1. Start Early 

You’ll need at least 6 to 8 months to get your gown—and that's if you're really decisive. If you're a picky shopper or don't really know what you want, start looking 8 to 10 months before your wedding. Gowns that are customized can take 6 to 8 months to create on average, and heavily embellished ones can take up to a year. Why so much time? 

2. Don’t Shop Before You've Set the Date

Whenever a bride comes in and she doesn't have the date and the venue, we really don't know where to begin because we don't know what the time frame is, and it really is all about the time frame. Many designers take four to even eight months to make a gown, so if you're not sure what timeline you're working with, our consultants won't know what dresses to show you. Will you have an outdoor wedding in the summer or an indoor winter? These are very big factors when it comes to selecting your gown.

3. Have a Price in Mind 

Don't waste time trying on a bunch of gowns out of your price range. You're better off zeroing in on your price point so you can spend more time editing down the amazing options you can actually afford. Remember, your dress budget doesn’t just include the gown but also the cost of alterations, taxes and shipping fees—plus your veil, shoes, lingerie and jewelry, which can add up quickly. 

4. Determine the Dress Code 

You may need to consider religious restrictions when shopping for your gown. If your ceremony is in a house of worship, find out whether there are any attire guidelines you're required to follow, such as covering your shoulders or arms.

5. Shop at the Right Time 

Saturday afternoons are the most popular times to shop for a wedding dress, which actually makes them the worst. Instead, consider taking off a half day from work to shop on a random Tuesday or Wednesday morning when it’s likely to be less crowded. Not only does a calm store mean a more personalized shopping experience, consultants will also most likely be fresher earlier in the day and able to offer you more of their attention. If you're shopping a sample sale, do yourself a favor and skip the first day. Call ahead to ask how many days the sale will run, then go a little later in the week—don’t worry, there will still be plenty of inventory. Another shopping trick: Skip the entourage. It may be tempting to include all your friends in this experience, but too many people adds up to too many clashing opinions.

6. Choose your companions wisely

We welcome you and a few guests (not your entire entourage). This is actually a good thing! There’s only room for a couple extra bodies and all that tulle anyway, and you’ll have fewer people weighing in on your decision. Its great to have trusted opinions, but too many and you’ll be paralyzed with fear of making the wrong choice. Torn because you want your entourage there? Consider scheduling an appointment after you’ve found your gown to do the big reveal with your bride tribe. Less stress and you get to put your gown on again!

7. Don’t bring in food or drinks that could damage the gowns or the salon's furniture

We definitely recommend making a fun day out of dress shopping with your friends or family members, like having lunch together after dress shopping. Just don't try to combine the two activities and bring any food or beverages into the shop. Even if you think a small bag of chips is innocuous enough, we are concerned about greasy fingers touching and potentially damaging fabric. Iced or hot beverages in to-go cups could spill or leave rings on furniture in the salon. Bottled water is usually fine, but leave anything else to be eaten after shopping or outside. 

8. Trust your stylist

She may be older than your Mom or still single, but she wouldn’t be doing this if she wasn’t totally qualified. Your stylist knows the dresses and sees hundreds of brides with varying body shapes try them on every day. Make sure you share your wants (lace, a-line, sleeves) but be open to her suggestions—you may end up with one of her picks when its all said and done.

9. A bridal 8 is not a J.Crew 8

Don’t panic. You do not need to enroll in Bridal Boot Camp—wedding gown sizes are not the same as “street” clothes. If you wear an 8 in your favorite summer dress, there’s a good chance you’ll be wearing a 12 or 14 down the aisle. Focus on how great you feel in the dress, not the number on the tag. We order sizes 0-32 and our store inventory averages sizes 6-24. 

10. Don't Get Camera Happy 

We understand brides want to take pictures of their dress, and a lot of times family members or friends can't make it to the appointment. But we always discourage them from taking photos, mainly because most of the photos today are taken with a cell phone and oftentimes the way the dress photographs, isn't the way it really looks in person. So the person that's receiving the photo on the other end is seeing something different than what the bride is seeing, and she may not get the answer that she wants. Also, we've seen emailed pictures of the dress accidentally be posted, or shared with people that weren't supposed to see it. When it's absolutely necessary, we encourage brides to either Facetime or Skype in real time, because you can actually speak to any of the differences, and those images aren't going to be saved.