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Ever since I was a little girl imagining the day of my wedding I could never picture myself in a white dress. Maybe the reason for this is that I grew up being quite a tomboy and never wore dresses. Naturally, the dress shopping was the most dreaded wedding related task for me and I have been trying to push it back as long as I could. I’ve been looking online a lot and tearing out the pages of the magazines with the dresses I liked, but not doing anything else. Finally, I realized that I don’t have that much time left for my search (you need to order the dress at least half a year before the wedding). So a few weeks ago I made the call, set up an appointment, took my friend along and went out to try dresses in the South Bay (the longer you have to drive, the bigger the chance you’ll find the perfect dress, right? :)

Everybody has heard about the dress shopping experience being a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work. After visiting two bridal stores and trying on about thirty dresses we were exhausted. There were a few dresses we kind of liked, but nothing that really stood out. I still didn’t know what I want, but knew exactly what I don’t want – nothing too puffy, no crystals, no beads. I knew that if it’s hard for me to move in the dress, it was not for me. I wanted something simple, earthy, organic and flowwy. I found a few of those in the magazines, but to my dismay none of them looked good on me.

Can you tell we were tired? :)

wedding dress shopping

Last week I made another round of appointments, this time in San Francisco. Again, we found a few dresses that we liked and at the end of the day we walked into a small bridal salon in North Beach. Soon, we realized that there was nothing really to look at, nothing that I would be excited to try, but just because it took us a while to find the salon, I decided to at least try something on. It was here that one of the dresses on the racks suddenly caught my eye. The dress was nothing like what we looked at before, but for some reason I felt the urge to give it a try anyway.

No, I didn’t have a “That’s the One!” moment when I put it on and I didn’t get all teary eyed. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I liked it when I came out of the fitting room. But the more I looked at myself in the mirror, the more I realized that the dress is just perfect and I can totally picture myself wearing it for the wedding.

Well, the next morning I came back for my perfect wedding dress :)

wedding gown

Here are five tips that helped me find the dress:

1. Right after you get engaged and before you make your mind up on a wedding dress style, go to the largest bridal salon in your area. Try to have an open mind and try on a variety of wedding gowns, don’t eliminate anything at first glance. Even though certain styles work best on certain body types, don’t let the “rules” narrow your search too much. And if the salesperson brings you something she says you must try — try it, even if you don’t like the way it looks on the hanger.

Now that you know the basic style of the wedding dress that suits you, you can search the Internet and bridal magazines comparing fabrics and subtle design changes that may look even better. Make notes, tear off magazine pages you liked, and bring them to your next wedding gown appointments. Try not to get too attached to a wedding dress that looks great on paper, there’s always a chance that you won’t like it in person.

2. Start looking for your wedding dress at least nine months before the wedding day, because the whole style of the wedding should match the style of the bride’s dress. If you’ll fall in love with a vintage wedding dress, your whole wedding will have to reflect that :) Also, it takes about six months for your wedding dress to arrive from the manufacturer and for it to be properly fitted.

3. For your own sanity, bring along only a couple of very important to you people, maybe your mom and a supportive friend with great taste. Three or more people are going to be offering a ton of conflicting opinions and it’s going to create unnecessary drama. Advice is important, but you should remember that it’s your wedding day after all and to listen to your instincts; if you have to be reassured that the dress looks great on you, it’s probably not the one. Can you really see yourself walking down the aisle in this gown? If not, take it off and try another one on.

4. Dress shopping should be fun. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too much in one day, if every wedding dress is starting to look the same, call it a day.

5. Your perfect wedding dress is the one you don’t want to take off. It sticks out in your mind and you find yourself comparing all the others to it, you feel accomplished and excited when you go home.
But even after you think you’ve found your wedding gown, take a day, sleep on it and come back to the salon the next day. You want to be absolutely sure it’s the one for you: since bridal gowns are custom-made, they are absolutely non-returnable.

Hope that helps and good luck!

11 Comments March 1, 2010

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Mike and Nat are a husband and wife photography team based in San Francisco Bay Area. Their relaxed style allows them to capture authentic moments while creating a stress-free experience. Choco Studio photographs weddings throughout the San Francisco Bay Area including Napa, Sonoma, Carmel, and Monterey.