Buying my wedding dress was one of the best shopping experiences of my life — and this is coming from someone who typically hates shopping, unless it’s for a specific event. My experience was nothing like those stressful scenes in dreadful romantic comedies. I hope that these following tips can help future brides also find their perfect dress completely drama-free:
Know your body. This is pretty important life advice, actually. It often surprises people when they find out that I hate shopping, perhaps because I tend to look fairly put-together. Don’t be fooled. I own very few clothes (you’ve probably seen all of them), but I love the few that I do have, and I happen to look good in them — precisely because I know my body.
It always pains me when I see bride after bride in the same tired wedding dress: that poufy, strapless gown with too much tulle, like a princess costume from The Disney Store. It makes everyone — unless you are over 5’9″ and are a size 2 — look squat. As an extremely short person, I knew that I wanted my dress to lengthen me, complement my curvy hips and tiny waist, and not overpower my small frame. Figure out what you want to show off and what you want to hide.
Do your research. Most women mindlessly walk into some big-name bridal department store and go through too many racks of dresses by random designers, of varying quality. The thought of that repulsed me. I wanted something more personal. I also wanted to support a local designer — I happen to live in the fashion capital of the world, after all! So, I went online and did some research. Fortunately, New York is full of women like me, who prefer shopping at intimate boutiques instead of bland chains. I found dozens of helpful sites that showcase New York’s best bridal designers.
As I advised in my previous wedding post, be committed to your budget. Just like for the rest of my wedding, I refuse to go into debt to pay for a dress. Determine what amount of money is manageable for you and filter out the designers that are too expensive. This, of course, narrowed my options immensely, but that’s alright with me. An Elie Saab gown is only worth it if one doesn’t have to worry about how to pay for it.
Fortunately, among the few designers that were feasible for my budget, there was one that I immediately fell in love with. Saja was founded by a New Yorker named Yoo Lee, who previously worked for DKNY and BCBG Max Azria. Her 2015 collection is stunning and embodies my style impeccably. Her gowns are simple, elegant, and made of gorgeous off-white silk chiffon.
Apparently, it’s best to purchase your dress between nine and twelve months before the wedding. When I found out that one of my bridesmaids would be in town ten months before the big day, I booked an appointment with Saja.
Make the day a celebration. I crossed my fingers that this day would be a once-in-a-lifetime event and treated it as such. Two of my best friends were coming with me, so we met up an hour before and got our hair done at Drybar. What better way to start the day than drinking champagne and watching chick flicks while getting a blowout?
When our heads were full of beachy waves, we walked over to Saja, located on the fifth floor of a Tribeca loft. Yoo Lee welcomed us in and was undoubtedly the ideal person to design my wedding dress — she was straightforward, tasteful, and extremely helpful. She had us pick out all the dresses that interested us and told us which ones fit within my budget. That narrowed it down to about eight dresses in the collection. Her assistant helped me try on each dress, while my friends relaxed on waiting chairs and got to know each other. It always makes my heart so happy when friends from different spheres of my life meet!
The first dress I tried on was breathtaking. Before I even left the dressing room, I whispered to the assistant, “I’m sold.” When I stepped out, my friends gasped. Everyone agreed that this dress was perfect. It almost seemed pointless to try on others, but I continued since we had come all this way.
The second dress was also beautiful. It was similar to the first one, but simpler and had a slightly different cut. Most of the dresses I ended up trying on were gorgeous – though, three definitely looked pretty silly on me.
I was torn. The first two dresses seemed to be everyone’s favorites, so I put them on again. The second dress was $200 cheaper, but certain features made the first one more ethereal, dramatic, and romantic — precisely what you want at your wedding. However, I’d be saving $200 if I went with the second dress!
Here’s why bringing friends you trust is so important when buying your dress: In my moment of hesitation, one of my friends told me, with calm reassurance: “$200 is nothing.” It was true. The subtle differences that make one dress significantly better than another are worth way more than a couple hundred bucks. Without her advice, I probably would have gone for the cheaper one because I’ve been raised to save money whenever I can. However, my friend knew as well as I did that I would have regretted not having the very best. To this day, I am wholly grateful that I went with the first dress, and I cannot wait to wear it.
Always try on your wedding dress. Multiple times, if necessary. Before we went to Saja, I had my heart set on other dresses that I found on Saja’s website. However, when I tried them on, they ended up being my least favorite. The dress that I did choose somehow seemed to look better on me in real-life than it did online — a rare occurrence indeed!
Yoo explained that she normally recommends brides to sleep on their decision before purchasing, but for me, she could tell how certain I was with my decision. With my budget, I knew that I would never be able to find another dress so perfect for me. I made my purchase.
Yoo told me which bra and underwear I need to buy, and what color and style of shoes to get. This type of advice is priceless and is precisely why I wanted to buy a dress straight from the designer; they take such pride in their work and know exactly what looks best with their designs. She gave me advice on which hairstyles would complement my dress, which worked out since her suggestion was exactly what I had planned on doing. There’s nothing more encouraging than when you and your designer’s tastes continuously align.
After scheduling my first fitting in April, my friends and I got coffee at Everyman Espresso and sat on a bench outside, watching the world go by as we blissfully soaked in the fact that I had just made one of the most formidable purchases of my life. Not many brides can say they fell in love with the very first wedding dress they tried on! As a very lazy bride, I was eager to check this task off my list.
279 days to go…