Shopping for Bridal Gowns, Part I

Well, I’m now in the “8-10 month til the wedding” category, so it’s time to purchase a gown!  My mom, two of my grandmas and I first went to B. Ella Bridal in Plymouth (where I got my bridesmaid dresses.)  My consultant, Megan, was about my age and she was very nice and patient.  She really made the experience fun for me.  It’s a little easier being in your underwear in a room with someone you feel comfortable with.  The only thing I thought was crazy was that she didn’t know what I was talking about when I referenced SJP’s Vivienne Westwood gown in the Sex & The City movie!! WHAAAATTTTT

I tried on probably 10 gowns at the first salon.  I loved them all!  This was not the reaction I expected.  I’m really picky so I thought I would have an especially hard time finding something but as it turned out 90% of the ones I tried on I really liked.  One of the last ones I tried on, I said “I really love the top, but I don’t like the skirt.  This would look good with a blank skirt.” (I can’t give too much away!)  Megan grabbed another dress with the skirt I liked, had me put it on over the first one and folded down the top, and there you have it, the dress that I wanted to create.  The gown is Val Stefani and she said that she is one of the few designers who will make custom changes.

The second salon we went to was Bridal Couture of Birmingham.  I gotta say, I was expecting much more from a salon with the word “couture” in the title, especially in a wealthy area such as Birmingham.  They had a pretty small selection and the salon itself wasn’t as nice as B. Ella.  The girl who greeted us was super nice…I got excited to work with her!  Oh wait, your consultant is Carol, and she is a Big Dull Dud.  She didn’t know how to clip me right either, so none of the dresses showed how my shape would actually look once it was tailored for my body unless I pulled the back tightly together myself.

I went to the second salon primarily because they are one of the only salons in the area to carry Lazaro, one of my favorite bridal gown designers.  I’m pretty sure I tried on every Lazaro they had.  There was one that I liked okay, but I thought, I need this to be poofier, and asked if she could grab me something to put on underneath.  VOILA, the gown was transformed, and I loved it.  From my family….crickets.  I guess they liked the gown at the first place better.  It definitely takes the wind out of your sails when your family doesn’t have the same reaction that you do to a dress.

The problem here is a good problem to have…I love BOTH dresses, and would probably be happy purchasing either one.  However, it is very difficult to make a final decision.  This is a dress that not only costs a fortune but will be in all of your wedding photos for all eternity.

Thankfully my mom and I both agreed that a ball gown was the way to go.  It definitely helped that we had the same basic shape in mind.  Someone had told me that since I’m 5’6 that I should try fit and flare because it looks good on taller chicks.  I was apprehensive about this style choice and I was right…it just doesn’t work for my body type.  I am so glad that the style I wanted going in to it worked for my body type.  Let’s go over some basics for trying on bridal gowns:

1) Only make appointments at salons that you have researched first.  Look out for places who have horror stories online (ahem, David’s Bridal.) You have to be able to trust a boutique that will place your correct order when they are supposed to.  Call to ask about price ranges so you know if it’s the type of salon where you are able to buy.

2) Wear a strapless bra and clothes that you can change in and out of easily.

3) Be well rested.  Some of the gowns were straight up hard to get into and you have to be able to wrestle around and walk wearing 10lbs of fabric.  One of the dresses I had to wear two skirts underneath to get the look I wanted and I was sweating my ass off.

4) Don’t go to more than 2 salons in a day.  I was exhausted and ready for a nappy by the time I was done trying the dresses on.

5) Most places are not like Say Yes to the Dress.  You are the one who does most of the pulling of gowns that you like.

6) Keep an open mind.  Just because you want a mermaid gown going into it doesn’t mean that’s the kind of dress you HAVE to buy.  I recommend trying a couple different styles just to get a feel for what looks good on you.

7) Try on the dresses your family wants you to try on.  You don’t have to buy one that they like but if you don’t at least try it on they won’t let it go.  My mom really wanted me to try on a ball gown with a corset top with boning.  After going back and forth with her I tried it on and I was right…I didn’t like it.  However, as soon as she saw that I wasn’t into it after trying it on, she was able to let it go very easily.

8) Take photos of top contenders if the salon allows you to do so.  Sometimes the consultant can do it for you in the room but not out in the open so ask while you are in the room.  Having photos to reference will keep your mind fresh about what the gowns look like.  Besides, as Cher Horowitz said, always take photos, because you cannot trust mirrors.

9) Don’t buy the gown that day unless you are 100% sure that it’s the one.  Some salons offer you discounts if you order your dress that day, but don’t do it just to get the bargain.  I like to sleep on things before committing because you may feel differently once the initial excitement wears off.

10) Limit the amount of people you bring to your appointments.  For me, three was the perfect number.  Everyone has different style and taste and you don’t want so much outside influence that you get persuaded into a gown that you don’t really want.  Likewise, if you love something, you want people with you who will recognize that and support you no matter what.

The experience was very reminiscent of trying on prom dresses, which was awesome because I miss doing that!  I was worried since I hadn’t gotten into as good of shape as I wanted to before trying dresses on, but it really was fun to try on such beautiful gowns.

It really does make a difference when you try a veil on.  It was the first time that I looked at myself as an actual bride!  CRAZY!!

I don’t think that I’m the kind of person who could go to only one salon and choose a dress off the bat.  I pay close attention to the details and I like to know that I have tried tons of options before making a final decision.  Because I can’t make up my mind so definitely yet, I am going to try one or two more salons in a couple of weeks.  After that I am cutting it off.  It’s confusing enough trying to decide between two gowns, and I don’t want to risk over shopping because you will never be happy if you do that.  Hopefully I will hear tomorrow if a custom gown is an option from B. Ella, and then it is time to continue the search.

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