Wedding Dress Shopping Etiquette: how to buy it stress free





Bride in a white Ball gown dress with Yellow bouquet and Arch

Wedding Dress Shopping Etiquette: how to buy it stress free



Picture this: You are in a bridal store surrounded by tons of beautiful dresses looking at yourself in the mirror wearing your wedding dress. As you see yourself in the mirror you start to get goosebumps. This dress has transformed you into the most stunning bride. Sounds like a pretty great day, right? 

This is the most important dress you’ll buy in your life! Today I want to help you have a great day trying on all those dresses and enjoy shopping for your dress. To help you do that I am sharing helpful wedding dress shopping tips and answering the most frequently asked questions on shopping for a wedding dress for the first time. 

I answer questions like: When should you book your appointment? How many stores should you visit? What specific things should you bring to your appointment? How many people should go to your appointment? How do you know the dress is the one? And so much more. So let’s turn it up and help you shop for a wedding dress that will make your heart sing and dance.

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How long does it take to order a wedding dress

It takes six to eight months for a wedding dress to be ordered and for the dress to come in. If you are having a short engagement, a rush order can be made at an extra fee.

Bride in a white trumpet wedding dress with long sleeves and pink bouquet
Bride in a white trumpet wedding dress with long sleeves, low back and pink bouquet

How soon in advance should you schedule your wedding dress appointment?

Do not procrastinate!! The most important thing I would recommend is to start shopping early! 

Wedding dresses are made to order, the earlier you can start shopping for your dress the better. Start looking for a dress about a year before the wedding ( for the wedding dress timeline, see this post that talks all about wedding dress styles).

Shopping a year ahead gives you a lot of time to look without feeling rushed, it also gives you a lot of time for your dress to be ordered and extra time to find a good seamstress and get your dress altered if that’s needed.

You do not want to find your dream dress only to find out you can’t get it in time!

Bride in a white Ball gown wedding dress sitting on a gold chair
Bride in a white Ball gown wedding dress standing under yellow floral arch

When shopping should you go to more than one wedding dress store?

When shopping for your dress I recommend to first start with one appointment at one store. Prior to stepping into the store and trying on any dress, browse online and do some research into the brands you like. Do some research and find out what style of dress you like and find a designer that you like. 

Once you have an idea of the style of dress and designer that you like, find a bridal store in your area that has the dress style or the designer you are interested in. Book a shopping appointment and let them know the budget for your dress so that they can keep you within your budget. 

Following these initial steps, a lot of brides will find their dresses at the first bridal store. However some brides find comfort in having an appointment scheduled with a “back up” store; that is a store that has dresses by other designers that they like. 

If you do not find your dress at your first appointment you can always look into scheduling a follow up appointment or going to a new store. If you choose to schedule appointments at different bridal stores, avoid more than two appointments per day as this can be overwhelming. Space out your appointments and give yourself at least 1-1.5 hours in each store so that you are not rushed.

Bride in a pink blush A-line wedding dress with floral details
Bride in a pink blush A-line wedding dress with pink and green bouquet

Photos by Sabel Moments

What do you wear to a wedding dress appointment?


While shopping, wear “nude” underwear i.e underwear that closely match your skin tone. Printed and colored underwear can sometimes show through some wedding dresses. Bring a nude strapless bra as it’s the most versatile for trying on different dresses and wear nude full bottom undies.

Once you have purchased a dress, your bride consultant and your seamstress will suggest the best underwear to wear with your dress. Bring the recommended underwear to your dress fittings to make sure they work. 

Hair and Makeup

Do your hair and makeup similar to what you will have on wedding day. A lot of brides do their hair and makeup trial prior to dress shopping. If you cannot get your trial done on that day, do your hair and makeup like you are going out for a nice evening.

If you plan on having your hair down on wedding day wear it down for your appointment. Put on some basic eyeshadow and lipstick in the colors you plan to wear on wedding day. This makes it a lot easier to see what you will look like on your wedding day.

Bride in a coral A-line wedding dress with white floral detail
Bride in a coral A-line wedding dress with a low back


If you do not already have your jewelry, wear jewelry similar to what you plan to wear on your wedding. The same thing goes for shoes, wear shoes similar to the style and height you will wear at your wedding. You will get a better picture of how you will look on your wedding day.  

As you try on dresses you will get super close and personal with your consultant, maybe even topless. Make sure you are freshly showered before your appointment and wear deodorant. Don’t forget to eat! Eat before your appointment, nothing too greasy or gassy.

You don’t want to be lightheaded, bloated and cranky when trying on dresses. Bring a bottle of water as you may get thirsty or even hungry when trying on dresses.

