4 Tips to Help You Find the Perfect Wedding Dress

From the Experts

Choosing the perfect wedding dress can simultaneously be the most exciting and nerve-wracking part of wedding planning. There are incredibly heavy emotions behind making the right choice (Does it make you feel amazing the minute you put it on? Will it complement and elevate the overall vibe of your wedding day? Will it wow your spouse-to-be and guests from first look to last call? Does your grandma approve?!) As a seasoned wedding photographer, I have witnessed exactly what makes a wedding dress shine both in person and on camera. So, before inviting eight of your closest gals out for a day of shopping I want to share my top four dress shopping tips.

Keep your aesthetic in mind.

Just as linens, centerpieces and favors are carefully selected to enhance your vision for the big day, so should your outfits. With so many wedding gown styles out there (ball gown, a-line, mermaid, short), where do you even start? Your overall aesthetic is the perfect place to gather inspiration. Known wedding day elements like your venue or the time of year should inform your decision on the perfect gown.

Let’s think about your big day for a second: Is it an intimate at-home affair or a grand celebration in an ornate ballroom? While the latter calls for a statement-making, full-skirted ball gown, the former benefits from a more subdued, figure-hugging piece. But if you, like me, live in dichotomies consider how two different styles can play off each other. If your venue features classic architecture and elaborate details (I’m thinking the intricate Tiffany’s stained glass of the Chicago Cultural Center here, as seen below from Christine & Hal’s wedding day) then imagine yourself in a sleek number to complement, not compete with, your surroundings. More often than not, I recommend styles that are cohesive with the locations, but if there is an element of your venue you simply cannot compete with, then consider setting yourself apart by picking something opposite, yet complementary.

Choose your fabric wisely.

Your wedding location and weather forecast take the lead here. Forgetting to factor in the time of year when choosing a gown is one of the most common mistakes I see. March wedding in the midwest?? Prepare for unpredictable (and probably pretty cold!) weather. Full sleeves are a stunning (and practical) addition to keep you warm even for those iconic Chicago skyline shots. Outdoor wedding in the dead of summer?? Might I suggest avoiding tulle. The traditional fabric used to create the ball gown of your dreams also happens to be a bug magnet (I mean, if it doubles as mosquito netting in tropical climates it’s best left indoors). There are gorgeous alternatives that achieve a similar look without the bugs (and the bulk). Picture an elegant, full-skirted Hayley Paige dress for a moment. Horse hair gives these to-die-for wedding gowns incredible structure and volume without the 100s of layers and extra pounds of a full tulle skirt. 

Consider movement.

You will thank me later when you can both dance effortlessly throughout the night and go to the bathroom without assistance. Go ahead, take laps around the bridal salon, sit and spin in every dress before making your final decision. A wedding dress you can really move in is one you will adore all night long (not just for the first hour of photos). If you’re crazy for that big ball gown though, don’t despair! This is exactly why many brides hire a wedding dresser. These skilled, fashion-knowledgeable pros keep you looking stunning all day, even if that perfect gown takes a bit more effort. Shoot me a message for more info and my favorite dressers to work with! 

Keep an open mind.

Look girl, we alllll have insecurities. It’s the unfortunate reality of being female in today’s celebrity-driven, Photoshopped world. But I don’t want insecurities or that flawless, oh-so-trendy wedding dress making the rounds on Instagram to influence your experience. There are so many unique dresses available these days, don’t feel like you need to find a way to make that trending gown work. More often than not, that picture-perfect gown hits you in all the wrong places (trust me, being 5’ 3.75”, there are many a dress that probably look great on someone at least 5’6” that I will never pull off). Give different silhouettes and styles a fair shot because  sometimes it’s these dresses that delight you the most. Here’s the deal: if you take one look and hate it, don’t even step foot out of that dressing room. If you are bringing parents or friends with on your dress shopping experience, only show them dresses that you already think might be an option. But, bottom line is, with an open-minded approach—try on something the salon dresser suggests even if it surprises you!you are bound to find the perfect dress. Finally, trusting a reputable tailor ensures your gown fits perfect to your unique body type. It may sound weird but splurge on a really amazing tailor. It can make or break the entire look.

While there are many more considerations that go into picking the perfect wedding gown, ultimately, the dress you feel most confident and comfortable in is the perfect wedding dress. When your dress checks these boxes and gives you butterflies I guarantee you will feel like a million bucks from start to finish.

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