by: Lauren

[Editor’s note: I’m currently in NYC, getting ready to go on a whirlwind tour of the latest bridal fashions for New York Bridal Fashion Week! So in honor of the beautiful wedding dresses I’ll be seeing (and sharing with you via social media), I thought it would be perfectly fitting to have a little chat about one of the most fun parts of planning a wedding- wedding dress shopping!]

It’s about time we talk about what might be the most anticipated part of planning a wedding… dress shopping! And to be exact, let’s talk about what you need to do before you go wedding dress shopping…

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Namely, the big thing that you need to do before starting your dress search is research. Yep, I said it- research.

If you haven’t already read my own dress story, definitely start there to get the backstory. In a nutshell: I DIDN’T do my research. I was super excited to go dress shopping, acted too fast, settled for one, and then months later ended up getting a different (but perfect) dress. And guess what? All of that could have been prevented by doing one thing: RESEARCH.

Yes, I looked online, saw pretty dresses, and save the ones I liked (sidenote: back then Pinterest didn’t even exist- can you imagine). I even had a pretty specific style and designer screaming to me from my plethora of saved dress photos, but I didn’t realize it. When I was looking at dresses online, I didn’t look for WHERE those dresses were carried. I just thought that the style and designer of the dresses I liked would be at whatever stores I went to. Which happened to just be the stores that were closest to me… which weren’t exactly the best… and didn’t carry the designer that I loved. It kills me knowing that this waste of time and money could have been avoided if I had just done a little more RESEARCH!

5 Things You Need To Know Before You Go Wedding Dress Shopping via

Image by Kristen Weaver Photography

So on to the “research” and what you need to do before you go dress shopping…


The only way you’re going to know what dresses you like is by looking! Start off looking at photos online, magazines (lots of dress ads in magazines, in case you haven’t figured it out yet!), designers’ websites, etc. Try to stick to actual sites that have the dress photos on them and not something like a Google Image search- it will be easier to know the designer if you do that! And then of course save whatever you like.


Just like with any other type of search for inspiration, you’ll want to weed out what doesn’t quite stand out to you after a few hours or days. Go back and look through everything again, remove photos, and refine your “collection” of dresses that you like. Repeat if necessary.


Here’s one of the places where I messed up in my own wedding dress search. You should see some sort of pattern once you’ve refined what you saved. It could be a fabric, a dress style, a type of embellishment, a color, or even a designer. Gather the similarities and define them. Know what it is that you’re liking so you can tell the dress store. (In my case, I knew I liked laced, but what I didn’t realize was that I was obsessed with a certain designer who had 3 different lines of dresses, and I loved them all.)

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Images by Live View Studios

4. PLAN.

Plan your day(s) of dress shopping. Look up all of the bridal shops within an hour of where you live/where you’re shopping. Look up their reviews online too- I recommend WeddingWire. Some shops are just awful and will ruin your whole shopping experience, and some are awesome. If you can, try to avoid the awful shops- trust me on this. And if your heart is set on a designer, of course look up what stores carry that designer. (Here’s something interesting to know: Bridal shops have to be a certain distance apart from each other to be able to carry certain designers, so if you’re looking for a particular designer, you may have to take a little trip [I had to drive 2.5 hours].) It’s a good idea to make appointments at bridal shops- many are even by appointment only. All the more reason to plan out your day!

5. SHOP!

Once you’ve done your research and planned out your appointments, it’s time to shop! Remember, it’s okay if you don’t find “the one” at your first store or on the first day of shopping. Also remember to keep an open mind when you’re in the bridal shops, because dresses look very different on you than they do on the hanger. Oh and most importantly, take your time and don’t rush. If you have trouble deciding whether or not you love a dress, try to envision yourself walking down the aisle to your fiance in it. That’s what helped me. :) And most of all, have FUN!


Hopefully these tips will help you in the search for your perfect wedding dress! Just remember the key point here… RESEARCH!

Those of you who already have your dress- how did you find yours? Did you research like crazy, or just let it happen? Share any tips that you feel will help other brides too!