Bride on outdoor staircase in a white A-Line wedding gown
Bride standing outdoor by the lake in a white A-Line wedding gown

How many people should take you wedding dress shopping? 

Before deciding on who to take with you, find out from the bridal store if they have a limit on how many people can go shopping with you. Many bridal stores have a limit on the amount of people that you can bring.

As for how many people to bring, it’s better to take just one or two people. Fewer people means fewer opinions; it keeps your shopping simple and easy. 

It can be very overwhelming trying to choose your dress with multiple opinions from 7-8 people who have a different style from you. You will end up frustrated and most probably with a dress you do not wholeheartedly love.

How do you decide on who to take?

When picking the one or two  people to bring, pick those that you are closest to, those whose opinion you value, and  those would want to be there with you when you find the dress. Many brides will bring their mother and maid of honor. If your mom or maid of honor can’t be there you can invite either your grandma, sister, or one of your bridesmaids. 

Please do not feel bad for not asking someone to go shopping with you. Let them know that you are simply following the store’s direction, you want to keep it intimate, or you want everyone to be surprised when they see you in your dress. Everyone should respect your wishes as this is your special day.

During your appointment remember to assign someone to take  a lot of photos. Once you have found your dress, you can video chat and share the photos with anyone who could not make it. 

PS: If there is someone who really wants to go shopping with you but you didn’t pick them, you can always invite them to one of your dress fittings.

Bride in a white separates wedding dress style
Bride in a white separates wedding dress top with a white hair pin

Photo by Sabel Moments

Should you try your dream dress first or last?

Try on your dream dress first or at least within the top three.  You do not want to wait to try on your dream dress last because you may be disappointed with it or you may not be able to focus on the other gowns you are trying on because you have your dream dress on your mind the entire time. 

Keep an open mind and try on all the other silhouettes and colors. Keeping an open mind to other dresses is a great way to get a feel for what you truly want. You might be pleasantly surprised and find that the dress you initially wanted does not make you feel the most like yourself.

Many brides have said that they had a gown they thought they were absolutely going to say yes to but when they tried it on they did not like it.

If you want to try on different  dresses and take photos of your favorite ones, find out the bridal store’s policy on taking photos. If you are not sure about a dress, you don’t have to buy it then. Take photos of you in the dress, go home and think about it.

If you find that you can’t stop thinking about the dress and you love the photos of you in the dress, you can always go back and get it! 

Bride in a white wedding gown with green and white bouquet
Bride in a white wedding gown with green and gold ceremony arch

How do you know the dress is the one?

To help your bridal consultant find you your dress, show the bridal consultant photos of the type of dress you are looking for before you begin trying on dresses. This gives them an idea of what style you like and helps them to better select dresses for you. Trust your consultant and resist the temptation to pull dresses off the racks. 

If you are looking for amazing photos of wedding dresses, see our post on wedding gown styles. The post has 100+ photos of real brides in their stunning wedding dresses. 

When you find your dress, you will know that it is the one because of how you will feel wearing the dress. The dress makes you feel like a bride in it. It makes you feel beautiful. It makes you happy. You can see yourself walking down the aisle in the dress.

Some brides say they felt like a princess in the dress and they knew it was the one. If you will be wearing a veil on your wedding day, putting on a veil with the dress really helps you visualize yourself as a bride. 

You also know the dress is the one when it’s the dress that you have always pictured for your wedding day. It has a lot of things that you are looking for; the right amount of poof, the right skirt, a fluttering neckline, straps or no straps, and you feel comfortable in it.

Photos by Sabel Moments

Read and understand the fine print

Please promise me one thing; that you will read and understand your purchase contract. Once you have picked your dress and the store is ordering it for you, a store consultant will go through all the different terms and policies surrounding your order.

This will include but will not be limited to price, style number, name, color, date of delivery, deposit, estimated alteration fee, and the cancellation policy. 

As you pay your deposit, double check that your contract has a refund policy and don’t put more than 50 percent down as your deposit. This way if something were to happen to your dress, you will not lose hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Final Thoughts

Keep an open mind and enjoy the process of shopping for your wedding dress. It’s such a fun and exciting part of wedding planning. Don’t forget to start shopping early. You do not want to rush the process of finding your dress. Remember you do not have to pick a dress on the same day you go shopping. 

Make sure to choose a dress that you are fully in love with. Once you are confident that you have found the dress that is right for you, stop looking. 

Best of luck in your dress shopping, I know you will find a beautiful dress that you will love. See our Pinterest board for more wedding dress inspiration.


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