So what if you’ve gone wedding dress shopping, and didn’t find “the one”? And then subsequently went to another shop, and still didn’t find the dress that brings you to tears?
I’m here to tell you two magic words. It’s oooooookay!
Shows like Say Yes To The Dress alter the way we look at the dress shopping experience. The privilege of having both your parents, your future in-laws AND your childhood, high school, and college best friends attending the appointment is more than likely not a possibility. You aren’t always going to have a dress concierge that’s as sweet and attentive as TLC’s Monte. And more often than not, you won’t be poured a glass of champagne to ease those nerves.
Working weddings almost every weekend for the past 8 years, I’ve grown a little desensitized to wedding dresses. Being in a bridal shop or up close and personal with a wedding gown would usually give a bride butterflies, but it was such a common thing for me to see. So when I was finally engaged and ready to look for my own, I felt like I needed something I’d never seen on any of my brides. I didn’t know whether that meant a unique length, color, neckline, strap type or what! I decided to have some fun, and encourage you to do the same! Here’s a couple tips to remember when you go to your appointment:
1. Try on all the different dress styles. Yes, even the ones you aren’t immediately drawn to. I had no idea what style dress I wanted or what would even look good on me! I tried some crazy absurd styles since I’m not too traditional anyway.
Yes, that’s a black dress. And yes, thanks a red jersey knit gown. No, I didn’t actually plan on wearing a black or red dress on my wedding, but remember my advice? Have. Fun.
I tried the halter top style. I didn’t hate it.
I tried on two dresses with giant bows on the back and channeled my (non-existent) inner Carrie Bradshaw.
I tried on a dress with ruching in alllllll the wrong places. I even tried on a super full ruffle bottom gown and I thought it was sooooo much fun to twirl in!
I tried on a 2-in-1 style that was immediately christened the “vegas” dress.
I tried on a dress with unique geometric cutouts on an otherwise very simple dress.
I tried on a gown that I really liked, with material called “horsehair”. I’m not making that up. Horsehair. And funnily enough, it doesn’t look like horse’s hair whatsoever. It’s really neat structured “waves” and I loved the asymmetry of its design.
2. Don’t bring too many people to your appointment because too many people = too many opinions = too much confusion… I’d recommend 3 people as a good number of appointment attendees. Save yourself the sad tears (I had plenty) due to an unfiltered, and senseless opinion from someone.
3. Don’t be deterred by dress sizing. Some gowns will have European designer sizing, while others are nowhere near the typical size you have in your closet. Wedding gowns are their own category with layers of tulle and lining, and lace and other material that fits much differently than you think.
4. Be open to a dress that isn’t a true white. More often than not, brides will choose an ivory or champagne undertone, since a pure white isn’t a widely flattering color. Try on different shades of white to see what looks best with your skin tone.
5. Set a REALISTIC budget. By that, I mean, if you are leaning toward Galia Lahav or Inbal Dror, be sure that your max budget can accommodate that. I don’t recommend even trying on dresses that are outside of our budget, because you miiiiiight just fall in love with them.
6. Don’t be afraid to break tradition! Try on some nontraditional colors! Or maybe you’re not intimidated at the thought of purchasing a used wedding gown. Sites like stillwhite.com and preownedweddingdresses.com feature good-as-new condition gowns for half the price of what the owner paid! There’s some bargaining room here, too. Buying from a designer trunk show or sample sale (purchasing a dress as is- maybe it’s been on the rack for while) can also save you money! You can even find some unique wedding dress finds at non-bridal shops. (I found my elopement dress at Macy’s… on sale!)
7. Determine your venue’s dress code. Will you need to purchase a lace shawl or piece to be church appropriate? Will a long train and cathedral length veil make sense for an outdoor ceremony with lots of natural foliage and terrain?
8. Ask the professionals for advice! Ask the salon consultants for their suggestions based on your likes and dislikes. They know their collection and inventory the best, and can pull some options for you!
