wedding dress
Karina Jensen Photography

In the long list of things to do to prepare for your wedding, finding your wedding dress should be one of the first things you knock off—right after securing a venue. That means it should happen anywhere from 9 to 7 months before your wedding date. That comes as a shock to some brides—after all, you typically don’t pick a wedding dress for a party until a week or two before said party.

Here’s the thing: your wedding isn’t a typical party, and thus the wardrobe similarly can’t be chosen in a typical way. Instead, you should start wedding dress shopping early on in the planning process to avoid worrying whether or not your dress will be ready in time for your big day.

Keep reading to find out why you must shop for your wedding dress early.

The wedding dresses you try on are samples

When you shop at a department store or boutique, dresses are available for purchase immediately off the rack; if you wanted, you could wear them right out of the store. At most bridal salons, the dresses on the racks are typically “samples” — loaners from the designer that the salon’s clients can try on but not ultimately take home (hence why you’ll often be clipped into a dress instead of shown one in your size).

getting ready
Brit Perkins Photography

Your wedding dress isn't constructed overnight

Once you settle on a wedding dress you like, the salon will place an order for the dress in your size. From there, the design house will often build your dress from the ground up, with couture labels constructing almost everything by hand. This process doesn’t happen overnight. With dresses becoming more and more intricate in terms of beading, overlays, cutouts, etc., the longer they can take to construct.

Your wedding dress will have to be customized

Fortunately, there is an upside to this process, and that is that it’s much easier to customize a wedding dress exactly to your liking. Want to add sleeves or change the color of the underskirt? Since the dress will be constructed from scratch, it won’t be hard to make these changes happen.

You'll have to attend wedding dress fittings

After your dress is delivered to the salon (about 3 months before your wedding), you’ll need time for two to three fitting appointments and the alterations that come along with. The first/second fitting appointments are where all the major nips and tucks happen. Straps are shortened, corsets are taken in, and excess fabric can be removed from the skirt. The second/third fitting is to make sure everything looks perfect, and then you’ll pick up the gown a few days before the ceremony.