20 Tips to Find the Perfect Gown

Gown shopping is different for every bride. For some, it is enjoyable and exciting while for others it is one part of wedding planning they’re dreading. No matter the type of bride you are, finding your wedding gown can be an extremely easy process or a very stressful one.

To minimize the stress and add to the ease, you have to prep yourself (and others) before jumping into a pool of white or ivory fabric that is costing thousands.

Consider these tips of when to start searching, what mind set to have and who to bring.

As a former wedding stylist and bridal sales consultants I can honestly say I wish ALL brides-to-be knew how to prepare for gown shopping.

Haute Bride Boutique in Los Gatos, CA

1. Trust Your Instincts.
Trusting yourself is key. Once you can do that – everything will work out, I promise.

2. Keep an Open Mind.
Sometimes by stepping out of your comfort zone, you’ll enjoy your shopping experience more. Know what your vision is and be open to alternatives.

Consultants typically know what they are talking about and may lead you to a gown that you never would pick on your own, but is perfect!

3. Know Your Surroundings.
You may already have a date and venue, which will make this part easy – if you don’t think of your ideal venue and season. A venue and season can determine the dress code for not only your bridal party and guests, but you as well.

Is your wedding black-tie in the fall? A heavier elegant fabric would be perfect. If your wedding is a destination Caribbean wedding in the middle of the summer, you most likely will want something light, simple and flowing.

4. Share Your Vision.
If family or friends are joining you at your appointment, be sure to share your bridal gown vision with them. Having a bride desiring one type of gown and her mom wanting to see her in something completely opposite is counteractive and will most likely hinder you selecting the gown of your dreams.

5. Document.
You may have appointments at more than one boutique or store. Be sure to document the details of your favorites. Include – the designer, the price, style number, delivery date, etc. (This will help you when it’s time to make the decision!)

6. Take Pictures.
Take a camera with you to the appointments. (An actual camera is MUCH better than a phone.) Be sure to ask the consultant if photographs are allowed. If they are, snap away and add it to your documents.

7. Food & Drinks.
While many stores do not allow food and drinks around the gowns, be sure to take the time to eat before or after the appointment. Gown shopping is a process. Much more than many brides-to-be realize. Eat something light before your appointment. This will ensure that you are not bloated but you have energy.

Planning a lunch or early dinner after your appointment(s) is also a nice way to talk about the day and go through your options if you haven’t quite decided. A restaurant can also help eliminate any feelings of being rushed or stressed.

Be sure to bring water with you to the appointment. Again, gown shopping takes work and you want to be hydrated.

8. Know Your Timeline.
Gowns unfortunately do not appear out of thin air. Ordering, construction and arrival can take months. Depending on the designer gowns can arrive as quickly as four months, but take as long as eight months. Customized gowns typically take longer. SHOP EARLY!

By shopping early you will relieve yourself of additional stress, rush fees, rushed alterations and making a decision you may regret later.

9. Trunk Shows.
I know this tip sounds weird, but GO TO THEM!
95+% of bridal stores, shops and boutiques have trunk shows. (A trunk show generally showcases one designer’s gowns for a limited period of time. Often times, you will have access to their entire collection)

During trunk shows stores may have gowns available that are not available in their regular stock. Trunk shows almost always have incentives! (This means more for your money!)

Some trunk shows even have the designer in attendance. What a better day than to find your dream gown and meet the person who designed it!

10. Make an Appointment.
Not all stores, shops and boutiques require an appointment, but by making one the process is much easier.

An appointment does a few things: for the consultant is allows them to prepare for you. It allows them to make sure a fitting room is available and it allows them to tie up any loose ends before your arrival so during your hour or so, he or she can focus solely on you.

As a bride-to-be it allows you to have a plan (something very important when getting ready for a wedding.) Often times walk-in brides don’t purchase. It’s typically because they are shopping on a whim – or because they didn’t get the attention or assistance they needed.

When you make an appointment you can also ask questions such as what amount is needed upfront for purchase: 50%, the full amount or another percentage, before you even go to the store.

11. Research.
Know why kind of gown you want! Look at and bring pictures. This will help you and your consultant. Your consultant doesn’t want to waste your time or hers.

