While finally saying yes to the dress can be one of the most exciting moments in your wedding planning journey, the path to getting there isn’t always easy. Wedding dress shopping can often be overwhelming and stressful, it can make you second guess yourself, and it can even lead to body image issues. To ensure a smooth, enjoyable experience, we asked our favorite Pittsburgh bridal boutiques to share their best wedding dress shopping tips, and boy, did they deliver. Ease your mind and start your dress hunt off on the right foot by following their expert advice.
1.) Know when and where you’re getting married.
Your dress plays a pivotal role in the overall aesthetic of your wedding day and should be cohesive with the rest of the details. This is why it’s important to have set your wedding day and chosen a venue prior to shopping for a dress. Your venue and the time of year will help to guide the shopping process and your dress selection. Furthermore, you should have some idea of what designers or styles interest you or fit the vibe you are trying to create so that the stylists know where to start.
“Before you start shopping, know your wedding date, have your venue secured, look at dress designers online, and have an idea of styles you want to try on. This will help keep you focused on the enjoyment of trying on dresses.” – Bridal Beginning
“Have a venue and date before you start shopping (unless you’re getting married ASAP). The setting and time of year help set the tone and can help you determine what style of gown feels right.” – Bridal Maven
2.) Gather some inspiration.
One of the first questions a stylist will ask you at your appointment is what type of dress you are looking for. You should be prepared to answer, as this helps narrow down the myriad dress options very quickly and gives the stylist a direction in which to go. It’s really helpful to have some photos to show them as well. This will give them a visual representation of your desired look and will ensure you’re both on the same page.
“Think about what your style is. Are you boho? Traditional? Fashion forward? If you’re not sure, you don’t have to put a label on it. Just find pics of what speaks to you and take those with you to the shop or your designer.” – Pale Blue Thread
“You don’t have to be a wedding dress expert but it’s great to have an idea of what style, aesthetic or vision you have in mind.” – Blanc de Blanc Bridal
3.) Have wedding dress AND alterations budgets set in advance.
Start your hunt for the perfect wedding dress off on the right foot by determining what you can spend before anything else. This will dictate which boutiques and designers are viable shopping options. Remember that in almost every case, a dress needs to be altered for a perfect fit and alternations are an additional expense for which you should account.
“Set a gown budget…then stick to it! Do not try on the gown that is way over your budget ‘just to see’ or ‘just for fun’ because you could fall in love with it!” – One White Lane Bridal Gallery
“Have the tough budget conversation with your parents or partner prior to shopping. Alterations are almost never included in the cost of the bridal gown, and you should most definitely ask for a range of what those will cost.” – Luxe Redux Bridal
4.) Research boutiques before making appointments.
There are lots and lots of wedding dress boutiques in the area, and beyond. You can’t possibly visit all of them, but which ones should you visit? To narrow your wedding dress search down, start by researching boutiques. Visit websites to see if they carry designers that you like and if your wedding dress budget falls within their price range. It’s also important to check out their social media to determine if they seem to offer the type of dress shopping experience you’re looking for.
“If you want to visit several stores, identify those stores that fit your style and keep it to only a few. Trying on dresses at too many stores – and trying on too many dresses in general – can cause a lot of confusion and overwhelm you.” – Bridal Beginning
“A little research goes a long way! We’ve found that clients who do a little bit of research on specific bridal boutiques before they book their appointments usually have the most successful shopping experiences. Choose boutiques that offer designers and styles that best fit your personal style and overall vision for your big day.” – One White Lane Bridal Gallery
5.) Invite your biggest cheerleaders to join you.
Whether you bring your besties, siblings, close family members, or a combination of all of the above, it’s best to keep your entourage small. A large group can quickly become overwhelming and lead to too many opinions influencing your decision. Choose the few individuals who support you the most and who will allow you to make your own choice.
“Bring your favorite decision makers, but remember there is such a thing as too many cooks in the kitchen…or in this case the boutique.” – Blanc de Blanc Bridal
“Bring a small number of people whose opinions you value. In other words, try to avoid bringing people who will likely only provide negative or potentially disheartening feedback.” – One Enchanted Evening
6.) Keep an open mind.
So often, an engaged person goes into the dress shopping process thinking that they want one thing but they end up buying something completely different. Wedding dresses often look very different on the hanger or on a model than they do on a real body. You may think you have your heart set on a particular silhouette, neckline, or style, but you might end up hating it once you see it in person or try it on, and vice versa. Be open to suggestions from your stylist. You could hate it…but you could also love it! You’ll never know until you try.
“Let your stylist be your friend. She wants to help you create a beautiful memory of a day you will always remember. Welcome trying on styles you would normally say no to putting on!” – Bridal Beginning
“Be open to different styles, colors, fabrics, and/or lengths. You may be surprised how much you like something you never thought you would.” – Pale Blue Thread
7.) Explore your shopping options.
