There are probably hundreds of articles about the best way to buy a wedding dress. Personally, I don't think there's one right way to do anything, just the way that works best for that person at that time. But after my experience shopping for (and purchasing) a wedding dress, I'm pretty confident there's a wrong way.
So, in an effort to help future brides avoid my headaches, and perhaps give some past brides a chuckle or two, I present to you:
THINGS NOBODY TELLS YOU ABOUT BUYING A WEDDING DRESS
1) You're gonna be topless or in your underwear in front of a total stranger.
It's funny, I had been a bridal consultant in my late teens, but this piece had somehow slipped my mind; you will be in a dressing room in all your strapless bra glory with someone you probably only met that day.
2) Pick who you shop with well.
Everyone has a different sense of style, so even though its important to pick someone with good taste, make sure they're also someone who respects *your* taste. I personally recommend limiting the group to 1 or 2 people. As they say, too many cooks spoil the soup. I was fortunate that my shopping companion was not only perfect for me, she was also my mom.
3) It helps to be tipsy.
Buying a wedding dress is stressful. They are, for the most part, white, which makes most of us feel bigger than we like. They are almost exclusively expensive. If you drink, consider having a glass of wine before you go. If you don't, consider meditation or yoga, something that will help you arrive in a happy, relaxed state.
4) Go local.
I'm a big girl who's trying to lose weight, used to work in Bridal Retail, and works as a freelance professional costumer, so I have very specific ideas about clothing. All of this makes me a very picky shopper. Now, as I said, every person is different. I've heard many storeis of girls who went to large chains like David's Bridal and Alfred Angelo, and found the dresses of their dreams. But if you're picky like me, a large chain store might not be for you. They have a script they follow, and they bring their own style and opinions to the table. A smaller salon will often offer a wider selection of designers and prices, and if you're lucky, they'll let you pick through the racks yourself. I had an excellent time at Jinny's Bridal.
5) Try on that weird one your mom likes.
You really never know what you're gonna like until you try it on. I had an idea of a soft, casual chiffon dress. My mom brought me one that was satin and had a lot pleating, and I didn't really think I'd like it seeing it on the hanger. But I LOVED it as soon as I tried it on. In fact, that was the dress I decided on in the end. So keep an open mind and try on suggestions you don't immediatly hate, even if they seem weird.
6) Don't buy a dress you've worn for less than 20 minutes.
Seriously, girls. You are going to wear this dress for eight hours minimum. You will dance, hug, walk (or if you're late, run), cry, laugh, eat, drink, and sit in this dress. Do you really want to commit yourself to dropping that kind of dough on a dress you don't feel comfortable in?
7) Add $200-400 to every price tag.
This one I knew about from my time in the industry, but no list such as this would be complete without mentioning: Tax and Alterations. Nobody is a perfect size 6, not even perfect size sixes. Chances are, something on your dress is going to need to be adjusted, and with alterations, you get what you pay for.
Let me say that again: you get what you pay for. Yes, your tailor can probably hem the dress, but a professional alterer will work more frequently with wedding dresses and will know how make those changes while preserving the style and look of your dress.
8) Don't over-research.
I'm a planner. Not as in a Wedding Planner, as in a person who makes plans and keeps journals and spreadsheets and folders. So both times when I went shopping, I had spent hours pouring over catalogs and websites, and had created online records and documents of which dresses I liked. What I found was that a) stores and salons often have the previous season's dresses which b) you will not have seen before and will only frustrate the sales associate and yourself searching for.
Its good to go with some style ideas and pictures for reference, but don't kill yourself pouring through an entire collection.
9) It's supposed to be fun.
Try to keep things in perspective. You've met the person of your dreams, and are preparing to spend your life with them. Your Wedding is the beginning of that, and it's an important day, but in the end, its a single day out of your life, and your wedding dress is a garment you will realistically only ever wear once. You want to be happy with it, but not having the dress you want will not ruin your marriage, or even your wedding. Remember the reason you're shopping in the first place, and you'll be fine.