My favorite part of wedding planning was shopping for the perfect dress. However, it was also the most difficult part due to the amount of time I would spend on Instagram. Just as I would make up my mind on one, I saw myself changing my mind as soon as another one caught my eye on my feed. I was completely overwhelmed with choices and even after saying “Yes to the dress”, I still had a few doubts on whether or not I had made the right decision.
For all my brides to be, this feeling is completely normal. If you find yourself utterly lost on where, how, and when to start shopping— this guide is for you.
One big piece of advice before you set out on your hunt for your dress… Stay off of Instagram after you say yes to your dress!
When do I start shopping for my wedding dress?
This one depends on whether or not you’re buying off the rack. For example, at a sample sale, a ready-to-wear dress shop, or if you’re wanting to get it custom made. Most high end designers only carry the sample dress at bridal shops in order to place your order with your own measurements.
Personally, I wanted a custom made gown by a high end designer and little did I know the ideal timing was one year in advance. Luckily, I chose my dress eight months prior to the big day and the designer was able to make it just in time. Literally.
Where do I start shopping for wedding dresses?
Where to shop for your dress depends on your budget and whether or not you can find what you’re looking for in your area. If you’re on a budget but wish to wear a designer dress, the best thing to do is to start calling bridal shops the minute you’re engaged to find out when, and how often their samples sales are. As a warning, these sample sales are very popular and there’s usually a line wrapped around the bridal shop early morning either because brides have camped out overnight, or because they arrived before sunrise. I only know this because some of the bridal shops I followed posted these crazy long lines on their Instagram stories on every sale.
For me, it was hard to find high-end designers in Utah. There was only one store that had a few Berta and Galia Lahav dresses, which were the two designers I was originally looking for. Because they didn’t have an extensive collection, I wasn’t convinced on any of the styles or cuts. Utah is a predominantly mormon state, so understandably their market is to sell conservative wedding dresses. Even prior to looking, I knew I wanted to look at dresses in my home state of California, because let’s keep it real, they have the best fashion besides New York. So I flew out to LA and surprisingly enough chose my dress on the first stop!
What type of wedding dress should I get?
This is the million dollar question because there are several gorgeous designs, styles, and looks that it’s hard to narrow it down to a specific one. The best way to start is to be honest with yourself on your body type. Depending on your body type, you can find gowns that accentuate your best qualities, while hiding your flaws.
For example, I really, really loved the dresses where you can attach and detach the train. Berta had this gorgeous gown that did that and the model looked like a dream. When I tried the same dress on, it didn’t look so dreamy. In fact, I looked like a hot mess. I have a really small waist and my hips are wider so my body type is considered hourglass. The way that detachable train attached to the dress ended up hiding my waist. So instead of showing off my shape, it gave me more of a box look. It was the same reason why I couldn’t get a ballroom style gown. I had to be honest with myself and accept the fact that my favorite dress just didn’t look good on me.
My stylist pointed out that the skin tight dresses looked the best on me because they did show my best assets. I’m half Latina so of course I love showing off my body. However, the majority of skin tight dresses seemed more like gala-style dresses. I wanted that “POW” factor like this is a wedding dress. The key to that was going to be the train. I needed to find a dress that was skin-tight but had an extra long train that was very, very dramatic.
Which brings us to the next question…
Veil or no veil?
What kind of veil do you have in mind? Short, medium, or long? This isn’t a high priority question unless you already have your mind set on one. If you’re not sure, you can first decide on your dress and then try on different lengths of veils to see which would compliment your dress the best.
From the very beginning, I knew I wanted a super dramatic veil so it ruled out the cape and bolero style dresses because it would look way too drapy. In our Latin culture, veils or as we call them, “Mantillas” are a big tradition and it’s something that I wanted to represent at my wedding. In our culture, the bride is to stay under the veil throughout the entire ceremony and the groom lifts it right before the kiss.
An upside to not having a veil cover your face is that it makes for better photos. Since the bride’s face isn’t covered, the photographer can get better candid shots of your facial expression walking down the aisle and during the ceremony.
How will I know when I find the perfect dress?
Trust me, you’ll know. Pick the dress based on how you feel in it— not the dress you have to sleep on. If you’re sleeping on the decision of whether or not to pick a dress, that is not the dress sis. I felt like that about a Galia Lahav gown I tried and I’m so glad I didn’t force myself to get it.
I knew I had found the perfect dress the minute I put it on. It had the backless and sweetheart cut I was looking for. It showed off my tiny waist while it hid my flaws (like my tramp stamp ….Tattoos are a big inconvenience when you’re trying to look graceful on your wedding day). The embroidery on the lace was so delicate and the train was gentle, dramatic, and almost cloud-like because it wasn’t made out of tulle like most trains. It was made by Ines Di Santo, who I had never even thought of looking for when I first set out to look for my dress. To me, she’s the queen of fairy tale gowns.
It was also within my budget. Since no one was helping me pay for my dress, not my parents, not Steven, nobody. I set my budget to no more than $15K and it barely came shy of that with alterations.
Anything else I should know?
If it’s a designer dress, you’ll have to sign a contract that binds you to that dress. A deposit of half of the amount of the gown is required at the time of the order and the other half is due when you pick up your dress.
If it’s a sample dress, the full amount is due since it’s been significantly discounted and you’re taking it home with you that same day. It’s normal for the dress to have regular wear and tear from brides trying them on so make sure you’re keeping an eye out for any missing beading, unraveled lace, stains, or rips that might be too much to fix or even impossible.
As with any outfit, accessories complete the look. Accessories like a headpiece, earrings, and jewelry besides your ring, will create the picture-perfect look. If your dress is really simple, you may want to go extra on the accessories. If your dress or veil is already extra, you may want to go light on the accessories.
I chose to go light because I didn’t want to take the focus away from my veil and especially the detail on my dress. I wanted everything to balance out and I feel like if I had a big head piece, eyes would automatically be directed toward that. I wore a Maria Elena hair comb just above my veil and swarovski teardrop earrings. Since my neckline was a sweetheart cut I didn’t wear a necklace, because again, the focus would be the necklace and not the neckline. I’m not a big bracelet or a watch person, things on my wrist tend to bug me so I went without.
Remember to have fun and play with different looks to help you narrow down your search. What works for one bride sometimes won’t work for you. Work on creating your own signature bridal look instead of what’s trending. Who knows, maybe your unique look will be the trending bride I see on my explore page.
Happy shopping my beautiful brides to be! I so wish I could relive this moment all over again.
Dress by: Ines Di Santo
Dress, veil, and headpiece purchased at: Lovella Bridal
Photo: Inframes photography
MUA: Jill Marie