Wedding Dress Shopping Advice From Bridal Stylists
Bridal stylists —AKA the dress experts—share their advice and tips for selecting the dress of your dreams (with no regrets)!
The wedding dress search should be the most fun part of wedding planning, but it can at times be an overwhelming process! Bridal stylists strive to make it a fun and painless experience focused on helping the bride find a dress she feels the most beautiful and completely herself in!

I've rounded up a few bridal stylists to share what to expect and tips to find the perfect gown!
Mariel Hannah

Start the process early
Allison Koehler from AOK Style & Planning explains, "Gown shopping should be one of the first things you do for your big day, not only because of the time it takes to make, but because it helps set the tone for your big day. Do your research, and don't try and find the "perfect" dress. Try and find the "perfect for you" dress," she says.

Start shopping for your wedding dress as soon as you have a venue locked in, as it will set the overall tone of your wedding. Starting to look a year in advance is ideal, as the lead-time for gowns is around 6-8 months. Allow a few months to shop around before you decide.

According to Kelly Leggett of the Little White Dress Bridal Shop, "We've helped brides find their dress and complete alterations with less than a month to go before the wedding (though we definitely wouldn't wait that long, for the sake of the bride's stress levels!)."
Love & Light Photographs

Deciding on a budget
"Traditional wedding guidelines say that your dress should be 10% of your overall wedding budget, but if your dress is a priority for you, then it's absolutely ok for it to be more than 10% of your budget, and vice versa. Just remember that with any wedding category, you get what you pay for!" explains Leggett.

If your budget is flexible, set a "scary number"- this is the cost you absolutely cannot go over. "Don't be shy about your budget, there's no right or wrong number," says Lauren Hartman of Trousseau Style. "Make sure you factor in alterations and the rest of your fashion elements into your budget - your veil, shoes, jewelry and clutch will add up fast."

The bridal appointment
For your first appointment, go somewhere with a variety of styles for you to try. The first time shopping is about honing in what you like, and potentially finding some favorites. Visit around 3-4 shops, this way you know you've seen a good variety and won't get overwhelmed.

Some salons will limit the number of guests you are allowed to bring and this is for your own benefit! Too many guests tend to take the focus off the bride and too many opinions do not help in making a painless decision.

"Choose a dress you feel confident, comfortable and beautiful in. Opinions are great, but remember this is your day and you get the final say," says Hartman.

"I normally would try to tell my brides sleeping on it is a good idea, so they don't get buyers remorse," advises Melissa Laws of BHLDN Chicago." I think they should feel sure about themselves when they're saying yes to the dress."
O'Malley Photographers

Sizing
Leggett describes sizing as "very different than what women are used to for their everyday clothes. Each designer has different sizing, so once the bride selects her gown, we measure her and size her according to that designer's size chart. The gown is ordered in a size that is closest to the bride's measurements, and then we fine-tune the fit in alterations, since most bodies don't fall perfectly into each designer's sizing."

Alterations
Alterations can be intimidating, but when else do you get to have a garment completely tailored to your body?  Hartman offers some great advice. "Alterations can make or break a garment, so it's important to spend the time and money on this crucial step. The seamstress will pin your dress to give you an idea of how it will look when the alterations are complete. Usually, they'll take it in or let it out, add cups, fix the hem and add a bustle. ALWAYS try on your dress after the last fitting before your big day!"
Koman Photography

Keep in mind is that your gown is not made of magic. It will bend and crease when you move your body, just as all garments do. Communicate well with your seamstress and remain realistic in your expectations. Their goal is to make sure you love your gown!

Style Me Pretty Contributor - Goli Parvinian is a bridal enthusiast and masters student living in Melbourne, Australia. Over the past few years, she has worked for bridal brands in her hometown of Chicago, New Zealand and New York City. You can typically find her in a cafe, face-timing her nieces or out on a long run.