I was terrified to go wedding dress shopping. Before Summer and my mom bugged me about it, I had fully accepted my fate of just ordering something cheap online and hoping for the best. But let me tell you something:
You deserve better than ordering something online and hoping for the best.
You deserve a wedding dress shopping experience with people who love you and can be honest with you and can celebrate how gorgeous you look! You deserve to put on dresses that will fit your body, be flattering, and make you feel confident. You deserve to feel like a princess. And while bridal salons might still be catching up to carrying a wide selection of plus size dresses, here are a few things I learned from wedding dress shopping that made my experience wonderful.
Do your research.
Lucky for me, I have a best friend/MOH that already had wedding boards and bridal salon research done and categorized into Pinterest boards days after I got engaged. All of her information helped me decide which salons I wanted to make appointments with. I scoured salon websites and checked out their online collections where I could. In a few instances, I called bridal salons to ask about their plus size selections. I ended up making 4 appointments for us: starting at 8:30am, 10am, 11am, and 3pm. The 3pm appointment was all the way across the metroplex, which allowed time for us to grab some lunch and get there on time.
Choose who comes with you carefully.
I didn’t want a lot of people to come dress shopping with me because I had absolutely no clue what I wanted. I wanted to lessen the number of competing opinions I might be faced with, so I only asked Summer and my mom to come with me.
My other maid of honor lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, so she obviously couldn’t join us. But at the second dress shop, while I was wearing a dress I wasn’t too fond of, I turned around to see Summer sitting next to a print out of Rebecca’s face, a photo I took the last time we got to have coffee together. It was such a sweet unexpected surprise that I teared up.
Dress clips are your friend.
I am normally a size 22, which translates into a 26-ish in “Wedding Dress Sizes”. (Wedding dress sizes run smaller, which is the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard. That’s a topic for a different day.) At my second appointment, a bride next to me was having her final fitting in a dress that was GORGEOUS. It has the sparkles, the pizazz, the fairytale feel. We asked my bridal consultant if I could try on the sample. “It’s a size 12, but we’ll make it work.” I was like “nope, I will not be busting a sample gown today, hard pass.” But she insisted. And somehow, that dress fit on my body with some witchcraft involving clips and fairy dust. It looked pretty good from the front, and made me realize I wanted more glitz and glam in my dress.
Try on styles you don’t think you’d ever go for.
I walked into my appointments thinking I wanted something with an natural waist, probably some tulle, but very, very flat. Not poofy at all. No glitz or glam. Boy, was I wrong. After trying on the glitzy size 12 at the previous appointment, I went full on “bring me all the ballgowns and sparkles you have” at my third appointment. The two dresses below I would have never seen myself in before I started dress shopping, but they both made it into my top 5.
Don’t be afraid to edit the dress.
I very much hoped to find a dress that I could have exactly as is. I didn’t want to have to do many alterations or purchase a lot of accessories. But for a couple of the dresses, adding a topper and a belt or imagining what the dress would be like without the biggest crinoline layer helped make that dress for me!
The store selection and bridal consultant helping you can make or break your experience.
The first store we went to was a complete off-the-rack store – which meant they only had 2-3 dresses available in my size. It was a bit of a buzzkill, but I wanted to cross this place off my list first because I knew their dresses would be the cheapest. Sadly, none of the dresses I’d tried on there were a good fit, so we left that store a little disappointed.
The next store operated off of a made-to-order model, so I was able to try on lots of sample sizes and knew that whatever I ordered would fit me. However, the associate who helped me try on the dresses clearly had no idea what she was doing. When I told her what I liked, she didn’t know what other dresses to suggest based on the attributes I talked about. Summer scoured their racks at least 3 times through and pulled dresses for me herself. The associate helped me get into dresses but there was a lot of fumbling and awkwardness and I was afraid the entire time that I was going to fall or bust something. (I didn’t).
This feels a bit like a Goldilocks and the Three Bridal Salons story, because the third salon we went to was perfect. It’s called Bliss Bridal Salon in Fort Worth, TX. From the moment we stepped in, my consultant Katie had it under control. She started by asking what I liked or didn’t like about the dresses from my previous shopping experiences, and disappeared and came back with 5 dresses. She could put me into a wedding dress in 60 seconds or less. After the first 5 dresses, we kept any dresses that might be in my “top 3”, and then she ran away again to emerge with 5 more dresses. We did this a couple of times until I had a “top contenders” list that we could narrow down to my top 3. With the top 3, I tried all of them on and Katie helped me accessorize them: cue the sparkly belts, tiaras, and veils. Cue the tears from my mom. I narrowed my top 3 down to one, and then it took another 30 minutes for me to decide to buy that one. Which leads me to…
You might not have the “moment”.
Shows like Say Yes To The Dress are great, but they also greatly over-exaggerate the “moment” where you find your dress and call it “The One”. It doesn’t happen for everyone, and it didn’t exactly happen for me. After I had my wedding dress on, I had to do a lot of things. Try it on with a veil. With a tiara. With a tiara and a veil. With my hair up. With my hair half up. Find a rose gold sequin bridesmaid dress and look at them next to each other. Walk around. Sit down. Dance a little bit.
My consultant could tell that I liked this dress, and that I wanted it. But I was afraid I hadn’t seen everything. She asked me what was holding me back. I told her that I still had another appointment somewhere else later that afternoon. I was afraid that I would be missing out on something I could possibly find there. Katie heard my concern, told me that they have one of the biggest selections in the DFW metroplex, and disappeared to come back with more dresses. She showed me a mermaid style, a fit and flare style, a sheath style, a much more dramatic ballgown than I had on. All while I was still wearing my dress. I didn’t like any of those enough to justify taking it off, so I told her no to all of those. And then she did my favorite thing.
I should mention that at this point, the entire store was empty of customers. The appointments at Bliss are blocked off into two-hour segments – it was 1pm, and this was the consultants’ lunch break before their next block began at 1:30. But Katie stayed with me, determined to make me feel comfortable with my choice. She asked me to walk into another fitting room, and watch myself in the mirror as I approached it. Imagine myself walking down the aisle. So I did, and it was great. It wasn’t magical like some TV shows or wedding culture might make you believe. But it was really made it feel a lot more real, and helped me imagine how I might feel on my wedding day. So I said yes to the dress.
It’s okay to not like anything on your first shopping trip.
I fully expected to need many more wedding dress shopping trips. I went into the day with three different backup plans in my head – one of those backup plans being my original “order something online and hope for the best” idea. I feel like I got so lucky in finding something that I love on the first trip. It’s 1000% okay to not like anything and have to plan another trip. You can always go to different places, take a different group of people with you, or go alone. You can order something online. It doesn’t have to be a huge ordeal. Shopping as a plus-size woman is hard enough without the weird societal pressure and expectations that come along with the wedding industry.
You deserve to feel comfortable, gorgeous, and unbelievably happy on your wedding day. I hope that you can find a wedding dress that helps accomplish those things.
Looking for more wedding planning? Check out Something Old, Something New, our blog series about wedding planning from the perspectives of a bride who’s just been through it, and a bride just starting the process!