If you’re anything like me, the idea of wedding dress shopping sounds dreamy, exciting, and FUN!! And it definitely is all of those things. However, wedding dress shopping is also exhausting, stressful and anxiety-inducing. I didn’t see much about this part of the process before I started (I started very early!) and I felt like sharing this would be helpful to any future bride-to-be’s! I wish I had read a post like this when I was starting, so on the off chance this is helpful, I wanted to share.
***DISCLAIMER — Any photos shared in this post are dresses that are NOTHING like the dress I went in wanting or the dress I ended up with. These are not the cute “Dresses I Tried On But Didn’t Pick”. These are so “far out” I feel comfortable posting them. I don’t want Ryan getting ANY ideas… lol.***
1. START EARLY
This is something I did on accident, but I am SO glad I did. I got engaged on May 7th. By mid-August, we booked the venue and started dress shopping. (All in the same weekend!) Our families flew up to view the venue before we signed the contract, and then everyone already happened to be in town for dress shopping. (Ryan and his dad obviously had to make their own plans🤪)
I had originally booked appointments for mid-to-late October, right around the one year mark. Which is somewhat the encouraged time frame. (I’ve read start anywhere from 12-9 months out.) HOWEVER, I am writing this post on the one-year-until-my-wedding-date date and I already have my dress. I’ve had it for over a month now! And I am so thankful for this, because we are just now starting the Design Phase of the wedding planning process, and I now know what my dress will look like/what I will look like on the day of, which helps with planning and visualizing SO much. It is truly the missing puzzle piece I needed to begin planning the look and aesthetic of every little piece of my wedding. This is the biggest reason I’m glad I started early. The other is that it helps with the stress-factor so much as well. Dresses can take anywhere from 6-9 months to arrive (if you order and do not buy off the rack) and then you have to schedule multiple fittings after it arrives. I ordered my dress on September 25th. It will arrive around mid-February and then I will schedule fittings. This leaves SO much time for any incidents that may happen, as well as just time to be relaxed and calm, knowing my dress is safe and ready to go!
2. YOU DO NOT NEED TO BRING EVERYTHING WEDDINGTOK SAYS YOU DO
The week before my family flew up to go wedding dress shopping with me, I was all over the place. None of us have done this before, so we were flying blind. I read articles and watched so many TikToks. I ordered deodorant wipes on Amazon. I packed a pair of heels. I carried around a pair of tight biker shorts that really keep everything in place. I had a hairbrush, and my Wedding Dress Pinterest Board locked and loaded. I’m sure I’m forgetting other things TikTok mentioned. Well, guess what? I’m here to tell you I didn’t need ANY of it.
What I did really appreciate, was that I somewhat styled my hair (blow dry brushed) and wore a white headband, and I wore a full face of makeup. (Nothing crazy, if you know me, I’m not a huge makeup gal.) But just a little something, so I could picture myself in that moment when I looked into the mirror. The white headband also really helped because it gave that veil illusion with each dress, and even if I did want to try on a veil, the two worked together, or it was easy to quickly take it off.
Other than that, you’re good to go girlfriend! I went shopping in the middle of August in Manhattan too… literally the hottest of the hot time to go. I was so nervous I’d be gross and nope, didn’t need anything. I did wear a nude strapless bra, but honestly, ended up not wearing the bra with most of the dresses. I did wear some tiny little bloomers over my underwear, just to help keep everything in place, and to help me feel more comfortable. I had no problems with that whatsoever.
3. IT IS NORMAL (AND OKAY) TO BE OVERWHELMED. AND EXHAUSTED.
To be completely honest, I went into this process thinking it would be nothing but fun. Trying on pretty dresses, whoo! I already knew what style I wanted, I figured on I’d try on many of that kind, pick the best one, call it a day. NOPE!!! I did hear many people tell me or read advice that “You should always try on a few styles that completely different from what you want, and that are probably out of your comfort zone.” I was willing to do that, but I wasn’t expecting it to completely change the game! I don’t want to go into too much detail about the designs, because I’m keeping my dress a secret, but let’s say I went in knowing I wanted style A with B feature, and I ended up with a a style Z with no B feature at all. (Yes, I chose A and Z because they could not be more opposite.)
