5 Things to Know Before You Shop for a Wedding Dress
What The Pros Want You to Know!
Happy day, dear reader!
Guess what season it is! If you answered “Post-Turkey Recovery Period,” you’d be correct. If you said “Black Friday Shopping,” you’d also be right. And yes to “Christmas Panic Mode!” as well! All true! You thought yesterday was Thanksgiving, but it was actually the beginning of Engagement Season. Does that surprise you? More engagement rings are gifted between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day than any other season of the year. The height of ring season is Christmas through New Year’s; this holiday season, oodles of couples will share their joy with friends and family and start making their wedding plans!
I’ve had wedding-on-the-brain since our youngest asked his bride to marry him (August 2017) through to the wedding itself in October, 2018. There were so many things to learn that were not on our wedding radar 26 years ago! To top off the personal wedding-mania, I had the privilege of attending the fabulous My Unreal Wedding Expo this past August, which gave me a better idea of the overwhelming options from which today’s bride is able to choose… There I met Traci Figgins, the manager of Augusta’s Elegant Bridals. I knew right away that she was a woman after my own heart, because at the expo, Elegant Bridals chose to display a size range of gowns for both brides and bridesmaids. Not every bride is the Size 2 pictured in the magazines, which makes it hard for an average sized woman to imagine herself in those fairy sized dresses!
Traci and I got together for a chat earlier this month. I know what I ask a client and what want him or her to know before shopping, but I wondered what the wedding experts want you to know before your dress finds you. I arrived at Elegant Bridals early on a weekday so we would have time to talk before the brides arrived…
I was impressed as soon as I walked in! Elegant Bridals stocks dresses in oodles of shades of white, from bright white to creamy champagne and blush, and a variety of silhouettes, and sizes. What a selection! Missy sizes hang on one side, and extravagant sizes are displayed up front, too! (Instead of hidden in the back like at some stores…) All the dresses are carefully hung, and spaced to maintain their shape and line; it was a treat to see no crushed or abused dresses! Color choice, style variety, and care for the stock is something I look for before shopping. I was so pleased to find all at Elegant Bridals! After catching up, Traci took me on a tour of the store.
I love how they make the most of their current space (Elegant Bridals will be moving to a new, larger location in the fall of 2019.) to give every bride a personalized experience. Buying a wedding dress isn’t like going to the big box store… This is no cookie-cutter operation! The stylists do not reproduce a look from bride to bride. Traci explained that “every bride is unique, and her dress will be unique to her.” Your wedding is a once in a lifetime event, and deserves a once in a lifetime look and you once in a lifetime treatment. Traci and the Elegant Bridals team are wedding professionals dedicated to a successful outcome for all their brides (and/or bridesmaids and moms!). The EB team has hearts for brides and they want to ensure that there is “no stress to the dress!” Or at least as little as possible!
1. Do Your Research
The first thing Traci suggests is that you do your research before leaving the comfort of your home. Minimize the surprises. Check the on-line reviews of the stores you are considering. Get a feel for what other brides have experienced, and for the quality of the store and its service. Have the reviews been positive? If negative, what was the complaint?
My Note: What do the reviews say about the selection, and the size range? If not mentioned on-line, call the store. What size are their samples? It’s rare to buy a dress right off the rack. Every dress will be customized for you, but if you wear a 20 and every store sample is a 6, it can be a frustrating struggle to visualize your gown!
2. Be Ready to Celebrate
Finding your dress is an event, so be ready to celebrate, and come ready to shop! Bring heels if that’s what you plan to wear. Do your makeup, and hair. It doesn’t have to be the-big-day fancy, but you’ll have a better experience and less imagining to do if you aren’t in your Converses with a bare face and hair up in a ponytail. Unless that’s how you plan to walk down the aisle! (Think about your undies, too. That black sports bra isn’t going to be helpful…)
My Note: If you are wearing an heirloom veil, or special piece of jewelry, bring it along. Don’t rely on memory! You want to make sure the neckline shows off Grandma’s pearls, or that the gown you choose is similar in color to the veil.
Traci was telling me that finding your dress is very much like falling in love. A “you just know” feeling in your gut… I was skeptical. I tend to be an analytical shopper, but then I saw this…
And understood exactly what she meant!
3. Have Your Nearest and Dearest at Hand
Take a few people (1 to 3) whose opinion you value, and who understand you and what you like, not just what they like you in. (There’s a big difference!) You don’t need to involve the whole bridal party. That’s likely to be too many viewpoints. Don’t ask the really opinionated aunt who doesn’t like your intended; she won’t like anything you choose, and it won’t have anything to do with the dress!
If you want the whole bridal party in on the fun, come back later with them for a Dress Reveal Celebration! This is what my daughter-in-law did, and it was fabulous! We got to see her in her dress, and a few of the customization options, without everyone throwing in their two cents worth. We are an opinionated bunch, and that “help” from more than a dozen of us wouldn’t have made her decision any easier!
You can freely say “No.” or “No, thank you!” to what the stylists show you. (And to your friends and family, too!) The stylists are professionals and will not be offended. They want you to stay true to yourself. Choose shopping helpers that will support that mission, and not impose their taste on you. They can choose their own wedding dresses!
My Note: If you don’t like a dress you’ve tried, take a moment and think about why. A good stylist will ask you questions. Is it the shape? The fabric? The detailing? Too simple? Too fussy? Too wide? Too contoured? Too fluffy? Train? No train? Letting stylists know what you do and don’t like helps them help you!
4. Know Your Budget
Make sure you’ve had the money conversation with whoever is funding the dress! If your family is paying, please have the talk before you get to the store. If you are paying, let those who are going with you know that. Be up front with your stylist about how much you want to spend. It narrows the field, and gives her a range within which to look. Knowing your budget prevents the Analysis Paralysis of looking at every dress in the store. Also, know where your budget is flexible. You might change your mind about flowers or the bar, depending on what dress sweeps you off your feet! Keep in mind your line item limit for the dress AND where you are willing to fudge. Don’t be ashamed to ask what’s on sale, either… Your gem might be hidden there!
Budget Items to Think About: Does that dress budget cover only your dress, or does it also need to pay for others in the wedding party? Sisters’ bridesmaids dresses, or flower girl’s dresses might also be part of the total in mind. Make sure the parameters are clear.
5. Keep an Open Mind
“And an expectant heart!” You may have seen a dress you loved on another bride, or in a magazine. You may have an entire Pinterest board with wedding dress ideas. That’s a great starting point! But it’s only a starting point. Traci and the team at Elegant Bridals ask the brides fill out a questionnaire (Just like my clients!) that helps guide the selection of dresses. You might start thinking about one look, and shift into another completely once you start thinking about venue, how elegant or relaxed you want the ceremony to be, how much dancing you do or don’t want to to, where the reception might be held, etc, etc, etc.
Is your intended the one you imagined all those years ago when you first thought about marriage? Or did your love surprise you? Like with your mate, you never know what you might end up falling in love with… It could be very different from what you imagined, or planned. Life is like that sometimes. Enjoy the journey!
I want to thank Traci (Again!), for her time, and for sharing her passion for service to brides with me! It was a treat to hear more about the celebration and positive experience buying a wedding dress can be. I raised no daughters, so this was all a foreign territory! How about you? Have you been through “the dress” with daughters? What was buying your dress like? When was that? Do you think it’s different now? What kind of dress did you choose? Is that what you would select if you were marrying now? Let me know in the comments below… I love to hear from you!