My experience was a very positive one, and I feel like we played it just right. Thus, I am going to share all of my new found wisdom with you...peppered with my details and fashion, of course :)
Establish a preliminary vision
Once you have a venue and overall aesthetic for your wedding, start thinking of what style of gown would complement all of the elements. Sweet and elegant? Showstopping and romantic? Focus on some key words to help define your ideal look.
Accentuate the positive
Make a list of gown styles, details, and shapes that you really love. It will help give you a starting point for your search. It's best not to focus so much on what you dislike - you never know what might end up working for you.
Research, research, research
Search websites like The Knot, Martha Stewart Weddings, and Brides for an extensive collection of wedding gown photos. Make notes on the designers you are drawn to and visit their websites to find salon locations. Don't forget to consider your budget when making selections - i.e. if you're budgeting $2000, don't fall in love with Oscar.
Stay away from Saturday!
Both locations I visited told horror stories of the craziness that is Saturday at a bridal salon. Rushed appointments, less attention, and an interrupted experience were all mentioned. Reward yourself with a day or two off work and book during the week. I scheduled for Monday appointments and was the only bride in both salons! It was incredible, private, and exclusive.
Keep an open mind
Present your consultant with your list of gown styles you like, but allow some flexibility in your options. Being too stuck on a silhouette could lead to disappointment.
Go full bridal
Ask the salon to try on your ideal headpiece with each dress to get the full effect. The touch of an airy veil or vintage charm of a birdcage can solidify your decision on a gown.
Ask about price (duh!)
Before a gown enters your fitting room, make sure you know the price! Even getting a glimpse of something you covet but can't afford is the surest way to throw off your productivity.
Ask details about fit, a rough cost for alterations, how sizing is determined, what color options you have, how long the dress takes to come in, if sashes are included in the price - etc, etc. It's okay to have a grand inquisition when it comes to the most important item of clothing you'll ever wear. You want to leave the salon feeling like an expert on what you just bought.
Buy one and be done
Once you put money down, stop looking! I had 2 more appointments scheduled and I canceled them both after I got "the feeling" about a gown. I didn't want to waste the consultants' time or risk questioning my decision. Most salons won't let you cancel an order for a refund once it's been processed.
Stop and enjoy the moment
While buying a dress does involve a lot of smart consideration and decision making, the most important thing is to enjoy your time. It's a special moment in life, and one to be remembered.
I had a wonderful day with my mom, the woman who knows me better than anyone. We have always purchased my special occasion dresses together, so picking the dress for my biggest occasion was a breeze. I'm lucky enough to have a mother that understands my style and just wants me to be happy. Thanks, Mom. You're the best!
What advice do you have to share?