12 Wedding Dress Shopping Tips I Wish I Knew Beforehand

Warning: Some discussion of body image.

It was upon getting lunch with one of my editors, when I'd asked her to print out a return label for one of the many wedding dresses I'd returned, that I thought, "Hey, maybe this whole experience wasn't quite what I'd imagined" — i.e., the Say Yes to the Dress moment where my loved ones weep over my beauty in a well-lit room.

Person in a bridal store trying on a strapless, knee-length white dress with a full skirt
Person in a bridal store trying on a strapless, knee-length white dress with a full skirt
Woman in a white strapless outfit smiling slightly, indoors
Woman in a white strapless outfit smiling slightly, indoors

Natasha Jokic

I knew I wanted two things: a short, simple courthouse dress and a more traditional, sleeved ceremony dress. I had a pretty good idea about what I wanted for the latter, given that I have pics of wedding dresses on my phone dating back over a decade.

Bride in lace gown smiling as person adjusts her veil by a mirror, surrounded by wedding dresses
Getty Images

So, here's what I learned on my quest to say yes to...two dresses:

1.Sample sizes can be a struggle.

Person in a bridal shop trying on a lace dress with off-shoulder sleeves, another person seated in background

2.Some dress styles can go out of stock very quickly.

Person in a fitting room wearing a white lace dress with sheer sleeves and black boots, standing in front of a mirror

3.You (probably) need to make an appointment.

A person tries on a pleated dress in a mirror, another person seated in background

I naively swanned into one place thinking they'd at least let me look at their collection of Little White Dresses. Nope! A woman kindly escorted me off the white carpet and told me to make an appointment for the following month.

Natasha Jokic

4.It's okay to be a lil' stressed.

Woman in white dress examines her reflection in a full-length mirror

5.It's good to try on a wide variety of dresses.

Person taking a mirror selfie, wearing a white vintage-inspired dress with ruffle details, holding a phone

6.People will probably think you look good in a lot of things.

Person in a white short dress with a ruffled hem and a sheer veil, standing indoors

7.You can wear whatever you want.

Woman in a dress with heart details taking a mirror selfie

I felt like I was in drag when the sales associate brought out a pair of kitten heels to wear with an overtly severe dress. I want to be comfy! I'm not even married to white at this point. It's your wedding; do whatever the hell makes you happy.

Natasha Jokic

8.The online wedding dress market is pretty amazing.

Person in mirror taking selfie in a white v-neck wedding dress with a high slit

9.Return policies are your friend.

Person in a white dress takes a mirror selfie, phone covering face

10.But being overwhelmed by choice is very real.

Young woman in a white strapless wedding dress, smiling slightly

11.It's worth going to a tailor to get your measurements professionally taken.

Summary of a measurements list including bust, waist, hips, bicep, sleeves, skirt length, and height for potential wedding attire sizing

12.I did have a moment where I tried on the dress that made me feel amazing — but it was in my room, shortly after an earthquake.

Bride in a strapless wedding gown with layered skirt browsing dresses in a bridal shop