top of page

Things I Wish I Knew Before Wedding Dress Shopping

Many brides dream of their wedding dress from a young age, or after a couple awesome dates with the person you see your future with. And then other brides never thought about their dress or even thought they would get married, yet still end up in a bridal store. For myself, I was the bride that had pinned some dresses I thought were pretty while neglecting homework in high school and didn’t daydream much about how I’d look walking down the aisle until there was a ring on my finger many years later.

I remember panicking and realizing I had no clue what the process of wedding dress shopping entailed! I started searching for a boutiques for a girls weekend and had choice overload. Who knew there were SO many places to find wedding dresses? I started researching some of the designers each store carried, and ended up with about 3 notebook pages of style numbers of dresses I liked, again overwhelming. I had to take a step back and try to get a grasp on how it all worked.

Luckily for me, my mom suggested a couple local boutiques near me and decided we should take it one appointment at a time. She booked me an appointment at the same store where my sister had purchased her wedding dress, and actually both our prom dresses in high school! My stylist took amazing care of me and educated me throughout the entire process. It was seriously a dream! When I reflect back on my experience it feels like a blur, but in a super dreamy, laughter, warmth and joy filled type of way, that included champagne, tears, and my dream dress!

As a bride turned Bridal Stylist, there are a ton of things I wish I knew before I went to my first appointment. Below you will find a couple of my insights and tips ranging from analytical & realistic, to emotional & lovey dovey!

Wedding Dress Flowing Photo


Is it still taboo to talk about money? I hope not. Budget can be a really touchy and tricky subject. Here are my main takeaways: there is the perfect dress for you in your price range (or close to it), and be sure to create a budget according to your expectations. I truly believe every bride can find a dress within their budget, that they feel beautiful in without breaking the bank, as long as you are realistic. As a bride, I didn’t realize that more detail meant more money. If you want lace, sparkle, bling, and a long train, it is going to cost more than a simple, classic look. However, simple dresses can still make a huge statement! There is a gown for every bride in every budget, but you will have to be open to trying a variety of styles.

Timeline and Alterations

When I tell you I had zero concept of timeline, I’m serious. I figured I could waltz into a bridal store and leave with a gown that fit me. Although sometimes true, that’s not always the case. For most brides you are going to want to allow 9-12 months for the entire process (if you want a more stress-free approach!). Bridal gowns can take anywhere from 4-8 months to be designed and constructed! There is so much hard work behind all those pretty little details, and as they say, good things take time! Once your dress arrives, you are going to need about 3-4 months for alterations. Most bridal boutiques do not offer in house alterations, but will offer recommendations on local seamstresses. Alterations will ALWAYS be needed on a gown. Most often you will need a hem, a bustle, and little adjustments here and there. Pro Tip: Budget $300-600 for standard alterations!

Groom and Bride Wedding Photo

Buying off the Rack

If you don’t have 9-12 months to wait and you’re marrying the love of your life now, you do have the option to buy a dress “off the rack!" This is a super cool option for brides! This means the dress you try on in store is the same dress you say "I do" in. Most stores carry a variety of sizes, these could fit you perfectly, or might need some work. However, the price of buying an aisle-ready dress is usually discounted, and you can start alterations right away! Talk to your boutique when you are setting up your appointment about both purchasing off the rack, or ordering a dress and decide together which would be the best option for you!


I remember my Grandma asking me if I was getting a “white dress,” or which shade I wanted. Little did I know I would be leaving the store with a dress in the color “moscato” which was a pink-ish hue (and also one of my favorite wine varieties)! I had no idea that wedding dresses came in so many colors now. A lot of lace dresses have a different color lining that helps the lace pattern really pop! The designers always have fun names for the colors too like: Mocha, Latte, Almond, Oyster, Titanium, Natural, Blush, Sand, Nude, etc. Most bridal designers don’t even make “white” dresses anymore, because a true and traditional white often ends up photographing a little blue, so now the standard “white” in bridal is ivory!

Bride and Groom Vows


Oh Pinterest, we love you, but sometimes you hurt our hearts. I know I am not the only girl to pin some dresses, only to further investigate and realize that dress is $8000, or is only sold in South Africa. Don’t get me wrong, there are beautiful, amazing gowns featured on Pinterest, they definitely inspire you, and get your wheels turning. However, my big piece of advice is to not fall in love with a dress on Pinterest, for a couple reasons. Wildly out of price range, and unavailable where you live or possibly a discontinued style. Another huge reason not to get too attached to a dress, and this is a big one…you might finally get to try it on after looking at it for months, and actually hate how you look and feel in it, and it is crushing. It’s better to get attached to the feeling that dress elicits and try to find a dress that makes you feel that way, even if the details are different.

Your Squad

You don’t have to invite people that don’t make you feel good about yourself. Re-read that sentence. Forget the formality, and the “I should-s.” Bring your most hype-cheerleading friends. Your bridal appointment is not a time for drama, or self deprecation. This dress is what you are wearing on your entrance into this new chapter of the rest of your life, it’s not a dress that should be chosen based on Aunt Marge’s passive aggressive comments. You should have people there that help you listen to your own heart and mind.

Bride and Groom Photo

Ultimately, this is a time to celebrate you and your love story. You are on a journey to find a dress that embodies YOU, a dress that makes jaws drop and puts the focus on how absolutely stunning, inside and out, you are! Your dress is the most self expressive piece of clothing you will ever purchase, so you want people there that are going to remind you of who you are, where you came from, and where you are going.

Dress: Maisie by WTOO

Bride & Author : @reganparbs


bottom of page