style and taste.
Fitted, empire-wasit, a-line, ball gown, mermaid, cathedral train, white, ivory, cream, silk, satin, lace and tulle are only some of the words we associate with wedding gown bliss. And, countless options grace magazine covers or the catwalk from season to season, making it seemingly impossible to narrow down that one special gown. However, knowing when to start your dress hunting process is half the battle.
Cate Malone, owner of Little White Dress Bridal Shop in Denver, says brides should look for a wedding gown as soon as possible. “Ideally brides are shopping for their wedding gown approximately six months to one year before the wedding date to avoid potential rush fees and worries about the dress arriving in time,” she says.
Starting the gown hunt early also allows time for the bride to potentially research, shop around, think about her gown before purchase and simply enjoy the process. And, browsing through blogs or Pinterest and other online resources to familiarize yourself with bridal options will help pinpoint what draws you to specific silhouettes, fabrics, shapes, or textures.
Malone says it can be helpful—and not to mention, fun—for brides to research various gowns while taking note of appealing gown styles or gasp-worthy details. “Researching is great, and super fun, but you don’t really know what you are going to feel most comfortable in, are happy about or love the most until you try on a variety of gowns,” she says. “A bride may find ‘the one’ at her first shop or her fifth shop, but once she has found the dress she loves, she should stop.”
And once a bride has selected her gown, Malone says it takes months to create and have shipped back to the store. “Wedding gowns take approximately three to six months to be made, (it varies by designer), and one to two months are needed after your dress comes in for any fine tuning alterations for fit and length that may be needed.” So, it’s clear shopping early will save you both money and headaches.
Gown 101: Where
Cindy Schlagel, owner of The Bridal Connection in Longmont, says that although bridal gown research can be helpful, it’s not a prerequisite. It’s just as okay to simply go shopping. In fact, making an appointment with a local bridal boutique is a relaxed and strongly suggested option. She recommends no more than three bridal boutique stops, but some brides need only one, making it entirely personal preference. Schlagel says it’s in a bridal boutique where everything comes together for the bride.
In the appointment, brides receive a one to two hour slot of designated one-on-one assistance from an industry expert who can provide invaluable gown education and feedback. The bridal stylist assists the bride with any showroom dresses and suggests styles and silhouettes that will flatter her figure. Because the stylist is an expert about the gowns her boutique carries, she can also provide options otherwise not considered.
The cost of bridal gowns varies significantly. Whether you choose a high-fashion designer or opt for budget-friendly, there’s something for every bride. The type of material used, where it’s created and who designed the gown will affect price. However, there are stunning gowns at any price-point, and another bonus when working with a bridal boutique stylist is they will show what’s possible in your price range, making it that much easier to find the right fit.
Keep in mind; however, a bridal gown industry standard is a bridal store requires half of the gown’s cost at the time of purchase. Upon completion, the remaining half is required. Also, alterations come at an additional cost. So, it’s important to factor in the total, big-picture cost before moving forward to ensure you won’t break your budget or be surprised by the extra costs.
But, before getting too stressed about the gown budget, remember the process should be enjoyable. And, there’s no better way to rev-up the excitement than inviting your closest circle to help find your gown. Both Schlagel and Malone suggest bringing a few people who are dearest and most trusted to your bridal gown appointment.
“A bride should bring the people whose thoughts matter the most to her,” Malone says. “Too many people sharing their opinions and thoughts can be confusing and frustrating, so ideally one to three people.”
Now, once you find your gown, place the order and make the first payment, all you have to do is wait. Then, after months of construction, the dress will finally find its way back to the bridal boutique where it will be ready for fittings and alterations. Schlagel says brides should expect at least two to three additional appointments for alternations to achieve an ideal fit.
Schlagel and Malone encourage their brides to return for fitting and alteration appointments with—perhaps not the same crowd from the original appointment—but again, with people she trusts most. Having people the bride relies on for opinions can help ease stress and ensure she feels comfortable with the overall look and feel of the dress.
“It can be helpful to have one other person along with you during your alterations appointments. Having one other person with you during your final fitting can be helpful, so that they can learn how to bustle your train after the ceremony,” Malone says.
Above all else, Malone and Schlagel agree their best advice is to shop with an open mind. Focus on the joyous occasion. And, have some fun in finding “the ‘other’ one”—the bridal gown meant for you.
– By Dominique Del Grosso