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Founder & Editor at Every Last Detail
Lauren Grove is the editor and owner of Every Last Detail. A clueless bride-turned-wedding planner, Lauren uses her experiences and knowledge to educate and inspire brides all over the world.
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13 responses to 5 Things You Need To Know Before You Go Wedding Dress Shopping

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  1. emily hansel

    Great tips lauren! I would add one more: once you get to the shop(s), keep an open mind. After all my research and visualization, I knew i wanted a lace gown. And then i tried some on. I felt like i was playing dress up as a bride instead of feeling like myself. So i tried a dress that had caught my eye in the shop window and fell in love. Instead of lace, it was strips of raw organza. In the end I think what I really wanted was fabric with texture. So go with your gut, and remember to have fun! when else to you get to try on so many amazing gowns? :)

  2. Brynn

    Awesome tips Lauren. I did a lot of research for my dress, and I went to a LOT of shops. I felt like they were all trying to rush me to pick something THAT day. But I didn’t try anything on and have a “this is the one” until I went to a shop that was slightly more expensive and sold designer gowns. They didn’t try and rush me either, but they had a fun rule. They let me pick out as many as I wanted to try on, they picked 2 for me and they made my mom choose 1. The rule was I had to try on each one. I had said from the beginning that I didn’t think I wanted a strapless dress, because I am always worried about them slipping down or making my chest look pinched together.

    i ended up LOVING one of the dresses the associate picked out. It didn’t look like much on the hanger, but it was perfect. And strapless, but it had a belt on the inside to hold it up all day! I still put it on and where it around the house when the hubby isn’t home to laugh at me :)

  3. Tali

    I love the tips! Many brides have the very opposite issue than yours as well. for some brides they have shopped at too many places that they are beyond confused. there has to be a balance. if not, it stops being fun. i thought the whole point was to have fun. Thank again!

  4. Jess@DestinationInspirations

    Every bride to be should read this. I actually went in with an open mind and my sales associate was amazing. She knew exactly what looked great on me and what I didn’t like. So make sure ladies to read reviews on the stores to.

  5. erica

    aw, thanks for using our shot! joni’s dress was amazing, and it was a designer gown she bought secondhand on a website called “” or something like that. it was worn once and cleaned by a bride in ca, and then sent all the way to fl for joni. another way for a bride on a budget to snag a fabulous designer dress at the fraction of the price!

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  8. Frances

    Great tips! I initially fell in love with a casablanca a-line gown that had all this beautiful lace and a sash around the waist. when i tried on gowns with laces, I felt old, and didn’t like the a-line. Most of the dresses I initially bookmarked with laced gowns with an a-line.

    Sometimes I think that brides-to-be end up trying on gowns and, as you said, refine their search to what they begin to like/love until the one is found. I went to five different bridal stores, trying on dresses that basically had satin-like material and rouching. I found my perfect dress that was completely different from what I imagined myself in.

    It was in that process of trying on dress after dress I finally had an idea of what I wanted. And then I found it after three months of shopping.

  9. wedding dress Orange County

    Conducting a research before finally deciding can really help you. This would be an assurance that you can have the chance to choose the right designer for your wedding dress that you have been dreaming of. Doing this can save you money and you will not have to regret the design that you have chosen.

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  11. Katie (a Vendor)

    Great post! :)

    One other thing I didn’t do until my second store was pick out dresses myself. I was so excited to get there and start trying on that I let others pick out the gowns instead of me. At the second store we tried, I did the same thing letting other pick the dresses. I didn’t like any of them and started getting discouraged. I finally realized that I hadn’t picked one dress.

    I walked the store and picked five dresses myself with the first one being the one I LOVED. I know it sounds silly but savor your input.

  12. Erica (a Bride)

    If I were to look up all the bridal shops within 1 hour of me I would probably have 100! (I live in an urban center). For those in my situation, it is likely to take this step one further and research each shop in more detail to narrow down to what is likely to match my style and preferences (and has good reviews) best.

  13. Cathy (a Bride)

    Another tip I would like to add… I just learned the hard way when my ordered gown arrived missing beading and with embroidery falling apart. Search reviews on the designers. I just searched mine and found other brides had issues. Their designs are beautiful and store sample was perfect other than noticeably tried on a few too many times. Seamstress said they could fix my dress by using parts of the sample dress. Very disappointed. Order months in advance to be able to deal with unforeseen problems if they arise.

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