So, to walk you though my experience… (fair warning, this long. I’m bolding the most important takeaways.) At the very first salon I went to (RK Bridal), I tried on many different styles. A few Style A, a few Style C, D, E etc. I discovered by the end I liked Style Z. This was very helpful information to have moving on to the next two appointments, because I could tell the stylist that I am leaning toward a Style Z but that I am still open to trying other styles. So at the second salon (Designer Loft) I tried on many different styles, think P, Q, R, etc. I was still loving the Style Z I tried on at the first salon, and none of us were loving really any of the ones I tried on enough to consider them. That was the end of the day, but the following day was Sunday, and we had one final appointment before a goodbye brunch with my mom and sister! What’s crazy too is that all salons are SO different. All have different vibes, different options and offerings, etc.
Our third appointment was with The White Gown and it was INCREDIBLE. It was such a different experience from the two salons we visited the day prior. The stylist asked me questions and knew EXACTLY what to pull. EVERY SINGLE DRESS I tried on here was absolutely phenomenal. Each dress got better and better until I tried on a dress that left me (and my family – mom, sister, and Ryan’s dad’s partner, Vickie) completely speechless. I still have dreams about this dress, if that tells you anything. Our theme for the wedding is Old Hollywood, and this dress was from Pronovias’ Old Hollywood Collection. I was losing my mind, and so was my fam. My sister literally said “This is the one!!! I’m putting down my credit card.” LOL! However, this dress was out of budget. By a lot. So, we thanked the stylist and told her we would think about. She wrote the info down for that dress, as well as our 2nd top choice from that appointment, which was in budget, however, it was Style A. (But without B feature.)
Fast forward a month later, I flew home to Florida to try on more dresses. This was a double whammy. We really wanted to find a dress in budget, and thought Florida might have slightly better prices than NY, and we also really wanted Mimi and other FL based family or friends to be able to join. Our goal was to soon be able to cancel the October appointments in NYC, so we went into this weekend with a mission. We upped the ante. We scheduled 5 appointments in 2 days. I tried to not put too much pressure on myself, but after Day 1 I was so exhausted I was like “Please, Dear God, let tomorrow be the day.” Anyway — first appointment in FL was incredible. The vibe was AMAZING. Brittany was unbelievable. The dresses were gorgeous. Everything was perfect. (Bridal Gallery Orlando) We found one I loved, that was in between Styles A and Z, and while I felt like a supermodel, I still wasn’t feeling like it was “the dress.” As the day went on, I was also wondering if you have to have that “moment”. I know not all brides do. Leaving that salon, I was still thinking about the “New York dress” (the Pronovias’ Old Hollywood one that was way out of budget.) Truthfully, it was so hard to not compare every dress I tried on to that dress. But I tried to keep an open mind. At the second appointment, I felt like royalty. The salon only takes one bride at a time, and they offered us all champagne. (Something New Bridal Boutique) Here, I found a dress that shook me to my core. It is pictured below. I loved this dress SO much. It was so unique, which really spoke to me. I love to wear things that nobody else has. And nobody else wears a white wedding dress with PINK SPARKLES!?! I was so so so into it. I wore it for a LONG time, a good sign, and I FaceTimed Lauren in it (another good sign.) We left and said we would come back if it was the one.
After a quick lunch break, we headed to appointment number 3 of the day. (One and Only Bridal) By this point – we were all OVER IT. I’m not going to lie – if you take ONE piece of advice from this post – let it be this. Do. Not. Book. Three. Appointments. In. One. Day. It was ROUGH. Now, please keep in mind, my mom, sister, Mimi, and my bridesmaid Claire were not doing anything but sitting in chairs and sharing their thoughts with me, and they were STILL just as exhausted as me, who took on and off about 30 heavy-ass wedding dresses in one day. The experience as a whole just really wears you out. Mentally, physically, emotionally. I really loved a lot of the dresses I tried on at this third salon, but I was so tired that I don’t think I was able to really express my true feelings. All I could think about was taking off my heels, putting on PJs and SITTING DOWN. Looking back at the photos, I was a zombie at this appointment. My heart just wasn’t in it. So, the last dress I tried on at this salon was my Top 2 choice. (At least in hindsight.) We all left and said “Thank God that’s over.” My poor Mimi (grandmother) was even like “Jordan, I love you, but I am not joining tomorrow. This is just exhausting.” I did not blame her at all!
