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Emily summer studios | 406.871.2199 | emilysummerstudios@gmail.com | Missoula, Montana

15 Tips to Finding Your Perfect Wedding Dress

Picking out your wedding dress is perhaps one of the most exciting parts about planning a wedding. So often, however, the joy and excitement of trying on dresses with your gal pals is replaced by a sense of overwhelming confusion, doubt and hesitation. There are so many factors that play a part in selecting the wedding dress that perfectly suits you, and heading into your appointment with the knowledge you need is sure to lead you through the doors with confidence and out with success!

Many of you know that in addition to planning, photographing and styling weddings, I also work at Velvet Bride in downtown Missoula. I have seen the good, bad and the ugly (well, never ugly let's be honest) when it comes to wedding dress appointments and I am here to give you 15 tips to nail your bridal appointment and find your dream wedding dress.

1. Do Your Research

You have the greatest resources available right at your fingertips - utilize them. Browse Pinterest to find shapes and styles that you like, stalk wedding dress designers on Instagram to familiarize yourself with different designers and the styles that accompany their name on a tag. Flip through the pages of a bridal magazine and dog-ear the pages of wedding dresses that stand out to you. This way, you will know what styles, patterns, shapes, and fabric types you are naturally drawn to and you will likely feel less overwhelmed walking into a bridal shop with unlimited options. That being said - don't get too set on a particular photograph or specific dress. Just because it looks great in the photograph doesn't mean it's the dress for you. We, as women, are all different and we are all shaped differently which means that dress on page 16 isn't going to look the same on the model as it does on me. Let's embrace our diversity, shall we?

2. Have a Vision

It is very helpful to go into your appointment with an idea of what you envision for your wedding day. The colors, the theme, and the mood and style are all factors that can play a part in selecting your dress, as you likely want something that will tie into the theme you choose. Consider the venue and the physical place you will be standing when you get married and perhaps the path you walk to get there. If you're planning on getting married in a field with tall grass, a big tulle ball-gown will likely snag and might not be your best option.

3. Get a Head-Start

Start early. There's nothing more stressful than when a bride comes in months after her engagement in March and says she needs a dress for her wedding in June. Wedding dresses take time to make, not to mention ship, as most stores don't have a wedding dress designer sewing away in the back room. Do yourself a favor a start the process 6-9 months before your wedding day and eliminate any feeling that you are being rushed or have to settle on a dress you don't love, but will arrive in time for your wedding. Starting early also ensures you will have plenty of time to get any necessary alterations once your dress arrives.

4. Keep an Open Mind

You will likely hear this phrase more than once during the course of your appointment...but really - keep an open mind. Most dresses look completely different on the hanger than they will on your body and the only way to know is to simply try it on. Trust your consultant or stylist during your appointment and be willing to try dresses they pull for you, even if they might not be something you would have pulled yourself. Which brings me to my next tip :

5. Try on Different Silhouettes

Many brides come in with a particular dress style in mind, and that's great, but if it's your first appointment, you will greatly benefit from trying on various silhouettes and dress shapes so you can see what looks best on your body type - you might be surprised. I can't tell you how many times I have had a bride come in and describe the dress they're looking for and add "definitely no ball-gown" and end up walking away with a ball-gown for their wedding. If you find yourself pulling a lot of flowy A-line styles, maybe pull just one fit and flare just to see how you feel and know you tried all your options.

6. Pick your Pals Wisely

This is huge. You likely want a fun appointment with all your favorite people, popping champagne and crying tears of joy over how beautiful you look, and that is great, you should be having a great time at your bridal appointment. Take a few minutes to really think about the crew you want to tag along and make sure they are people that are going to help you make your decision - give their honest opinion, but ultimately leave the decision making to you. Opinionated entourages often leave a bride confused, disappointed, and most importantly - dress-less. Gather the gals that will have your back and make your appointment completely about you.

7. Be Prepared

Bring undergarments that you might be wearing on the day of to get the full effect of how the dress will fit you on your wedding day. Today is not the day for your hot pink sports bra. Nude underwear and a nude strapless bra is best, and maybe even Spanx or some kind of shape-wear if you plan on wearing it the day of your wedding. Other personal items such as your grandmother's pearls or your mother's veil are also great to have so you can make sure they match the dresses you select.

