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I'm Mylah, a luxury wedding photographer based in Austin, Texas, capturing timeless and tangible memories that celebrate marriage.
Dylan and I were married over 8 years ago. I bought my dress before we had even set a date. Today, I’m sharing my top ten tips for wedding dress shopping.
1. Know the feel/style you want your wedding to be and match the dress to that overall theme. A ballgown style dress wouldn’t go as well at a beach wedding as it would at a downtown hotel wedding.
2. Once you set a budget for your dress, remember that alterations, taxes, jewelry, the veil, and shoes will still need to be added. That means once you know your full dress budget, you need to save room in there for the other things that go with it. If you’re looking to save money, you can find deals on dresses by shopping sample sales or going to trunk shows.
3. Bring your gals, but stay true to your vision. I have three sisters, a cousin who is considered a sister, and my mom. I took all of them when I went to buy my wedding dress. They all held the belief that “if I loved it, they did, too.” That opinion – that the bride’s feeling in the dress and confidence in the dress matters most – is the most important thing. Don’t take someone that you know can be an emotional bulldozer with you or will try to put you into something that is their style, instead of your own. I think most bridal salons will recommend bringing no more than 2-3 close friends with you.
4. Be open-minded. I knew the dress that I was going to get married in when I saw it helping a friend pick out her own. When I went to try it on, I loved it! However, my sister had already pulled a random dress that was super frilly and girly. I figured I’d just try it on for fun – the planning should be fun, after all. She knew what she was doing, because that’s the dress I wore! However, it never would have been if I didn’t keep an open mind and try on dresses that my tribe suggested. Remember that some dresses will look very different on the hanger, so keep an open mind and try the dress on!
5. Take the correct undies. Leave the embellished, hot pink bra at the house. Instead, opt for a strapless bra and seamless panty that is close to your skin color. If you think you’ll wear spanx under your dress, take a pair of those with you.
6. Get “All Jacked Up” with your hair and make-up done and wear heels. As with most outfits, your shoes can make or break the dress decision. Heels change how you stand and can transform the look of a dress. You’ll also want to make sure your hair and make-up are both done, so you can get the full visual of how you might look in the wedding dress.
7. Make an appointment. When you call to make your appointment with your bridal salon, ask if they carry the designer you’ve been eyeing. Also make sure they carry your size, so you are able to try it on. If you can go Monday through Thursday, the store will likely be less busy than it would be on the weekend. That means you’re more likely to get undivided attention at your appointment and better service. Plan to be there longer than you anticipate. The process of trying on wedding dresses will likely take a few hours, so don’t make plans afterward, so you’re not rushed. Remember that some dresses will take a few months to arrive once ordered, so make your appointment in plenty of time for you to have alterations finished before the big day.
8. Opt for something with straps or sleeves. I, myself, wore a strapless dress, so I don’t have anything against strapless dresses – they can be beautiful! However, I’ve watched too many brides on the dance floor constantly adjust their top because the dress has started to slip. Strapless gowns will stretch as the night goes on, which means they’ll start to slip. This can mean an unfortunate slip in front of your new father in law or your boss when your “hands go up” (Did you just sing it?!?) or when you bend forward to cut your wedding cake or shake hands with seated guests. If you want to skip those awkward-for-everyone moments, at least be willing to try on dresses with straps or sleeves.
The other thing about strapless dresses is that they are designed to stay up by being tight. The design of the dress can sometimes squish brides up and out, creating what brides call “back fat” that isn’t actually there. Your wedding dress should make you feel confident and beautiful! However, some brides that wear strapless dresses can be self-conscious about the way their back and under arms look. It’s not their figure, but the dress that is creating an illusion of their body that they don’t like. Does this happen with *every* bride who wears strapless? No, but it is very frequent. This very rarely, if ever, happens in dresses with straps or sleeves, because those dresses don’t have to pinch you to stay up.
9. It’s totally ok to buck the normal wedding dress idea. If you’d never been to a wedding before and were just wanting to throw a party with your friends and family to celebrate your relationship, would you pick white as the color you wore? If the answer is “no” – it’s ok to not wear white as the bride! It’s also ok TO wear white, if you want. Never feel like you “have to” do something because it’s tradition. If you want to wear white, do it! If you want to wear black, do it! If you want to wear red, do it! This is your day and you and your fiance get to decide what y’all want it to be! That includes the style, length, and COLOR of your wedding dress (or pant suit)!
10. Move around in the dress. At most bridal boutiques, you’ll look at the dress in a mirror while standing still on a pedestal. You’ll do more than just stand on your wedding day, so see if you can move in it. If you’ll be kneeling during part of the ceremony, make sure you can do so in your dress. Drop it like it’s hot, because you will probably do so on your wedding day. Spin in it, as if your fiance was spinning you during the first dance. Can you sit in it? You’ll need to do so when you eat on the big day.
Above all, wedding dress shopping should be a FUN experience! If it starts to feel stressful or overwhelming, you’re absolutely allowed to stop, go grab a cocktail with your bride tribe, and try again another day.
What other tips would you tell future brides about to go shopping for their wedding dress?
– Mylah Renae
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Mylah Renae is a luxury wedding photographer based in Austin, Texas, capturing timeless and tangible memories that celebrate marriage.