Bride putting on shoes

How to Buy A Wedding Dress: Part 2 – Wedding Dress Shopping

Welcome to part 2 of our 3 part blog Series

Part 2: Trying on Wedding Dresses

If you haven’t already read Part 1, please do so.

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.

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

Buying a wedding dress is one of the most exciting parts of wedding planning.

To recap from Part 1, make sure you have your “Dress Tribe” of 1-2 ladies ready to go for your big shopping day! They will be just as excited as you are to share in such a wonderful experience! Also, have a gut check with yourself. We discussed having your “Bridal Body” ready for the try on – this is not the time to lament over your size. You are beautiful and you are getting married, my dear! This is about more than a dress size (which, we’ll get to in a little bit) – you should walk into that dress shop with your head up, ready to rock an awesome dress like the badass chick you are! Get ready to have a great day with great friends…oh, and the tips below might help!

Wedding dress

Tip #1: Eat before you shop

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and this is not the day to skip out. Grab a good breakfast on the way to your appointment. No one wants a “hangry” bride-to-be. Blood sugar lows are known to add to stress and anxiety and this is supposed to be really fun! Skipping because you think you may be able to fit into a smaller dress is just setting yourself up for a meltdown. Obviously, you don’t want to stuff yourself so much that you’re bloated, but don’t go hungry. The appointment will probably last an hour or two, and you should plan ahead to be satiated if you’re going to more than one location. This is also a good excuse for a mimosa with that breakfast to loosen up a bit with the gals. Go for it!

Tip #2: Go dressed for the occasion

Wait, there’s a dress code for trying on dresses? Well, kinda. You will want to emulate your wedding day as much as (comfortably) possible. Wear undergarments that would be similar to the kind you will wear on your wedding day in nude colors, so you can have a true reflection of what may show through the dress. Also, your friends and the sales associate WILL be seeing you in your underwear, so make sure you’re comfortable with what you’re exposing. If you want to wear spanx, now is the time to go for it.  You can also fix your hair a bit (or just throw it back in a ponytail) and apply a little makeup – trying on an elegant dress when you haven’t put on make-up might not give you that “put together” look. And, don’t forget shoes! You’ll want to bring shoes that are similar to what you are planning to wear (or the actual shoes if you have them). They should reflect the environment of the day – if your groom is super tall, then consider heels, but if you’re on a sandy beach, go ahead and take your flats. Keep in mind that you can have two pairs of shoes, as well – wedding shoes and dancing shoes, and which shoes you wear will affect how long your dress will be hemmed. So, take a few pairs!

Tip #3: You are more than just a dress size

Wedding dress

Photo by Kape Photography

I cannot beg enough – please, please, please do not get caught up in the number on the dress. Everyone in the fashion industry knows that formal dresses almost never translate to the same pant size you currently wear, and they even vary from designer to designer. Most wedding dresses run 2-3 sizes large, so don’t freak out if your usual size 4 is now size 8. No one will be coming up to you about the size, but they will be complimenting you on how the dress fits. Are you comfortable? Do you feel beautiful? These are the thoughts you should be considering in the dressing room. Don’t sweat it if it’s a few sizes larger, just go off how it feels on your body, and how confident you feel when you look into that mirror!

Tip #4: Consider the Weather

Remember to consider the weather on your wedding day (for the typical season and location) and if you will need to travel with your dress.  Let the sales associate know if the dress needs to be a wrinkle free fabric or lighter fabric. If you’re shopping in the fall for a beach wedding dress, just make sure you are not trying on heavy dresses made for cold weather. Remember: chiffon, SILK tulle, organza, illusion, jersey, crepe & lace are your best fabrics. You’ll also want to make sure the fabric around your legs is not too heavy or will stick to your legs once you start sweating (…it will happen!). Sweat, either from taking your vows in the summer sun, or Electric Sliding for a few hours, can create an uncomfortable situation. We have had to cut out many a dress lining mid-reception! Take it from us – light and breezy makes it easy.

Tip #5: Raise your hands like you just don’t care

Speaking of dancing, you need to move around in the dress to make sure it will work for you.  You’re not a statue – you’ll be moving, dancing, shaking and having a great time.

Photo by William Sanchez Photography

You don’t need to worry about whether or not your dress can keep up! You may feel silly in the store jumping up and down in your dress, but it’s much better than popping out of your dress (or the dress falling off) on the dance floor in front of your friends and (new) family. Check the sleeves/straps by raising your arms in the air to make sure you have good movement. Also, make sure the straps are not falling off your shoulder. Some dresses have a shelf top which doesn’t keep everything in if you are dancing and some just won’t stay up when you Twist and Shout. So turn up the volume in your head and jump around the dressing room to ensure it will all stay in place.

