Mistakes Brides Make When Shopping For Their Wedding Dress

Shopping for a wedding dress can be an overwhelming experience.
Shopping for a wedding dress can be an overwhelming experience. Group4 Studio via Getty Images

Shopping for that special dress is one of the most memorable experiences in the wedding planning process. It can also be incredibly overwhelming as you wade through endless styles, fabrics and opinions.

“Wedding dress shopping entails a deeply emotional journey, especially for those experiencing it for the first time,” Anna Ramirez, head of design at Pronovias, told HuffPost. “The process serves as a learning curve for many brides, as initial perceptions of gown styles often evolve during fittings, revealing what truly complements their body and boosts their confidence. It is common for brides to discover a style they hadn’t anticipated as their own.”

As the popularity of shows like “Say Yes to the Dress” have shown, there’s no shortage of opportunities for fun and drama in the world of bridal gowns.

To help keep any stress at bay, we asked wedding dress experts to share some common mistakes they see people making as they shop for their special day. Read on for the biggest missteps to avoid and some advice for making the wedding dress shopping process as enjoyable as possible:

Bringing Too Many People

“When you bring all of your friends and family to your appointment, you run the risk of being overwhelmed by too many opinions — even the well-intentioned ones,” said Nikki Deeds, global brand director at Allure Bridals. “Your mother-in-law may only like ballgowns, while your sister loves a vintage silhouette, and your mom insists on a traditional long sleeved lace gown like the one she wore in 1985. It’s hard enough to find the perfect dress, so why overcomplicate things with too many voices?”

She recommended bringing only a couple of people who make you feel your most relaxed and beautiful on the main shopping journey and then inviting the larger group to a final fitting or other appointment after you’ve said “yes” to your dream dress.

“Filter down your guest count to two people who are very close to you, that you have a very comfortable, loving relationship with,” echoed bridal designer Katherine Tash. “You need people cheering you on and wanting what’s best for you, not criticizing or bringing down the energy.”

Wearing The Wrong Undergarments

“Don’t wear bright colored underwear,” Tash advised. “It seems like it would be common sense to wear skin tone, but I consistently see brides forget and then become distracted by the color showing through and asking if the gown is see-through.”

Wear a thong or seamless panty that blends in with your skin tone. Many brides opt for a well-fitting nude strapless bra or pasties, and some shop in shapewear as well.

“The right undergarments can significantly impact how a dress looks and feels,” said designer and Studio Levana founder Evgenia Shimanov. “Consider these elements when trying on dresses to get a complete picture. Nowadays, there are plenty of options for bras, spanks and other supportive undergarments.”

Shopping Without An Open Mind

“You may think you know exactly what you want in a wedding look, but I can’t tell you how many people change their mind after they try on ‘the one,’” Deeds said. “I’ve seen many a chic minimalist melt at the sight of themselves in a lacy ballgown, so never say never! Try on a bit of everything and see how you feel before narrowing your search on to one particular aesthetic.”

Look at your first appointment as an opportunity to experiment with different silhouettes, necklines, fabrics, embellishments, etc. Remember that clothes look very different on a hanger or even a mannequin than they do on your body.

“Keep an open mind to unexpected choices that may surprise you,” Shimanov said. “Try on a variety of styles, including those you may not have initially considered.”

Trying On Dresses Outside Your Budget

“My number one tip is simple: Start with the budget,” Deeds said. “Don’t fall prey to trying on the gorgeous but expensive gown featured in the shop window. There is absolutely always going to be something you’ll love in your price range, but if you fall head over heels for an out of budget gown from the start, it’s really hard to come back from that.”

Before you start putting on dresses, get real about your budget, taking into account the cost of accessories like the veil as well.

“I know learning something is out of budget can be annoying and sometimes triggering, but it’s best to do some research and learn what designers or bridal salons are in budget and which ones aren’t before your appointment,” said Leah Langley-McClean, founder and CEO of elleNelle Bridal. “This can help save time for all parties involved and eliminate some disappointment. Most stores and designers will publish a price range of their dresses or the typical spend of their clients, and a safe strategy is to shop where you fall in the middle of that range.”

It's important to establish a budget before trying on dresses.
It's important to establish a budget before trying on dresses. Anchiy via Getty Images

Waiting Too Long To Start

“With the popularity of fast fashion, some brides make the mistake of shopping too close to their wedding date which limits the selection of designer dresses they can purchase and have altered before the wedding,” said Marissa Rubinetti, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Kleinfeld Bridal. “Brides should shop for their wedding dress nine to 12 months prior.”

Shopping for a wedding dress too late in the process means limiting your options and also potentially having to pay big rush fees.

“Keep in mind that veils and accessories also require time, especially if you’re considering customization options,” Shimanov said.

Forgetting About Alterations

Another reason it’s important to get an early start is to give yourself enough time for alterations. It usually takes a few fittings to ensure the dress fits perfectly to your body, and looks and feels the way you want.

“Allow eight to 10 weeks before the wedding for the first alteration appointment,” Rubinetti said.

Don’t forget about those all-important alterations as you calculate the timing and costs involved in your wedding dress shopping.

“Always account for the cost of alterations when determining your wedding dress budget,” Langley-McClean said. “It’s rare that your dress will fit perfectly, even with a made-to-measure dress. Our bodies are all different and alterations allow you to perfectly contour the dress to the unique shape of your body,” pointing out that alterations can add $300 to $1,000 to the cost of the dress.

