What’s the Deal with Wedding Dress Shopping? [and What to Expect]

Whether it’s your first time shopping for a bridal gown, or your 10th, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite tips and hints for brides-to-be to help make this process as smooth as possible as well as what to expect. Let’s talk: wedding dress designers, styles, sizing, guests, and more! 

How many gowns should I try on before saying “Yes” to the dress?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Have you heard that phrase, “when you know, you know?” That can apply to your dream dress too, but it’s not always the case! Some brides will tell you that the first gown they put on was “The One,” while others may not have found that until trying on 10 other gowns. Kristen O’Gorman Klein of Bridal Guide suggests that, “[brides] shouldn’t try on more than 10, because it can lead to confusion.”

What we’re saying is, there is no magic number. Find a gown that you absolutely love and feel confident and happy in. If you’re dancing and twirling in it, and find that you just don’t want to take it off, it’s a sign that you may have found your match!

How many guests should I bring to my appointment?

This is a tricky one. As much as we all love a good party, bringing too many guests along for your wedding gown shopping journey can make the process very difficult. It can be tempting to choose a dress that appeases what your guests want, but it is so crucial to choose something that will make YOU (the bride) happy! Lauren Wellbank of Martha Stewarts Weddings elaborates with some helpful tips on this topic.
Bring guests that know you and your sense of style well; those that will encourage you to find something you will be happy in! We suggest limiting your bridal party to 5 guests, or less if you can. Also be sure to check with the bridal salon you’re visiting in case they have an guest count maximums.
Another great way to incorporate more of your friends and family in this process is to have an “I Said Yes to The Dress” party once your special order gown has arrived and you’re ready for your first fitting. Ask us about how you can arrange this at MaidenWhite!

Will Bridal Salons have my size?

In short: probably not. Many first-time bridal gown shoppers are surprised to discover that bridal gowns are often carried in select sample sizes. At MaidenWhite, most of our sample sizes are US 8 – 12, with 10 being the most commonly carried size. Bridal gown shopping is so unique and unlike shopping for any other type of clothing. Most retail stores will carry several sizes in each design. That’s unfortunately not the reality for most bridal salons. Size 10 is the most commonly carried size because it is in the middle of the range and will allow a greater variety of brides to try on the gown. 

Speaking of sizing, bridal sizing runs quite different than street sizing, so try not to get hung up on the number. Even more, sizing is represented with different numbers across the globe. We’ve created a standardized size chart to help a bit with that.

For petite brides, the stylist will carefully fit you into the gown using clips and pins to better secure the gown to your body. For curvier brides, our stylists will help hold the gown in place or utilize clips and privacy panels.
It can sometimes require a bit of imagination to help envision the final piece, but it can still be so helpful to see and touch the fabrics in person, albeit the gown isn’t your perfect fit!
When you’re ready to order, a stylist will take your measurements and help advise you on custom ordering your gown!

Will the Stylist be in the fitting room with me?

It’s totally up to each individual bride on their comfortability level with having a stylist in the fitting room. Remember: our stylists are here to help you with absolutely anything during your gown shopping experience. Which can include getting you in and out of gowns, holding your hand, or just being your personal cheerleader! At MaidenWhite, we are all about body positivity and celebrating each and every queen that walks through our door.
If you’re feeling a little shy, no problem. Be sure to let your stylist know that you would prefer to dress alone and we will be happy to accommodate. But just know: we see so many different & beautiful body types every day and we’re here for all of it!

Shop ahead…or be prepared to pay rush fees!

We highly encourage brides to begin their wedding dress search at least 8-9 months ahead of the wedding or elopement. Bridal gowns can take anywhere from 3-5 months to make and ship. You’ll also need to factor in ample time for your seamstress to customize the gown to your exact body–and you will almost always need alterations. Think of it like this: this is the most important article of clothing you will ever purchase. So make sure to shop ahead!
In some cases, designers can rush production for a fee. Make sure to check with your bridal salon to ensure that the specific gown / designer you want is eligible for rushed production, and be sure to ask what fees are associated with that.

What type of gown is best for my body type?

Many advice columns will say that apple and pear shaped body types should lean towards princess silhouettes, or that hourglass and athletic shapes are best suited for trumpet / mermaid silhouettes. Kleinfeld Bridal has a nifty little guide on dressing for your “shape.” We have also defined wedding dress silhouettes further in this article, because let’s face it: it can be quite confusing!

Ultimately to us, there is no right or wrong answer here.

It all comes down to each individual bride. For this reason, we encourage all brides-to-be to shop for gowns in person vs. ordering online, because you might be surprised to find a silhouette or style of gown that you absolutely adore, even when you least expected it! Be open to trying different styles and silhouettes to find what you like best.
Consider choosing a gown that highlights your favorite features. Love your hips? Opt for a mermaid silhouette. Want to show off your shoulders? Choose a strapless or off the shoulder gown.
Also consider the nature of your wedding. For warm climates, we suggest choosing lightweight materials that are breathable and easy to move in. For brides that want to dance the night away, consider choosing gowns without sleeves to allow maximum movement.
Most importantly: Choose a gown that you feel happy and confident in, because happy brides are the most beautiful brides!