wedding dress

How to Buy A Wedding Dress: Part 1 – Pre-shopping

Welcome to our 3 part blog Series – Buying a Wedding Dress 

Part 1: Before you buy – We will go over tips for setting your budget, researching what looks best on your body type, looking through styles and listing your “dress wants”, and what to expect when dipping your toe in the water.

Part 2: Trying on dresses – We will review who should join you, where to go try them on, how to handle it, and tips to ensure the dress works for you. We will also cover how to accessorize, and other fun stuff!

Part 3: You said Yes to the Dress, Now What? – We will review the final fitting, packing and transporting, and how to keep your weight steady to make sure it fits on the big day! Also, we’ll cover what to do with your dress after the wedding.

This post contains some affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something we may earn a commission. Thanks.

Couple on the beach in wedding attire

Photo by Christina Dianne Photography

Part 1: Before you Buy

Buying a wedding dress is one of the most exciting parts of wedding planning. Your dress is a true expression of yourself on one of the most memorable days of your life. However, in the search for perfection, it can become overwhelming and stressful. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way!  With a little prep work BEFORE you set foot inside of a bridal shop, you can minimize the stress and really enjoy your wedding dress shopping experience.

Tip #1: Set a budget 

This is a crucial first step! Setting a budget is important in staying true to what you can afford, and is a priority for reducing wedding stress. Even if your budget is less than you imagined, don’t worry – you can still find a beautiful dress within your means that is you down to the core! This budget needs to include your shoes (2 pairs), vail/hair piece, belt, jewelry, undergarments/Spanx AND Alterations – All of it! The best way to tackle this is to set a number, then work backwards. If you have $3000 budgeted, then you probably realistically have $2500 for the actual dress and $500 for the accessories and alterations. If you buy from a website like Nearly Newlywed or eBay, remember that alterations will be a separate cost. Make sure you have the dress budget separate from your accessories and alterations budget so you don’t accidentally spend it all on the dress and have nothing left over for the rest. Put a real number in your head (and stick to it!) before doing any shopping.

Tip #2: Research Dresses

3 things to consider for Dress Styles:

  1. What’s your body type? – Even though you love that sweetheart bust with the empire waist wedding dress that you saved on your Pinterest board, it doesn’t mean it will complement your body. Check out these tips about what to wear for your body type, such as if a v-neckline works best or if you should add a belt to accentuate your waist.
  2. What’s your Style? – Are you more Sexy Glam or Vintage Boho? Check out this helpful blog to figure it out.
  3. Where/When are you getting married? – Is it a tropical island or snow capped mountains? Your dress should match both the location and the weather. For Isla Mujeres brides, I would recommend chiffon, silk tulle, organza, illusion, jersey, crepe and lace – all are wrinkle resistant and/or easy to steam out, if needed.
Off the shoulder wedding dress

Photo by Kape Photography

Tip #3: Think about your “Bridal Body”

Although you’re beautiful just the way you are, you may feel an itch to lose a few pounds before your wedding. If this is the case, I would highly recommend to lose what you can BEFORE going to your first fitting. This means getting into your “Bridal Body” 4 months or more before your wedding. Your alterations will be based on your body on that day, not where you want to be in 2 months. Don’t plan to lose a bunch of weight just before your wedding – it adds way too much pressure, and you run the risk of your dress not fitting. On the flip side, stress eating and neglecting your health can cause weight gain, and thus, the same issue.

Tip #4: Plan to Shop Early

Plan on buying your dress at least 6 months before your wedding, based on a few reasons:

  1. You might not find the right dress the first week of shopping and get discouraged – that’s ok! Take a break and then get back to it.
  2. The shop or site might need to special order your dress once you find it, which could take months to ship, and it still might need alterations.
  3. Alterations can take up to 4 months (No, I’m not kidding!).
  4. You want your dress to be in your closet a month before your wedding. This will alleviate major last minute stress. I can’t tell you how many of my clients were crying because they still hadn’t received their dress back from ordering or alterations a week before departing for their wedding. Who needs that added anxiety?!
2 piece wedding dress

Photo by Button Up Photography

Tip #5: Pre-shop Online

Look around on Ebay, Nearly Newlywed, David’s Bridal, BHLDN, Still White, etc to get an idea of prices, designs you like, costs of accessories, and fabrics available. Start saving dresses you like on your Pinterest board or screen shot them into an album on your phone. Pinterest is great for comparisons because it allows you to see them side by side. But don’t go too crazy – you’ll end up with “analysis paralysis” from staring at 100 dresses and are no better off than when you started, or only fall in love with one style and put blinders on yourself before you try them on.

Tip #6: Decide on your “Dress Tribe”

You should allow no more than 2 people to be on your dress tribe. While the support is great, too many opinions can cloud your judgement of what you may really want. Take your friends (or one friend) that you usually shop with who makes you try on things you wouldn’t normally try, but you end up loving those outfits anyway. This person will be there to test your limits on styles, be honest with love and support – but most importantly – help you have a great time.

Tip #7: Research your local bridal shops

Photo by Button Up Photography

Shopping local has a lot of benefits, but especially so when it comes to such a big purchase. You don’t want to wander too far away because if you find a dress you love, you still have to go there for all of your fittings. Look at reviews from a variety of sources (not just their own site!) and get recommendations to make sure you are going to reputable shops that are professional, reliable, and easy to work with.

Tip #8: Book an appointment

Book an appointment to guarantee someone will be there to work with you one-on-one. Also, try to go mid-week so there is less noise and commotion. Double check that the day/time works for your “Dress Tribe”, as well. You can make as many appointments as you want, but just don’t over pack the schedule – leave time for travel and snacks between appointments.

If you are planning a beach wedding,

Wedding party

Photo by Christina Dianne Photography

check out our Wedding Dress Pinterest Board from actual brides that got married with us at SunHorse Weddings, Isla Mujeres Mexico.

Now that you know what you are looking for, have a budget in mind, and have your best shopping friend to help (with an appointment booked, of course) ~~~ Next PostLet’s go Dress Shopping!!!