Photo: Riverland Studios
Back when I was a bride-to-be, I received two questions with alternating frequency: “How did you know Joe was The One?” (Easy: never called me crazy, was fastidious with laundry, put up with me even tho am, in fact, crazy.) And: “How did you find the perfect wedding dress?” The answer to this question didn’t come quite as easily. In fact, it never really came at all—I’ve been married for over a year now, and I’m still not sure my wedding dress was The One. Don’t get me wrong—I loved it, felt amazing in it all day, and can’t help but smile every time I see it billowing in the breeze in my wedding photos. But still—”The One?” How can I know that when there are millions of dresses out there—thousands I’ve never even seen, and hundreds of new ones being dreamt up every day?
Step one of figuring out whether you’ve found The One in a dress is to give up trying to find The One in a dress. There may never be a dress you think is 100 percent the very best one for you, compared to all others, without a doubt, literally so perfect that you never will feel a single hint of emotion while looking at a single other wedding gown ever again. So why’s it so (relatively) easy to feel this way about the person you’re marrying? Probably because they are… alive. And have, like, a personality. That makes the criteria a little more specific. A dress can’t do any of that—all it can do is look nice on you—which is something tons of dresses can do (because you’re a total babe). To circumvent all that pressure and those impossible standards, try shifting your approach from finding “The One Dress” to finding “A Perfect Dress” instead. You’ll feel just as amazing in your resulting dress, minus a metric ton of anxiety.
Here are some tips on how to find the perfect wedding dress, and how to know when you have:
1. Try a little bit of everything.You may go into dress shopping with one silhouette—or even one specific dress—in mind that you’re pretty sure will look insert 100 emoji here] on you. And, you just might be right! But don’t cheat yourself out of the experience of seeing what the rest of Wedding Dress World has to offer. Try on at least one dress in every silhouette (your [stylist at the dress shop will be able to help you with that) and make sure to be a little adventurous and try on styles you’d normally not gravitate to. It’s important to do this because you’ll never find a perfect dress if you don’t get a sampling of all of what’s out there—your favorite one could be a lace mermaid, but you’d never know it if all you tried on were satin ballgowns.
Photo: Lucas Rossi Photography
2. Get a feel for what you don’t like.This tip goes hand in hand with Tip #1. You’ll never be able to find a dress you really love if you don’t know what you really don’t love. Sounds kind of negative, but it’s true! When I was trying on gowns, I knew I wanted straps but wasn’t sure what style I wanted, so I tried on tons of different types—thick straps, barely-there ones, halter-style, etc. I found that thick straps overwhelmed my frame and made me really dislike the dresses they were attached to, so I knew from then on that I’d only try on dresses with delicate straps, which helped me narrow down my search and figure out what I wanted my gown to highlight most (my shoulders!). Eliminating entire categories, styles, fabrics and embellishments of dresses will also help to prevent those “What if I got that dress instead?” moments many brides experience after buying a gown when they see a pretty dress and suddenly wonder if they made a huge mistake. That’s an easy trap to fall into, but if you’re armed with knowledge, it’s also an easy trap to avoid.
3. Shop like you mean it.Don’t go into dress shopping halfheartedly, or you just might leave empty-handed. If you have a mindset of, “I am just looking today,” or “I feel bloated and hideous today!” all of these emotions will be counterintuitive to your goal to find the perfect wedding dress. The truth is, there is a gorgeous gown for you. In your budget. For your body. Out there in the world. If you believe it, you’ll find it. (And you should believe it, because it’s true. Ever seen a bride walk naked down the aisle before?) Part of shopping like you mean it means showing up at the boutique with everything you need—strapless bra if you want to wear one, or even nipple pasties if that’s your thing, shoes in the height and general style you’re thinking, even any accessories that you feel are non-negotiable, like heirloom earrings. Another part? Feeling confident and focused. This could mean getting your hair blown out the day you go shopping, doing your makeup a little more extra than you’d normally do on a Saturday afternoon, not going out too late the night before so you feel fresh and not-hungover, even going dress shopping alone if you feel certain friends or family members will distract or overwhelm you.
4. Take pictures.Duh! You’ll want snaps of all of your favorite try-ons. Pictures help us see ourselves differently than the way we see ourselves in a mirror—and they’ll give you plenty to ruminate over if you’re not ready to purchase but strongly leaning toward one or a few options. Also, seeing how a dress photographs is important because while your wedding day is the whole point of the dress, it’s only one day—it’s your wedding photos that live on for generations. Once you buy a dress, however, it’s time to delete every pic of every other dress you tried on—the worst thing you can do is obsess over the dresses you didn’t choose!
Photo: Sarah Bradshaw Photography