You’re about to enter uncharted territory: The wedding dress universe comes with its own shops, timeline, and language. We broke down the entire process by the numbers to help you navigate the white dress wonderland. Read on for our wedding dress store decoder, shopping strategies, figure-flattering tips, and money-saving ideas to make you feel welcome in this bold new world.
8 WAYS TO BUY YOUR WEDDING DRESS
There’s a special dress and store for every kind of bride. Whether you want to spend less than $1,000 or have no idea what kind of dress you want, there is a wide variety of big, small, and even online dress retailers.
1. Local bridal boutiques: These offer a dress that’s made to order, along with personal service from experienced staffers in an intimate setting. Small stores may have fewer dresses to try on, but they can provide a helpful perspective on what brides in the area are wearing. They will also be able to get a sense of your style based on your other hometown choices (e.g., florist, reception venue).
2. Destination salons (Kleinfeld, Bridal Reflections, Mon Amie, Bridals by Lori): These massive one-stop shops are so enticing, brides travel from far and wide to reach them. They’ve got well-trained staffers, as well as dresses and accessories from hundreds of designers. You’ll need to book early (especially if you plan to visit on a weekend), since lots of other engaged women may be clamoring for an appointment in one of these establishments’ fancy dressing rooms.
3. Mass-market retailers (David’s Bridal, Alfred Angelo, Brides by Demetrios): Their price range is wide, but you might be able to snag a dress for as little as $300. At David’s, you’ll be able to try on dresses in your size, not samples—good news for anyone who’s above or below a size 8 or 10 (the usual sample sizes).
4. Department stores (Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, Saks): These stores offer a mix of different designers and prices in a familiar setting. They have knowledgeable salespeople who tend to have experience in both ready-to-wear and bridal fashion.
5. Ready-to-wear favorites (J. Crew, White House Black Market): Stores like these offer less expensive dresses that aren’t too structured or formal, by brands that specialize in lifestyle clothing. Depending on where you live, you may need to order your dress online and have a local seamstress handle alterations. (This is why some women order several dresses and return all but their favorite).