She also advised getting in touch with an alterations specialist before shopping if you’re on a tight deadline and buying off the rack.

“They may even be able to jump on the phone with you during your appointment,” Langley-McClean added. “You want something that can be easily altered. The last thing you want to do is find yourself buying a dress 10 sizes too big and thinking the alterations process will be simple. I’m here to tell you, it won’t be.”

Not Doing Your Research

“I always think it helps to be prepared for any situation you’re entering into that can feel high pressure,” Tash said. “So do a little research on what your true style is, and research a store’s stock beforehand to understand which pieces from a designer the store carries.”

Before going to shops, you can gather style inspiration and get a preliminary sense of your vision from Pinterest, bridal blogs, influencers and more.

“Explore local flagship stores of preferred brands or nearby retailers listed on the brand’s website to try on specific gowns of interest,” Ramirez said. “Compile a list of preferred styles and brand names before your appointment. Sharing this information with the store in advance can help them better understand your preferences.”


“Do not overshop!” Rubinetti said. “Trying on wedding dresses can be exhausting. You should not plan more than two appointments in one day.”

She recommended shopping at a bridal salon with a range of styles you love to allow for some variety, at least at the beginning. Going from store to store and trying on gown after gown can get overwhelming and turn what should be a fun experience into a chore.

“Furthermore, it’s advisable to refrain from exploring other gown options after making a purchase,” Ramirez said. “Continuously browsing can sow doubt and undermine the confidence in your chosen gown. Once you have found the dress that resonates with you, trust that decision and avoid second-guessing. Fashion trends may evolve, but the key is to remember the joy and certainty you felt when you said ‘yes’ to your dress.”

Ultimately, you want to strike a balance and follow the process that feels right for you.

Julie Sabatino, a wedding stylist and author of “Dressed, Styled, and Down the Aisle: Becoming a Stylish Bride,” recommended figuring out what type of decision-maker you are. Do you need to feel as though you’ve explored every option before deciding, or do you only need to see a sample to make a decision and feel good about it?

“I’ve spoken with SO many brides that tell me they were pressured into purchasing a dress that they weren’t sure about and didn’t feel comfortable in on their wedding day, or worse, they bought another one right before the wedding,” Sabatino said. 

Deferring Too Much To Others

“Prioritize your opinion when making decisions about your gown,” Ramirez said. “While input from your entourage can be valuable, remember that this day is about your preferences and feeling your best in your chosen dress.”

Listen to your gut when assessing whether or not you like a particular gown, not what other people say or what’s trendy at the moment.

“I always tell my brides to follow their instincts and follow their own vision and not someone else’s,” said fashion designer and creative director Monique Lhuillier. “A bride that stays true to her personal style and feels happy and confident on her special day will glow from within!”

Engaging In Negative Self-Talk

“Brides come to appointments and sometimes they are their own worst critic ― focusing on all their flaws and being hyper-critical of their body,” Langley-McClean said. “When those not-so-nice intrusive thoughts creep in and you’re about to go on a self-deprecating bender, I want to encourage brides to immediately stop and think about what it is that you do like about yourself, and say that instead. Yes, we all have our insecurities, but we don’t need to be mean to ourselves about it.”

The wedding dress experience understandably brings a lot of things people are self-conscious about to light, especially when it comes to the shape and size of their bodies. Ramirez emphasized keeping sizes and other numbers out of your mind as the consultant takes your measurements and places your order, especially because these gowns tend to run smaller than standard street size clothing.

“Size is merely a number, and the aim is to procure a gown that fits the bride at her largest measurement, with subsequent alterations tailoring the gown to her specific body shape,” she explained.

And don’t hesitate to talk to the consultant about any areas of sensitivity, whether it’s about physical insecurities or another issue that will affect the shopping experience.

“Be honest with your sales associate and let them know if you have any concerns that they should know about,” advised bridal stylist Jackie Avrumson.

Having Unrealistic Or Unclear Expectations

“While this is your time to live out your bridal fantasy, some real world considerations will help you pick the best dress for your wedding,” said Daniel Sanchez, creative director at Azazie.

He emphasized the importance of considering budget and season. These elements will also help you develop a clear wedding day vision.

“A lot of details will impact your wedding dress decision ― location, venue terrain, time of day and overall theme,” Sanchez explained. “Shop once you have selected your venue and theme. While shopping on the fly seems fun, many brides later find themselves last minute shopping for another option more in line with their wedding planning.”

The weather is particularly crucial, as choosing a dress without taking that into consideration can lead to physical discomfort.

“A heavy, ornate gown might not suit a beach wedding, and a lightweight dress might be inappropriate for a winter ceremony,” Shimanov said. “Select a dress that not only looks stunning but also feels comfortable to wear throughout your wedding day. Comfort is essential for enjoying every moment without distraction. Ensure the dress allows you to move freely and makes you feel completely at ease.”

Forgetting To Enjoy It

“So many brides feel disappointed if they don’t find THE dress at the first visit,” Deeds said. “Try to prioritize the journey, not the destination — enjoy the champagne, and time with family and friends, even if it takes two or three trips to your local bridal shops.”

Try to cherish the exciting moments throughout your wedding planning process. It’s meant to be happy, not stressful, so maintain some perspective.

“Remember that dress shopping is such a fun part of getting married,” Tash said. “And the best is yet to come after you walk down the aisle.”