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Whether you’ve dreamed about your wedding gown for years or you’ve got no clue where to start, wedding dress shopping can be a tulle-filled maze that can leave you overwhelmed, frustrated, and ultimately unhappy with your final purchase. That’s why we’re here to help ensure you’re equipped with everything you need to know to find your dress without the stress.

Finding your dream wedding-day outfit, even if it’s not a dress–hello, jumpsuits–doesn’t have to be so draining. These tips will keep you sane and organized as you navigate the world of boutiques, online retailers, and dress designers. Shopping for your dress is a balancing act–style, budget, time, and a certain magical feeling all have to perfectly align for you to find the one. Keep these wedding dress shopping tips in mind when you begin the dress shopping process, and you’ll find the dress of your dreams. Trust us.

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Timing Your Wedding Dress Shopping

You’ll want to start your dress search early because shipping dates for wedding dresses can take up to 6-8 months. We know, it sounds crazy. Most designers typically don’t have a warehouse full of gowns. Unless you’re ordering from online retailers, most designers don’t begin construction until the order is placed.

Some brides–though this is not common, so don’t let it scare you–also run into the issue of ordering what they think is their dream dress, only to realize that their wedding style has shifted slightly since they began shopping. If this happens, you may have time to get a second dress before the big day. Overall, there is no downside to getting started early.

If you’re in a pinch and you need a gown ASAP, these 30 ready-to-ship gowns that you can buy right now may be the perfect option for you.

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Wedding Dress Budgets

According to a study done by The Knot, the average wedding dress cost is $1,500 to $2,500. However, it’s not far fetched to see gowns at your local boutique creeping closer to $10,000 to $15,000. To avoid spending more than you want, make your budget clear with your bridal consultant, and don’t pull styles that are over–even if you just want to see how it looks.

If you’re on a budget, keep in mind that there are resale options available to you, such as Nearly Newlywed or Once Wed. Many boutiques also have off the rack sales where you can buy discontinued samples off of the floor. You can also try your hand at finding a non-traditional dress via shops like ASOS, Lulu’s, or Show Me Your Mumu.

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Wedding Dress Styles

One of the best wedding planning tips we can give to any newly engaged person is to have fun when it comes to your wedding-day look! Even if you’ve always dreamt of yourself in a princess ball gown silhouette, try on different styles, just in case. We often hear from brides that they ended up choosing a dress that wasn’t at all what they had in mind, so keep your mind open and have fun with it.

We believe that every body can wear every dress, so we’re not going to tell you what dress style fits your body best. The only way to figure out what works for you is to try on a wide variety of dresses and determine what makes you feel most confident. And if you’re nervous about going into your first bridal appointment, check out our guide on body positivity in wedding dress shopping and prep!

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The Sizing Dilemma Of Wedding Dress Shopping

When you first start trying on wedding dresses, you might be shocked to learn that sizing is all over the place. These sizes aren’t anything remotely close to what you wear in your everyday clothes. Wedding dresses typically run one to two sizes smaller than your street size. After finding your dream dress, your consultant will take your measurements and recommend a size based on the designer’s size chart. It’s wise to go with the size that fits you now rather than go smaller because you believe you will lose weight. It’s easier to take a dress in than it is to let it out. No matter what, remember that size is just a number. What matters most is how the dress makes you feel.

Be Prepared For Limited Availability

Another thing to keep in mind is that most boutiques only carry one or two sizes of a gown–typically in the 10 to 14 range–which means you’ll be trying on gowns that might not fit you. Your consultant will add clips to the back of the gown so that you can see what the gown would look like with the correct fit. Go into the experience knowing that the dresses you try on will look different from the final version you wear on your big day.

If you’re searching for a plus size gown, you may want to call ahead and make sure that the boutique you’re visiting carries both the designers and sizing that you need. While this is an unfortunate flaw in the wedding industry, times are changing and designers and boutiques are working hard to accommodate every body shape and size. If you want some curvy-friendly inspo, check out our round-up of stunning plus size wedding dresses.

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 7 Tips To Remember When You’re At A Bridal Boutique

  1. Limit your crew – The more people you bring, the more opinions you’ll have. Only bring your closest friends and family members who will uplift you and help you feel confident
  2. Don’t try on too many dresses in one day – Work with your consultant to pick 5-10 dresses. Too many dresses can lead to confusion and stress
  3. Eat beforehand – Shopping for gowns takes a lot of energy, so properly fuel yourself beforehand
  4. Be ready to walk away – A bridal boutique’s mission is to sell you a gown. While most consultants have your interests at heart, remember their job is to get you to select one of their dresses. If at any point you begin to feel uncomfortable, walk away. The right boutique won’t make you feel pressured
  5. Listen to your gut – You might not fall in love at first sight. Listen to your gut feelings when trying dresses on—especially if you can’t pinpoint why you’re feeling that way
  6. Take advice with a grain of salt – While your mom, sister, and best friend love you, they might not love the style of dress you choose. It may be difficult for them to put aside their biases to help you find your dress
  7. Don’t overdo it – If you get stuck in a rut of gown shopping, take a break. It’s easy to overthink this decision and get overwhelmed searching for the “perfect” gown. The more stressed you are about deciding, the less likely you’ll be able to

While dress shopping can seem overwhelming, our advice is to have fun. It’s easy to feel stressed, but don’t forget that this experience should be exciting and joyous. While a little stress is normal, don’t let it ruin the experience for you. Remember that your dress is just one small factor when looking at the bigger picture that is your wedding day!

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