Wedding dress shopping as a non-crying minimalist

Instagram pals know I’ve been on the wedding dress hunt this month. I have probably tried on 40 dresses. The highs were high, the lows were low, but I FINALLY FOUND A DRESS! I am so giddy. But I also feel like I learned tons–about myself, complicated relationships with bodies and clothes, and just some good old fashion tips about wedding dress shopping (including what to bring, how to pump yourself up, how having an “entourage” there will impact you, and what to hope for in a dress consultant). So, here it is. All the dresses I didn’t buy and all my thoughts on the experience!

Let’s just start with all the things that were difficult that I did not anticipate: that every dress was pretty. One consultant told me that it didn’t matter if the dress was pretty, it mattered if I felt good in it. This helped a bit. But I had a really, really hard time committing to any dresses. I felt pretty “whelmed” in all of them, you know?

At the first store, I found one that made EVERYONE react (not even gonna show it to you in case in 11 months you’re like “Rebecca why didn’t you buy that”). My mom and aunt loved it. But if I was being honest with myself, I just really liked it. It’s hard to say love about clothes for me anymore. I like a lot of clothes, but I feel that most clothes grow on me over time–the clothes that I love are trusty old standbys. Things that make me say WOW in the fitting room tend to be impulse purchases that don’t actually fit my life. So, I try not to seek out mega-emotions about clothing anymore.

Unfortunately, this approach challenged me in wedding dress shopping. EVERY consultant was like “but can you see yourself walking down the aisle in it??” and I was like “sure?” This question was not a good test for me.

What was really solid advice was that I should keep going. My friend who is about to get married told me that I would “know” when I was in the dress. I didn’t quite believe her, but thinking about the Ollivander’s scene in HP, I just decided to soldier on to a few more stores.

What I learned at store one: Just cuz everyone likes it, doesn’t mean it’s your dress.

At store two, I had a meh experience, and this is where I learned that dress shopping requires a vision that I was not totally good at. Some stores had bad lighting (looking at you store two). Some stores didn’t have veils for me to try on (I don’t think I’m a veil person but trying one on helped the dress to feel complete in most cases). Also, something no one told me: many stores will make you wiggle into an absurd sample size and then will tell you to “imagine this fits.” But being shoved into a dress that doesn’t fit can be pretty distressing especially if a consultant feels it is their right to comment on that. I mean, I don’t go to normal stores to try on things that are many sizes too small for me, and I certainly don’t do it over and over for an hour.

What I learned at store two: Get a consultant who has your back and do what you can to make the experience feel special. Being with a consultant who did not tell me I had a “large ribcage” over and over would have helped (seriously wtf).

By the third store, I had realized I was a non-crier. I decided that no dress would really elicit emotion in me, and that I should just make a reasonable decision based on what felt good and fit my budget. And, I went alone. This was my mom’s idea, and to her credit, it was a really good one. Not having anyone to look to for a reaction helped me to find my own preferences. I learned the most at this appointment about what I actually liked.

What I learned at store three: Don’t be a people pleaser.

Finally, I went to my last appointment. This appointment was different than the rest–it was a store where you don’t browse for dresses at all. Instead the consultant picks them all. This was incredibly. helpful. Dresses don’t look the same on the rack, or in pictures, as they do on you. Ask the consultant what will look good. Good ones will know what to pick!

About halfway through dress trying, I ended up in something that was totally different than what I had asked for. When I stood in it I thought it was really cool, and really different, and had a lot of wow factor. I tried walking around the room in it–I really suggest taking pictures AND videos because it is so informative to see how it moves (plus you’ll forget later–the videos were all so much more helpful than the pictures).

Not the dress. Just a dress 🙂

The more I stood there the more I thought this dress looked nothing like I thought I wanted and was somehow blowing me away. We tried on 5 more dresses and I just kept going back to it. At this point I was like “WHO AM I this is not my style at all.”

I had heard the advice to pick something that feels like you do every day. But here’s the thing–everyday me would have ended up in a simple sheath. That’s my work style. That’s my weekend style. But wedding me wanted something totally different. And I was in that, but in a cut that still felt very comfortable to me. I did not “know” that this was my dress immediately. But the more I stood in it the more I loved it.

And then I left the salon without buying it.

I made it about a whole hour before I called back to order it. I could not bear the thought of it going to someone else (this is a store where once it’s sold it’s sold). I did not think I was going to be someone with a big reaction. And it took some time, for sure, but I was so excited to find a dress I was genuinely giddy about. It was worth it to keep going! The amount of caps lock text convos on my phone about this dress are all the proof I needed! It’s worth giving yourself the time to be excited. And, this was the first dress where I sent pictures saying “hi I love this” instead of “what do you think of this?”

Here’s some small advice I have:

  • Blood sugar matters. 1.5 hours of dress trying is more exhausting than you think. Screw advice about being “bloated.” EAT!
  • If the dress looks bad it is the dress’s fault. If a dress makes you feel bad about your body TAKE IT OFF and MOVE ON. A dress should make you feel great. It shouldn’t make you think about shedding pounds or how you wish part of you was different.
  • Do your hair. It doesn’t have to be all out. But if you want it up, put it up (even in a messy bun). I know I want mine half-up (probably curled) so I put it half up so I could see the vibe. Similarly, a little mascara and highlighter went a long way. If you have earrings or a hair clip you like, that stuff can help too.
  • Pictures of the dress clarify a lot. I took pictures from many angles so I could see how it would look from a distance. Remember, most people won’t see the very small details.
  • This is cheesy, but I played music in my car that would make me think of wedding vibes. Mostly reception and dancey music. Dress shopping can elicit dread–do your best to psyche yourself up!
  • I see a lot of advice about “proper undergarments.” I was surprised by how unnecessary this was. Most dresses had cups, so I hardly ever used a strapless bra in them. But, yes, prepare to sort of bare it all in front of the consultant. This was less awkward than I thought because they were used to it. But most gave me the option to step into the dress by myself and then they could just come in to zip it.

I’m so excited to share the final product of all this dress shopping in November! I will mostly keep wedding posts to a minimum but maybe I’ll do a few updates here and there for those who love weddings like I do 🙂

6 thoughts on “Wedding dress shopping as a non-crying minimalist”

  1. The lace in the second picture (veil? Dress?) WOwZa. That is gorgeous. Would it be my style? No, but it’s definitely pretty. Here’s what I learned 20 years ago dress shopping (I brought my ex sister in law as none of my family lived in the same side of the country). Like you said, visit a store where they pull dresses. I was on an insanely small budget (under $300 since the wedding was self paid for) and I picked a dress that was too big but that I liked the look of. The ‘consultant’ didn’t help me or offer suggestions or say hey that would be better in a slimmer size etc. Let me show you something similar. So I paid more than the dress cost to have it altered to fit. I still like the dress but if I ever get married again I’m doing it different!
    Unless you feel it as in OMG it’s the dress, think about it don’t buy right away. We tend to make impulsive decisions based on in the moment emotion and after we take a bit to think on it, usually wouldn’t end up buying it.
    If you like it, buy it. It doesn’t matter what other people think. I’ll say it again, it doesn’t matter what other people think. Start telling yourself that for all your wedding plans. If you and your groom want it, then do it. To this day I still absolutely hate the cake from my wedding. It wasn’t what I wanted (I wanted white rolled fondant) but my mil had a ‘cake lady’ she wanted us to use but she didn’t know how to do fondant. So it ended up looking like an over sugared cake from a discount grocery (perhaps harsh but see? Still pfft about it all these years later.)

    People don’t always get that it’s the bride and grooms day, not theirs. Make it into what YOU want it be. And remember to breathe, it’ll all be okay!

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  2. I’ve been thinking about my own wedding a lot lately because my sister is getting married in March. The dress I went with was marked as “resort” and they only had one that was 3 sizes too big on me so it was really difficult to visualize what it would look like after tailoring. But when I look back now – after almost 10 years of marriage – I am still really happy with the dress I chose. It was “me,” and still feels classic even a decade later. Still, if I could have thrifted one, I would have!

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