Every little girl thinks about her wedding day at some point. Whether it’s from playing with a bridal Barbie doll to watching an older cousin walk down the aisle, every girl wonders about what she would wear if she were to get married one day.
Some girls dream of wearing a dress just like in Cinderella, or perhaps even a female tuxedo in all white, or for 2015 – a short dress for the blushing bride.
Lace, chiffon, or taffeta? A line, drop A line, mermaid, trumpet, empire, princess, sheath… all of these words become part of your vocabulary (and if you don’t already know, they all refer to different wedding dress styles).
If one was to believe the hype from the media, wedding dress shopping is one day (or few days) of a bride’s life filled with champagne, laughter, and eventually finding the dress that makes her look like a million dollars and shine like a star.
Let me break it to you: this is NOT how it goes.
First off, you have your budget.
Dresses range from free to over $10,000. You can get one second hand from a relative – hello, bohemian vintage! – from a chain clothing store like J Crew, from a designer who has private showings only, or from the usual bridal suites.
Before you even start looking for dresses, KNOW YOUR BUDGET. Do not fall in love with a dress that you cannot afford. Find something gorgeous, find something “you”, but also find something in your price range and remember the dress is meant to be worn for a long day of a partying, pictures, and hugs!
Next, think about when and where your wedding is.
What time of year? Indoor or outdoors? A summer outdoor wedding could really make sense for strapless… or you could end up sunburned and with your dress sliding off of you from sweat. A Cinderella style ball gown with more layers than a wedding cake will make a bride melt right to the floor in the summer.
You might have to compromise on a style that suits the time of year (or your audience; Grandma might not like the backless number and you will never hear the end of it!)
So now, you start to get the idea. You start to browse magazines. You cut out some photos, go online, and set up some appointments (which, for the record, should be done a MINIMUM of 6 months in advance to avoid rush fees). You even make it to a few bridal shows too, so you’re feeling good going into that appointment.
Pre-appointment, perhaps you meet up with your entourage (mothers, grandmothers, cousins, bridesmaids) and start to show the pictures you cut out.
And that’s when it starts…
“Oh really? Ugh, you’re going to have to work on those arms!”
“You want that dress? That dress is so much (or so little) money! At my wedding, I had (insert comment).”
“That’s not traditional. You don’t want to wear that in front of everyone, do you?”
All of a sudden, you wish you hadn’t invited so many people. You feel really small. You start to wish you had gone to the gym more over the holidays and less time kicking back and enjoying them (with the same family & friends from above).
Now, I knew I couldn’t manage an entourage and I wanted to avoid the above scene, so I only invited my mother.
Maybe you’re like me?
Once you get to the store, you become a Thanksgiving turkey… poked, prodded, sized, measured, and stuffed with fabrics, materials, and questions.
Trying on wedding dresses is hard work. The store gets hot. Or maybe it’s just you. The corsette makes you feel like you are a smoked sausage wrap. The slips is starting to make you sweat. You swear that each dress weighs at least 10 pounds (some are 25 pounds with beading!) and you wonder where on Earth that fantasy you had when you were a little girl went.
Pause. Breathe. This is YOUR day. Do not let dress shopping get you down.
Sample sizes and wedding dress sizes ALWAY run small.
Most of my friends were a 4-6, maybe an 8, in the US clothing stores. During wedding and bridesmaid dress shopping, I’ve never seen someone be under a size 8, with more of my friends hovering around a 12 or 14.
Don’t let it get to you, they are just numbers!
Bring some heels.
Dresses look better with heels on – fact. Whether it’s even a 1 inch kitten heel or 6 inch stilletos, bring some shoes that make you feel confident and sexy (it will help during all the poking and prodding).
Shower (of course) and take a moment to do your hair and makeup.
Not only will you feel more confident, you will get a better idea under the sterile overhead lighting on how you might look in the dress on your wedding day, when you are done up to the nines!
Bring a supportive entourage.
If Grandma tends to be critical, find a way to make her feel included without ruining the day. If you have a friend who brings your self-esteem down, she’s not the one to bring dress shopping.
Wedding dresses are meant to be worn once for about 12 hours.
What I’m really saying is… not one dress I’ve ever tried on was comfortable. There’s the corsette thing and slips and knots and buttons and zips and bows. Even the simple ones have more to them than you think (or require Spanx, thanks to see-through white!). Your wedding dress won’t feel like your yoga pants, so just warm up to the idea right now.
Above all else, be yourself. You’ll find the dress eventually. Meanwhile, pack extra deodorant and some perspective. You’re in for a bridal whirlwind and you should enjoy it!