12. Don’t Look at the Tag.
Yes, look at the price tag (if budget is a concern for you.)
Do not look at the size!

Wedding sizes are confusing, different and vary from street sizing. Every designer is different. Gown sizing is truly just a number. (That is why you get measured.) I’m a zero or two in street sizing and have been measured for gowns ranging from zero to eight.

Traditionally gown sample sizes are an 8, 10 or 12. However, many stores will carry larger samples sizes. (This is a perk of making an appointment – they will be prepared with these gowns in hand.)

13. Read the Fine Print.
This one isn’t hard – just do it. Sure it may take a few minutes, but at least you’ll know if your gown is non-returnable or if your alterations are included.

14. Try It On.
Sounds simple, right? It is! Try gowns on!
Do Not Buy Your Gown Online! I repeat, Do Not Buy Your Gown Online!

Pictures can be deceitful. (Think of fast food menus. Their food looks perfect, and then you order it!) Gowns are no different. In fact it’s a much bigger deal!

15. Know Your Style & Body.
This is something both you and your consultant can work together on. Know your style and be aware of your body type.

Your consultant can also pull and suggest dress silhouettes and necklines that are flattering for you. Your consultant should also know about fabric options and customizable changes that are available for each gown.

16. Know the Budget.
Whether you or someone else is purchasing your gown – KNOW YOUR BUDGET and make sure everyone else does too! The budget discussion needs to happen BEFORE you get to the store!

If you have a set budget that is ideal but can go $500 over it, maximum, tell your consultant. Your dream dress may be $3,100 and given a $3,000 budget your consultant may not pull it.

(I’ll also take a little token of love from “Say ‘Yes’ to the Dress,” Don’t try on a dress out of your budget. Even if it’s so you hope you can hate it. You’re bound to love it and it’s bound to end in heartbreak.)

17. Consider Your Entourage.
It’s important to have an opinion other than your consultants. (Generally consultants have known you for 15 minutes while your family and friends have known you for over 15 years.) However, be aware of who attends your appointment. Take those close to you that will build you up and not break you down.*

18. Take Wearables.
If you already have your jewelry, shoes or maybe your something old or borrowed be sure to take it to the appointment with you. You wouldn’t want to buy a gown that clashes with the statement necklace you’ve always dreamed of wearing on your big day.

19. Wear the Correct Undergarments.
First, be sure to WEAR UNDERGARMENTS!!!
Second, if you want the gown to look the closes to what it will on your wedding day nude undergarments are best. Yes, nude – not white. White will be visible. So will lime green, leopard print and neon pink polka dots.

20. Know What a Sample is.
Sample gowns are the gowns that are tried on. A sample gown can be lifeless and limp. Sad but true. You may look right past your dream dress because of the sample. Samples are handled by hundreds of brides and consultants. While stores and consultants try to keep them in the best shape possible – sometimes they still get a dirty, ripped, or flattened.

Samples can also make your dream dress obtainable. Often times the samples are sold at a discounted rate. These samples will almost always be in mint condition.

Hayley Paige, Keaton gown in the Haute Bride Boutique window.  (Los Gatos, CA)


* Before gown shopping please realize that you will NOT please everyone. Also realize that you are the only one that has to wear this gown. More people means more opinions. More opinions can often lead to being unsure. Know what you’re getting into when you invite family or friends to shop with you. Keep in mind that the people shopping with you should have your best interest at heart. Beware of the outcome when you invite your jealous sister or best friend, your opinionated mother-in-law-to-be, or grandma who firmly believes brides should look similar to nuns.

There are some exceptions to all of these rules. (Minus wearing undies – those are mandatory!) Bend and break the rules where you see fit.

While it’s a big purchase you need to have fun! This should be an exciting process not a stressful one. While it may be overwhelming – just breathe a glass of red & a to-do list should get you through.


Please Note: I have never worked for Haute Bride or Hayley Paige. These 20-tips are not affiliated with the boutique or designer in any way. However, Hayley Paige IS my favorite designer, and the boutique IS stunning. If I we’re an west coast bride, I would shop there in a heart beat.

2 thoughts on “20 Tips to Find the Perfect Gown

  1. So many great tips! Dress shopping is already overwhelming me to think about. I love shopping but definitely fear the endless opinions…so I’m keeping my entourage small! :)


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