Wedding Dress Shopping Tips


October 28, 2019

tips for wedding dress shopping


Things I learned as a bridal consultant

Before I was a wedding photographer, I worked as a bridal consultant in Nashville. My job was to help brides select the the wedding gown of their dreams, and guide them in selecting accessories. After years of assisting wedding parties with this process, I have a few wedding dress shopping tips that may be helpful for brides-to-be. Leslie, owner of Lillian Ruth Bride here in Knoxville, has graciously added advice and suggestions as well. Thank you, Leslie!

Limit your shopping buddies

It’s fun to be surrounded by your 10 best girlfriends, but too many opinions can be a bad thing!

“We’ve seen so many brides leave their appointment stressed because one friend/family member (or whole group) disagreed on what looked best on the bride, or gave opinions before the bride had a chance to form her own! Our advice: Be VERY selective about who shops with you and limit the group to 1-3 if possible. We always recommend bringing the big group to your appointment to pick up your gown if you feel the need to accommodate a larger group. Everyone is more supportive if they know you’ve already purchased your gown.” – Leslie

Keep an open mind

Yes, it’s great to have an idea of what you want. Make a Pinterest board of dress styles that catch your eye. But keep in mind that every body shape is different. I absolutely love body skimming, sheath cut gowns, but as a short, curvy gal, they look terrible on my frame. Trust your consultant if he/she suggests something totally different than what you think you want. It never hurts to try!

“Most brides are drawn to different fabrics and silhouettes once they are in an actual store and looking at gowns in real life. Pinterest can skew our thought process (Photoshopped models are not helpful!). Shop with an open mind, and don’t be afraid to ask the stylist to throw you in some styles that are opposite of what you’ve told her you’re looking for. Stylists understand the fit of gowns on actual bodies vs. how they look hanging, and you’ll be surprised how different a wedding gown can look on you vs. on the hanger.” -Leslie

Yes, the dresses run THAT small.

Unless you have a dress custom made to your body, you will have to order a pre-made size. Do not be surprised if your body measurements require that you order 2 sizes larger than your normal street size. Designer’s size charts can also vary vastly from one another.

Leslie adds, “…you may be a size 8 in one dress and a 12 in another! Just ignore the tag, and make sure you order your gown to accommodate your measurements, not to “fit” into a certain size, because that size likely has nothing to do with your actual, everyday size.”

Typically, it’s best to order a wedding dress size based on your waist measurement and have the dress altered by a professional to fit your bust and hips. This may vary depending on the cut of the dress. Your consultant will have the knowledge to guide you. That bring us to…

Professional tailors ONLY!

Hire ONLY a professional alterations person who specializes in bridal. Wedding dresses are made with unique fabrics; lace, tulle, silks cut on the bias – cut on the what? Exactly – your wedding dress is not the garment you want your local dry cleaner to take apart and re-stitch! Some gowns must be taken up at the waist instead of hemmed. Other gowns can be let out up to 2 sizes if needed, some cannot. A professional bridal tailor will have the expertise to fit your dress to your body perfectly. If the salon where your dress was purchased does not have an in-house alterations department, your consultant will have recommendations for local professionals. And don’t forget to take your wedding shoes to your appointment!

“It is so important not to skimp on alterations. Allow plenty of time for your gown to be altered, and listen to the seamstress’s suggestions. She knows how the gown should fit. The last thing you want to worry about on your wedding day is tripping down the aisle because you didn’t want to pay for a hem, or realizing your straps are coming apart because you went to a seamstress that isn’t familiar with bridal gown construction and didn’t alter the gown correctly. Bridal alterations are pricey, but take hours of work by hand and are worth every penny.” – Leslie

Seize the accessories!

Accessories complete the entire bridal look. I recommend ordering your veil, hair jewelry, shoes and other items the same day you choose your dress to be sure everything matches perfectly. Many bridal gown designers also offer veils, sashes, and other items to match their gowns or complement unique colors. With such a wide range of fabric colors available – blush, nude, diamond white, rosé, ombré – it’s easy to get lost in the sea of hues.

It is so hard to shop for veils specifically without being in your gown. Will the color match? Is the lace the same? What length will look best with the flare of the skirt? Where does the train stop again? Be open to deciding on your veil the same day as your dress, because for the 4-6 months your gown is on order, you don’t want to try to remember those details when deciding on something you’ll be wearing in every single formal picture you take on your wedding day,” Leslie advises.

Perfect Match

Recently, one of my brides ordered her veil online. While it was a stunning beaded veil, it was also stark white against her dark ivory dress. The color difference in photos was very obvious. And no, I can’t fix 1,000 wedding images in Photoshop. Love ya, though. Leslie makes another good point:

“Speaking of pictures, although we always hear that brides don’t want to spend a lot on their gown or veil because “I’m only wearing it once” or “I’m only wearing it for a few minutes”,  think about what photos will be your most favorite, the ones that you’ll frame and hang on your walls for the rest of your life.”

“I promise you your very favorite photos will be the ones of just you and your husband, either right before or right after the ceremony. Your dress and veil are in each of those pictures, center stage. So don’t skimp, don’t think about how much “wear” you’ll get out of your dress and veil, but think about how many thousands of times you’ll see them in your most favorite wedding pictures. And go with what makes your heart happy, even if you have to pull from your food or centerpiece budget.”

Happy Shopping!

Share your overall dream wedding day look with your bridal consultant and allow them to help you find the perfect look just for you. Consultants are trained to know the ins and outs of each wedding dress designer’s collection, how their dresses fit, how they can or cannot be altered, and what extras match perfectly to zhoosh up your ensemble. And when you’re ready to shop, be sure to check out Lillian Ruth Bride for some of Knoxville’s most gorgeous wedding dresses and top notch service. I hope you enjoyed these wedding dress shopping tips!


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© Shanell Bledsoe Photography – Knoxville Wedding Photographer

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