Tips on Finding a Wedding Dress by Diane

Hey Guys! So based on my last blog about finding my wedding dress, I asked my sister, Diane to write a guest blog about some tips for going about the very important task, So here she is:
I love weddings…everything about them.  I don’t know what it is about bridal stuff that gets me all excited and puts a glimmer in my eye, but the first time I saw the movie, The Wedding Planner, I wanted to be just like Jennifer Lopez’s character, emergency kit strapped to my waist and all. Every bride has some sort of idea of what her BIG day will look like.  Even the ones who say they never thought about it or don’t know what they want, deep down they know.  This is where I come in.  I have been a part-time wedding planner/coordinator for about 10 years now.  My mission…(and I always accept it) is to help make every bride’s vision come true.
One of the biggest challenges for a bride is finding the right dress. All eyes will be on her and the dress is such a statement piece. It is best to give yourself about 6-8 months before your wedding date for your dress. I know, such a ridiculous amount of time. Unlike a regular clothing store, bridal stores only carry one of each dress; therefore, it is called a sample dress. Once you say “yes” to your dress (I couldn’t resist the phrase), the store will call the designer and order your dress to be made in the European size closest to your measurements.  That’s right, the dresses aren’t just stored in a warehouse somewhere, they actually cut the cloth and make the dress when it’s ordered. This is why it takes so long and why you should give yourself plenty of time for alterations, to avoid paying “rush” fees, and to help minimize sheer anxiety overall.
When a bride gets ready to shop for her wedding gown, these are some of the things she should have in mind:  Budget, Style, and Personality.
Budget. Obviously this is an important one. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the silk, satin, tulle, beading, and lace. The worse thing is for a bride to fall in love with a dress that she absolutely can’t afford. Keep in mind that it’s not just the dress your purchasing; don’t forget to factor in alterations and accessories (veil, shoes, garter, etc). At the same time, don’t let affordability scare you away from finding your perfect dress. There are ways to find the same dress for less either online or at a sample sale (to be discussed in more detail later). The key is to be realistic. Don’t go looking at the Mercedes Benz of dresses if you can only afford Toyota level dresses. So, set a budget and start shopping.
Style and Personality. The type of dress a bride chooses can say a lot about her whether she knows it or not.  It can represent the bride in her true personality and it can also be an opportunity for her to show a side of her that’s been aching to be seen (perhaps a fun or wild side). With so many styles of dresses nowadays, it can be overwhelming. In my opinion, the first step should be to figure out your theme. What I mean here is, what is the overall tone of your wedding? Will it be formal, casual, fun, vintage, rustic, modern, etc. Many brides find the whole dress shopping experience to either be exciting or scary. Some can’t wait to be pampered and catered to. Some worry they don’t know what type of dress they should get. Some think they have to know exactly what they want before they make their appointment. And some fear that they won’t find THE dress. A lot of anxiety and expectations build up, which is why many brides have a hard time just getting started.  First of all, you don’t necessarily need to know exactly what type of dress you want.  In fact, it’s almost better when you don’t.  Reason being, if a bride goes into an appointment with only one type of dress in mind, she will more than likely be disappointed. In my opinion, it’s best to be open-minded. Sure, go through magazines and have tear sheets of what draws your eye.  But when you go to the appointment, it’s best to try on several dresses in all styles. I usually find that a bride is surprised that the style they thought would be perfect for them…isn’t; but the style they thought would look hideous on them…fits them the best. All dresses are saying something…some are classic, some are dramatic, some are fun and flirty, and some are sexy.  It’s up to you to decide on what you want your dress to say about you.  Just try on a bunch of dresses so you can narrow down what you like or don’t like.   
Saying Yes.  As with many brides I have talked to, as well as my own experience…when you find THE dress, you just know (whether you know it or not).  When I was getting married, I must have tried on at least 100 dresses. Seriously. But the one I ended up with, was one of the first few dresses I had tried on.  I saw it hanging on display.  It was a mermaid dress.  Very simple with no lace or beading, just a ruched silk satin bodice fitted down to mid-thigh, which then flared out into a skirt of layered silk organza.  A large flower was adorned where the asymmetrical bodice and skirt meet, giving the dress a couture feel and the “something special” effect. Another bride got to it before I did. She was the super skinny type, with big boobs. She stepped out in the dress and looked beautiful. I was jealous. She passed on the dress even though I thought she looked gorgeous in it.  I waited for her to leave and I snatched it from the rack. I was hesitant to try it on.  It’s a tight fitting dress and I’m no stick. The lady at the store encouraged me. I put it on. Before I even saw myself in it, I loved it. I step out to where all the mirrors were and confirmed my gut feeling. I felt like a bride. It fit me like a glove, hugging and complimenting the curves of my body.  I had butterflies in my stomach. This was it, this was going to be my dress!  But I was by myself so I didn’t feel that I could buy the dress on the spot.  Plus, it was $700 over my budget.  I take pictures and leave the dress behind.  I show one of my bridesmaids and my mother a picture of me in the dress, both wrinkle their noses. The dress is not a hit. You can only imagine my disappointment. I proceed to shop for my perfect dress but in the end, after visiting nearly 9 bridal stores and like I said, trying on hundreds of dresses, I just couldn’t get that dress out of my mind.  So in the end, I went back to the one I had fallen in love with and I bought it.  Oh, but I didn’t buy it from the original store I saw it in.  I shopped around and found it at another store for $400 less. Yay!  Lesson learned, I shouldn’t have let other people’s opinions influence me. Everyone has different tastes, different styles, and different opinions. When you go dress shopping, don’t necessarily go by yourself but don’t bring an entourage either. Too many opinions will cloud your judgment. Bring someone you trust, who can put their own preferences aside and trust your instincts ladies! Don’t let anyone else sway you.  When you find the dress that makes you feel like it’s THE DRESS, make it so.
So you’ve found the dress of her dreams.  If you absolutely fall in love with something but the store charges $2500 (for example), it is possible for you to find the same dress for less.  Designers give a range that their dresses can be sold for.  Each bridal store independently determines where in that given range they want to set the price for the dresses from that designer. It is possible for you to go to three different stores and find the same dress for three different prices.  Most dresses at a retail store will only vary in pricing by 10-15%.  But, you can also go online and sometimes find the same dress for about $500-$700 less, maybe more.  Some online stores will sell the same designer dresses as seen in the stores for a small discounted price but for the deepest discounts, you should be open to a previously worn dress, a sample, or maybe even a knock-off of your dress. There is usually a ton of sample sales right after the holidays and before year-end. Also keep an eye out for winter sales offering huge price breaks, as they get ready to move in the next season’s line of dresses.  My sister was able to get a beautiful lace, fully beaded designer gown for about $1000 less than the original cost because it was a sample dress that was discontinued. After alterations and a professional cleaning, the dress looked brand new and she was still under budget. So even though it can be tempting to purchase your gown at the store, sometimes it pays to shop around.  If you absolutely must have that designer dress from the shi shi store, then ask about their trunk shows where they showcase the designer and offer 10% off (better than nothing). Good luck!

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