Finding a wedding dress can be one of the most fun – or the most frustrating – experience of all when you’re planning a wedding. Some brides know exactly what they want, and anything even slightly different from that mental picture is a no-go. Others are overwhelmed by the choices (and cost), and walking into a bridal salon can feel like drowning in a sea of white.

1. It helps to know the lingo. Start by reviewing this handy guide from Martha Stewart Weddings about wedding dress silhouettes. See all the options and learn which shapes look best on which body types. It’s helpful to be able to go into a bridal store and say, “I love fit-and-flares and A-lines, but I’m not so sure about ball gowns.” It’s worth it to keep an open mind, too. Even if you think you hate the idea of tea-length wedding dresses, give one a go – it may look totally different on you than you had imagined!

Bride in wedding dress at destination wedding at Zama Beach

2. Next you need to decide on a budget. This is usually about 10 percent of the overall wedding budget. Figure out where fashion falls on your level of wedding priorities (More important than photography? Than the food? Than the music?) and adjust accordingly. And don’t forget about sales tax – it can add hundreds of dollars to the final cost of your wedding dress.

3. Give yourself time. Remember that a wedding dress order can take between six and 12 months from start to finish, including fittings, so give yourself plenty of time to shop. Find a few local bridal salons and make appointments. Most require it, and even if they don’t, the process will be a lot less stressful if you do.

sexy backless wedding dress

4. Be prepared. In the weeks leading up to your appointment, save clippings of wedding dresses you like from websites and magazines. You’ll be able to show them to the assistant at the store. When you go, make sure you wear line-free panties (like Spanx or a thong) and a nude strapless bra for trying on dresses.

5. Explain upfront to the consultant what you have in mind for your entire wedding day, including location, season, level of formality and other details. If there are certain accessories you plan to wear, share that, too. And of course, show her the photos you brought of wedding dresses you like. It all matters.

destination wedding

6. Be ready to step outside of your comfort zone at least once during the appointment. Ask the consultant  to bring you something she would pick out for you, whether or not it matches the style you prefer. And be willing to try wedding dresses that, on the hanger, don’t catch your fancy. You’ll never know how good a wedding dress may look on you until you try it on.

More resources to help you find the perfect wedding dress for you:

If you’re not sure where to start, The Knot also has a fantastic do’s and don’ts guide on the best dress for your body type, complete with designer recommendations.

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