The Wedding Dress Shopping Guide

One of the first things you do as a bride is dress shopping and for many this is the first truly intimate experience in your planning process. All of the sudden others are included in your wedding decisions and opinions come into play in a way that seems to matter. Naturally, it can cause many questions and concerns to arise, not just about finding the right dress, but also about who to include in your shopping experience, who to show your selection to, and how to remain true to yourself when others' opinions cause you to second guess your choices. This is your ultimate guide to shopping for your dream dress from where to look and what to bring to who you should include. 

Left: Hayley Paige Center: Allure Bridals Left: Hayley Paige

Left: Hayley Paige Center: Allure Bridals Left: Hayley Paige

select the right boutique

The atmosphere in each bridal boutique is slightly different so choosing a place that makes you comfortable is an important first step. Your surroundings while dress shopping can add to or take away from your experience in a big way.

To help you narrow it down a bit consider the following things. 

1. How far is the salon?
You may have to squeeze dress shopping into a hectic schedule and staying close is key. Maybe your dream salon is far away and you need to make travel accommodations. For the same reasons, consider who you are bringing with you and where they will be coming from. 

2. What is the overall size of the boutique?
If a large dress selection is important to you select a larger boutique with many designers and styles. If you are more interested in a quaint and personalized experience consider smaller stores. The  size of the boutique can also effect how many people are in and around the boutique during your appointment. 

3. How many appointments does the dress store accommodate at one time?
Some salons will give you the entire salon to yourself and some will book dozens of appointments at the same time. Decide how comfortable you are with having others around you. Are you easily overwhelmed by crowds? Also consider how intimate and private you would like the experience to be for yourself and those you bring with you. Maybe has a private shopping experience would make you more confident and comfortable. 

Hayley Paige

Hayley Paige

Hayley Paige

Hayley Paige

4. Does the boutique carry the designers you like?
We will get how to narrow down designers and styles you would like to see in a bit but whether or not the salon carries your dream designers is a big deal. There would be no point in dress shopping if you couldn't try on dresses you like. 

5. Will the salon hold your dress for you after purchase?
Some salons require that they keep your dress until after all of your fittings, some dresses send the dress home with you due to storage and ask that you bring it back for your fittings, and others do not do alterations at all and send it home with you as soon as it arrives. If you live in a small Hoboken or NYC apartment you may not have room to store the dress, or maybe you don't want your fiancee peaking at it. So don't forget to ask what the salon's policy is. 

6. How long is your appointment time?
Some brides do not like to feel rushed and others want to be in and out as quick as possible. Determining what your appointment time is at a salon may help you determine where to shop for your dress. Maybe an hour is enough for you, or maybe you would prefer two hours. Check ahead of time.

Hayley Paige

Hayley Paige

what to bring

Now for the what. What to bring is actually pretty straight forward.

Undergarments are a good place to start. Be sure to bring a nude, strapless bra and nude no show underwear. You want to be sure you are looking at the dress and not the panty lines or bra straps peaking out. 

You should also bring a pair of heels or shoes similar in height to the ones you plan to wear the day of your wedding. 

Bring a hair tie or clip as well. When I was shopping it helped me to be able to adjust my hair and envision what the total bridal look would be in that dress. 

If you plan to wear anything sentimental, like your mom's veil, bring that as well. You will want to make sure you selecting gowns that match the item you want to incorporate. 


Allure Bridals

Allure Bridals

Allure Bridals

Allure Bridals

leave yourself time

Most bridal gowns need to be ordered well in advance of your big day. You also don't want to bank on finding your dress during your first appointment. For some it is a matter of moments before they nail down the one. For others, finding a dress takes some more shopping around. 

Rule of thumb is to order your gown about 9 months before your wedding. I say leave yourself a little more time. Go between 9 and 12 months prior. That way you have ample time to get the dress in, have alterations done, and bring the dress home for the big day. I especially recommend earlier if you think you may be a bride that needs to visit multiple boutiques or like to take their time to make decisions. 


select your bride tribe

Now, for who to bring with you. Ultimately the answer to this is bring whoever YOU would like to be there. Traditionally bridal dress shopping is done with your mother and those close to you but everyone's family situation is different.

You should aim to have those closest to you at your appointment and those whose opinions you value the most. Try to avoid inviting people who make you feel on edge, uncomfortable, or anyone who may overpower you.

Keep your group to a minimum. Too many people can create a circus-like chaos around your appointment taking the focus off of you. 5 or under is a good guideline. You have to remember that more people means more opinions which can sway your decision making or even cause confusion when it comes time to say yes. 

Remember, your bridal appointment should be entirely about you. So think about the overall experience you would like to have and the people you could not imagine doing it without when making your selection of people to invite. 


get inspired

Bridal boutiques can be an overwhelming place if you are dress shopping for the first time. There are just so many different dresses, designers, styles, materials, accessories. The list is really never ending. 

Although I always encourage my brides to try on every style dress at the their first appointment to determine the right silhouette for their body, I do also suggest looking around online just a little bit before hand. No need to get carried away. Nobody expects you to select your dress before you shop a little. However, when you enter your first bridal appointment knowing what you may want to try it gives you and your consultant a great starting point. 

So do a little searching online ahead of time. See if anything jumps out at you and be sure to bring those images to the salon during your appointment. It will help the consultant faster identify your bride style and what dresses may be best. That way you are optimizing your time at the salon. 


who to show

After you have said yes you will inevitably be asked what it looks like. The decision to show others is entirely up to you. For some, this may be a way to include those who are close to you but who were not invited to dress shopping. 

As with the rule for inviting people to your appointments, I say less is more. Keep your wedding dress reveal a surprise from as many people as you can. Every girl deserves a seriously show stopping bridal moment. Let the anticipation build leading up to your wedding day and keep people guessing. It will make your entrance and everyone's reaction that much better. Plus, it doesn't allow for much criticism especially the negative kind, that could ruin your opinion or excitement about your dress. 

If you are ready to start your search here is a list of some bridal boutiques to get you started!

Seng Couture - Fanwood, NJ
Castle Couture - Manalapan, NJ
L'Fay - Chatham, NJ
I do I do - Morristown, NJ
Cinderella Bridals - Matawan, NJ

Happy shopping!