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Wedding Dress Shopping Guide

Fab's Guide to Finding the Perfect Dress to Say "I Do" In

Hello, bride-to-be. I'm Fab, your personal wedding dress shopper! Whether you have three months or twelve to shop for your dream dress, here is a guide to help you look your most beautiful, and keep your sanity. You be the bride and I'll be your guide . . .

First things first: determine your wedding style and budget. Close your eyes and try to picture your big day. Is the ceremony ethereal outside on a beach? Or more formal inside a formal church? Or is it something in between? You'll want a wedding gown that fits your picture. Choose something light and airy if you'll be beachside and something more lavish if you'll be in a church. If you're going the church route, remember to cover up with a shawl or bolero as you want to respect the dress code of the establishment. The most important thing is to set a budget so you don't go ga ga over a dress that's out of your price range!

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  • Remember that the season could determine the style of your dress, but it doesn't have to. It's your wedding, so you make the rules. If you're in love with an open-back dress for your Winter wedding, you can always pair it with a shawl for warmth. If your wedding is in the Summer but you love a long-sleeve lace gown, go for it (just wear lots of deodorant!)
  • Once you've decided on your ceremony style and budget, you'll need inspiration. Go out and buy all of the weddings magazines on the stand and start ripping away. Create a wedding dress file — I suggest something special like this Peppercot Accordion File Tote ($24). This file will also come in handy later in life, I promise.
  • There is an insane amount of dress styles to choose from (classic, retro, modern, color, etc) but my favorite trends now are bows, embellishments, and short lengths. I will show you more of these dress styles in depth later, but for starters here are the the options I'd explore were it my wedding.

    (L-R: Bows (Melissa Sweet), Short (Vera Wang Bridal), Embellished (Kenneth Pool)

  • While you are gathering your gown file, ask your wedding planner or married friends for suggestions of dress salons near you. Also peruse online wedding sites like Wedding Channel and Brides. Brides has a handy dandy glossary you'll appreciate. The most important thing to remember is timing. Special-order gowns can take three to six months to create, and alterations can take weeks, so plan accordingly.
  • Now that it's time to go gown shopping, it's important to dress appropriately. You want to wear loose fitting clothes that are easy to get in and out of — but don't dress like a slob. It's also good to have your hair either pulled back or down, depending on how you'll have it on the actual day. Bring comfortable shoes with the heel height you plan to wearing. Throw a strapless bra into your purse and try to wear pretty underthings — you will be standing around in them in front of your shopping buddies and salesperson.
  • Once you are assigned a salesperson, go through your tear sheets with them and point out what you like about dresses and special details you love. When you try on dresses, continue to point out your likes and dislikes.
  • Keep an eye out for quality. In a high-quality gown every detail should have a perfect finish — no bead or string should be unraveled. Natural fabrics like silk are pricier than synthetics, but the benefits are they let your skin breathe and don't trap sweat. A-line gowns fall smoothly and prevent panty lines; this is also the best shape for fuller figures. If you do have budget constraints, skip beading and fancy details and focus on a fine fabric and a good fit — you can always dress yourself up with jewelry and beauty!
  • The finishing touches. Take into account the following elements surrounding your look: alterations, headpiece/veil, lingerie, jewelry, shoes, bag, a cover up, and the groom's ensemble. Oh, and the bridesmaids. Lastly, two weeks before your wedding, have a final dress fitting with your accessories and lingerie, and break in your shoes by wearing them at home. There will be more on this in months to come so stay tuned!

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