How to Find the Wedding Gown of Your Dreams

A wedding gown is likely the most beloved item of clothing you’ll ever purchase–and the most expensive. With some careful preparation, though, you’ll not only be able to zoom in on the dress you’ve always dreamed of, but also get it at an affordable price. Here’s the scoop on how brides-to-be can find that perfect gown for the big day.

Start Searching Early

According to Bridal Guide magazine, most wedding planners recommend that brides begin the gown search between 9 and 12 months before the big day. Ideally, this will allow you to order your dress no more than six months before the wedding date, allowing plenty of time for delivery and alterations. If you expect that your dress will need substantial customization, allow for an additional month or so. Starting early also keeps you from selecting a gown that you’re not completely in love with because you feel rushed.

Know Your Budget

When deciding how much to spend on your wedding gown, make sure to factor in costs in addition to the garment itself, according to The Bridal Project. This includes alterations, veil, undergarments, accessories, tax, and shipping. While dress shopping, if you find a gown you love, be prepared to leave a deposit of around 50 percent.

Select a Silhouette

Perhaps the biggest gown-related decision you’ll make as a bride is the style of your dress. Browse online to get a sense of what silhouettes you like best, which tend to fall into six general categories: ball gown, empire, A-line, sheath, fit-and-flare, and mermaid. On your first dress shopping excursion, try on your favorites to get a sense of what works best on your figure. You might find that though you had your heart set on a simple sheath, what really makes you feel like a beautiful bride is the princess-ready ball gown. Also consider the style of your event; a casual beach wedding requires a different gown than a formal evening cocktail reception.

Make Appointments

Most dress boutiques require you to have an appointment so the consultant can provide you with undivided attention while you’re trying on gowns. If possible, schedule the first time slot of the morning, when the store will likely be less crowded, to limit noise and distractions. You should also consider going on a weekday if you can get a day off work.

Limit Shopping Support

While reality show brides tend to dress shop with an entourage, The Knot recommends limiting your group to just a few key confidants–your mom and best friend, for example. This will prevent you from being swayed by the opinions of others and allow you to focus on the dresses you’re truly drawn to.

Bring a Camera

If your bridal shop allows, taking photos of each dress on your “maybe” list will not only help you make a final decision, but also help you analyze which gown photographs best. Remember that the majority of photos will highlight the top of your gown, so make sure to choose a bodice that flatters.

Rely on Your Seamstress

It’s rare that a dress will fit perfectly from the manufacturer, so a good seamstress is worth every penny. Shop at a store who has a seamstress on staff, since that individual will be familiar with the labels and gowns sold at that shop. If that’s not a possibility, ask friends and family for recommendations of a seamstress who specializes in formal wear. Alterations can ensure that you’ll look and feel great in your chosen wedding dress.

With these six steps, you’ll be able to narrow the incredible array of gown choices and find the dress that you’ll remember for a lifetime.