How to say “Yes!” to the dress(es)

My typical busy season for wedding photography runs from May to November. I typically find a part time job to keep myself entertained from December to April, and this year I took a position with a very well known bridal conglomerate. I can’t say exactly for whom I worked due to contractual obligations, but let’s just say if you’re shopping for wedding-related dresses, you’ve probably been to their website or to one of their many stores. With all the wedding knowledge I have in my head, it really was a perfect side job for me.

When shopping for your wedding dress, there are a lot of things to take into consideration. Some brides show up for their appointment with a precise image of how they want to look for their day, and others don’t have a clue. For those that just don’t know what they want, it can be a stressful appointment. There are so many different styles of dresses, from ballgown to sheath and everything in between in a variety of necklines. Then you have fabrics and beading to consider. It’s a lot to process in 90 minutes, but a good stylist can really help you narrow down your search results if you have just a few of the following details in mind:

  1. Your Wedding Date – If you just got engaged, it can be very exciting to go out and spend a day trying on wedding gowns with your friends to get an idea of what you might want. However, if you haven’t set a date for your wedding, you may fall in love with something that isn’t weather appropriate, or perhaps won’t be available in time for your day should you choose to get married sooner, rather than later. Our Midwest weather has been rather unpredictable in recent years, so weddings held in May or September through November could have trouble with the temperature. You don’t want to end up with a heavy satin gown for a July wedding, when the flowing tulle gown you also loved would have been a much cooler choice for a hot summer day. The same is true for a winter wedding, you don’t want something that is going to make you regret not having more coverage for your legs. This is, of course, just my opinion. Like I always say, it’s your wedding, do what you want.
  2. Your Venue – For some couples, the ceremony location is automatically going to be a church at which one or both of them are members. Depending on the religion and denomination, there may be modesty requirements in regards to wedding gowns. Some churches prefer the bride’s shoulders to be covered, and this usually goes for bridesmaids, too. If you’re planning on utilizing a church with which you are not familiar, it’s best to contact them before you pick out a gown. If you’re thinking about having your wedding at any other venue, the sky is the limit when it comes to selection. You also might need to consider the size of the room in which you might have your ceremony. If your train has a four foot wingspan, and you and your father are walking down a five foot wide aisle, you’re going to have a bad time to and from the altar. If your ceremony is going to happen in relatively close quarters and you’re having a large wedding party, a cathedral-length veil may not fit when properly spread out during the ceremony.
  3. Your Decor – Some brides design the look of their weddings around the details of their wedding gown. You may not have considered pearls or rhinestones as part of your decor until your dream dress happens to have them as a key detail. Other brides go for a simple wedding gown and dress it up with accessories, and then focus on the other visual aspects of their event. Bring anything you already have your heart set on to your appointment, whether it is the actual item or a picture of it on your phone. A great stylist can take that image and pair it with the right dress in the store. If you know what type of bouquet you want before you’ve even picked out the dress, it isn’t a bad idea to have a mock-up of it made with fake flowers to bring with you.

There are plenty of other things that a bride needs to consider before her appointment, but these three bits of information can really help a bridal stylist help you find your dream dress in the sea of white.

Now, when it comes to your bridesmaids, it would be in your best interest to have your dress and all three details locked down. However, bridesmaid dress trends change all the time. The color choices can vary from season to season, as can the styles, so you should keep these things in mind:

  1. Your Color Choice – It is typical for a bride and some or all of her bridesmaids to come in together to choose the dresses for the wedding. Sometimes the bride knows exactly what shade of what color she wants, but she would prefer that her girls wear whatever dress is the most comfortable for them. While most of the time this isn’t an issue, there are instances where a bride has come in a year or more prior to her wedding day to choose dresses, but when the girls come in to order the dresses, the color has been discontinued. Hopefully, that color has been replaced by something similar, but this change in color could have a drastic effect on the other decorations that have already been purchased. Sometimes your stylist might not be informed about a retiring color, so they won’t automatically offer that information. If you take the time to ask them to verify that your color is expected to still be available in a year, it will help ease any stress in the future. Try to go in with an open mind, because if your color isn’t going to be available, your stylist will be a great resource for other color options.
  2. Your Fabric and Style Choice – The type of fabric that makes up the dresses your bridesmaids will wear can be a big deciding factor. Satin has a lot more structure than mesh and silk, but can be heavy and bridesmaids can get overheated quickly at a summer wedding. Also, your ceremony space might not allow for seven girls in ballgowns to stand at the altar with you, so something with a slimmer skirt might be more appropriate. Also consider the bodies of your girls. A bustier bridesmaid might prefer a neckline with some straps, or at least a back that isn’t so low they can’t wear a proper bra. A shorter bridesmaid might end up paying quite a bit extra for her dress in alterations to get a long dress to the proper length, and an extremely petite bridesmaid would disappear in a large A-line gown. Styles also retire, so make sure to ask if your chosen dress is going to still be available when it is time for your girls to order.
  3. Gifts and Accessories – Most brides give their bridesmaids some sort of gift for being in the wedding. My recommendation would be to make that gift a part of their wedding ensemble. Bridesmaid dresses can run anywhere from $130 up to $300 once alterations are included in the price. As much as your friends love you, that dress isn’t returnable, and you really can’t wear them again without some sort of additional alterations to make it look less like a bridesmaid dress. If their look goes outside the typical dress and shoes, consider buying any additional accessories as part of their gift. Yes, you are already spending a lot of money on other aspects of your day, but your friends should not be expected to go into debt to pull off your vision. They are still most likely buying you gifts for your bridal shower and wedding, splurging on your bachelorette party, and still have hair and makeup to consider.


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