Wedding planning can be an exciting time, and shopping for a wedding gown can (and should) be one of the most exciting parts. Nonetheless, with all of the options available to you, it’s easy to get overwhelmed in your pursuit for the perfect wedding dress. Before you get started, it’s important to consider which of these options of where to get a wedding dress might be best for you, including the pros and cons of each.
Ranging from local, small-scale bridal boutiques with a handful of designers to larger name-brand bridal salons stores such as Kleinfeld, wedding-specific retailers can be a great place to start your dress shopping search. While some require scheduled appointments, larger stores often allow walk-ins or the opportunity to browse (though this has shifted a bit during COVID times). If you already know a style or a designer wedding dress that you like, picking out a bridal boutique will be a piece of cake. However, if you’re looking to simply try on lots of dresses (or are hoping for something easier on the wallet), then you might want to do a little more research before you make any wedding dress shopping appointments.
With large dress selections, recognizable brand names, and convenient locations in most cities, department stores are the ideal spot to familiarize yourself with popular silhouettes and designers. This will allow you to decipher between A line versus ball gown silhouettes, and ponder over the mermaid cut wedding dress silhouette. Many well-known retailers such as Nordstrom, Macy’s, and JCPenney all have a wedding shop where you can find a range of gowns. Some large chains that don’t qualify as department stores also have a bridal wing, such as Anthropologie’s BHLDN. All of these options are great for their flexibility and volume of dresses, but probably won’t be the place to offer you an intimate, curated wedding dress shopping experience.
Used and consignment stores can come in many forms, from quaint boutiques to large chains. Some bridal salons even have a consignment section or sister store, so it’s important to do research in advance to find the right spot. Just like with traditional bridal boutiques, the size and feel of the spot can directly influence your dress shopping experience, whether you’re looking for something more personal or somewhat informal. The consignment route is a great way to reduce waste and find a dress you love for less. However, if you’re looking for a very specific designer or style, you may want to go a different route.
You can find almost anything you need online nowadays—so why not a wedding dress? From expensive, designer wedding dress options to more budget-friendly options, the online wedding world is your oyster. Digital retailers such ASOS, Lulus, Reformation, and Shopbop have gowns at a range of price points, while more traditional stores, such as David’s Bridal and BHLDN, also have the option to order your dream dress online. While browsing for a gown online gives you an abundance of options, it also means that you won’t see (or feel) your dress until it actually arrives, so make sure that you read lots of reviews and trust the place that you’re purchasing from. The Zola Bridal Boutique is a great place to start, as it can help you decide if this route is for you.
Though the idea of renting a wedding dress has been somewhat taboo in the past, it has grown to be a respected option as more couples realize the true cost of a designer gown. While there are online rental services such as Rent the Runway and Lending Luxury, local bridal boutiques sometimes offer rental options, too. If you like the idea of passing down your wedding dress or know that you’re going to have some sentimental attachment, purchasing a gown might be the route you want to take. However, if you want to wear an expensive, designer gown without breaking the bank, renting is a great option. Also, if you want to have a short wedding reception dress in addition to a traditional ball gown for the ceremony, renting can help you achieve that.
So, how do you narrow down your options, or decide what’s best for you?
Take a look at your budget and priorities. Each couple is different and therefore has different priorities. If the wedding dress is a priority to you, then make sure that translates into your budget. However, if you’re hoping to save up most of your money for an extravagant honeymoon, then maybe consider the renting or consignment options for your gown.
Get to know styles and designers. Once you have a better idea of what styles and designers you like, it’s much easier to narrow down your options. For example, that cute bridal boutique down the street might not be the right pick if they specialize in boho gowns and you’re looking for something edgy or glamorous.
Call a few places in advance (and possibly set up appointments). The reality for many people is that you’re not going to know until you try. While we don’t suggest trying on 100 gowns, it sometimes takes putting a couple on to figure out what you like and don’t like. Calling places in advance is helpful to know what designers they carry, their average price points, and more. Based on the above, make an appointment or two at the places that you feel would be a good fit, and make sure to enjoy the process of finding your dream wedding gown.