Planning a wedding can require a ton of time and energy, from finding the perfect venue to booking the wedding photographer and everything in between. Thankfully, finding a wedding dress you love doesn’t have to be an added stressor. To help with this, ahead, we chatted with a wedding dress expert and someone who’s been there, done that for all the wedding dress shopping tips and tricks to cut the hassle, including the sweet spot for when you should start looking.
When Do You Actually Need To Start Planning Your Wedding Dress?
As a general rule of thumb, if you’re going the traditional wedding dress boutique route, Lori Conley, general merchandise manager of BHLDN, suggests starting the wedding dress shopping process six to nine months before the big day. This will give you ample time to find the perfect dress, receive it, and then have any needed alterations made. That said, the timing does greatly depend on where you shop and what type of dress you choose.
Some wedding shops, especially if you’re ordering online, can accommodate a quicker turnaround time — “mere days,” Conley says. Shopping for a wedding dress online can also speed up the process and means you don’t have to waste your weekends shopping. If you go that route, she recommends looking over the shop’s size guide thoroughly to ensure you’re ordering the correct size. She also advises noting the company’s return and exchange policy, so you don’t end up stuck with a dress that’s not the one.
And, if you’re not already married (no pun intended) to a specific type of dress, there are styles that will minimize the time frame. “You could keep the [wedding dress shopping] process super simple and compressed by looking at dresses that are stretch fabric, which means almost no alterations are needed,” Conley says. “Or, opt for a short dress, so you don’t have to worry about hemming. For options like that, the process could be done in under a month if the gowns are in stock.”
How It Worked IRL
For Melanee, 39, based in Pasadena, California, budget and alterations were the two biggest stressors during wedding dress shopping. To avoid this and keep things simple, Melanee’s biggest piece of advice: “Research brands you can afford and stick with that.”
Also, factor alterations into your budget. “My sister got married… and her wedding dress alterations ended up costing more than her actual dress,” Melanee says. “That stressed me out a little bit.” She adds that her dress shopping hack for this is to do your research to find a tailor on your own instead of going with who the dress shop recommends, which tends to be more expensive. Keep the timeline in mind, too. Major alterations will typically take longer than a simple length hemming, for instance.
Melanee’s one regret when it came to wedding dress shopping was taking too many people to her fitting. “Everyone had different opinions,” she says of her bridesmaids that accompanied her shopping, as they each gravitated toward different styles. “That makes it kind of hard [to shop].” Going with fewer people — she recommends one or two, max — will make it easier to focus on what you really like.
What did work well for Melanee while dress shopping was doing a hybrid of online and in-store shopping. First, she recommends doing all your research online by looking at bridal shops and wedding dress designer’s Instagram accounts. “It’s the platform to search since they highlight their collections with images, videos, and pricing,” she says, adding that online resources like Brides magazine and The Knot were also helpful for finding dresses.
Doing your research online first will help you get a clear idea of what style of dress or exact dresses you want to try on before going into the store. According to Melanee, this saves tons of time and energy, plus you still experience the special moment of trying on dresses in-store.
The Best Hack To Cut The Hassle
To really make your wedding dress experience low maintenance, Conley’s biggest tip is to go for a wedding dress that ties in the back. Although lovely, dresses with shaped open backs, she says, often require alterations so that they fit properly without any gapping based on the length of your torso. Dresses that tie in the back, on the other hand, allow you to adjust the dress to your body’s measurements to get the perfect fit, sans alterations, which can significantly shorten the wedding dress shopping time frame.
Lori Conley, general merchandise manager of BHLDN