Saying yes to forever with the love of your life is the easy part (we hope). Saying yes to the dress, however, is not as simple as television would like to make it seem. There are expectations to manage (both yours and others’), there are way more options than you ever thought possible, and there are probably some insecurities you’re dragging along with you into the bridal boutique. But there is a perfect dress out there for you—here’s how to find it.
Know what you want in a dress, but be open to surprises
Kaitlin Popovic, a 28-year-old newlywed from Staten Island, knew exactly what she wanted when she went to Kleinfeld Bridal, the boutique of TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress fame. She knew so certainly, in fact, that she walked in with a specific style number.
”As soon as I saw the dress, I fell in love,” she said of her Pnina Tornai gown. “I knew instantly it was the one.”
Sure, Popovic had great fortune that day—but don’t get down if you don’t spot your dream dress the second you walk into a shop.
“Something like 72% of brides find their gown at their first shopping appointment, so make sure when you go to shop, you have everything and everyone you need to say yes,” said Jordan Ensminger, creative director and buyer for The Bridal Collection, located right outside of Denver. But don’t despair if you’re not among that percentage.
“Be prepared to love gowns that you didn’t think you would like and be underwhelmed by the styles you thought you would love. You want to look for a gown that feels the most authentic to yourself and personality, and sometimes that doesn’t match with your Pinterest board,” she said. “Don’t stress too much about matching the wedding. Just be yourself (but a fancier version!) because it doesn’t get any better than that, especially to the person marrying you.”
Choose a dress you love
Even if you’ve been successfully dressing yourself since you were a toddler, you might find that there are suddenly a lot of people around you offering their opinions on and expectations for what you’ll wear on your wedding day. Read that again: your wedding day.
It’s nice to be mindful of family traditions or cultural conventions, but this is still your day. Your family members (and future family members) have important roles on the day of the wedding and should celebrate and be celebrated, too—but this is your party.
“Wedding gown shopping is subjective,” Ensminger said. “Not everyone is going to like the same gowns that you love. It can be tough when you fall in love with a dress, but you don’t get the reaction you hoped for from your mom or best friend or sibling. Everyone has their idea of what you should wear for your wedding and that is shaped by how they see you or what they would choose for themselves. As long as you feel like yourself and you feel beautiful and happy, that’s all that matters.”
Popovic said the same, and she said it emphatically: “This is your day and no one else’s. Pick a dress, headpiece, veil, etc., that you want. Do not pick anything for someone else just to make them happy. This day is about you and your spouse-to-be and no one else.”
Navigating familial relationships can be tricky, though. You don’t need to be told that; we all know it. Now you’re about to have two families to deal with and that’s double the difficulty, so you have the rest of your life to get into spats. Stand firm on this one and focus on yourself, your day, and your love.
And wear what you want.
Don’t expect the process to be quick
Trying on wedding dresses is fun, right? It’s a day or two of champagne and laughs with your friends and family members. You get to put on a bunch of gorgeous gowns and play around with your personal style. You get to take a photo for Instagram holding an Etsy-esque sign announcing your success. It probably won’t get as many likes as that engagement ring pic you posted recently, but hey, it’s part of the process!
Just so you know, the wedding dress ordeal is not over after that. The process has only just begun.
“Gowns can take up to eight months to come in, so shop with enough time to order your dress and do alterations,” Ensminger said.
That’s right: Alterations. This dress is just for you, which means it has to fit your unique body. Its creation—including detailing, beading, and sewing—might take serious time, and that’s to say nothing of the alterations it’ll go through once it ships to you and you try it on the second, third, and even fourth time.
“I did three fittings for my dress, which is very normal,” said Popovic, who pointed out that you can—and should—enjoy this part of the process, even if it takes a while. “I did add straps to my gown, as well as add a little more sparkle. The alterations part was actually very cool. My dress was couture so to see how they actually cut into my dress and hem, it was true art.”
Trust that there is a perfect dress for you
This is a special occasion, and as hard as it might be, leave your insecurities at the door to the best of your ability. Your betrothed is choosing to spend the rest of their life with you and loves you as you are. You’re beautiful now and you’re going to be beautiful on the big day.
“For brides that feel awkward or insecure while shopping, remember that it’s completely normal to feel that way; putting on a wedding dress for the first time can feel really weird, and very ‘grown up,’ so it’s okay if it doesn’t feel natural to you,” Ensminger said. “Shopping for a gown that you will be wearing in front of tens to hundreds of people would make anyone take a harder look at themselves, but don’t let your insecurities take away from your experience as a bride. Know that gowns come in all sizes and are incredible at bringing out the things you love about your body and hiding the things you’re less fond of.”
Instead of hyper-focusing on any perceived flaws, bring along a group of supportive friends and family members. This is all about you, remember, so if a family member or friend seems a little jealous or is prone to making unkind comments about your body, feel empowered to leave them off the list of invitees on shopping day. No one has the right to make you feel bad about yourself, especially during one of the most exciting seasons of your life.
Have fun with the people you do bring. Popovic said that even though she knew what dress she wanted before stepping into the boutique, she tried on a variety of pieces “to make the process fun and interesting for everyone who came.”
“Try everything,” she said. “Even if it isn’t your style, you will never know unless you try. Have fun; just enjoy the experience.”