A gown shopping timeline

Is it The One?

Think choosing a wedding gown is one of the easier parts of planning a wedding? Think again. I found a checklist that makes shopping for the perfect gown into a multi-step, rocket science-like affair. If you have lots of time, it says, you should hit every salon, shop ’til you drop, and agonize over your gown decision. Yet you should still be decisive!

If you’re destined for the alter, nine to twelve months before the big day, you should:

Start envisioning yourself in your wedding gown. Think about your everyday style. Now write down six adjectives that best describe how you want to look and feel (summery, sweet, elegant, royal, sexy, sophisticated, demure, over-the-top, to name a few).

Now get some paper and a pencil (again) and put into words what you absolutely do not want in a gown (for example, short sleeves, a full skirt, or beading).

Eight months before the wedding, you should:

Get your gear ready. Many salons provide some of the essentials listed below, but they may not fit properly: A strapless bra or bustier Control-top panty hose (gowns go on more smoothly, especially the often-too-small sample sizes) A slip if you plan to try on sheaths or slip dresses Shoes with approximately the same heel height you plan to wear on your wedding day Tissues for when your mom sees you in your first gown (this is good advice)

Seven months before, you should:

Narrow down your gown choices and go for a second (or third or fourth!) salon visit. You can return as many times as you like. No matter how indecisive you think you are, you probably won’t come close to being the most neurotic bride they’ve ever helped (are you sure??). Also, make at least one trip on your own (so you can ponder your options without others’ opinions coloring your thoughts).

At the six month mark, you ought to:

Order your gown. And make sure the following contract points are in writing on your receipt: designer name style number or name size or measurements the salon is sending to the manufacturer approximate delivery date how many fittings are included in the price (if any) how much money you still owe for the gown amount of your deposit and that it’s marked paid

When the five month mark rolls around, you should:

Lose weight before your fittings begin. Once fittings are underway, try to maintain your weight. (Better yet, forget about the diet — obviously he thinks you look great just the way you are.) (Yeah!)

Six weeks before the wedding, you should:

Have your first fitting. Invite an honest, sharp-eyed friend or family member to come along. Bring your accessories, too, so you can see the whole look. And then continue to schedule fittings until you are completely satisfied.

Then, at your leisure:

Bring your maid of honor to your final fitting to learn about the gown. Does it need bustling? Ask the salesperson to teach her how to do it. Does it have complicated straps or buttons? Make sure she knows how to work them. Also, find out how to banish last-minute wrinkles. Should you use an iron? On what setting? Is steaming a better option? And what if you spill something on the gown? Are there certain products you should or shouldn’t use? (Don’t be scared, be prepared!)

Even though all these steps are about making brides look their best, the whole thing sounds like a huge hassle involving driving around town over and over again. Um, much like many of the other aspects of wedding planning 🙂

So, if having to make oodles and oodles of decisions regarding the wedding and the reception is driving you batty, I invite you to take a look at this link, which may help you remember the beauty of having the freedom to choose.

17 Responses to “A gown shopping timeline”

  1. Phyllis says:

    Add to “Six Weeks Before the Wedding”

    Be at your wedding day weight, *especially* if you are having a gown custom made. Gaining or losing weight any closer than 6 weeks to the Big Day will truly make you Bridezilla in the eyes of your dressmaker, and she might even charge you rush fees. I’m a seamstress trust me on this one!

  2. Never teh Bride says:

    But what of us women who bloat at the drop of a hat? 🙁

  3. Phyllis says:

    Not to worry – I’m in that group too! I’d say +/- up to 5 pounds is probabley fine. That’s not really enough to equal a dress size. Now 7-10 pounds would be a big difference – that’s a dress size.

  4. cristina says:

    That advice is craziness. I took the online to-do lists seriously and bought my gown 10 months before my wedding. 2 months after I ordered the dress, the salon had a sale! ARGH!!!!

    And never mind the crazy adjective lists. You’ll know the dress you want when you try it on. And have an open mind, because what you think may not look good might actually look fantastic on you… I’d recommend at least trying on 1 sample of a few styles (strapless, not strapless, lace, plain, a-line, full skirt, ivory, stark white, etc.). It doesn’t take that long (only 1!) but it’s worth it. You’ll start narrowing down options as you go.

    I always hated that my mom made me try everything on when I was a kid, but I was really truly surprised by which gown looked best on me.

    And my gown is fabulous!

  5. TAG says:

    I have to agree with Cristina. I went to all the stores in my area and had an idea of what I liked from the magazine but my friends who helped me said I should try on different kinds anyways. Lo and behold the kind of dress I liked in the pictures looked dreadful on me and the strapless fitted tops looked the best. And white white really doesn’t look that great on everyone, mine is ivory and for pale me it makes me glow while the white made me look dead (not the best for the big day)!

    And you will know when you find the right one, as soon as I tried it on that was it and I was done! I have had mine since September and my first fitting was last week for a wedding in a month. If you live in a small enough town (like me) you can get away with fittings closer to the wedding (more chances to get toned) because the seamstress isn’t as busy.

  6. Phyllis says:

    Oops – let me clarify something I should have mentioned. Doing alterations on a RTW gown, and making a custom gown from scratch are two *totally* different things (I’ve done both.)

    You may well be able to get a RTW gown altered on short notice…but a custom made gown is a totally different process from doing alterations.

