| Credit: Adrienne Page

3. Taffeta, shantung, satin, charmeuse―how do I make sense of all the different fabrics out there?

You can find descriptions of common fabrics at, but your best bet is to get your hands on the real thing, either at a bridal salon or a fabric store. Fabrics have individual strengths and weaknesses, depending on your priorities.

  • Some materials, like silk duchesse satin, are best for providing support and structure, while gauzier, transparent fabrics, like organza and tulle, are better for achieving a romantic, ethereal effect. (It never hurts to ask if you can order your dream gown in a different fabric.)
  • Want to save some money? Check out rayon blends, which have the look of silk without the expense.
  • To get a sense of how a fabric will behave over the course of your wedding, bunch it up tightly in your hand. If it’s wrinkled after a minute or so, imagine what it will look like by midnight.

4. Is it possible to get an inexpensive dress that doesn’t look cheap?

Nobody ever has to know that you got a great deal on your wedding dress. The single most important factor when it comes to clothing is the way it fits: If a gown is perfectly fitted to your body, it will look like it was made for you by a Parisian couturier, no matter what it cost. (On the flip side, a dress that gapes in some spots and puckers in others will scream “Bargain bin!” even if it isn’t.) So if you’re on a tight dress budget, plan to put a significant portion of it―half, even―toward the services of an expert seamstress.

Other than that, keep an eye out for telltale low-quality work: Does the beading look flimsy? Are the seams shoddily finished? If you spot a flaw that can’t be corrected easily, move on to the next mannequin.