Wedding Dress Cheat Sheet: What to Know Before You Shop

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When it comes to picking a wedding dress, brides-to-be seem to fall into one of two categories: enthused and nonplussed. The enthused have probably thought long and hard to develop a vision for their weddings, and what they will look like — possibly years before they’ve ever met their soulmates. When a person isn’t excited, or hasn’t given much forethought to the process, wedding dress shopping may appear to be a daunting experience. No matter which camp you fall into, there are things every future bride needs to consider before starting to try on dresses — and trying on dresses should be one of the first things you do! The earlier you find your dress, the better. The general buying timeline tells a bride to start looking, and purchase her dress 9 to 12 months in advance. This provides plenty of time to order and alter the dress. But what will that dress look like, be made of, and where will it come from? Keep reading for the tips and terms that will help you find your dream dress.

1. Location, location, location!

There are two ways this applies to wedding dress shopping and why it must be a top priority before you start shopping. First, where you will be getting married will dictate, to some extent, what kind of dress will be purchased. Fairy-tale ball gowns are hard to navigate on a sandy beach, and short sheath dresses are probably not appropriate for a traditional, conservative church wedding. (Obviously, it is best to sort this one out with your fiancé.)

With the wedding location settled, you can turn to where you will be shopping for your dream dress, which invites a discussion of what your budget will be. Weddings are increasingly expensive endeavors. Average estimates are hard to pin down, but the overall wedding can easily surpass $25,000. According to Statistics Brain, the average wedding costs $28,082 and the dress is $1,053 of that. Additionally, accessories tend to be around $144, and the veil or headpiece approximately $119. The website does not say if alterations are included in the cost of the dress. If they are not, more money needs to be tacked onto the cost of the dress.

Once a price point is set, you know which stores and boutiques will be carrying dresses within your range. As any veteran watcher of Say Yes to the Dress knows, trying on a dress outside of your budget is a risky endeavor. If you absolutely fall in love with the dress, you suddenly face having found the perfect dress — and no way to purchase it. Everything else will seem lackluster in comparison, causing you to like your eventual dress less, or spend more of your overall wedding budget on the dress than anticipated. Once you know where you will be shopping, call and make an appointment to try on dresses.

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