Our tips on buying your wedding dress

Who, what, where, when and WHITE!

When it comes to buying your wedding dress, it can be an overwhelming experience. It has been glamourized and blown out of proportion by popular reality television that shows the extreme highs and lows of buying a dress: crying mothers, screaming sisters, demanding fiancés (but don't get me wrong, I love ALL of it).

Let’s just take a step back into our reality and remember a few key things that will make your dress-buying experience the best possible it can be.

 Photography:  Jen Huang

Photography: Jen Huang

Who to bring

Try to keep your group small to limit opinions, otherwise you may try to focus on pleasing everyone else rather than yourself.

Typically, it will be the mother, mother-in-law, and a couple of close friends. But it's entirely up to you: don't let yourself feel pressured to bringing someone just because they ask.

Try to make sure there is a friend/relative/whomever in the group that you trust to bring clarity to a moment, but will also know when to hold their tongue. Think of your girlfriend who talked you out of the two-tiered fluorescent orange mini skirt.

What to bring

Some brides like to wear a nude thong and beige strapless bra, others swear by boy shorts. Whatever it is, it should be what you plan on wearing day-of and what will make you comfortable. Your first dress shopping experience can be nerve-wracking enough without a wedgie.

If you have any key pieces that you must work in to your outfit – your grandmother’s broach, your mother’s veil, a fabulous pair of shoes – bring them so you can match fabrics and styles.

Lastly, bring a few pictures - it's a great starting point and gives your stylist a clearer idea of your style.

 Photography:   Evan Hunt

Photography:  Evan Hunt

Where to shop

The usual bridal shops may come to mind, but don't rule out the local shops and even department stores (hello, Nordstrom!) in your area. If you're looking for something simple and non-traditional, this may be just what you need (and you'll save a bit of money too).

And don't forget to ask to see the discontinued section. Many beautiful dresses from seasons previous will be much more affordable. And check out the bridesmaid section - another great place to find simple gowns. Almost all of them can be ordered in white.

How to Determine your Style

Most women start getting really overwhelmed as soon as they open up the latest issue of Martha Stewart Weddings and see how many thousands of dresses are available, and how many styles they come in. We recommend starting by closing the magazines and taking a look at two things right away: your home, and your closet. Take stock of what you already own and find descriptive words for them. Is your closet filled with bohemian fabrics, timeless styles or super contemporary picks? Loose, fitted, traditional, classic, form-fitting, vintage, contemporary... these are all good words to help describe your overall style. Then take a look around your home. Would you describe your home style as Rustic? Traditional? Ecclectic? Find out what words best describe your home style and write them down.

Most people's wardrobes mimic their home style to a certain degree. It's likely that you already know what style will work best for you just by seeing what you already surround yourself with. If you have an eclectic home and wear lots of bohemian garments, don't try to force yourself into a traditional gown - clearly it won't suit you!

When To get started

Only start shopping when you are actually ready to. Some women go too early, before they have the money saved, or before they have a clear idea of what their wedding style is. They fall in love with a dress but can’t afford it right away, or when they go back to buy it months (sometimes only weeks) later, the dress is no longer in stock.

But you also can’t leave it to the last minute. 5 to 7 months in advance of the wedding is the sweet spot and alterations at least two months before.

 Photography:  Michelle Drewes

Photography: Michelle Drewes

Connect with your consultant

Your consultant will not only be your guide through the maze of chiffon, silk, and lace, she will be your ally, your confidant, your dictionary, and your personal shopper. The relationship can be very special, but you must remember to be firm. And especially about budget, don't give the impression that there is wiggle room if there isn't. 

The most important thing is to be open and honest with your consultant. She will know what questions to ask to bring out your likes and dislikes. Once you've given them a good sense about what your style is (use the same descriptors that you would use to describe your home style and your existing wardrobe), let them assess your body type and they will figure out what will suit it best, in the style you have already outlined for them. 

If you don't like something she's brought you, let her know. It will only slow the process down if you're trying to spare feelings. 

It may take you a moment to adjust to changing with your consultant in the fitting room, especially if you've decided to go with the nude-toned thong. But bare bottoms are not unusual in a bridal dressing room and you will be extremely thankful to have help in and out of the elaborate gowns. Especially since most will be many sizes too big, and it will take an expert hand to pin you in and make it look like a perfect fit. 

Remember that you may be sharing your area with another bride or two, dressing rooms can be more crowded than what we see on TV. If you'd rather go in and have more space and time to yourself and your party, call ahead to see what day and time you're more likely to be able to have that.

Managing Expectations

Lastly, don’t go in expecting to have the dress moment. It doesn’t happen for everyone, you may not cry or feel an instant connection with the dress. You may just love it as much as you’d love any other gown that makes you look and feel fabulous. I’ve met many brides who aren’t entirely attached to their dress (usually the brides that opt for “trash the dress” photos). This doesn’t mean their day was any less special or they were any less beautiful. Always remember, you are wearing the dress, the dress is not wearing you. You’ve already made the ultimate connection – the connection you have with your husband-to-be.


Adapted from: Nicolina Leone's article in Ottawa Wedding Magazine - Fall/Winter2014 // 

The Satin & Snow team are wedding planners and editorial stylists based in Ottawa and servicing Montreal, Prince Edward County and the greater Niagara region.