For some brides-to-be, shopping for a wedding dress can be utterly thrilling, while—for others—it’s an utter nightmare. Regardless of which category you fall into, it is inevitable that you’ll have to shop for a dress. To help make the arduous (and often dramatically overblown) process easier, we’ve compiled 8 wedding dress shopping tips that every bride should know.
1. EAT first.
A grumpy, hangry bride isn’t cute, so make sure you eat before you shop. No time? Bring nuts or fruit with you. It might sound silly, but being cranky can weigh on your patience—and might cause an “ugh” reaction to everything you try on.
2. Do yourself up a little.
While you don’t need to go full-out with beauty when trying on dresses (ahem, foundation stains), it pays to arrive at the store with your toned-down hair and makeup (as opposed to a rolled-out-of-bed topknot and blotchy skin.) It’ll give you a much better picture of how the dress will look when all the moving parts come together. Plus, having a good hair-and-skin day can boost your confidence, likely making you more amenable to looking in the mirror all day long.
3. Shoe structure is key.
Already have the shoes you’re wearing to your wedding? Great, bring ’em along. If you don’t, it’s key to bring footwear you know will be similar, both in heel height and in silhouette. Various shoe structures can dramatically alter the way clothing falls, especially hems.
For example, a sleek stiletto with a low vamp and a super-skinny kitten heel will make the hem of a gown lay quite differently than a shoe with a thick ankle strap and a huge platform, or a shoe that’s adorned with embellishments or hardware.
4. Wear—or bring—the right undergarments.
Without wearing proper undergarments to try on wedding dresses, the trip can pretty much be considered a waste. After all, there’s not a woman alive who hasn’t experienced the transformative powers of the right shapewear or bra.
If you’re going shopping without a clear-cut picture of what type of dress you’d like, bring a few different options, such as a strapless bra, a push-up bra, a thong, and various pieces of suck-it-in shapewear.
5. Know your price range.
It’s easy to get sucked into a vortex of over-the-top expensive wedding dresses (hello, you’re wearing it once), which is why it pays to start shopping with a budget—or at least a price range—firmly in place. Don’t forget to factor in extra, such as alterations, shoes, veils, and accessories. That said, it’s best not to even try on gowns outside of your price range when you’re shopping for fear that you’ll fall madly in love with a gazillion-dollar gown only be be let down by every other dress you try.
6. Adhere to your own dress code.
We’ve been to too many weddings where, surprisingly, it’s the bride that looks totally out of place—not any of the guests. Psyched for your exotic destination beach wedding, but dying to wear a princess-style ball gown? Not gonna work! Tying the knot in a fancy big-city hotel on a Saturday night? Skip the easy-breezy white sundress and bare feet. Trust us: Wearing something that compliments the setting and the background of your venue will look stylish—and timeless in photos.
7. Skip the entourage.
Indeed, we’re aware that many brides consider dress shopping the ultimate time to bond with their mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, stepmoms, BFFs, college roommates, neighbors, colleagues, second cousins, gay BFFs, and mother-in-laws, but it comes down to this: Too many cooks in the kitchen will absolutely muck up the experience.
Between differing tastes, generations, opinions, and levels of knowledge about your personal style, you’ll only end up confused and in desperate need of some Advil (or a couple of stiff martinis.) Plus, the decision is—when it comes down to it—nobody’s to make but yours. Instead, we suggest bringing one or two people who know you and your style well, and who are calm, honest, and modern.
8. Have an open mind.
Yes, it’s important to know your own style—and not compromise—but you might be surprised how good you look and feel in a style, cut, or length you normally wouldn’t have expected. Likewise, dress styles you filled your Pinterest boards with might look terribly unflattering IRL, so there’s nothing to lose by trying on as many dresses as you can.