You’re newly engaged, and you’re excited…to go gown shopping. While your wedding date (if you’ve even set one yet) may seem like it’s ages away, an important planning point to ponder is when to buy your wedding dress before you walk down the aisle. Because made-to-order wedding dresses typically take about six to nine months to create, it’s actually a good idea to head to the bridal salon sooner rather than later.
Aside from the fact that it may take you some time to find the one, you’ll need to perfectly time your three (yes, three) fittings, allowing for custom alterations, and then some more custom alterations (your well-tailored dream dress isn’t made overnight, mind you). However, thanks to the modern, evolving wedding industry and quicker engagements, this dress shopping itinerary is hardly set in stone (breathe a sigh of relief, time-pressed to-be-weds).
According to Vatana Watters and Sydney Dunbar, the mother-daughter duo behind the romantic bridal line Watters, wedding dress designers and retailers can now go beyond the standard shopping experience and speed up the process to accommodate new generations of brides in search of gowns. “The piece of the pie that’s grown is the option of when to buy your dress—there are so many options to get your dress much faster,” Watters says. “We realize there are different avenues and different quickness to getting a dress.”
Whichever time frame you’re working within, these industry experts mapped out a traditional gown timeline for brides with over 12 months left until the wedding, as well as shopping methods for those with a more spontaneous wedding date.
After You Get Engaged
It’s safe to assume you’ve had a rotation of dream wedding dresses saved to your wedding Pinterest board long before your partner popped the question. If you don’t already have a vision of your ideal gown, though, now’s the time to do your homework. Start by ripping pages out of bridal magazines, scoping out top trends, pinpointing your favorite designers, or gaining inspiration from real brides. Then, make note of commonalities within your favorite finds: Do open backs continue to catch your eye? Embellishments? Lace? Fitted silhouettes? Whatever the theme, hold onto it and bring visuals for your first bridal salon appointment. Ultimately, though, maintain an open mind—you may fall in love with something that was never even on your radar.
After You Pick Your Venue
Dunbar advises going gown shopping only after you’ve pegged your wedding venue, which makes sense considering you want to wear something that stays true to the locale’s vibe (a beach ceremony and elaborate ball gown may not bode well). “It’s important to set a venue that’s the whole tone of the wedding, but after that, it’s important to really start thinking about your dress and nailing it down six to nine months before the wedding,” she adds. “This allows for a good amount of relaxation for the shopping experience.” You should also have your wedding dress budget finalized by this point (including alteration fees), as well as selected the lucky ladies (or gents) you’d like to accompany you on such a high-stakes shopping trip.