Shopping for a wedding dress can be a very stressful experience—but it can also be a very special one. One year after my wedding, the entire process surrounding my dress remains one of my favorite memories. If I had to do it all over, I would still choose my Pnina Tornai number again and again. Are you looking to find the perfect dress for your day? Here are 4 tips:
1. Know Thyself & To Thyself Be True(Or: Just Give Me Some Edge)
My wedding dress shopping adventures began at the atelier of Queen Vera Wang, because I figured it was the respectful thing to do. The Vera Wang experience is definitely bar none. I would recommend a trip to a Vera Wang store for any bride-to-be who can make it out to one.
However, as much as I absolutely enjoyed getting to play in Wang gowns, I knew they wouldn’t work as soon as I started trying them on. They were beautiful and regal, but just not me. I wanted my wedding dress to reflect my personality, which has always been a bit…edgy. As a bride, it’s so important to know who you are, what styles go with your silhouette, and the kind of statement you want to make with your gown. From that day on, whenever a wedding dress consultant asked me what kind of dresses to pull, I declared: “Give me some edge!”
2. Get A Second Opinion (Or: A Tale of Motel Curtains)
Once upon a dress shopping time, I made my way to the wedding institution that is Kleinfeld (of Say Yes To The Dress fame) with about three friends (they had all been sworn to secrecy before hand). My wedding dress consultant pulled the edgiest dresses she could find, per my request. As soon as I laid my eyes on a certain two-piece-lace-wonder, I knew it was the one. It was daring and snatched my waist to perfection. As I walked out of the fitting room wearing my dress, I was ready for applause. On the contrary, there was a bit of silence and head tilting. “Well, it’s definitely different, but it might not be appropriate for your ceremony,” one friend said. The general consensus was to sleep on it. I decided to do that, even though I was certain my search was over. I also snuck in a picture to send to my maid-of-honor/sister who couldn’t be there. Never one to mince words, my sister immediately replied: “Eww. That looks like very cheap motel curtains.”
While I begged to differ on the curtain bit, I agreed on one thing: this dress probably was not appropriate for a conservative church wedding in Nigeria. And that, my friends, is how I avoided giving my mother and in-laws a heart attack. The moral of this story: when you are wedding dress shopping, make sure you have at least one person who can provide an honest opinion. The End.
3. Give Yourself Some Time (Or: Wedding Dress Regret Is Real)
After reading on Aisle Perfect, I knew it was important to not buy the first dress I fell in love with. I started shopping for my wedding dress a little over 6 months before my wedding (I crammed all my appointments into about two weeks). This was perfect for me, because I didn’t want to give myself too much time for analysis, but I didn’t want to pay late fees either. Give yourself enough time to search for your wedding dress, which will vary depending on the kind of decision-maker you are and where you will be purchasing your dress.
As soon as I made the deposit for my wedding dress, I un-followed all the dress designers I had previously followed on Instagram. The last thing I wanted was to see some perfect gown that would make me regret my decision. Again, know thyself.
4. Respect Your Budget (Or: Ode to the One That Got Away)
I could tell you about this dress, but why do that, when I could just show you:
After trying this work of art on, I saw it in my dreams. Heck, my friend who had flown in to shop with me saw it in hers too. Alas, the cost of the belt that came with this dress alone could have bought a decent wedding gown. As for the cost of the dress, I won’t even mention it—I can’t afford to. But, my dreams are where I left this dress—and I’m glad that I did. Yes, a wedding dress is a very important dress, but it’s also just a dress.
In the end, I did end up splurging on my gown, but not to the extent of the Monique L’Huillier masterpiece. I also found other ways to cut costs. For example, instead of buying the veil that came with my gown, I got a veil from China (there are plenty of these on Etsy). Afterwards, my mother and I got some loose crystals from whole sellers in New York at a great bargain. Finally, we had an aunt in Nigeria who makes jewelry embellish my veil with the crystals by hand. A lot of labor and love went into my veil, which made it even more special.
As a whole, my wedding dress shopping experience was special because of all the love that went into it. I still giggle when I remember my mother repeatedly insisting that my alterations seamstress cover my cleavage and arms more (to which the seamstress repeatedly exclaimed, “but she’s not a nun!”). I’ll always have warm memories of trekking to various bridals shops with my best friend amid the disaster that is a New York winter; of mad texting my wedding dress consultant turned therapist; of sending my sister and aunt a zillion emails with pictures and awaiting their verdict; and of my mother sacrificing to making sure I was aisle perfect.
In the end, the love that goes into a wedding dress is just as important as the fabric it’s made of.