9. Try on a veil! It will really pull together the entire look. I promise when you see yourself in the mirror with a veil in your hair…. you’ll get this tiny sigh of satisfaction like, “whoa. I’m a bride!”
10. Give yourself ample time to shop and for fittings! If you’re not purchasing a dress that’s ready to leave with you that day, keep in mind that some designs are sent out of the country and hand made to order! This could take 6-9 months. Make sure you’re scheduling enough time for subsequent fittings and alterations.
11. Close your eyes and appreciate how the dress feels. Is the tulle itchy? Is the layering too heavy to dance in? Maybe the mesh sleeves don’t provide enough movement for your best “raise the roof” dance moves.
Sure, this number was gorgeous, but I could barely breathe. This other long sleeved lace gown was a front runner, but I ultimately could not move my arms without fear that I would rip the seams. Sorry, comfort trumps style.
I personally didn’t have the tears-down-my-cheeks-jumping-up-and-down-while-clapping-my-hands reaction.
Did I secretly hate the other bride’s entourage of girls who were squealing with satisfaction sharing overwhelming “oohs” and “ahhs”, holding up signs like “love it!” or “this is the one”? Yes. Ohhhhh, undoubtedly yes.
Was I jealous that that bride got to have her entire bridal party share the special experience? Um, duh. With 9 bridesmaids who all lived in different states, I went shopping 3 different times by myself, and 4 times when my mom was visiting. #WeddingDressSelfiesAreIncrediblyHardToDo
Was I totally baffled at how the last frumpy dress I tried on looked like a million bucks on the bride next to me? Uh huh.
Did I use the phrase, “I don’t hate it” more times than I can count? You betcha. I think the following facial expressions have proven that my Poker face is terrible. (Please don’t blackmail me with these photos, I’m just trying to make a point!)
Was I totally off-put by those darn alligator clips on the back of the dress and completely clueless as to how I was supposed to feel pretty with them on? Yuuuuuup.
(But hey, at least Happy Bride gave me pink clips!)
I can’t even count how many dresses I tried on. But I knew that if I wasn’t feeling it, I just wasn’t feeling it! And to quote the magic words of wedding dress shopping? IT’S OKAY!
No, I didn’t have the unequivocal feeling that I had found THE dress I would wear for my wedding. But what I did have was a “hmm” moment. And that “hmm” moment for me was when I couldn’t stop thinking about one particular dress. No, I wasn’t dreaming about it every night, but I found myself saying, “well I did feel beautiful. It did have all the elements I wanted.” Consciously, I was holding onto hope that I’d find a perfect dress. So why is it okay to not have “that” feeling? Why is it okay to be indecisive and to leave your appointments without a dress in your hands? Because it’s normal. It’s a huge decision, and likely a huge financial decision too! I’m one of those people that can never decide which restaurant to eat at, so naturally, a wedding dress choice wasn’t going to be much easier. If you typically like to wait for “signs” in order to move forward with a huge financial decision, that’s okay! If you want to look at another store before walking away with what you think might be the gown… that’s okay too!
Know what’s also okay? Having “the” reaction!
If you can’t decide on a dress, or haven’t found the perfect one for you, try making a list of elements and styles you gravitate toward.
Create an Ideal Gown Mental Checklist. I wasn’t sure what I wanted, but I knew some elements that I loved in photos, and had pinned a million times on Pinterest. Mention your favorite materials or dress elements to your consultant. Years of competitive soccer blessed (or cursed?) me with thunder thighs and a strong booty… so I wanted to show it off. I’ve gravitated toward those “scrunch butt” bikinis with ruching down the middle, and my Ideal Gown Mental Checklist had that as #1. #2 on my checklist was a unique back. Maybe it’s a cool cutout or design, or a beautiful arrangement of bling straps gracing the shoulder blades.
