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Wedding gown shopping isn’t always fun for the bride, although it should be.

If you don’t enjoy clothing shopping as a general rule, you probably aren’t looking forward to wedding gown shopping either.

Some people dread planning their vows, others can’t commit to a music playlist for the wedding reception. The one thing that a bride can’t put off shopping ahead for is the wedding gown, because most of them have to be ordered well in advance.

Wedding gown shopping isn’t always fun for the bride, although it should be. If you don’t enjoy clothing shopping as a general rule, you probably aren’t looking forward to wedding gown shopping either. Even girls with perfect figures who are excited about visiting the bridal shop worry about how they will look in the mirror, draped in white satin. It’s fairly safe to say that every bride is anxious when she first sets foot in the bridal salon, albeit for a variety of different reasons.

Face it, few women are confident about their physical stature, whether we dislike our weight, our height, our skin, or our coloring. Most of us can find numerous flaws that nobody else can see when we look into the mirror. So how can you make wedding gown shopping as painless as possible? Start by leaving the camera crew, the cheering section and the peanut gallery behind at home.

Since wedding gown shopping is an unavoidable part of the wedding planning process for every bride, I have 10 ten tips to help:

1) Don’t bring anybody who is a Debbie Downer with you to the dress shop. Don’t bring anybody who is competitive (excellent time for your unwed older sister to stay home).

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2) Go buy proper undergarments before you start your shopping. There’s a store called Sylene’s in Chevy Chase, Maryland that has every foundation garment you could ever think of (my mother dragged me there before my first formal high school dance to purchase what would be the first of many iron maiden-like devices to give me shape during my lifetime). I’m sure there’s a similar shop in your area too. The salesclerks are usually 80 years old and can tell you in one glance if you’re wearing the correct cup size.

3) Bring shoes with you that are the approximate height you’d want to wear. It gives you a longer line and is more realistic.

4) Before you go shopping, do your hair nicely and put on some makeup. Not enough that you have to worry about pulling a dress over your head, but enough so that when you look in the mirror at your face above a mile-long expanse of white satin, you don’t look dead. Nobody looks good in that much white under fluorescent lighting without makeup.

5) Be open-minded about the style of gowns you agree to try on. Just because you always wanted a lace-up bustier style doesn’t mean that it’s going to look good on you. Maybe the column dress you think you’re too fat for is really the most fantastic look for you. How will you ever know if you don’t put it on? You don’t have to try on two mermaid gowns if the first one adds junk to your trunk.

6) Limit how many friends and family visit the dress shop with you. Have you seen the episodes of “Say Yes” when there are 15 people there and they each have an opinion? Basically the bride called everybody she’s ever met and said, “Hey, they’re going to film me,” and everybody she’s ever been friends with came with her. You really need only one or two people to help you make your selection.

7) If you have a tight budget, start shopping at David’s Bridal and other budget-conscious outlets before you start going to boutiques. Once you try on the silk satin gown, there’s no going back to polyester. Sorry.

8) Trying on a headpiece, veil, tiara or whatever can be just what you need to unleash your inner bride. Let them fancy you up when you’re trying things on. Sure, they want to sell you a $1,000 veil you have no intention of wearing. But you’re not married yet so there’s no harm in looking. And you don’t have to buy it.

9) Choose your gown before you even discuss bridesmaids’ attire. Your gown will dictate what the rest of the girls wear, and you’re the most important person on your wedding day. Don’t let anybody push you into committing to something before you have time to think about what you want to do for yourself first.

10) Keep the gown a secret from your groom. Some time-honored traditions have merit, and I strongly believe in this one. Except in rare circumstances, I advocate keeping the fiancé totally out of the dress selection, transport and preparation process. It will be well worth the look on his face when he sees you making your way down the aisle.

How will you know when you have found just the right dress? For me, it was the one that came back into my head over and over again, no matter how many others I looked at. My girlfriend Laura always says you’ve found the right wedding gown when the sight of you makes a total stranger cry — and that did happen to her in a bridal shop, although I’m not sure that all of us could evoke tears that easily. Only you will know the exact “aha!” moment when you realize that you are looking at yourself in your wedding gown. For me, it didn’t happen until the day I got married, but I still love that dress more than anything. I fully intend to wear it again on my 10th wedding anniversary.

One last important tip for destination wedding brides: Lie to the dress shop about your wedding date. In busy wedding season, shops can get behind on alterations and with a destination wedding, you can’t afford a delay. Lie to the bridal salon by at least a month about your wedding date to be sure that you have that dress finished, fitted and packed to travel in time to depart for your wedding weekend. 

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!

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