That night, I re-looked at all the dresses I tried on that day and I started to become extremely overwhelmed. I was still not sure any of them came even close to the New York dress. The only one that did was the final dress from Salon 3, because it looked like someone cut out part of the New York dress and made it a new dress. Once I pointed this out to my mom, she understood. I talked to Jen and Claire, texted with Lauren and decided to just get some sleep. The next day I tried having a positive outlook, but deep down I was terrified I would not find “the one.” However, my dad joined us this day and I thought that was so cute of him to tag along! He got to see what all the hoopla was about, and he got to see me in wedding dresses in person, versus just in photos. The fourth salon of this trip was incredible. (Bridal Gown Studio Orlando) They have their own designer, so every dress in there was extremely unique. I tried on a few that were KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF amazing. My family was once again speechless, and I was – you guessed it, once again overwhelmed AF. I had a “favorite” from this salon, and we actually made another appointment for that day, to come back and purchase it, but we said we would go get lunch and think about it.
In reality, we had one final appointment. And y’all, this is where my man God really came through for me. My mom was like “Jordan, if that’s your dress – let’s just cancel this fifth appointment.” I checked my confirmation email, and they would charge a $50 cancellation fee. So we were like “screw it, we’ll still go.” But we all went into it knowing my heart was set on the dress I just tried on at Salon 4. My friend (and Something Blue Crew member) Sofia was joining for this appointment and even she knew that “we’re all just here to get through this crap as quickly as possible.” LOL. Well – as you can probably guess, that’s not what happened at all. From the very first dress I tried on, my mom and Jen were speaking telepathy with me. We were all like “Holy shit… okay, we actually need to take this place seriously.” I, once again, loved almost every dress I tried on. However, there was one that I was like “Um…. omg.” It was giving me the same vibes as the New York dress, even though it doesn’t look anything like it. 😂 It was still a little out of budget, but nowhere near as out of budget as the New York one. We tried on a few more that were in budget, and they weren’t giving me the same butterflies as the one I loved. I put it back on and my heart started to race. I was like “Omg… I think this is it.” And then…
The stylist had me in this private showroom, with all of my family sitting behind me. I was standing on a pedestal, facing the mirror, and she asked me to close my eyes. She put a veil on me, and handed me a bouquet of flowers, all while my eyes were still closed. She then asked what time of day we were getting married. I said “around 5:30pm.” She started speaking, while (unbeknownst to me, adjusting the lighting in the room.) She somehow put a spotlight on me, and my family behind me disappeared into blackness. “Okay, so the sun is setting, the colors are bringing out the gold and sparkle in this dress. The sky is an array of colors. When you’re ready, open your eyes.” I opened them, and all I could see was myself, in this dress, sparkling and glowing and I was like… “Yup. This is it.”
I’m not sure if it was that little presentation that did it, but either way, I connected with dress, and myself in that dress, and I was like YUP. I’m a BRIDE. This is what I will be wearing when I walk down the aisle to marry Ryan Patrick Horan.
I’m so beyond thrilled and I almost cried when she then asked the question “Is this your dress?” and I said “Yes.” 😭
All of this to say, trust your gut. My advice is kind of a two-parter caveat. I do agree with the widely known advice that the more dresses you try on, the more confusing and overwhelming it becomes. However, I also really wanted to make sure I was SURE about the dress, and not just settling for one. It took me 8 salons, and that may have been too many. Truthfully, I could have kept the additional 3-5 appointments I had scheduled in October in NY, but I would have just become more torn. Once the dress I found at the final salon helped me forget about the NY Dress, or at least, not compare them anymore, I knew this was the one. It’s such a difficult time. It’s a HUGE decision. It’s not like regular shopping, you can’t change your mind the next day and return it!!! So, it’s not something to take lightly and not something to rush. That said, you could keep trying on dresses forever (which I think I would have done) so if you have a special moment like that, and you can completely picture yourself getting married in it, and you feel beautiful in it, then that might be the one.
Additionally, I will say that the process was a little bit like “dialing it in.” Each salon, we got closer. We figured out what I liked, what I didn’t like. What I wish I could change about certain dresses, what I still missed/loved about the New York, dress, etc. And what ALL of my bridesmaids and family have said, is that the dress I ended up with, has a little bit of every part of all of the other dresses I liked, combined. And how perfect is that? 🤍
Lastly, advice that was shared with me that I completely agree with is to immediately unfollow all designers, salons, and wedding dress inspo accounts that you were following during your search. I literally did this while on the way to lunch after we bought the dress. I don’t want to see anything that will make second guess or regret. I love my dress, it’s going to be special, and that is that.
I hope this post was helpful!! If you have any advice about wedding dress shopping for future bride-to-be’s, please drop in the comments below!