Wedding Planning and Budget Basics

Wedding Dress Shopping Tips From a Bridal Salon Owner

Here, the co-owner of a popular bridal salon shares her advice for finding your dream dress.

By Sarah Stebbins
Wedding dressDebra McClinton

Where do you steer a bride who wants a look that’s fashionable, but won’t appear dated five or 15 years from now?
I wouldn’t think too much about it or you could wind up with a really boring dress! That said, I would tone down the embellishment. Tons of embroidery, beading, and ruffles can appear passé pretty quickly. Otherwise, I believe you can inject a lot of fashion and still have a look that’s classic.

What are your favorite styles?
Two styles I love right now are the one-shoulder dresses—think of Michelle Obama’s gorgeous, ivory inaugural gown—and the dresses with illusion necklines. The latter have a sheer fabric overlay that extends from bust to collar, providing some coverage while still looking sexy. Both styles are flattering on most brides, incredibly chic, and I predict they’ll stand the test of time.

Is it possible to find a really great dress for less?
There are many fabulous gowns that are priced in the $2,000 range and under, but you need to be a little scrupulous. Pay close attention to the fabric, making sure it’s not too shiny, scratchy, or heavy—even a multi-layered princess gown shouldn’t feel like it’s adding ten pounds to your frame. Also, because the embellishments on inexpensive dresses can sometimes be gaudy, I’d go with something simple and jazz it up with a great accessory, like a crystal belt, vintage broach, or silk flower pin. If you’re hunting for a true bargain, visit bridal salon websites to find out when they have trunk shows (events featuring discounted dresses by specific designers) and sales. We have a huge quarterly sale with gowns marked down by as much as 70 percent. You’ll have the best luck if you’re a sample size—a bridal 10, which is a 6 or 8 in ready-to-wear—or smaller, but some stores, including ours, carry larger sizes as well.

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Lanterns

Talk to your venue before renting any items. Ask if you’ll be charged additional fees for using outside vendors and if the site can accommodate additional setup and breakdown time for special lighting, ceremony chairs, or hanging lanterns.