The traditional shopping experience at a bridal boutique may not be for everyone. Luckily, there are now lots of options for those who are looking for something different. From modernizing a family heirloom wedding dress, to shopping the only bridal consignment store in Pittsburgh, to private shopping appointments that give you the entire boutique to yourself, to even an at-home wedding dress try-on session, there’s truly a way for everyone to say yes to the dress!
“Don’t be afraid to check out custom-made options, as well as bridal shop finds. You may want to take a vintage dress and update it, repurpose a used dress, or create a dress that you have always imagined by putting together all your favorite dress features.” – Pale Blue Thread
“Be a modern bride and buy online or try Luxe in a Box. Invite your hype squad to your abode, try on some fresh bridal picks, sip champs, and say yes with sustainable and smart vibes to kick off your engagement in the best way!” – Luxe Redux Bridal
8.) Know your limits.
While trying on dozens and dozens of wedding dresses might sound like a fun idea, it can quickly become exhausting. Being tired, hungry, and cranky can ruin the shopping experience for you, so be sure to pace yourself. It’s ok to spread your appointments out over several days or weeks rather than trying to cram them all into one overwhelming afternoon.
“Although you may be tempted, don’t try and hit every store in the city in one day. It can just lead to confusion and frustration and losing that ‘it moment’” – Blanc de Blanc Bridal
“While booking four appointments in one day might sound like fun, it can easily turn into a sensory overload.” – One White Lane Bridal Gallery
9.) Don’t be afraid to say you don’t like something.
Remember that the only opinion that matters is yours. If you don’t like a dress your stylist suggested or if all of your family and friends love it but you hate it, don’t be afraid to speak up. You are the one who has to wear this dress so you should be the one to love it.
“Get comfortable saying no, and don’t be afraid to disagree! It’s YOUR big day and we are here to help your fantasy become a reality. Our feelings won’t be hurt. You will have to say ‘no’ a million times before you say ‘yes’, so don’t agree just to appease us or others. This day is about you, after all!” – One Enchanted Evening
10.) Know that you might not cry.
The wedding dress shopping experience is different for everyone. Some people cry the minute they try on the very first dress, whether it’s the one or not. Others cry when they find the one they love. Still others don’t cry at all. The presence (or absence) of tears should not be the reason you do (or don’t) make such a big wedding decision.
“Don’t chase the ‘It’s the one’ feeling. Not everyone cries, but it doesn’t mean the experience of finding the perfect dress is any less special.” – One White Lane Bridal Gallery
11.) Don’t let the size define you.
Bridal sizing is not street sizing and it is notorious for running extremely small. Know that you will measure for a size that is larger than the one you wear in everyday clothing. But try to not let the number on the tag get you down. It’s just that – a number. It is not a reflection of you, your beauty, or your worth. If the number on the tag bothers you that much, cut the tag out.
“Ignore the sizing. It’s stupid, backwards, and more about the dinosaurs that run the fashion industry than about you. Size charts are illogical and inconsistent. You are not a number on an order form; you are gorgeous.” – Bridal Maven
“Forget about the size. Wedding dress sizes are vastly different from your everyday sizing, so don’t get worked up when you see the size of your wedding dress.” – Blanc de Blanc Bridal
12.) Don’t forget about accessories.
Jewelry, a hair piece, and a veil are like the lipstick to a wedding dress – they are the perfect finishing touches. Don’t stop at saying yes to a dress; be sure to shop for bridal accessories as well. You’ll be able to try them on with your chosen gown, which will be incredibly helpful in giving you a better idea of your complete wedding day look.
“Plan to peek at or decide on accessories at your bridal gown appointment. The idea of coming back later or heading out to a department store sounds like a fantastic plan but most of the time, it becomes a last minute stressor and a bride likely chooses items that don’t necessarily mesh well with the gown. Bridal buyers choose their accessories intentionally to mimic styles in their assortment or pick up on trends happening in the bridal industry. Use them for a flawless look!” – Luxe Redux Bridal
13.) Last, but certainly not least, ENJOY YOURSELF.
Remember that this is supposed to be one of the happiest times in your life. It’s really easy to get caught up in the endless decisions and the pressure of having the “best day ever” and forget why you’re buying a dress and having a wedding in the first place. Find the small joys in the planning process, have a strong support system around you to keep you grounded, and try to enjoy the journey.
“Don’t stress and have fun! Wedding gown shopping should be FUN. Yes, there’s a lot of pressure on the ‘yes to the dress moment’ but ultimately you should feel HAPPY in the gown. If you are tired or unsure, sleep on it. If you are radiating joy, ease, and contentment (even if you don’t cry!), it is the one! Look at your face in the photos, you’ll be able to tell.” – Bridal Maven
“Have fun! This is supposed to be a magical experience. Try not to become too stressed out with the process. Let yourself have a good time and enjoy the moment. Welcome the magic of it all!” – One Enchanted Evening