The DOs and DON’Ts of Choosing Your Wedding Dress

DON’T schedule your wedding dress appointment late in the day.

The early bird gets the worm—er, in this case, the early bride gets an energetic, fresh bridal store staff that hasn’t dealt with the concerns of a million clients already. “If you get the first appointment of the morning, the store will likely be less crowded, and you’ll get the full attention of your consultant,” says Camille McLamb, owner of Chicago-based wedding planning service Camille Victoria Weddings.

DO focus first on finding the best wedding dress silhouette for you.

Details are important—a long row of teensy pearl buttons and a well-placed ruffle or two can mean the difference between a good wedding dress and a great one. But before you start nitpicking the details, “first figure out the silhouette that works best for you,” says gown designer Amsale Aberra. “Try not to get caught up in the trend of the moment, but instead focus on your personal style and what flatters you most.”

DON’T forget about the top of your wedding dress.

A long, gorgeous wedding dress with a fancy hem is to die for. Just remember that the top of your dress is what people will notice most—and what will show up in most wedding pictures. “The majority of wedding photos that guests take of you are from the waist up,” says Margee Higgins, 30. Higgins picked a Lazaro gown with straps and a high belt, both of which you could see in all her photos.

DON’T pick a wedding dress just because it’s trendy now.

Trendy wedding dresses won’t necessarily stand the test of time—flip through your parents’ wedding album for evidence of that. “A gown should be timeless,” says Erika Unbehaun, owner of Flutterfly Events, a wedding planning company in London. “When you feel sexy and glamorous in a gown that has both modern and traditional elements, and you feel like a better version of yourself when you’re wearing it, you’ve found your timeless gown. It’s something that will never go out of style.”

DO bring your camera wedding dress shopping (if the boutique allows it).

Embrace your inner Cher Horowitz (we all have some of theClueless character in us) and photograph your dress possibilities instead of putting all your trust in the mirror. “Mirrors are used to sell dresses—cameras don’t lie,” says Richard O’Malley, owner of the O’Malley Project, a company that offers consulting services for event planners. “Because you’ll be looking at the photos of this dress for years to come, know how it photographs from all angles. One potential hiccup: Some boutiques don’t allow dress photography. Call ahead to see if you can take a few snaps for decision-making purposes only.

DO try on as many wedding dresses as you need to…

According to Nicole Janowicz, celebrity wedding stylist, almost any dress can look gorgeous on a hanger (or it can look terrible). Resist snap judgment. “Once a dress is on a woman’s body, it takes on a different shape and look,” she says. “This means that a bride will try on many dresses, and she should. I had a celebrity bride try on 27 dresses at a fitting in order to find the perfect reception dress. Just as it takes time to find a husband or wife, it takes time to find the perfect gown.”

…but DON’T try on too many wedding dresses.

We’re not trying to confuse you here—we just mean that you shouldn’t feel forced to try on more or fewer gowns than you want. According to Lacy Pool, a bridal stylist and blogger for Serendipity Bridal, you can suffer wedding dress overload (and total panic) if you feel like you must try on 20 different dresses at each salon you visit. “Too many choices and too many places can add stress and confusion,” Pool says. Nine times out of 10, you will go back to your first salon and order your favorite gown anyway, so go with your gut.” Pool’s tip: Find a bridal salon that carries your top three designers and “gets” your style.

DON’T feel like you must bring an audience when you try on wedding dresses.

Wedding TV shows make it look like you need to bring every one of your female relatives, your neighbor and your kindergarten teacher with you to help with the dress search. “I felt pressure to bring a group of girlfriends with me,” says Breen Halle, 28, from Miami Beach, Fla., who was married in February. “The result was negative. Too many opinions, thoughts and coordination. I found success going to the salon myself and selecting my gown. And I learned it’s perfectly normal to go alone—not to mention stress-free.”

DO wear a gorgeous bra when you’re trying on wedding dresses.

On wedding dress try-on day, you’re going to be spending a lot of time in your skivvies. Admiring your pretty new bra between gowns will make you feel much more positive than catching a glimpse of the ratty old gray one you’ve had for years. Plus, a well-fitting bra can actually help in your search. “Many women don’t realize the power of having well-fitted undergarments,” says Kpoené Kofi-Nicklin, the owner and designer of Mignonette Bridal. “Go to a department store that has a bra fit specialist, or a lingerie shop, and get fitted for a new bra. You are going to be wearing a gorgeous dress on your wedding day, so there’s no excuse for wearing the bra you’ve had since college underneath.”

DON’T freak out about wedding dress sizing.

“I’m a bridal consultant, but even I was alarmed by how big the dresses were when I was trying them on,” says Gail Johnson, of Gail Johnson Weddings. “Bridal gowns run two to three sizes larger [than your regular size]. Once you get your head around that, be realistic; pay attention to how it looks, not what the label reads. It took me some time to deal with that myself—I actually cried because of the size!”

DON’T forget that all wedding dress and accessory sales are usually final.

Gulp—no pressure, right? But it’s a realistic reminder that you should stay serious in your search for your wedding dress and accessories. “I had an impulse buy of a fun fascinator,” says Lori Lenz, 40,.”Now I’m realizing it doesn’t really work with the rest of the wedding and I should just get a simple veil. Only now, I have a hundred-dollar clip-on hat that I didn’t realize was nonreturnable. ”

DO ask lots of questions while trying on wedding dresses.

You should ask questions of the boutique owner and staff—but also of yourself. “You should always ask yourself a few questions to make sure the dress you love not only makes you feel spectacular but also works for the activities of the day,” says Nicole Brewer, David’s Bridal style council member and celebrity stylist. “Make sure you have the answers to these: Do I feel beautiful, confident and comfortable? Can I dance in it? Can I sit down? Am I self-conscious about any part of my body in my dress?” Although a gown may be gorgeous, if you can’t move in it all night and feel trapped, mummy-style, it’s not the right one for you.

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