5 Tips for Wedding Dress Shopping

5 Tips for Wedding Dress Shopping | Haili Jean Photography

Wedding season is coming to an end and it’s time to start planning for the next one. If you’re a bride getting married next year, then you need to find yourself a dress!

I had no idea how complicated dress shopping would be. It’s not the same as simply shopping for a nice dress at JCPenney’s (yes, that shows how middle class, mid-west I am). Not only is this the dress that you’ll wear on your wedding day (!!!), it’s also most likely the most expensive dress you’ll ever purchase. Therefore, a lot of time and thought will go into this decision.

But don’t worry! I have a few tips for you as you plan this huge shopping trip. Follow my advice and this shopping trip will be a lot more fun and a lot less stressful.

ONE // Make an appointment.

Photo from my own wedding dress shopping trip! My dress is in there somewhere!

Photo from my own wedding dress shopping trip! My dress is in there somewhere!


If you just show up to the dress store, they might not have anyone available to help you. When I was shopping for my own wedding dress, I didn’t think that was a big deal. We didn’t make an appointment, but I was fortunate, because they did have availability.

Wedding dress shops have walls filled with dresses. It can be really overwhelming. That’s why it’s so great to have a worker helping you. They can go into the sea of dresses with your budget and style in mind, fish out some contenders, and bring it right to you. Therefore, I highly recommend making an appointment. Your experience will be much less overwhelming and much more successful.


TWO // Bring people who know you.

5 Tips for Wedding Dress Shopping | Haili Jean Photography

Obviously you’re not going to bring a stranger with you to find your wedding dress. That’s not what I meant. I’m saying that you should bring the people you are close with; the people who really know who you are and what you love. Those are the people who will be able to help you find the dress of your dreams.

That’s why so many brides bring her mom or her sister or her best friend. Those girls know you and they will know when you’ve walked out of the dressing room in your dream dress. They will also be the ones who can tell you that this is not your dress (you may like the sequins right now, but your girls will know that you won’t like them later).


THREE // Bring people you can trust.

5 Tips for Wedding Dress Shopping | Haili Jean Photography

You don’t just need people who know you really well; you also need people who will be completely honest with you. I’m sure you’re beautiful, but nobody looks wonderful in every dress. Everybody has a different body type, skin tone, and personality, and you need someone who will honestly tell you that dress is not the dress for you (remember the sequins I mentioned above?).

Sometimes you feel pressured by a budget or maybe by your conservative family member who tagged along, so it’s really important that you have someone who will tell you that even though that dress is in your budget, it isn’t the dress you should choose.


FOUR // Have your budget ready.

5 Tips for Wedding Dress Shopping | Haili Jean Photography

When you enter the shop, one of the first things they’ll ask for is your budget. It’s really important that you have this number ready, because otherwise the walls filled with white dresses will overwhelm you and you may end up spending more than you should have. Even if it’s just a range, that’s better than going in without a budget at all. I literally said “I’m hoping to stay under $1000” and the lady brought out dresses of all prices.

She even brought out dresses that were far over my budget. Which brings me to my sub-tip for this one: be firm. If they bring a dress out that is over your budget, don’t even put it on. I always checked the price before I even thought about trying on a dress. The employee is just that: an employee. She acts like she’s your friend, but she’s still trying to make commission here. If you want to stay in your budget, pay attention to those price tags and don’t even let yourself dream about a dress that’s over your budget. You can thank me later.


FIVE // Have a style in mind, but have an open mind.

5 Tips for Wedding Dress Shopping | Haili Jean Photography

I knew the style of dress I wanted even before I got engaged (I’m a planner, OK?). My Pinterest board was full of long, lace-sleeved dresses with simple skirts. So when I got there, I told the lady that’s what I wanted. And I’m really glad that I had that style in mind going in, because it made it easy to skip over all the short-sleeved dresses I knew I wouldn’t want. I even fell in love with the first one I pulled off the shelf, but not everyone’s experience is the same as mine.

It’s okay to have that style in mind. I even recommend it. However, it’s also super important to have an open mind. I actually didn’t pick one with a straight, simple skirt like I thought I would. My skirt was much poofier than I thought I would want (apparently I wanted to feel like a princess) and that’s because I didn’t close my mind off completely to other things. As I tried dresses on, I learned even more the styles that I preferred (or didn’t prefer: beads—too scratchy!) and the styles that looked the best on me. I think you should have a general idea of the style you like, but be open to trying new things. You might surprise yourself!


I hope these tips help you to have a fun trip with the people you love to find your dream dress. If you’re one of my brides or my friends, I can’t wait to see you wear it on your wedding day! Happy wedding planning, friend!


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5 Tips for Wedding Dress Shopping | Haili Jean Photography
5 Tips for Wedding Dress Shopping | Haili Jean Photography