Finding THE dress!
Updated: Apr 22
My story + some tips and tricks I have accumulated from a life in the bridal industry!
So I have been in the bridal industry…. my whole life… basically. My great grandparents opened a bridal shop in my home town in the 20s, my grandparents took it over, my mom took it over, and then sold it to her business partner who I worked for in high school and college. I spent days in my childhood making forts in the dress racks (the half circle rack was the best!) and my teen years working the door and then eventually taking on clients. When I made the big move to NY years ago, a job at a bridal shop basically fell into my lap. So i have a LOT of experience with many types of clients and what seems like zillions of dresses! However, when it came to finding my own wedding gown, contrary to what most people assumed, I had basically no idea what I wanted. I had seen it ALL and none of it and so much of it appealed to me at the same time.
I wasn't the girl who dreamed about her wedding day or had it all planned when she was 13. It wasn’t that weddings weren’t exciting to me, but I knew very well what was important for me to prioritize after being privy to many people’s extravagant wedding plans. I did not have a clue what I wanted my dress to look like. I wanted something unique, but I had seen it all.
Funnily enough, unbeknownst to me, I picked my dress out 2 years prior to my wedding. We were having an event at the showroom in NY to introduce the next season’s line at Jenny Yoo. I thought the dress was just stunning and I had looked at it ALL night. Post event, we were all cleaning up and winding down and the girls pushed me to try it on. I loved it INSTANTLY, but in the moment thought “Bah. It’s way too simple to be MY wedding dress” Tried it on, and was almost knocked out. It was not only stunning, but I felt INCREDIBLE in it! I walked out to show my coworkers and I think they knew it was the dress before I did! (I was not even engaged yet lol) I am so thankful we took pictures that night because I can now see that I was GLOWING!
Shockingly, it was simplicity that grabbed me in the end. I am a sparkly girl. I'm the GLITTER warrior for pete’s sake! I felt like I was expected to have a gaudy sparkly loud gown. And I would LOVE me some sparkle, but for this occasion, I didn’t. I realized after a while that that’s not what I wanted to be the day I married my husband. I wanted to be the most raw and beautiful version of myself. I didn’t want the extremities. Just silhouette.
Luckily, I got to the glitter later in the second dress!
SO! I put together some tips to share with you. These are coming from years of investing in people's experiences, and now from my very own experience shopping for bridal gowns!
1.Do NOT, even for one second, get stuck on a number.
People always comment that bridal sizing is horrible. Here's the real deal ya'll.... sizing in general is horrible now a days! No where has the same size chart.Not one. I wear a 0 at Old Navy, and then head into H&M and need a 6/8. THE NUMBER MEANS NOTHING. It’s about the fit. Focus on the fit. How you want it to lay on your body, and order the size that guarantees that. You will need alterations for it to fit your incredibly unique body, so don’t be offended if it’s not perfect right away. It would be quite impossible to design a gown to fit every single body type in the land. Know that you want to FEEL and look your absolute best in this gown. A number will in no way make that happen.
2. On that note. Love on your body.
You know your body better than anyone else out there. I personally made a mistake when ordering my gown. A mistake that I often nudge people against. I had had some digestive issues the year prior and so I was worried I would not get my body back to where I was comfortable by my wedding day. I ordered the size I tried on without taking my current measurements and also knowing that my body was more comfortable when it was a size down. It all worked out in the end, but I can now tell you now from experience. Order what you think is right, BUT don’t do it for the pride of having that lower number, or to set a challenge for yourself. You know your body, but be realistic. This is going to be the happiest time of your life. You don't want to punish yourself allllll the way there. You want to enjoy this time of planning and prepping with your fiancé!
I will say, if you have a big weightless goal, and you have the time before your wedding, start on your fitness journey BEFORE you head in to try on dresses. This does not mean that you need to be exactly where you want to be at that moment, but the forward momentum will have you feeling more confident in the dress and will help you make a better and more confident judgement on where you will realistically fall on the size chart.
3. Order early
Most bridal gowns take 3-6 months to come in, and that does not include the 1-2 months you should have for alterations before the big day. Come in early on and tick this one off of your list.
4. Come prepared!
If you think you may want to see your hair up, bring a hair tie or clip. If you are going to wear spanx, bring a pair. I once had an appointment who came with her best friend and that incredible friend ran to a store nearby and purchased some spanx so the bride could see what the dress would look like with them on! You don't need to be wedding ready, but if there are some things that you can bring that you know will affect your decision, a necklace you will absolutely wear, hair piece, your favorite shoes, etc, bring them with! It will make the decision making process so much easier for you!
5. Don't bring everyone one you've ever known to your first appointment.
Now, some of you may think that is an exaggeration, but it's not. The amount of people that think they want to bring 15 people to their appointment still astounds me to this day! I have seen 100s maybe 1000s or scenarios in a bridal appointment, and 9 times out of 10, a big crowd does not enrich the bride’s experience. It turns into a family reunion. a gossipy brunch, or a bitch session about whatever the bride is trying on, and none of those scenarios are focused on the most important person in the room!
I honestly LOVED working with brides who came in on their own initially. It gave such a sense of self. It was fun for me as the consultant as well because I really got to bond with those clients.I know that’s not everyone’s thing, and I am not saying that's the only way, but I think it really helps.
We are in the day and age of say yes to the dress. (Cue my cringe… sorry ya’ll. I’ve been in this business my whole life. It does not entertain me to voluntarily tune into more unnecessary wedding drama and over priced gowns ) ANYWAY. I can see how it has has directly effected the bridal indursty. It made the shopping process a show, and that's what many people have come to desire/expect. A whole show. When in fact, this is a really intimate and exciting day.
Bring whomever is closest to you if you can. That person who’s opinion means the world to you, but will not purposefully sway your heart. Then bring 1-2 more. 4+ people turns into a party and no matter how wonderful they are, the attention turns away from the bride with that many people all distracted and socializing together. The best appointments I had were usually with parents and a sibling or best friend. 3 is the perfect number in my opinion.
The very opinionated person in your life is GREAT to have, but also, make sure it’s someone who can be gentle and kind. It's about YOU in that moment. It's not their comedy hour. ( I have seen this in the sassy friend one too many times, and it broke my heart for the bride.)
I happened to be working in a bridal shop I got my gowns from, so my appointment ended up being my mom and I, plus all of my marvelous work sisters! They were the BEST pump up squad.
6. Follow your gut.
Tune in. Get quiet. And listen. Tune out ALL of the noise and opinions and focus in on what YOU really want. Your heart knows. I was SO in love with my dress from day one, but it was very simple. I originally convinced myself that I wanted to use it, but completely customize it and cover it with sparkles. That it was just the shape I was in love with. I worked with the design team and when I eventually realized that what I was asking for wasn’t going to work out and I was instantly SO relieved. I knew deep down that I wanted my clean, simple, white dress. But I was so worried about what other people would think. Of what they wanted to see from me. The instant I had no choice, all of that was stripped away and I actually saw what I truly wanted.
7. Have FUN!
Don’t take this too seriosuly! Pick something you feel beautiful in! You will feel beautiful on your big day no matter what and your other half will be so in love!