These Expert Tips will Help You Find the Perfect Dress and Crush Your Wedding Day Style!

I have helped the most extraordinary woman (and men) create (and yes crush) their Wedding Day Style. It’s one of the most special and fun parts of my job as a Wedding and Event Planner. For nearly two decades, I have collaborated with clients on their wedding attire, accessories, jewelry, and hair and make-up styling, combining the services of a stylist with the attention and conveniences offered by a personal assistant. Over the years, I’ve compiled a bit of a Bridal Style Bible. It’s a reflection of professional experience, industry knowledge and client feedback. It’s a bit extensive but hopefully you will find it helpful!

The world is your oyster….In this day and age, this has never been truer where finding a wedding gown and crafting your bridal style is concerned. There are so many choices. But, so many choices can be quite daunting. So let’s get started!

Do your homework – the fun kind – and DREAM BIG when shopping for a bridal gown! Create a Pinterest board or actual file folder of your favorite dresses and looks. For just a moment, don’t focus so heavily on your budget, body type or the formality of your wedding. Throw a wide net and amass images that truly inspire you!

Keep an open mind! There are so many choices and approaches to finding the one! You needn’t just explore traditional bridal gowns. Mainstream department stores and retailers now have extraordinary selections of wedding and evening gowns that make for a super chic wedding day. E-tailers like Net-A-Porter and Shopbop make access to fresh and modern bridal fashions just a click away. And online sites like Nearly Newly Wed and Rent The Runway have creative approaches to accessing new or gently used gowns. The possibilities are endless!

Think about aspects of your wedding that may influence your gown choice and accessories. Are there any restrictions on your attire based on religion, faith, culture or the house of worship where your ceremony will be held? Is your wedding indoors or out? Daytime or evening? Formal or cocktail chic? What will the weather be where you are tying the knot? If you will be outside, how will that impact the hem of your gown? Will those heels need to safely make it across grass? Toes in the sand? You get the gist!

Start with 5 Bridal Salons or retailers you think are a good fit. Contact them directly and get the lay of the land on the following:

1)   Confirm the dresses of interest to you are IN the salon and able to be tried on the date of your appointment. Often, the newest dress collections only exist as samples that ‘travel’ as part of a trunk show, rarely in one place for more than a week at a time.

2)   Clarify what dresses or collections are available IF your appointment falls during the time of a trunk show. Boutiques hosting a trunk show typically only allow trunk show gowns to be tried on at that time. A separate appointment needs to be made for all other options. However trunk show gowns are the most current and not officially in boutiques yet!

3)   Understand any trunk show discounts or offers available. Some salons discount gowns and accessories purchased during a trunk show.

4)   Inquire if there is a ‘hard stop’ for your bridal appointment. Some boutiques limit how long an appointment lasts and how many dresses you can try on. Some even put a cap on how many people you can bring with you.

5)   Ask how alterations are handled. Some boutiques include modest alterations while others have a fixed price. It might not be possible to confirm the cost of alterations until the scope of work is understood and agreed upon. But they should be able to give you a reasonable range.

6)   Know payment options. Most salons require a 50% deposit to order a gown, with the remainder due when the gown is in and its time to schedule your first fitting. If you require a payment plan, find out what options are available.

At your appointments, try different dress shapes on your body. Shopping for a wedding dress is once-in-a-lifetime experience. Its very different from shopping for a regular evening gown or cocktail dress. It’s likely the most expensive dress you will ever buy. Keep an open mind and bring a trusted friend or family member. Lean on the boutique’s sales staff at all times. They really know their stuff! They have so much experience and have seen it all! Definitely look to them for direction.

Understand bridal gown sizing. It keeps even us wedding professionals on our toes! Bridal gown sizing is different from everyday clothes. A ready-to-wear US size 6 may correspond to a bridal gown size 10. With a bridal gown, your gown size is typically determined by your largest measurement. Many gowns have a chart that helps stylists determine your ORDERING gown size, which may differ from one gown to another. So, for example, if your bust happens to be your largest measurement, the proposed gown size may be based on that depending on the dress pattern and silhouette. This is important to understand and discuss with any professional guiding you!

