“OMG this is gonna be so fun!”
-Friends and family of the bride on wedding-dress day
Stop right there. You’re bringing HOW many people with you to your bridal appointment? Wait, you haven’t actually scheduled an appointment? Okay, let me just bite on the inside of my cheek until it bleeds and I’ll schedule you in right now. You know what really makes bright blue underwear pop? A WHITE WEDDING DRESS. Oh, your 11-person entourage is pulling dresses for you while I take your measurements? Sure, no problem, all of our dresses are cut from the same cloth that those Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants were. But, clearly, they already knew that.
I’ve never been particularly fazed by stressful situations. College midterms, finals, friend drama, make-or-break moments in sport–like everyone, I’ve had my moments and hit a couple breaking points, but generally speaking, I operate on a level of chill typically associated with sleeping babies. That being said, I would much rather be chatting with a happy bride and hearing her entourage exclaim and tell her how great she looks every time she steps out of the fitting room than dealing with preventable road blocks. For literally everyone’s convenience, I’ve compiled a list of dos and don’ts to help everyone stay sane during this fabric-filled time.
- DON’T pull dresses from the racks yourselves (please please please, for the love of God)
The very first thing that’s going to happen in the appointment is I will take the bride’s measurements. Then I will ask her questions about herself and her wedding; how does she envision herself walking down the aisle? Does she know what types of silhouettes she likes? Does she have any pictures to show me? And so forth. After listening to her answers, I will politely excuse myself and go match her to a sizing chart before starting to pull dresses in or as near as possible to her size that align with the information she gave to me.
I once had a curvier bride exclaim over a dress that “looked so cute!” Her friend had pulled it, and upon checking the tag, I had to inform her that this particular dress likely wouldn’t fit right, and would she mind waiting while I go pulled the right one?
The dress was a size 4. It “looked so cute!” because size 4s in bridal are smaller than what we put on the mannequins.
Trust me to pick the first couple of gowns, and if we’re not getting somewhere, then I’ll happily head into the racks with Mom or a close friend for further guidance. But exuberantly pulling pretty dresses for the bride in your moment of excitement as a party member could take away from the bride’s comfort and get the appointment off on the wrong foot.
- DO schedule your appointment ahead of time
This one should be a no-brainer–don’t we all schedule important events in our lives?! Your wedding is scheduled, your bachelorette party is scheduled, cake tastings are scheduled…wedding dress shopping should be no exception. For the dress providers to give you the best possible service and for you to maximize your odds of finding a dress, we need to know you’re coming. While you’re at it, favorite some dresses (with the style number!) that the store actually carries. Your Pinterest inspo board is helpful, but not if your heart is set on a dress made by an anonymous fashion designer in Italy. That said….
- DON’T favorite 20 of your favorite dresses the store carries
I’m going to tell you a research secret I learned during my training, which I have no way of verifying, but have found to be true in 100% of all of my brides: If you’re going to find your wedding dress, it will be within the first five dresses you try on during that appointment, plus or minus three* (caveat my own). I am not making this up. Trying on dresses can and should be a fun experience for all involved, but if you think that you need to try on every single style that you’ve ever been remotely attracted to, you’re wrong. Just don’t do it. You’ll end up frustrated and dizzy with all the white, irovy, champagne, and whisper-pink fabric swirling around the dressing room, despite my best efforts to control it.
- DO know when to call it a day
This is a tricky one, because when I can tell that a bride is getting tired and cranky and needs food and water, I can’t exactly tell her that. And because we women especially tend to keep plugging along when we should have lain down for a nap long ago, the territory becomes even more volatile as the end of the appointment draws near. It is OKAY if you don’t find your wedding dress on the first try. It is OKAY to feel disappointed about that, but the most important thing you can do is stay calm and recognize that it’s time to break for the day. The store will still be there next week, your stylist will be eager to schedule a comeback appointment for you, all you need to be concerned with is whether your stylist has been taking notes on what you definitely do and definitely don’t want in a wedding dress, and noting any dresses that you have liked (and trust me, I have been).
- DON’T wait until the last minute to find your dress.
“But my wedding is four months away!”
And that’s very nice. But unless you want to get slapped with a rush fee by alterations, they ask that you schedule your appointment 8-10 weeks before your wedding. On top of that, there’s this thing called a “lead time” for dresses, which is the number of weeks it takes for the dress to arrive. Eight weeks is considered a fantastic lead time, but if the dress you’ve got your heart set on is an exquisitely embroidered ballgown with lace embellishments from top to bottom? That’s likely going to take closer to 22 weeks.
Can you see why event dates less than eight months from the appointment might make your stylist’s eye twitch?
- DO wear nude underwear. And bring a hair tie.
The whole point of a bridal appointment is to really see what you’ll look like in your dress on your wedding day. Why would you compromise that by wearing some cute neon or polka dotted pattern across your butt? Stick to neutral colors if you don’t have nude, and always bring a hairtie if you’ve got long hair; it helps make the getting in and out dress process easier, and I’ll be able to show you a wider range of possible stylings with veils and other hairpieces and accessories.
- Don’t assume I’m just trying to sell you the dress and be done with it to get my commission
I genuinely enjoy my job. I like making connections with brides by asking where they’re from, what they do, where they’re getting married, what their partner is like, and all sorts of personal questions that normally, strangers don’t get to ask. It’s an uncomfortable feeling when someone from the bridal party sharply rebukes me for making positive observations about the bride, as if my only agenda is to sell her the dress.
The only other experience I have with being a salesperson is selling Girl Scout Cookies when I was eight (and hating every moment of it). When you take on the role of vocal watchdog, you cast an aura of suspicion and nastiness over the whole appointment that I can’t control. Yes, my job is to sell wedding dresses, but I would never encourage a bride to buy a dress that I didn’t know was “the dress” for her.
Also, maybe if you knew that commission isn’t guaranteed and none of us would be working under this capitalistic model if we didn’t love our jobs, you’d be a little nicer. Don’t be nasty.
- DO buy the dress if you fall in love with it
There are lots of things in life that should be second-guessed: If you should take that fourth vodka shot. If you are really gonna make it to that 6:30 AM workout class three times a week. If you really should buy that pair of jeans that’s a little too tight, but it’s okay because you’re gonna lose the weight. (BTW: buy the pair that fits girl, your curves are beautiful!).
And then there are things that should not be second-guessed: If you should get a pint of ice cream after a bad day. If you should pour yourself a second glass of wine after a long week. If you should get that haircut you’ve been wanting to get for months. If you should buy the plane ticket. If you should buy the wedding dress.
“But it’s my first time looking.”
“I didn’t expect to find it today!”
“It wasn’t what I envisioned myself in….but I love it.”
“But my wedding isn’t until next year.”
Unless there’s a crucial person missing from the appointment who you want to bring back to see the dress in person, or you don’t have the funds on that particular day, get the dress. There is nothing more disheartening than hearing the words “I have to sleep on it” or “I can order it online, right?” when, as a stylist, I know she’s found her dress and is just, for some inexplicable reason, balking.
I tell all my brides: You will know when you’re in your dress. Whether it’s because it zips up perfectly on the first try, or it feels like it was made to fit your curves, or because of the gasps everyone makes when you walk out onto the stage, you will know.
The feeling transcends personality types and manifests in a simple happiness that can only be ruined by a bride overthinking and trying to poke holes in her moment. Entourage, this is where you come in. Your job is to help her find a dress that’s perfect for her and represents her, so don’t let her miss her big “YES” moment in-store, when I can give her a bell and you all can cheer when she rings it and makes a wish for her future as a Mrs.