Wedding Confidential: Wedding Gowns

Who should a bride bring with her when dress shopping? Why?

Every bride is different. Personally, I think that brides should take their mother but it depends on their situation and relationship. They should also bring a sister or best friend and they should definitely bring the person who will be paying.

The one thing I would say is – don't bring too many people. And by too many, I mean more than 4. There are many reasons [but] the most important is [that] the more people you bring, the more opinions there are. There is nothing worse than a bride falling in love with a dress and then someone saying they don't like it. I see it all the time and it's heartbreaking.

Also, stores don't have room for all these extra guests. Think about it, if there are 12 brides in the store on a busy Saturday and every bride brings 6 people with them [then] there will be more people than there is room for. They won't all get chairs and they are in the way of the consultants trying to work. Not to mention [in the way of] all the bridesmaids that may be in the store to get their own dresses.

What should a bride bring with her when dress shopping?

A bride should bring an idea of what she wants, she should wear panties (yes, apparently I need to mention that), and she should have the money needed to pay for the dress (whether it be a credit card, cash, or check). It baffles me how many people come shopping for dresses [and] have no money. There are a lot of discontinued dresses that are sold off the rack and if you don't buy them right away, someone else will. Don't go shopping with no money. Don't do it.

Also, some weird people bring all their bridesmaids and then bring snacks and drinks to enjoy during the process. NO. NO. NO. Drinks and snacks do not belong near expensive white dresses that don't belong to you. Bringing some water might be a recommendation.

Other than that, everything is there. A bridal salon can dress a bride from head to toe. They have the bras, the petticoats, the shoes, the jewelry, the veils, and (of course) the dresses! If a bride plans to wear a borrowed veil or special piece of jewelry, she should bring that too.

Can you explain what happens (a timeline) during a dress shopping appointment?

Most first appointments take at least an hour and a half. First, the bride is registered so that the store can put her into their computer system. The bride gets a chance to look at the catalog and the racks of gowns (if they haven't already checked them out). Then the bride is paired up with a consultant and the bride will explain what she is looking for – then the fun starts. The consultant will pull some gowns (usually no more than 3 to start). Wedding dresses are sized differently and there's no point to bring 15 dresses that don't fit.

The bride will usually start by putting on a strapless, uncomfortable, yet highly recommended bustier as well as any other undergarments that are necessary for the dresses they selected. The bustier helps build a foundation for the dresses as well as keep the bride standing up straight.

Then a bride tries on the dresses. The first one is usually a shock so sometimes a bride needs to try that one on again. After a bride gets over the shock of seeing themselves as a bride, they should start to focus on what they like and what they don't like about the dress. Be vocal [and] tell your consultant all these things – it will help [them] to pull better dresses. Really compare them to each other and don't be afraid to ask for an alterations specialist to come look at you in the dress.

Brides usually try on about 7 or 8 dresses but I've had some try on 50 and some try on 1. After you narrow down the selection, the bride can take the dress home or it may have to be ordered (if it's not in stock). Sometimes brides come back a second time after they narrow down their selection to a couple of gowns. Ask your consultant for a timeframe if a dress has to ordered. A few select dresses can take 15 weeks to order and then a bride [may] need to leave time to get alterations.

I like to tell brides that get overwhelmed by choices to find a dress they can afford and love, not like a lot, but love, and then stop looking. It's very easy to get overwhelmed with too many choices and not know what to do.

What dress sizes are generally available at a chain bridal store? Should a plus-sized bride be concerned about limited stock or embarrassed about her shape?

Some of the smaller bridal boutiques only carry size 10 – which is useless if your are a size 2 or a size 22. Chain stores carry a lot more.

[Our store] carries sizes 0- 28 – including a good selection of petite and woman's-sized dresses. Some of the styles are different than the standard sizes, so I would advise a plus-size bride to look on the store’s website or in the catalog to see what is available in their size before they go shopping. It will keep them from being disappointed that a style they like isn't available in their size. Some dresses are special order only in the woman sizes but they are not in the store to try on.

It can be a leap of faith to get a special order without even seeing it on your body, but sometimes when you know, you know. I've had a few larger brides place special orders on dresses they never got to try on at all and luckily, with a few alterations, they looked beautiful.

I myself am very petite and I get plus-size brides to work with all the time. Some of them come in and are embarrassed about their size, especially when they see the size 2 consultant they got paired up with. I always try to make them feel good about themselves. There are a few dress styles that I know are always flattering on the plus-sized women – I will bring [those] over if I start to feel the bride's self-esteem wavering. It always helps. I also tell them that EVERY bride is beautiful on their wedding day. It's true. I tell brides – don't be discouraged about your body, your fiancée thinks you're beautiful.

I guarantee there is a dress out there for you that will make you look and feel beautiful and comfortable.

Check in tomorrow for Part 2 of Wedding Confidential: Wedding Gowns!