Tip #6: Be bold

Photo by Charlie Homo Photography

This is the time to get out of your comfort zone and try colors you may not have considered before (not just white and ivory). Open your mind to try different styles, too. You may be pleasantly surprised at the things you wrote off before and how different they look and feel on your body type. More importantly, be YOU!

Tip #7: Don’t forget to sit

Just as important as dancing and moving, make sure you can sit down in a chair comfortably. You will need to sit down for dinner as well as when chatting with your guests on your wedding night. Also, when you sit down, pretend you are putting your shoes on. Bending over that far is sometimes hard, if not impossible. You will want to know if that might be an issue before buying. Don’t be too quick to dismiss this – we had to

Bride putting on shoes

Photo by Lacey Seymour Photography, Austin TX

put a couple at a high top bar table last minute, instead of their sweetheart table, because she couldn’t sit down at dinner.  Yikes! Sit and Bend!

Tip #8: Go to the bathroom

Yes, I said that! Make sure you can use the…ladies room…in your dress. That’s right – there’s no taking the dress off once it’s on for your big day. You will be in your dress for possibly a few hours before you walk down the aisle, due to pictures and any other thing you have scheduled beforehand with your bridesmaids. Since you probably can’t take the dress into the bathroom at the dress shop, straddle a chair and literally pull the dress up as if you need to pee. Now is not the time to be shy! In some dresses, you might actually have to straddle the toilet (and go sans panties on your big night in this case!) or some dresses will need to be totally taken off in order to use the restroom. Plus, there’s no guarantee the bathroom will be large enough for you and your crew to make this all happen successfully, especially if you’re pressed for time. This is very important to know before you buy it.

Check out the “Bridal Buddy-Bathroom Assistant” on Amazon.

Tip #9: Let’s talk about trains and how to bustle them

If at all possible, get a dress without a train or one with a detachable train. It is much easier to take one off than to put one up. If your dress has more than 3 buttons to bustle then make sure your ‘Dress Tribe’ has actually bustled your dress before taking it home. You want to make sure it

Busteling a wedding dress

Photo by Susan Pacek Photography

doesn’t need any extra ribbon, buttons or markers to make their lives easier on the wedding night. It usually takes 15 minutes and a small army to bustle a wedding dress if someone doesn’t know how to do it. When looking at a dress you really like, make sure to have them bustle it so you can see how it looks while you are wearing the dress (before you buy). When bustled, make sure you are still not dragging fabric or that the back of your dress isn’t so heavy that you can’t dance. Does it make your butt look 1800’s Victorian weird? You will be in your bustled dress longer than you won’t, so make sure it is comfortable and pretty. Also, imagine if it gets wet, will it drag on the floor (rain happens!)? Will you be kicking it out of your way during your Father-Daughter Dance? Will it end up looking like a little dinosaur tail? Again, you will have it up after your wedding so you want to make sure it looks great for the rest of the night.

Tip #10: Have your Dress Tribe take photos

Every dress that you try on should have a few pictures to show for it. Make sure you get the front, side, back, and the label. Take a photo of the storefront before going in, as well, so you know where those photos were taken. If you go to more than one place, it becomes easy to forget which dresses you tried on and where. Also, carry a notebook (or a notepad app on your phone) with you to write down the name of the dresses you liked best and prices so you can go back to that later. You will need those photos later when deciding on a final style or even after you decide on a dress.

Bride with 2 bridesmaids

Photo by M&J Photography

Tip #11: DON’T buy a dress the same day

So many brides have buyer’s remorse when they pull the trigger too soon. Put it on hold for 72 hours so you can think it through. You might be able to buy that same dress on Ebay or Nearly Newlywed for half the price or you might decide you like a different dress better after chatting with your friends afterwards. Don’t wait too long, but give yourself some time to really think if that is the right dress for you. And don’t let the store pressure you. Of course they want the sale, but you need to make sure it is right for you.

Tip #12: Ask lots of questions

Most sales are final (yes, even without alterations) so make sure you know all of the costs up front. Does it include ALL alterations needed? What if it needs a last minute hem? Do they guarantee delivery time tables? What is the cancellation policy? What if it arrives damaged? Verify the maker, style number/name, size and color before signing any contract.  Remember, you are buying this, not the sales rep. Take your time and make

Zipping the wedding dress

Photo by Christina Dianne Photography

sure you are comfortable before following through with the transaction.

Whew! Ok great, you’ve decided on THE DRESS – now what? Take a look at our Part 3 of the series where we go over what happens after you’ve said ‘yes’!

Quick Links: