What Will You Wear?
Don't start your search with the price tag. It's a much better idea to start looking for what will be appropriate for the location you've chosen for your ceremony.
Making a Budget for Your Dress
What budget have you set for your dress? Remember that you do not have to be bound by a smaller budget for your dress if it is one of your “priority” items for the wedding.
Perhaps you want to spend more to get what you want and cut down on expenses elsewhere. This is perfectly understandable. It's an important day for you and you want to look gorgeous. After all, you'll be looking at those wedding pictures for a long, long time.
Remember to leave money in your budget for alterations. Chances are, your dress will not fit you perfectly in some way and you'll have to have it nipped and tucked. If you have a train, you may also want to have the option to bustle it after the ceremony.
Picture Your Dress
Keep your ceremony and reception locations in mind. A big, formal dress with a sweeping train won't work if you have to walk down a grassy path outdoors for your ceremony — well, not unless you don't mind grass stains or are willing to spend the dollars to rent a runner!
A dress with long sleeves for a summertime outdoor wedding won't work either. Grooms are nervous enough. They don't need to see you fainting right in front of them!
Do you want a long gown or a short one? Simple or elaborate? You can find a gown for any kind of budget, depending on your willingness to compromise. Want an elaborate gown for a little money? Consider buying a previously worn gown or a designer sample. Do you favor a simple design yet love the beadwork on a more expensive gown? Consider buying the beads from a fabric store and sewing them on yourself to save money.
Start your gown search by looking through bridal magazines and Web sites. Clip pictures of the dresses and styles you like. Also, look through any photos you can find of weddings that have taken place in the location you've chosen.
Countless bridal Web sites will help you decide on the dress style you prefer, so you'll know what you want when you're ready to go shopping. Doing your homework first is useful if you aren't well-versed in bridal-couture jargon.
Knowing the types of necklines and other features and whether they look good on you will also save you time and money in the bridal stores. When you speak the same language, you and the bridal consultant can work together to find what you want. You also won't be as likely to let yourself get talked into something that isn't you or that's out of your price range.
Know your silhouettes before you shop:
A-line gowns are shaped like the letter A, with fitted bodices and flared skirts.
Ballroom gowns are characteristic wedding gowns, with full, billowy skirts.
Empire-waist gowns have a waist that starts under the bust and a slim skirt.
Mermaid gowns are fitted dresses with a flare on the bottom of the skirt.
Sheath gowns are formfitting dresses.