How Soon Should I Buy My Wedding Dress?

Is it ever too soon to buy a wedding dress? If you're wondering when to buy a wedding dress, Zola—the wedding expert—has all the answers right here.

By Emily Forrest

married couple outside
Photo by Rick Messina Photography

Putting together your wedding dress timeline can be quite intimidating, to say the least. There are seemingly endless options to choose from, a billion-and-one different wedding dress styles, and an infinite amount of fabrics to sort through. Who knew there were so many different types of white?

The most important question to determine is how soon do you have to find that perfect dress for your special day?

Read on for our go-to guide on when to buy your wedding dress and how to make the dress shopping process smoother.

How Soon Should You Buy Your Wedding Dress? | Zola Photo Credit // Dunwell Donuts

The Short Answer

In short, six to nine months before your wedding day you should be deep in the wedding dress buying process. But, this doesn’t tell you the whole picture. The wedding dress timeline goes beyond just when to buy the wedding dress.

To ease your confusion, and to streamline this exciting, yet daunting process, you’ll have to dive a little deeper into the nitty-gritty.

The Long Answer

Finding the perfect wedding dress that fits your body and budget like a glove is no easy feat—it requires planning, strategy, and patience. However, it’s by no means impossible. While you have to start searching about six to nine months before your big day, it’s what you do within that time that really counts.

While everyone will follow a general timeline (more on that later), here are some circumstances that make the search for that classic, white dress not-so-black-and-white:

  • If Your Dress Is Custom – Custom, or “bespoke,” dresses typically take a few months longer to craft than a dress you’d buy at a dress shop and have altered for your body. These dresses, while gorgeous and perfectly curated to your taste and vision, take incredible time, effort, and patience to create. While the final product is well worth the wait, you’ll want to craft a plan before going custom.

  • If You’re on a Tight Budget – If you don’t have a ton of money to shell out on your dress, that also means that you probably don’t want to blow your dress budget on a custom wedding dress designer, fancy tailor, or intensive wedding shop experience. In that case, while you won’t need so much time to find your dress, you’ll still want to put aside enough time and money to alter your dress to fit your body perfectly.

  • If You Expect Significant Bodily Changes – If you are pregnant, on medication, or in the middle of a weight-loss journey, you’ll want to start searching even earlier and schedule even more fittings than the usual two or three, so that you can account for these fluctuations in your body shape and size.

A General Wedding Dress Timeline

No matter what your particular dress shopping situation is, every wedding-dress-wearer will end up following a general timeline while picking out their wedding gown for the big day.

To give yourself as much time as possible to alter and accessorize your gown, try to follow this timeline to find the perfect dress for you:

  • 10+ Months Prior – Start getting all your inspo together, drawing up your vision boards, and deciding on your dress style and budget based on your wedding theme and venue. Be sure to book your first bridal appointment at a gown shop, so you have plenty of time to decide.

  • Nine Months Prior – Narrow down your dress selections at your first appointment, and pin down your favorite at the second showing. Make your purchase, pay the deposit (typically 50-60 percent of the total price), and send it to alterations. Be sure to carefully choose your lingerie or undergarments before your first fitting so that you can account for those measurements during the tailoring process.

  • Five to Six Months Prior – This phase is a bit of a doozy (but it’ll also make you feel giddy with shopping-spree excitement). At this point, you’ll want to schedule consultations with your tailor (unless your dress shop is already handling that) and pick out your accessories, such as your veil, jewelry, and shoes. Make sure that you nail down the exact shoe you’ll be wearing because that’ll determine your exact wedding dress length.

  • Two to Three Months Prior – At this point, your dress should be ready for the first fitting—now, this part is exciting (and emotional). You and your wedding party will be catching their first glimpse at you in all your bridal glory. While there’s still a lot of work to do, don’t forget to savor your first big reveal.

  • One Month Prior – This is typically when you attend your second fitting, where your neckline, hem length, and fit should be mostly perfect, save for a few minor wedding dress alterations and trimmings.

  • Two Weeks Prior – Here, your dress should only require a few alterations (if any). Try on your full outfit with your wedding party—and don’t forget the tissues and waterproof mascara. Also, make sure that you find a safe place to store your dress until your special day.

  • The Night Before – Calm those last-minute jitters and get pumped. Before you officially walk down the aisle, you’ll want to do some last-minute steaming on your beautiful wedding gown and prepare a reliable “emergency kit” for the day-of, just in case a button falls off or your zipper pops (but don’t worry, that’s unlikely).

While this timeline might seem like a lot to think about, it’s ultimately all about enjoying the thrilling and tear-jerking process of wedding dress shopping. What really matters is that you find the dress that makes you feel comfortable and beautiful on your special day.

No matter what, when the big day comes, just remember to have fun and feel the love.

The Dos and Don’ts of Wedding Dress Shopping

Before you embark on the dress-shopping journey of a lifetime, don’t forget some of these vital dos and don’ts to make the process smoother than ever.

The Peanut Gallery

A wise person once said you are who you surround yourself with. This principle applies to dress shopping as much as it does to life. When it comes to the people involved in the wedding selection process, try to stick with these general rules:

  • Do invite your trusted friends and family members to your try-ons, dress appointments, and fittings. A second (or third) opinion can do wonders for your confidence and decision making.

  • Don’t bring your entire entourage to your appointments. Too many opinions can make you feel more overwhelmed than informed, and even hurt your self-esteem during what should be an encouraging time.

  • Do consider consulting a wedding stylist or trusted fashionista for advice on your dream gown. They can help you narrow down your options, find the right dress for your body, and make the process more pleasant.

  • Don’t forget your own taste and sense of self during the process. Ultimately, this is your dress, and it’s going on your body. That means that you should have the final say on what you wear and how you wear it. While you should trust your friends or stylist, don’t sacrifice your own desires for their opinions.

Timing and Mindset

Mindset is vital to this process. Remember these quick tips before heading to your first bridal appointment:

  • Do be patient and calm throughout this process. While all of the options (and often hefty price tags) can be a bit overwhelming, keeping a cool head will help you have fun and feel beautiful the entire time.

  • Don’t be so calm that you start searching for your dress way too late. With so many fittings and alterations to worry about, you want to give yourself plenty of time to find your gown, and avoid any stress approaching the big day.

How Soon Should You Buy Your Wedding Dress? | Zola Photo Credit // Joe Minnella Studios

Size and Fit

Finding your dream wedding dress should be as much about self-love as your ceremony is about romantic love. That means picking a bridal gown that makes you feel special. You want to find a dress that fits you, not one that forces you to fit it. The only squeezing that should be happening on your wedding day is when you’re holding hands with your soulmate.

Here are your guidelines for approaching size and fit:

  • Do take detailed measurements of your body prior to wedding dress alterations and try to keep your weight as stable as possible before your wedding day. Be sure to try out different dress styles and silhouettes to find the most flattering gown for your shape.

  • Don’t buy a dress two sizes too small with the unrealistic expectation that you’ll lose enough weight to fit in it on your wedding day. Avoid choosing a dress that only exacerbates your insecurities and sends you into an unhealthy spiral.

Walk Down the Aisle With Confidence

Many spouses-to-be are led down the aisle by a trusted guardian or beloved parent. That support means everything to the person getting married, symbolizing the commitment they share with the various people in their lives. Let Zola lead you down the aisle of wedding planning, so you have the support and commitment you need throughout the entire process.

With an easy-to-use registry, free wedding website, and hundreds of breathtaking invite suites to choose from, Zola provides you with the support and peace of mind you need to walk down the aisle with confidence.

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