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A Wedding Tale ~ Part VII: Finding The One (And Some Dress Shopping Tips)

November 18, 2013


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Every girl dreams of that moment during her wedding planning when she finds The One. The dress, that is. A wedding dress is a woman’s moment to be a princess, a fashion icon, a Sabrina, an Audrey Hepburn, the graceful enchanting center of attention. That moment when you walk down in the aisle in your gown is your moment to show everyone your sense of style. Are you classic? Vintage? Cutting-edge? A perfect princess? Rustic duchess?

The only problem with this is that the average cost of a wedding dress is about $1,200. That’s no fairy tale. $12oo was a sizeable portion of my wedding budget; there was no way I was going to spend that much on just my dress.

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Additionally, for those of us who haven’t known since we were 12 years old what kind of dream dress would mesh perfectly with the rest of our Dream Wedding, the prospect of finding a dress that will utterly define us, our sense of fashion, and our wedding can be a bit overwhelming.

There’s so many options – Ball-gown? Trumpet? A-line? Sleeves? Straps? No sleeves? Lace? Silk?

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But pick a wedding gown every anticipatory bride must, and so I dove in. I visited a few local boutiques to narrow down the styles and then tried to match the styles at the typical budget avenues – David’s Bridal was of course my first stop, but I’m impatient and a little nervous about commitment and the idea of waiting 6 weeks to put on my custom-fitted dress for the first time made my already palpitating heart want to pack up and go to South Africa.

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I began to scour other possible source. For all of you brides-to-be out there, Ann Taylor, JCrew, Macy’s, and Bloomingdale’s all have fabulous wedding dresses. If you’re shopping on a budget, check out the clearance sections. The dresses are generally 100% refundable and returnable so there’s very little risk involved and when you finally find one you like – there’s no wait!

I finally found a dress that I liked and that fit my wedding budget among the Ann Taylor collections. I ordered it and tried it on with my mom and sister looking on. It was lovely, it was white, and it essentially fit, which was pretty much all that I cared about at that point. (I’m a terrible shopper.)

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But something was off. I had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that the dress just didn’t look that great on me. The feeling was confirmed when I tried the dress on over Christmas a second time with my mom and sister looking on. It looked terrible on me. It might just have been a difference of hair or lighting but the dress I had bought did not work. At. All.

Back to Square One. To boot, now it was December. The wedding was in June. In the calendars of wedding planners, my wedding dress shopping was already about 12 months behind schedule.

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I began to panic. I started scouring wedding dress blogs for solutions. Sites like Off Beat Bride literally saved my sanity by assuring me that my range of options was a lot greater than I was allowing. It didn’t matter what the dress looked like on paper. It mattered if I liked it.

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I was pretty sure at this point that I needed an off-white dress. My skin is pretty fair and Mark was going to be in his white uniform so a bit of contrast was needed. I started to search through formal dress departments.

Almost immediately, I found a gorgeous dress in Macy’s online formal dress selection. It was an off-white champagne color. It was exactly the fit and style that I had been searching for and fell well within my budget. I ordered it immediately. When it arrived, a whole three days later, the dress fit perfectly. I didn’t want to let go of it. The dress literally was a dream come true.

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Tips for The Wedding Dress Search:

  1. Commit to a dress budget. There is an endless abundance of dresses and shops and accessories. Using your budget as a guideline will seriously keep you from going crazy with all of the options.
  2. Try a lot of styles on at first and go with your instincts. If certain dresses consistently just don’t look good on you, stop wasting your time on them.
  3. Don’t be afraid to try something that is different than your imaginary ideal dress. Sometimes we think certain things will look good on us that definitely don’t in reality, and vice versa.
  4. But let your taste be the starting point. If you have a style that you absolutely love, start there.
  5. Be willing to be a little uncoventional. For me, this mean that I bought a technically non-wedding dress that wasn’t white. For you, it might mean wearing a short dress or including a colored accent. Be willing to experiment and be willing to search for your dress in unexpected places. Remember, it’s YOUR wedding. The dress should be something you love. It doesn’t matter what it is called, who made it, or where it came from.
  6. Be careful how many opinions you solicit. I limited the number of people who knew about my dress ahead of time to my mom and sister, one bridesmaid, and my roommates. I knew I could trust their opinions; I knew they’d be honest with me; and I knew that all of them would respect my final decision even if they didn’t love the dress.
  7. You should feel beautiful in your dress. This is a non-negotiable. If you don’t like the way the fabric feels or falls on you, keep looking. It doesn’t matter what the dress costs; it matters that you love it and love the way you look in it.

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  1. Love that you had another post in the wedding series, kindof motivates me to finish my wedding posts that are still sitting in my blog post drafts.

    Also, love that you didnt spend tons on your dress. Its funny, my wedding definitely had some more expensive factors, but a dress was just never an area I wanted to spend a ton of money on — partly because I was buying my own dress, not my parents — and partly because its just a dress. I am sure I could have found a dress that was PERFECT if I had spent thousands of dollars, BUT I could find one that was pretty close for a lot less.

    My moms tip was: Find a dress that makes you look beautiful — people shouldn’t leave the wedding saying “what a pretty dress, they should leave saying what a pretty bride” We’ve all been to weddings where the dress was so ornate it kindof upstaged the one wearing it!

    great post!

    1. Katy,
      I, for one, would LOVE to read your other wedding posts. Yeah, I agree – I just could not justify spending a lot on something that I was going to wear – once. At least all of the guests get to enjoy the food and music. Love your mom’s tip!

  2. You made a stunning bride. And that dress!! Also I have to say, I really love the bunny wallpaper in the background of a couple photos.

    1. Thanks, Gwen!!! So sweet. I picked out that bunny wallpaper when my mom re-did my room back when I was 14 or 15. I ADORED it then and have never gotten sick of it. It’s just on one wall and I think it creates such a quirky, fun, old-fashioned look. It’s funny how those touches that are a bit “off” can be the ones that are the most lasting and classic!

      1. Classic and not too childish! I love your 14-yr-old self’s taste. I would have picked something grotesque with hot pink and glitter and gotten tired of it in a week.

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