Hitched 2.0: 10 Things to Ask Yourself When Choosing Your Dress

Wedding dress shopping is undoubtedly exciting, but it can also be a massive undertaking. Aside from navigating everyone’s expectations, sticking to a budget, and oh, finding a dress you love, you have to consider a wealth of other miniscule details. And you thought this would be the easy part…

1. Do I like this because it’s a known designer, or because I like the dress?

This should really apply to all clothes shopping, but even those who are sane in the face of jeans lose all reason when it comes time to buy a wedding dress. Trust me, it’s not worth it to try on that gorgeous dress that’s three times your budget “just to see what it looks like.” There are so many bridal salons and dress designers that offer stunning gowns at much lower prices than the big names. No one will care (or know) what designer made your dress, and you shouldn’t either.

2. Will I like this dress in photos 10 years from now? 20?

Trendiness may not be the best thing to aim for when it comes to your wedding dress. In my case, at least, I want to make wedding decisions that are somewhat classic, and will hopefully stand the test of time. I understand it’s impossible to know what I’ll like in the future, and what may ultimately be considered “classic,” but there are certain styles that can be pretty safely ruled out. I’m looking at you, Scheana Marie.

3. Is the weight appropriate for the weather?

Wouldn’t it be lovely if every wedding existed within a perfect bubble, where the sun always shines, humidity doesn’t exist, and there’s no such thing as fatigue? Well, too bad. From what I’ve heard, that’s not the case. So you should probably consider practicality, at least a little bit, when dress shopping. Getting married where it’s likely to be hot and humid? Perhaps consider a lighter fabric, like organza or tulle. Having a winter wedding? Don’t be afraid to go for something a bit heavier, like taffeta. Chances are, you can find a style you like in a variety of fabrics, so it’s worth it to consider comfort.

4. Can I dance in it?

This only applies if you plan to really dance. I’d venture to say most dresses will allow you to sway side-to-side during your first dance. But if you plan to spend the majority of the night breakin’ it down, you better do a few practice moves in your dress before you pay the deposit.

5. What will it look like altered to my height?

Tall girls have it easy when it comes to dress shopping. Chances are, they won’t need much fabric chopped off when the order comes in. But us shorties need to consider the fact that, once a dress is altered to our height, it might not look the same as it does when we’re standing on a platform in the store. The platform allows you to see the full length of the dress, even if it’s too long for you. But, that beautiful, flowing skirt might look a bit different when it’s six inches shorter. Ask in advance how it will be altered: Will the waistline get moved up so it’s still proportionate to the skirt? Will that beautiful detail at the bottom be cut off and sewn back on after the extra inches are removed?

6. Do I like the bustle? Is it too complicated for us to figure out outside the salon?

Because it’s not very practical to move and dance around your reception with a train trailing behind you, you’ll probably need to bustle your dress. The bustle tucks the train (even short ones) into the skirt one way or another. Different dresses call for different types of bustles, and not all are created equal. Ask the salesperson at the salon how each dress would be bustled; though she probably won’t go through the whole process, she can hold it in place to give you an idea of how it’ll look. Aside from aesthetics, you (or rather, your bridesmaids/mom/random stranger) have to prepare for the actual bustling process, which usually involves matching up ties and loops using a confusing color-coded system. If you’re concerned that it’ll be too complicated or overwhelming, ask to see some dresses with a relatively simple bustle. After all, you don’t want to use up precious dancing time standing there while a group of girls hang out with their heads in your dress trying to figure out how to tie it up properly, right?

7. Am I getting a new dress or a sample?

In most cases, the dress you try on at the store is not the one you’ll walk out with. Rather, once you decide, the salesperson will take your measurements and order you a brand, spankin’ new gown. There are salons, however, that sell only samples, meaning the dresses on the floor are the exact ones for sale. Other salons periodically sell sample gowns off the floor to clear the way for new inventory. While buying a sample usually means a significant discount, it also means you’re purchasing a dress that’s probably been through the ringer. After being tried on so many times, it could be stretched, dirty, or damaged. If you’re going to buy a sample, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting, if any problems are fixable, and at what cost.

8. How long will it take to arrive?

Again, unless you’re buying a sample, the salon has to order your dress from the designer, and most designers don’t keep an endless stock of dresses in a warehouse somewhere. The dress needs to be physically made, so naturally, it will take some time. If you’re a last minute shopper, you may have to buy a sample or pay a rush fee.

9. How does it look with the lights off?

This is not a question I would’ve ever thought to ask if not for the amazing women at the salon where I bought my dress. Once I narrowed the selection down to my top two, they offered to turn down the lights so I could see how each option would look in our dimly-lit reception venue. It may seem silly, but it did make a difference, and honestly, it was fun to “get in the zone” like that.

10. How will it look with the type of jewelry and headpieces I want?

When I started dress shopping, I had a vague idea of the hairstyle and jewelry I’d want to wear on my wedding day, but I didn’t let that affect my decision. Ultimately, I chose the gown I loved the most, and will choose everything else based on what will work with that gown. But, if you’re set on anything specific, consider it while trying on dresses. Adamant about wearing your long hair down? Avoid dresses with beautiful back details that’ll just get covered up. Planning to wear your grandmother’s vintage necklace? Bring it with you to try on with the various dresses.