8. Ignore the Numbers (the size numbers that is)

When it comes to ordering your wedding dress, do NOT focus on the size. Wedding dress sizes run differently than your everyday clothing size, so if you typically wear a 4, don't have a panic attack when your stylist wants to order you a size 6 in your wedding dress. Trust their measurements and relax knowing that alterations is pretty much always a must and it is no big deal. I always remind brides that it is much easier to take fabric in and make a dress smaller than it is to add fabric to make it larger. So ditch the crazy diets to fit into your too-small wedding dress you ordered as "motivation." That's only going to add unnecessary pressure on yourself and stress to an already stressful time in your life. If you happen to lose weight after your appointment and the dress is a little big - great, and you can get it altered then.

9. Consider the Color

Surprise! Wedding dresses aren't all white. Many brides are experimenting with color these days, whether it's a subtle blush lining or a bold blue skirt. Try on styles that vary in color to see what looks best with your hair and skin color. For example, a stark white dress will likely wash out a bride with fair skin and light hair and would likely want to try on a dress that is more of a warm ivory or even something with a champagne or blush underlay. The takeaway here is don't be scared off from a dress due to a little color until you try it on. Many times the colors that line a wedding dress are much more subtle on your body and simply help flatter your skin tone and accentuate the design on the dress.

10. Don't Overthink It

Stop worrying about the current trends or what you thought you would get for a wedding dress. Things change once you get into your appointment and that is completely normal and common. Don't get tripped up if your favorite dress wasn't one you saw on Pinterest or follows a pattern from last season. Trends will come and go, but the feeling you have in your dress on your wedding day is one-of-a-kind.

11. If You're Ballin' on a Budget:

Don't torture yourself and try on dresses you won't be able to afford. If you have a strict budget, let the stylist who is running your appointment know right away so they can keep you in dresses within your price range. Also, keep your eye out for sample sales at the bridal shops near you as they often will have select sample styles that are discontinued by the designer and available off the rack for a discounted price. Keep in mind that these are the dresses people have tried on in the store, so there might be some minor cosmetic damages or dry-cleaning necessary, however most seamstresses will be able to fix these minor issues. Sign-up for any upcoming trunk shows where designers bring in select styles that aren't normally offered in the store. Many store owners will be running sales store-wide during these events.

12. Do What You Need to Feel Your Best

If you're the type of person that has to have makeup on and hair done to feel your best for the day, then do that! You want to set yourself up for success here, so if you go into your appointment feeling blah and wishing you had put some mascara on or combed your hair before you walked in, it's going to affect how you feel trying on dresses. You want the dress to be the focus of the appointment, not that darn cowlick that you can't stop touching.

13. Don't Be Afraid to Commit

Many brides find their wedding dress the first time they go shopping and I'm here to tell you that is TOTALLY okay! There's so much buzz about how you should go to multiple stores and have several appointments before you commit to a dress or else you won't really know. While that may be the case for some people, if you fall in love with a dress on your first shopping experience - go with it! If you don't, what will likely happen is you will continue to shop, but you will compare every dress to that one that you loved and the others won't measure up because it doesn't have this or that. Plus the more dresses you try on, the more they will start to blur together and you're going to be left confused. Go with your gut, it knows best.

14. Once You Say 'Yes' - STOP. SHOPPING!

I can't stress this enough. Once you've said 'Yes to your dress,' stop looking at wedding dresses. No more scrolling through Pinterest boards, no more Instagram screenshots. You've committed for a reason, don't make things harder on yourself by second guessing or continuing to shop.

15. Ultimately, Choose the Dress That Makes YOU Feel Your Best

When it comes down to it, the only thing that matters when picking your wedding dress is how you feel in it. Your opinionated Aunt Judy isn't the one wearing the dress and neither is your out-spoken mother-in-law. I know you want to please everyone, but babe, it's impossible so just do you.

*Bonus Tip: Schedule your Hair and Makeup Trials for the Same Day as Your Final Dress Fitting.

This way, you can see everything put together and ensure it's the look you're trying to achieve.

I hope these few tips help you to feel comfortable and confident about finding your wedding dress! If you're in the market for a wedding dress, be sure to check out Velvet Bride and schedule an appointment today!

Visit emilysummerstudios.com for all of your wedding planning, styling and photography needs!