The skinny on hot-off-the-runway gowns. Bridal Market features the newest bridal collections. Those gowns are typically not in stores for at least 6 months to a year. However, after Bridal Market, those dresses often travel, available to be seen and tried on at trunk shows hosted by bridal salons. To find a trunk show near you, try visiting the designer’s website where they often have a schedule. If you make a trunk show appointment, keep in mind that those dresses may have been fit to a runway model and, thus, the proportions may be different from the final gown ultimately produced!

Important bridal gown measurements for ordering. When you finally make your selection, a professional will take measurements such as:

  • Your bust, natural waist, high hip, low hip and shoulder to hem.
  • Your cup size. This is important as some gowns are naturally cut more shallow than others. Make sure your sales person takes this measurement while you are wearing a proper undergarment suited for you and your gown.
  • Your height. Many gowns are produced based on patterns for women 5’9 and under. Oftentimes, taller women must order gowns with ‘extra length.’
  • Your height with heels! If you are planning on wearing super high heels, be sure to try a similar heel height on with the gown to be sure the proportions still look nice.

BHLDN offres a great visual reference for Wedding Dress Sizing and Measurements.

Go to your bridal appointments prepared. Organize the night before and, if possible, bring props! Proper fitting undergarments, jewelry and the right height heels make all the difference when trying on wedding gowns. Pack an energy bar or light snack. No one makes proper decisions hungry!

Don’t schedule gown appointments many weeks apart. Saturday appointments are the most sought after. They are also the busiest by far. Its often hard to get the time and attention you might really want on a busy Saturday. Its also hard to bolt out of work multiple times to race to a bridal salon that closes in the early evening. You might wish to consider taking a vacation day during the work week and balancing 3-4 appointments on that one day (if logistically possible). Remembering what you have seen and how you looked and felt in a bridal gown is vital to making the right choice. Its hard to keep it all in mind if so much time passes between appointments!

Never warm up to a gown. A wedding gown isn’t something you should ‘get used to.’ If you don’t love the gown on your body, move on quickly! Even if your family or friends love it, once you have given it a second look, if you still feel the same, be done! That said, don’t overthink it either (a bit contrary to ALL this information provided)! If you absolutely love the first gown you try on, go for it!

Be patient. Give yourself 6-8 weeks to find the the one and allot 4-6 months for the gown to be ordered. However, when you communicate your wedding date to your sales person, be sure to let them know if you are traveling for your wedding. If so, you might need to have your wedding gown earlier than they might normally propose.

Communicate if you intend to select a dress or order a certain size based on prospective weight loss. All brides want to look their best of course! But, if you are planning to lose more than ten pounds, communicate that to your sales person and allow them to guide you accordingly. It’s almost always easier to tailor a gown to a smaller size but near impossible to let out a gown substantially! The right size gown will be confirmed with you before the order is officially placed. However, if you request to order a different size than what is recommended, the bridal salon will require formal approval from you. Tread carefully!

Have fun with bridal accessories. Your veil, jewelry, shoes, and other accessories (like handbags and shrugs), are all components of your bridal style and a great way to personalize your look. Accessories add tremendous texture, something that really comes through in photos, making your wedding day look extra special. This season, accessories are all the rage, in front and in back. Check out Naeem Kahn Bridal and Monique Lhuillier Bride for a solid dose of inspiration. And, don’t forget to check out mom and grandma’s jewelry boxes too!!! Bet you just might find something unique, meaningful and sentimental!

Remember that all brides look beautiful on their wedding day. 

It is honestly true.   We all glow.   We all radiate.

We just have to take a breath, let it happen and focus on enjoying every minute.

Jennifer Brisman is a Wedding and Event Planner, Chief Planning Officer of jennifer brisman weddings newyork and Founder of VOW, the Wedding Planning Platform with a Human Touch. Based in New York City, Jennifer has been planning and orchestrating extraordinary events for nearly 20 years. For more information, please contact jennifer@theweddingplanner.com.