The wedding dress is one of the most important—and often most emotional—purchases a bride will make. Whether you’ve been dreaming of your perfect gown since you were five, or you just want to look like a princess on your big day, it’s vital to go into wedding dress shopping with a clear idea of what you’re looking for and the budget you have to work with. It may also help to have a few key words that describe your style, like romantic, classic, or boho. That way, you can start Googling photos of dresses and create a collage to get a better sense of what you’re drawn to.
Choosing the right wedding dress fabric is another major decision to make. Some fabrics, such as silk and hand-embroidered lace, will cost more than others, such as polyester or chiffon. The fabric can also alter the way the dress looks and feels, and even add a specific effect (like shimmer or iridescence). Aside from price, you’ll need to consider factors like personal taste and texture, your wedding season, and your body shape.
If you have your heart set on a particular designer, be prepared to pay more than if you were to choose a lesser-known brand. That’s because designers’ names carry some weight in the industry, and a high-end label will use higher-quality materials than a lower-tier one.
Wedding dresses are sized according to the manufacturer’s chart, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to do some alterations. Taking in a dress around the bust or waist/hips is fairly standard, as is shortening the straps and/or hemline. Other common alterations include having the dress bustled for the reception or removing the train altogether.
As a general rule, a wedding dress will take anywhere from 8-12 months to be made. That’s because the pattern is based on each bride’s measurements, and designers don’t begin construction until they receive a to-be-wed’s order. It’s also wise to place the order as soon as you’ve found your dream gown, to avoid rush fees (which can run up to 30 percent of the cost of the dress).
While it may seem daunting to decide on a wedding dress that you will only wear once, it’s important to be patient and stick to your budget. The first dress you try on is likely not to be “the one,” but it will only take a few appointments or shopping trips before you find your perfect fit. And if it doesn’t happen, don’t worry: There are plenty of other ways to make your wedding perfect, without breaking the bank. (See: The trash-the-dress photoshoot option.) Happy dress hunting!