#3 Lace. Lace makes me think “princess” more than a typical ballgown would. But that’s just me! To some women, “princess” means hoop skirt and fullness. Other women want to avoid looking like a “princess” completely! I went to 7 different bridal salons. And not once did I have the moment where I said “THIS IS THE ONE!” I didn’t cry. I didn’t have my bridesmaids there to celebrate with me. I didn’t leave the bridal salons knowing that I had found my wedding gown.
And you know what? IT WAS OKAY!
The dress I kept thinking about was one I had tried on 3 different times on 3 separate days. A dress that had a ruched bottom (my #1), and a really unique back detailing (#2). It also had the most gorgeous lace with a slight shimmer (#3).
(Now that’s the face of a too-shy-to-admit-this-may-be-it bride). This dress wasn’t something I used to close my eyes and picture as my dream wedding gown, but truthfully I didn’t have a particular vision anyway. I was so badly craving that moment I thought I needed to have. When really, I just needed to hear that even though I didn’t have those tears, IT’S OKAY! I decided that this dress was my dress. And my dress became the perfect dress.
I ordered it from a store in North Carolina and pretended like my wedding date was in September so the order (hand made in Israel) would be rush made and shipped. (Does this white lie make me a bad person, or strategically paranoid? I plead for the latter.)
BONUS MATERIAL: Wedding Gown Delivery
After missing the original delivery at my doorstep, I drove around for an hour trying to locate the UPS building that my wedding dress was being held at. Excuse me for not thinking the Quick-E Mart with bars on the windows and taped up bullet holes was where my beautiful (expensive) dress would be held at.
This is the actual store. I’m not kidding. After notifying the authorities of my location (okay not really, I just texted my police officer fiancé), I parked my car (and audibly locked it about a thousand time for all the potential criminals to hear). The store clerk reached behind a glass case with visible drug paraphernalia (“for tobacco use only”) and handed me a Zappos shoe box with the name Dylan on it. I cry-chuckled, and had a look behind the counter myself to see that each of the boxes left could not possibly fit a giant wedding gown. Fighting back tears, I realized my gown was MIA. I proceed to have some… “heartfelt” words with UPS customer service, only to be informed that they’d been calling a 705 number to get a hold of me (note: I do not have a 705 number) and let me know the package was redirected. Didn’t bother to update the online tracking or email and text notifications… just wanted to call someone random person in Ontario. Makes sense, right? So I start my journey 30 minutes in the opposite direction and finalllllllly meet my dress. After a full day of WEDventures, I FOUND THE GOWN.
I had 4 dress fittings with an amazing seamstress in Pompano Beach. Shameless shout out to Alterations by Reina.
This sweet, sweet lady spent so much time making me feel and look beautiful. That’s her photo bombing my alteration selfies. I trusted her so much that even those pair of scissors didn’t scare me. (Okay, yes they did, but I was confident that she knew what she was doing)
So I’m not sure if “seamstress” is a synonym for “miracle worker” but Reina sure was. If you find yourself a professional and reputable alterations shop, the possibilities in creating your dream dress are endless. That’s exactly how my Macy’s one shoulder elopement dress turned into a beautiful lace sleeved custom gown.
Now that long train has to go somewhere.
That “somewhere” is into a bustle. A standard bustle has 1-5 buttons in which loops of thread (or snaps) are pinned under your bottom to “shorten” the length of your dress for ease in dancing after the ceremony. My bustle?
Oh, my bustle had 21 buttons. That’s not a typo. I had TWENTY-ONE buttons for my bustle. 12 on the under layer, and 9 on the outside lace.
So don’t get discouraged if you do not have “the moment” you think you’re supposed to have. Not everyone cries. Not everyone “knows”. I didn’t. But my dress was perfect for me. And in Blackjack standards, I won with 21 (bustle buttons that is).
Now go have that “hmm” moment you deserve. Happy Planning!
Check out the Thin Blue Line Wedding blog post for more photos of my dress on wedding day!