I think of myself as a good decision maker. I can choose a dish from a lengthy restaurant menu easily and efficiently. I can pick an image to post on Instagram quickly and competently. I can decide what coffee maker to buy from the depths of Amazon in one fell swoop. But when it came to buying my wedding dress, I was clearly not this way.
Let me preface: I absolutely loved shopping for my wedding dress—the excitement, the fun, the free-flowing champagne, feeling like I was Carrie Bradshaw in the first SATC movie twirling and posing in a stream of over-my-price-range extravagant gowns. But the feeling soon starts to fade when you’re faced with making the final decision on something that will probably be the most expensive item you'll ever own. The so-called “magical” experience was, quite frankly, stressful.
In my head, I knew exactly what I wanted in terms of style and silhouette (a long-sleeve, dropped-waist French lace gown with a bateau neckline and romantic low back—how's that for specific?), but once I started trying on more dresses, visiting more bridal boutiques, and following more wedding dress Instagram accounts, I started drowning in a pool of ivory taffeta, and I couldn’t come up for air.
This was the biggest mistake I made when shopping for my wedding dress. I tried on close to 50 wedding dresses! Ironically, the very first dress I originally slipped on was the one I really wanted. But the process was addictive. Just one more bridal appointment, just one more dress, just in case there’s a better one out there… For three months, I tried on dresses.
Amanda James, owner and designer of Amanda James Bridal in Los Angeles, advises sticking to "around five gowns per appointment. It's important to try on a variety of shapes and textures since most of us don't get to wear gowns like these on the regular! Once you have your shape, the journey gets easier and you can focus in on that specific silhouette, rather than try on an overwhelming number of gowns."
Therein lay my problem. By sampling too many gowns, I inevitably forgot the things I loved most about the dream style I originally wanted. I doubted myself and got way too confused. A piece of advice: When you find the dream dress you love, buy it! Be proud of your choice, and then stop shopping. It will only make you nuts.
I learned a few other great tips and tricks when going through this shopping process. Start inexpensive and work your way up. The first dress I tried on was $9000, and I absolutely loved it, but I was not being realistic. In the end, I couldn’t buy this dream dress, which just led to disappointment. Start with dresses well within your budget. James adds, "The cost of alterations can also be surprising. Most gowns ordered through boutiques will need tailoring once received. It’s a good idea to price this out ahead of time, as it can be an unexpected addition to your budget."
Go shopping with an open mind. I really thought I wanted long sleeves because they looked so beautiful on Pinterest. But in the end, a cap sleeve was much better suited to my style. It’s good to know what you want, but being flexible is key.
Don’t bring a large entourage to your bridal appointment. Too many conflicting thoughts and opinions could potentially upset and overwhelm you. Stick with a few of your most supportive and encouraging friends and family. Lastly, James adds, "remember to wear nude underwear and bring some heels. You might as well make the pictures as pretty and distraction-free as possible."
So what dress did I decide on in the end? I was torn between two designer dresses: a Berta dress and Inbal Dror dress, both of which were beyond my budget. But I loved certain aspects of both, so I ended up going custom and designing the dress of my dreams from scratch—at a price I was much more comfortable with. This process, however, is not for the indecisive. A custom dress takes time, patience, a clear vision, a lot of decision making, and countless fittings until you procure your dream gown. If you have any uncertainty, I'd advise skipping this option. In the end, I had a wonderful dress, but if I had avoided some of these critical mistakes, it may have made the process a lot less stressful!