I'm Mallory, a wedding planner based in Charlottesville, Virginia. Traveling throughout Richmond, Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. With a passion for weddings and an eye for details, I help create a personalized and seamless experience for you and your guests.
The time has finally come to start looking for your wedding dress! For some brides, they’ve been dreaming about what their dress will look like for a very long time and this part of the planning experience feels fun and exciting for them. While others may feel anxious and uncomfortable even thinking about stepping into a bridal shop. We get it, with so many bridal shops, wedding dress designers, and styles to chose from… starting to shop for a wedding dress can be overwhelming. Especially if you have no idea where to start or what you’re looking for. It’s a bit like a treasure hunt. While fun and exciting in theory, when you realize that you don’t know what you’re looking for or where to find it, the experience can seem daunting.
Let’s not forget that most of us have never shopped for a wedding dress before. There’s a lot to learn in such a short amount of time too. We are here to give you our top tips for finding that perfect wedding dress for your big day!
We recommend that brides-to-be start their wedding dress shopping as early as they can. Around 9 months to 12 months out for their wedding date. This helps to manage your to-do list, gives you more options and helps you to avoid paying rush fees for alterations. Plus, no need for any last-minute stress due to shipping delays. Allowing yourself this much time lets you thoroughly comb through dresses in the styles you’ve been eyeing.
We recommend you finalize your date and wedding venue before anything else. Take cues from the setting and vibe. When and where are you getting married? How long are you wearing your dress for? Will you be in a mixture of environments or just staying in one place? All of these things will influence the wedding dress you’ll want to wear.
Don’t be afraid to give your bridal consultant a firm number before setting foot into any gowns. You don’t want to fall in love with a wedding dress out of your budget. Or risk not hearing the price until you’ve already had the “Say Yes” moment. Alterations are one of the unexpected costs that couples don’t think to budget for. Make sure when you’re speaking with the bridal consultant that you ask about the cost of alterations. Some shops will charge a flat fee for everything that needs to be done, and others will charge for every minor change that you make. Don’t forget to price in additional accessories and customization needed for specific dress styles.
We recommend 2-3 people tops. When picking who to bring with you, make sure that these are the ones you can count on to give you an honest opinion. The focus should be on you, not on being able to accommodate an entourage. It’s better to concentrate on a smaller amount of people, which means more time for you. After all, yours is the opinion that matters most! Save the bridesmaids, cousins, etc.. for the final appointment once you’ve found your dress so they still feel involved in the process.
You might think you know exactly what you want, but give the bridal consultants an opportunity to help you out. It is their job, after all. They might suggest that you try on a style that you would never have imagined would look good on you — only to realize it fits and looks incredible on you. Let the bridal consultant guide you to dresses they think will suit you. They understand body shapes and have dressed women at all ends of the spectrum.
Wear the right undies! Now is not the time to wear the underwear from the bottom of your drawer. Make sure your underwear is as close to the ones you’ll be wearing on the big day as possible, as this will affect how a dress sits on top. Neon lingerie and patterned underwear are a bad idea! Think neutral and, if you’d feel more confident, shape supporting. If you’re not wearing a strapless bra, you might want to take one with you just in case the dress you fall in love with needs a more invisible support.
Be open, but know yourself, and remember that no matter if the bridal consultant or your mom thinks it makes you look fantastic, you have to happy in it because it’s only you who’ll be wearing it on the big day! Nobody is forcing you to buy a wedding dress you’re not crazy about, so don’t make yourself do something you’re not totally on board with. Keep trying on dresses until you find something you love. Trust us, it’s out there.
Remember to have fun shopping, try not to put too much pressure on things and try not to stress if you don’t find “the one” at the first shop. Cherish the experience as part of your journey to becoming a wife. Use the process to embrace your body, to celebrate your style and to emphasize your personality. Just think, the next time you wear the dress for real, it will be one of the most amazing days of your life!
Along with all the shops mentioned above, here are just a few more recommended bridal shops throughout Virginia, Maryland and D.C.