People say that finding your wedding dress is like meeting the person you’re going to marry: “You just know.” As cheesy as it sounds, I remember having that feeling with Jack. It happened only a couple weeks after meeting him but I distinctly recall walking into Target with my then-roommate and blurting out, “I’m going to marry this guy.” And since it took me twenty-four years to meet Jack, I should have assumed it would take a while to find the right wedding dress. Five months, three cities, twenty-two stores, and hundreds of dresses later (no joke), I think I maybe, possibly, finally found “the one.” There’s a lot of pressure to find the perfect wedding-day attire. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s just a small piece of the big day but it’s also the only time you wear a wedding dress—you want to look and feel like a million bucks. As I trekked from store to store, trying on dress after dress, my train of thought went something like this: Will I feel beautiful in this? When I look at our wedding pictures in twenty years, will this look ridiculous? What will Jack think when he sees me walk down the aisle? Do I even like lace? Is this too much tulle? Wait, didn’t I try this on already? I would find a dress with a beautiful neckline but an overwhelming skirt. I’d like the beading but the silhouette wasn't flattering. The bodice would hug me perfectly but the train would be all wrong.
Three pretty gowns, but none of them were "the one." I've decided that not every bride has that amazing say-yes-to-the-dress moment, but I do believe there's a dress out there for everyone. I ended up finding mine while shopping with Jack’s mom in St. Louis. It was actually my second trip to what ended up being my favorite store (it's called Fleur de Lis Bridal Boutique, if you’re ever shopping in the St. Louis area). The owners encouraged me to try on an elegant Rivini gown, and when I stepped out of the dressing room and in front of the mirror, my future mother-in-law looked at me and said, “Abby, this is your dress.” I am by no means an expert on wedding dress shopping (if I were, I would have had a gown hanging in my closet months ago), but I’ve learned a few things along the way. I thought I’d share some advice for brides just beginning the process: DO have clear ideas (better yet, pictures) of dresses you like before you start the search. Are you a lace girl? Strapless or sleeves? Sweetheart or one shoulder? Fitted or A-line? Having some direction will make your first appointment less overwhelming. As my fellow blogger Sara suggested, check out Pinterest for hundreds of dress ideas. DON’T be afraid to try on something that’s not in your pile of pictures. The dress I ended up with was not something I would have initially tried on. Use your first couple appointments to test-drive different styles…and quickly rule out the ones you don’t feel comfortable in. DO familiarize yourself with bridal fabrics and lingo. Tulle, silk, dupioni, crinoline, taffeta, lace, charmeuse, and organza are sure to become standard parts of conversation. I recommend skimming this little article to get a quick tutorial. DON’T invite your entire entourage. Bring one or two people who love you, know you well, and will be honest with you. Having my future mother-in-law with me when I finally found a dress was a wonderful thing. It was a great bonding experience and I know it meant a lot for her to be involved in the process. DO wear proper undergarments. Prepare yourself to strip down to your bra and undies in front of your bridal consultants, but don’t worry, these women have seen just about everything. And most bridal salons will provide strapless bras if you need them. DON’T schedule more than three (maybe four) appointments in one day. It sounds crazy, but dress shopping can be exhausting, both mentally and physically. DO bring a camera, smart phone, iPad, or some kind of device to capture photos of your favorite dresses. Since I live in a different state than my mom, sisters, and most of my bridesmaids, I wanted to share the process with them (and get their advice). Smart phone shots aren't fabulous, but they immediately involve those that can't be there. Plus, it was beneficial to have reminders of what dresses looked like after I left the store. Side note: Some bridal salons don’t allow pictures until you purchase the dress, so ask about photo policies. DON’T settle or make exceptions. Even though it took a long time, I held out and ended up finding a gorgeous gown that combined all the things I loved. You shouldn’t have to talk yourself into buying a dress. The perfect one is out there somewhere! DO enjoy the process. You shop for a wedding gown one time in your life. Have fun playing dress up and share the adventure with important people in your life. It is an emotional experience, and just like your wedding day, it goes by in a flash.