Bride wearing scalloped lace wedding dress with ribbon sash
Photo: Annmarie Swift

Research different wedding dress styles.

If you've had your eyes set on "the gown" long before you were engaged, it doesn't hurt to look around more. Learning all the different fabrics and silhouettes can be overwhelming, so just brush up on the basics before your shopping trips.

Set your dress budget. 

It's not exactly the most fun part, but it's best to set your budget before stepping foot into a bridal salon. Who plans to cover the cost? Are accessories included in your budget or separate? In the worst case scenario, will you pay the difference if your dream dress falls out of price range? Leave a little extra room for hidden costs like alterations and embellishments, too.

Start shopping early on.

Now that you've raided magazines and Pinterest to gather ideas, it's time to make the dress a reality. Look into reviews and ask family and any married friends for recommendations for local bridal salons. There's no need to rush a purchase this big, so give yourself plenty of time to shop (and start at least 6-8 months before your date).

Schedule appointments ahead of time. 

Unlike retail stores, most bridal salons require appointments to provide in-depth expertise for a dress that fits your style and body type. Bridal salons may be packed on weekends - if possible, schedule your shopping during the week.

Pick your posse wisely.

Trying to get a large crowd to agree on one choice for anything can be impossible. So when it comes to what to wear for one of the biggest days of your life, it's best to keep the crew as cozy as possible. To make the process more fun and less stressful, plan a brunch together before your appointments.

gunmetal-wedding-dress.jpg
Photo: Levi Tijerina

Go in with an open mind.

It's a good idea to bring a few images of your favorite dresses for inspiration, but take into account suggestions from your bridal consultants. Sometimes the best dress might just be something totally unexpected, so don't judge anything until you've tried it on.

Bring the right accessories with you.

You don't need to know exactly which bridal accesories to wear. But if you want to wear heels at your wedding, bring a pair to get an idea of each dress length. Most importantly, bring the right undergarments to your appointments.

Try on as many dresses as you need to...

While shopping for a wedding dress can be time consuming, have some faith and patience. That being said, don't feel the need to rush into purchasing a dress that's not 100% you. Sleep on it and give yourself a break before making the ultimate decision.

...But if you can't afford it, leave it on the rack. 

Unfortunately, that gorgeous gown that caught your eye in the window may require shelling out more than your budget. To avoid getting your hopes up, leave any dress outside of your price range on the rack. Don't be discouraged if you're working with a smaller budget - you can find discounted deals at trunk shows and sample sales at bridal salons.

Stay true to your own style. 

It's helpful to have some trending inspiration saved, but don't fully base your choice on the dress of the moment or what everyone else has to say. In the end, your dress should reflect who you are and make you feel comfortable and confident.

For more ideas on cutting costs while wedding dress shopping, start here.