  7. JaneC says:

    A friend, “Kate,” got married last May. She is the poster child for why not to lose weight before your wedding. She tried on her gown for the final time on the morning before the wedding. She’d lost 10 lbs, which on someone who was only 120 to begin with was a lot, without really realizing it (wedding planning+college graduation=no time to eat). Kate’s bridesmaids rushed out to a store and bought four kinds of tape with which to make sure the bodice of the dress wouldn’t fall open and, say, shock the priest when she knelt down. One devoted bridesmaid wore samples of the tape on her tummy overnight to make sure that they wouldn’t irritate the bride’s skin, and to find out which stayed on the best. On her wedding day, she was duly taped up, and there were no mishaps. But don’t lose weight–your bridesmaids may not fancy a trip to WalMart after the reception dinner to choose double-sided tape.

  8. La BellaDonna says:

    And as far as alterations go, I present to you a Delicate Subject: if you, the bride, are, er, planning to try to get pregnant in the months before the wedding, for heaven’s sake, let your seamstress know, even if you don’t plan to let anyone else, including the groom, know. This way you and she can plan a wedding gown which will accommodate your changing shape. Why do I bring this up? Because my Bad Bride, for whom I designed and made a very fitted and boned Elizabethan gown, apparently got pregnant twice during the interim. I don’t know how she expected to get into the gown if either pregnancy had continued. Had I known, though, at the outset, I actually could have designed and made a gown that would have allowed for a pregnancy.*

    And it IS a good idea to have the maid/matron of honour come to the last fitting, so she can learn how to load the bride into the outfit. Neither my Bad Bride nor her maid of honour came to the last fitting as they had been scheduled, and as a result, the Bad Bride was not dressed correctly at her wedding; I saw the pictures. My emotions were mixed; the gown deserved better, but the Bad Bride certainly didn’t.

    *I am assuming that if you are already pregnant, and a normal, sensible person, you will bear this in mind as you shop for a gown, or have one made.

  9. La BellaDonna says:

    And on another note, I love the cut of the dress in this entry. The bride can actually wear a bra under those straps, and it’s beautifully fitted through the torso (although I would put in a couple of bones at the sides to prevent lateral wrinkling). I happen to think that particular style is one of the most universally becoming cuts out there in Gown Land; regardless of whether the bride chooses a plain gown or an embellished one, a simple satin, or a beaded-and-brocaded version, sleeveless or with sleeves, most women are going to be flattered by that shape.

  10. cristina says:

    Also, ladies, regarding bras: some gowns have bustiers built in so you don’t have to go spending a fortune on special bras. However, I’m kind of flat, so I don’t know how this would work for a girl with more substantial boobs.

  11. Never teh Bride says:

    I heartily agree, La BellaDonna! Anytime I’ve had to shop for a very formal dress, I’ve always gone for something cut like the dress above. For me, a busty gal, it’s a no-brainer. I can wear a bra, be comfortably suppored, and not have to worry about wardrobe malfunctions.

  12. Bria says:

    I’m going on my first dress shopping trip on Saturday!

  13. Never teh Bride says:

    Yay, Bria! Let us know if you stumble upon the perfect gown 🙂

  14. Chaeriste says:

    I went shopping twice: once with my MOH, and once w/my MIL to be… I bought my dress on the 2nd trip, and I was thrilled. I got something I never would have expected to like, but once it was on, I was awed. Why? My MIL knows me, but she also knows that I can be eager to please and b/c she doesn’t have a daughter of her own, I wanted her to have the experience of sparkly dresses and much giggling. The dress I bought was one of the ‘well, just to make HER happy’ dresses, and I still sigh when I think about it. My wedding is in 24 days. I can’t wait to wear it. PS: It’s strapless, and I’m buying those chicken cutlet boobs to put in my bra. I’m too flat to wear this thing w/out them!

  15. Bria says:

    Oh Chaeriste…be very careful with the chicken cutlet boobs. They are tricky little devils that seldom work like they do in the ads. If you are at all between cup sizes, go for the bigger size. Otherwise, you’ll get to see what it would look like if two smaller, imposter boobs hitched a ride on your own.

  16. Phyllis says:

    Chaeriste – if you can find a sewing magazine called Threads the latest issue has a wonderful article on bust shaping written by a woman who used to do Playboy Bunny costumes! All kidding aside, she has some ingenious ways of adding shape and lift regardless of one’s size. And the article covers stapless, backless, and halter tops.

    I also completely agree with Belladonna that your maid/matron of honor really needs to know who to help you get into your gown. It’s pretty hard to hook a waist stay by yourself.

  17. La BellaDonna says:

    And, of course, Once More With Feeling:

    I don’t know what that book has to say about Practicing, and I know I’ve said it elsewhere, but for those who’ve missed it:

    If there is anything about your wedding dress which differs radically from your every day dress (and there’s a good chance it does), in the name of heaven, spend several weekends practicing wearing the unusual garment for several hours at a time! That way you’ll know if you need to make any changes to your strapless bra/corset/chicken fillets, or your heels, or your garter belt and fishnet stockings. You’ll know how to maneouver in a crinoline without knocking over the furniture or Aunt Edna. You’ll be able to lever your layers into the bathroom without pulling a muscle in your back (true story). I’m not suggesting you subject the gown itself to that sort of wear and tear, but certainly the underpinnings, and a facsimile of the shape, should be worn. After two weekends spent hopping around in a lovely sculptural sheath, you may opt to have the side seams opened up to about knee-length.