Wedding dress shopping tends to be either the most or the least anticipated part of the wedding planning process. When Tim and I first got engaged in March of 2017, I was looking forward to trying on wedding dresses. I was excited to wear all the fancy white dresses and feel like a princess! We knew we wanted a long engagement, so I had lots of time to search for a wedding dress. Or so I thought.
Three months later, I got pregnant.
Welcome to my “You’re Engaged – Now What?” series! This is part 5 of the ongoing guide. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out all other parts of the guide and continue on for help, advice, and free printables!
Related Content: “You’re Engaged – Now What?” Series
1: So You’re Engaged – Now What?
2: The First Questions to Ask Your Partner When Planning a Wedding
3: What You Need to Ask Your Ceremony Venue
4: Questions to Ask Your Reception Venue
5: Top Tips for Wedding Dress Shopping
6: Finding The Perfect Bridesmaids Dress
The Search Begun
We briefly wondered if we should postpone the wedding, but ultimately decided against it. I was due in March, and the wedding was already planned for November; we definitely would be able to get the wedding planned before the baby arrived! Right?
Well, we would have been able to, had we devoted any time to actually doing it.
Instead, we planned for the baby. We were so focused on preparing and planning for this baby that we didn’t even think about the wedding. I especially didn’t want to go wedding dress shopping with my growing body.
Once our Little Girl arrived in the world, my feeling on wedding dress shopping went from “excitement” to “dread”. I didn’t want to have to bring Charlotte dress shopping, but I also didn’t feel like I could leave her. I also didn’t want to try on anything that may make me feel bad about my body for not being like it once was.
Eventually, my Mom convinced me to make an appointment with a chain bridal shop.
It went terribly.
*Ignore my silly not-ready-at-all faces!
Wedding Dress Shopping Trip #1
First and foremost…
#1: Prepare to Strip
For my shopping experiences, the bridal consultant had to help me zip and/or tie up every dress I tried on. Those zippers/ties go pretty low. Keep in mind to wear proper undergarments. No one wants to see a strangers butt.
On the other side, I wouldn’t recommend wearing a black (or any funny coloured) bra. You’ll possibly be trying on dresses with no back, illusion back, deep necklines, etc. To get the best idea of what they will look like on the day of your wedding, I recommend wearing a nude coloured bra.
#2: Choose Your Guest Wisely
I had asked my mother and all of my six bridesmaids to attend if they had the time off. Only two of the six were able to attend, and even this small crowd was too overwhelming for me. I had three different opinions every time I tried on a dress, and rarely did an opinion match my own. I already had anxious feelings but the different opinions made me paralyzed with the fear of making the wrong choice.
*Not my dress – sorry everyone, but I won’t be posting the dress I picked until after the wedding!
When I finally found a dress I liked, it didn’t meet the acceptance of my audience at all. This made me second guess whether I truly liked it. I didn’t get that “wow” feeling I was searching for in both myself nor my guests. Ultimately, I left the salon with no dress in hand. (This turned out to be a great choice, despite the feeling of misery at the time.)
It’s really important to choose your guests wisely – and this includes how many you invite to attend. Bring people whose opinions you trust, and a crowd that you think you will be comfortable with.
#3: Dress sizes are not the same as street-clothing sizes.
When I heard that I was trying on size 8 dresses, I was a little shocked. I knew my body would be different post-partum, but I didn’t think it would be 6 sizes different. After all, I fit into all my pre-pregnancy clothing fine! That’s when my bridal consultant informed me that dress sizes are different from street-clothing sizes. Some designers have very different sizing.
So don’t panic – you may wear a 2 in your street-clothing, but a 7 or 8 down the aisle. That is completely normal! Realistically, the number on the tag is not what is important; what is important is how you feel in the dress.
Wedding Dress Shopping Trip #2
For my second shopping trip, things went a lot better. I had spent the day at my Mom’s with my sister-in-law (Lauren) working on wedding invitations. When we got sick of working, my Mom suggested we should go wedding dress shopping at a local shop. Both Lauren and I agreed, and off we went – leaving Charlotte with Tim.
From the moment we entered the doors, our impressions were already better than that of the chain shop. We were greeted immediately, offered some slippers (loved this!), and were shown the racks upon racks of dress options they had.
We were left alone to look at all the dresses and pick out our favourites for me to try on. The moment we would pick one, the consultant would come to grab it and set it in my dressing room.
Now here is where that advice of “don’t wear a black bra” comes from. In my defense, this was a very spontaneous decision to go dress shopping.
As you can see by my faces, the first few dresses were flops. Don’t be fooled by that smile on me in the third photo – I was kicking my leg to show that the dress had a slit on the side.
This leads me to…
#4: Experiment With Styles
I went in thinking I wanted something with no crinoline, possibly a little form-fitting, but definitely not poofy. However, I still had a lot of fun trying on all sorts of dresses. In the end, I chose something I would never have thought about trying on if I didn’t experiment.
Let your Mom, your bridesmaids, and your Grandma pick out a dress or two for you to try on. They are probably just as excited as you are, and it can be really fun to play dress-up in these gorgeous gowns! You only get this moment once so have some fun with it!
*This is not my dress. It is not even one I considered as the lace irritated my skin, but I wanted to share it because the train is so gorgeous!*
After my first round of trying on dresses with no luck, I went and searched for more. I found an elegant form-fitting dress that I thought was very me, and not too expensive. As I went to tell my Mom and Lauren that I was ready, a big dress popped into the corner of my eye. I mean, so big that it was overflowing on the rack and I had to use two hands extended all the way over my head to carry it! I wanted to try it on for the fun of it but knew it was not my taste at all. On top of that, it didn’t even have a price tag on it and that scared me. I didn’t want to like it only for it to be over my budget.Wedding dress shopping tends to be either the most or the least anticipated part of the wedding planning process. Make it easier with these top tips! Click To Tweet
Picking Between Two
We went back to the dressing room area, and I tried on the form-fitting one first. We all agreed that it looked great. But I kept thinking about how I would really need to cut down on my junk food intake and workout more if I were to wear this with any confidence.
I went back into the dressing room and switched into the other dress – I literally jumped into it as it took up my entire dressing room. When I ran to show it off, I was greeted by a speechless crowd — the bridal consultant included. We all loved it.
Experimenting with styles led to me finding two gorgeous dresses to choose between. I was very conflicted because I felt great in both dresses. Thankfully, my Mom did the wise thing and asked the consultant for her expert opinion.
#5: Ask For and Trust Your Consultants Opinion
Asking for my consultant’s opinion was the best idea. She pointed out how all I did in dress #1 was voice how much worry I had over needing to change my body, whereas in dress #2, I couldn’t stop dancing. With that one sentence, my mind was made up and I walked out that very day with dress #2 in hand (over my head).
All bridal shopping experiences are different. You may need one appointment and only try on one dress to know that you have found that one, or you may need ten appointments and still be struggling. That leads me to my final tip.
#6: Don’t Expect to Cry
There is a cultural expectation that you’re going to put on the dress for you, and cry. This isn’t necessarily true for everyone. Try not to declare crying to be your finish line. If I had done that, I would have “found my dress” during the first shopping trip and if you read the above, I barely found one I liked. Every bride is different. Try not to put unnecessary pressure on yourself to react in a certain way.
You may find yourself laughing more, dancing more, maybe even feeling like a weight is lifted once you found your dress! You may barely react at all. It’s possible you may not even realize it’s your dress until you’re reviewing the photos from the trip a day or week later. Don’t worry! Trust yourself and do what you feel is right!
Want more insight into my wedding planning journey?