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The Wedding Dress Hunt

Updated: Oct 30, 2018

Insight on the Finding the Right Bridal Gown from a Former Stylist and Bride

When I was younger, I saw a Pronovias ad for the most beautiful wedding gown. Sleek and modern, the dress made the model look less like a fairytale princess and more like a glamorous Hollywood actress on her way to the Academy Awards. After showing this ad to my mom, I followed her recommendation and saved the picture in a folder marked “Wedding Gowns.” (Yep, this was before Pinterest.) It was the first time I can remember that a wedding dress made an impression on me, which allowed me to envision what

I might look like on my wedding day.

Fast forward a few years, and I found myself working as a bridal consultant in a Seattle boutique, helping other brides envision what they would look like on their wedding day. Every bride and designer had their own unique style, and helping each bride find her dream gown reinforced the feeling that the dress was an important part of a truly special day.

So when it came time to find my own dress, I thought I had it all figured out. (Spoiler alert: I was wrong.)

With some valuable lessons learned, I’m excited to share a little insight into the biggest lessons I learned as a bridal consultant and a bride, and how I found my wedding dress.

5 Tips for fun, stress-free, and in budget wedding dress shopping

I went from pulling bridal gowns as a bridal consultant to trying them on as a bride.

The most important part of the journey of finding your dream dress is keeping an open mind.

Try not to decide beforehand what it looks like. Sure, it’s helpful to have a few images you love from Pinterest, a fabric choice and color in mind… or even a vague recollection of a Pronovias ad from an undetermined year.

Until you actually start trying dresses on, you will have no idea how a certain dress will make you feel. The perfect dress may be the one that catches you by surprise, while the dress you imagined may feel completely different once you have it on.

I saw this so often as a bridal consultant, but for some reason I genuinely thought it did not apply to me. I knew that what would work for me would be a high neck dress with a fit and flare silhouette. I was fairly adamant that a V-neck gown would not be flattering on me, and I wanted to stay away from too much detail or beading.

Explaining to my bridal dress consultant that I already know what I want. So naive.

I may have been wrong about what I thought I wanted, but there are a few things I did right.

1. I scheduled my time wisely.

I researched local bridal salons and started out with two or three appointments at boutiques that carried designers with the aesthetic I was drawn towards. I also gave myself time between appointments for transportation, finding parking (it is Seattle, after all), and snack breaks… or, just maybe, a glass of champagne.

2. I brought a small group of trusted friends and family.

This is different for every bride, but it is so easy to become overwhelmed by too many opinions from well-meaning friends and family. I brought my mom, mother-in-law, sister, and three dear friends. Everyone knew each other, and I felt their opinions would be helpful without being overbearing.

3. I stuck to the budget.

It is tempting for every bride to try on a dress above the budget “just for fun.” And while it may be fun to try them on, it is decidedly not fun to fall in love with a dress above and beyond what you have decided to spend. When I worked as a bridal consultant, I happily tried on new arrivals to get an idea of the fit and feel of them (... and if we’re being honest, because nothing compares to trying on frothy bridal designs and twirling around). So I knew going into my dress hunt what an extraordinarily expensive designer dress would feel like. I also knew my budget was well below that mark. The only way to avoid overspending on a dress is to avoid trying on anything above the price point you have set.

4. I trusted my intuition (and my mom).

Though I decided what I wanted from the start, the more I tried on dresses that fit every single criteria I had laid out, the more I felt like something wasn’t quite right. I kept wanting to make little changes to each dress to make it slightly closer to what I had pictured in my head, but it still just was not working.

After two separate weekends of trying on dresses, I was starting to feel frustrated. How many different high neck lace fit and flare gowns could I try on and still feel something wasn’t right?

I was also starting to suspect that my friends and family could not tell the difference between the gowns I was showing them (as evidenced when one of them asked, “Didn’t you try this one on already?” and the answer was no…).

Making my trusted friends and family play “Spot the Differences” with one high neck dress after another.

After I had nearly exhausted one bridal salon’s inventory of high neck dresses, my mom snuck a gown into the fitting room. A V-neck gown. With a beaded belt.

Granted, the gown was still lace, but it was not what I was looking for. I decided to try it on as a break between the dresses that came close to what I had envisioned, which my friends and family were still having trouble telling apart. While slipping it on, I asked my consultant if the designer had any similar styles in a high neck design.

While she was thinking about the possibility, I turned to the mirror to see how the dress looked.

And I knew.

The dress was not at all what I expected, but somehow it was everything I could have hoped to find. The feeling caught me so off guard that I started to tear up before I even stepped out of the fitting room.

The thing that no one tells you about finding the wedding dress of your dreams is the complexity of emotion that comes with it. In that moment, in that dress, I felt like a bride. I could see myself getting married, experiencing all of the traditions that would be part of our wedding, and passing the dress down to another generation.

Even though the dress was not what I initially imagined wearing, it was perfect for me. Looking back at our wedding photos, the dress is everything I could have dreamed of and a little bit more.