Finding the “perfect” wedding dress is one of those big projects in a woman’s life she needs to get right. The bride-to-be wants to look and feel her best walking down the aisle in what is meant to be her once-in-a-lifetime fairytale moment. Making that final
choice involves good planning, cost discipline, aesthetic preference, and ultimately trusting the designer or boutique to turn the chosen dress into a wedding day dream-come-true reality.
Bridal professionals recommend beginning the wedding dress selection process nine months to one year before the wedding day. This timeframe includes fittings and alterations. Prices vary widely, generally running from $600-$6,000, with many purchases made between $2,000 and $4,500. Of course, prices can go far beyond this range, into the double digits, especially for extensively customized dresses.
Stay true to you
Options abound for dress types, from highly traditional gowns to dresses decidedly offbeat in design and fabric. For many brides, the greatest challenge is locating the designer and/or boutique that fits her unique taste, preference, and style.
Tara Lynn, an eco-fashion designer and founder of Tara Lynn Bridal in Sutton, Vt., creates original wedding dresses made from natural hemp, silk, and organic cotton. Lynn also can incorporate lace applique and hand-embroidered flowers, butterflies, and other nature-inspired designs. “Girls are looking for something unique that feels like them, like who they are,” she said. “They don’t want to feel like, ‘What am I doing in this dress?’ ”
Debbie Wells, owner of Sewly Yours Bridal in Burlington, points out that before coming into her boutique many brides have already searched the Internet for ideas. Often, rather than being a helpful step, Internet reconnaissance has ended up leaving brides confused and overwhelmed, she said. Wells emphasized that an in-store appointment with a bridal professional increases the likelihood of finding the right dress without undue stress.
The basic prerequisite for a successful shopping experience is attitude, Wells said. “My best advice is to have an open mind. It’s great to have a sense (for what you want), but have an open mind. Try on anything that catches your eye.” This first-hand experience provides a bridal baseline for choices. “Once we see dresses on the bride’s body we can make recommendations for shape, color, fabric, and style.”
Geri Cardinal, owner of Fiori bridal boutique in Essex Junction, believes an important part of her role is to move the bride beyond her preconceptions. “Sometimes it’s hard getting girls past what they thought they wanted. But as they try on dreamy wedding gowns, what they originally wanted can change.”
Accessories, such as the veil, a sash, or jewelry, can sometimes help the bride know it’s the right dress, Wells said. The right accessory may be what is missing before finalizing a decision, she noted. “For some people seeing the entire package with accessories is a turning point that tells them it’s the right dress for them.”
While a general Internet search for the right dress can be daunting and confusing, specific websites meant to showcase a designer’s lines and designs can serve to help a bride pinpoint the look she wants. Lynn said some brides have chosen a particular dress directly from her studio website, while others have come to her describing a variation on one or more of the dresses seen on her site. Lynn has also shaped ideas from infancy, and sometimes fantasy, to produce a completely customized dress.
“I’m all about fitting personality and body type,” Lynn said. “What attributes are you comfortable with? What would you like to accentuate and what would you like to hide? That’s important in helping brides pick design.” Fabric is also a key element, Lynn said. Once Lynn knows budget and style, she can help the bride select specific fabric to create the desired result. “You want this look and we can achieve it with this fabric,” Lynn said.
Being creative can also mean turning an existing dress into a perfect match for a new bride. The very first wedding dress Wells made 25 years ago for a bride came back to her for some minor changes, so the bride’s daughter could wear the very same dress for her own wedding. “I took off the sleeves and modernized it, and it fit her daughter beautifully,” Wells said.
Choose your “helpers” carefully
Bridal professionals agree that bringing the right people to select the dress can make the difference between a positive, memorable experience and a nightmarish one. Generally they say the fewer the better but have seen many scenarios: bride with mother, bride with mother and close friend, bride with mother and mother-in-law-to-be, bride with extended family entourage, even bride-groom duo and bride alone. Whatever the situation, professionals suggest that accompanying people never lose sight of what the bride wants. After all, it’s her big day.
Lynn remembers one experience where a mother-daughter collaboration ended up in an unpredictably creative and beautiful outcome for the bride. As part of the customized dress that Lynn delicately infused with prints of nature elements, Lynn also incorporated lace from the bride’s mother’s wedding dress on the back with flowers, which not only furthered the theme of the bride’s dress but also covered two tattoos. “That was a great way to tie in mom’s tattoo concern with the look her daughter wanted,” Lynn said. “Everyone left happy.”
Sometimes the search experience works out just perfectly. And when that magical moment happens, when the bride has found her dream dress, tears often flow. Tears of joy.