Finding the Perfect Wedding Dress: Timing and Tips for Every Bride

Wedding Dress

So, you’re newly engaged and brimming with excitement, eagerly looking forward to the day you walk down the aisle in a stunning wedding dress. But amidst all the anticipation, you might be wondering when the ideal time is to buy that dream wedding dress. While your wedding date may still be a distant point on the calendar, choosing your wedding dress is a pivotal part of the planning process. Wedding dresses, especially those made to order, typically take around six to nine months to create. Therefore, it’s a smart move to start your journey to the bridal boutique earlier rather than later.

However, the traditional timeline for dress shopping is evolving, thanks to a more dynamic wedding industry and changing trends in engagements. This article explores the perfect timeline for buying your dress, offering guidance for brides with different timeframes and preferences.

The Changing Landscape of Wedding Dress Shopping

In the past, brides typically followed a strict timeline when it came to purchasing their wedding dress. But times have changed, and designers and retailers are now offering more flexible options to cater to the needs of modern brides. Vatana Watters and Sydney Dunbar, the mother-daughter duo behind the renowned bridal line Watters, emphasize that there are now multiple avenues for expediting the dress-buying process. “The piece of the pie that’s grown is the option of when to buy your dress—there are so many options to get your dress much faster,” Watters says. “We realize there are different avenues and different quickness to getting a dress.”

This means that whether you have over a year or only a few months before your wedding, there are options available to make the dress-buying process work for you.

A Timeline for Brides with Over 12 Months Left

After You Get Engaged:

Even before you were engaged, you might have been collecting images of dream wedding dresses. Now is the time to gather inspiration from bridal magazines, top trends, and real brides. Discover your preferences—open backs, embellishments, lace, fitted silhouettes—and bring these visuals to your bridal salon appointment. However, always keep an open mind, as you might find a dress you love that you never considered before.

After You Pick Your Venue:

It’s crucial to choose your wedding venue before going gown shopping. The dress should harmonize with the location’s ambiance, so make sure you’re in line with the tone of the wedding. Around six to nine months before the wedding, start thinking about your dress and budget for it. Select a small, supportive group of friends or relatives to join you on this important shopping trip.

9 Months Before the Wedding:

At a bridal salon, you can narrow down your dress choice, discuss customizations, and make a deposit (usually 50-60% of the total cost). Be patient during this period as your dress is being custom-made to your measurements with materials sourced from around the world.

Aside from the final completion date (celebrate!), remember to account for travel time and pre-wedding picture sessions when planning your overall purchasing schedule. “If you’re having a destination wedding or doing bridal portraits, that effectively becomes your wedding date because you need your dress for that time,” Dunbar explains. “A lot of brides also prefer to have their dress completely done a month before their wedding just so the fit is perfect and there’s no changes in the body.”

5 Months Before the Wedding:

While your gown is being created, tackle other items on your wedding checklist. Line up a tailor, choose accessories like your veil, jewelry, and shoes, and consider the venue’s specific requirements when selecting your footwear. Your gown’s hem length should match your chosen shoes, and venue-appropriate footwear is essential.

3 Months Before the Wedding:

By this time, your dress should be ready for its first fitting. Make minor alterations if necessary and have your bridal undergarments chosen to ensure they complement your dress. Maintain a stable weight because you might need further alterations in the coming weeks.

6 to 8 Weeks Before the Wedding:

The first fitting is the perfect time for minor adjustments and learning how to bustle your gown. You might also want to include a bridesmaid or two in this fitting to ensure everything is perfect.

4 Weeks Before the Wedding:

This is your second fitting. Most of the significant alterations should be complete, and you can finalize your headpiece, veil, and other accessories. Don’t forget your bridal lingerie.

2 Weeks Before the Wedding:

While some dresses may only require two fittings, a third may be necessary for minor adjustments. By this point, your dress should be almost flawless. It’s time to try on your complete wedding ensemble, including veil, shoes, and accessories. Prepare for an emotional moment when you see yourself in the complete look.

1 Week Before the Wedding:

Pick up your finished gown and settle the remaining balance, including alteration fees. Your dress will be stored in a protective garment bag until the big day, which can be easily transported if needed.

The Big Day:

Unpack your dress, hang it up to air out, and steam away any wrinkles for the perfect finishing touch. If you prefer not to handle your dress yourself, some bridal salons offer consultants to help with this process.

Working with a Time Crunch? No Problem

For those with shorter timelines or unique circumstances, the wedding industry has adapted to offer more options. Some leading bridal designers can pre-cut top gowns, expediting the creation process. Brides on a tight schedule can also utilize expedited shipping options. Additionally, online retailers like BHLDN, H&M, ASOS, Modcloth, and Reformation provide high-quality, ready-to-wear gowns that are perfect for more relaxed and modern weddings.

So, regardless of your timeline or situation, there is a solution for every bride when it comes to finding the perfect wedding dress. Whether you follow the traditional path or opt for a more expedited process, you’ll be able to find the gown of your dreams to make your special day even more magical. Happy gown hunting!


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