Be Your Own Wedding Planner: The Dress

Be Your Own Wedding Planner: The Dress

I loved, loved, loved my dress.  Photo courtesy of Leah Muse Photography. 

I loved, loved, loved my dress.  Photo courtesy of Leah Muse Photography

If you're new to the blog, you may not know that I got married about a month ago (December 29th, to be exact). My wedding day was truly a gift from heaven, and the planning process was a lot less painful than I thought it would be, even though I was basically my own wedding planner. I did have a day-of wedding coordinator, courtesy of the reception site (more on that in a future post), but all of the other planning was done by yours truly--with some help from my husband Kristian, my parents, my siblings, and a couple of REALLY generous friends. 

I wanted my first planning post to be about the Mass, since that's THE most important part of the whole wedding-planning process  (not to be confused with marriage preparation, which is even more important). But I'm not getting my professional photos back until the end of this week, so that post is going to have to wait. So, I figured I'd write a post about the first wedding-planning related thing I did: shop for and buy a dress. 

The dress is by no means the most important part of non-Mass related wedding planning, but I think that, next to choosing flowers, it is the most fun part. :) 

Full disclosure: my first trip to the bridal salon was in Arizona, before Kristian and I were engaged, and before I had even moved back to Texas. My girlfriends in Phoenix knew that Kristian and I were 99.9% sure we were called to be married and that we'd get engaged after I moved to Austin, and they wanted to be part of the dress-shopping process. We figured it wouldn't be a problem to schedule an appointment with a fancy bridal salon in Scottsdale and just try dresses on so I could get a feel for what I like. Turns out, that was a really good idea (thanks Michelle!) and it made my real-deal dress shopping in Austin a lot easier. 

Here are some (really crappy) iPhone shots of the dresses I tried on in Scottsdale. The light was really yellow in the showroom, so it's difficult to see that all of these dresses is ivory. 

Pretty dress, but I didn't love the silhouette, and it was super revealing in the back. No go. 

Pretty dress, but I didn't love the silhouette, and it was super revealing in the back. No go. 

Tip #1: Go into wedding dress shopping with a clear idea of what you DON'T want, so the consultant will have something to go on when she's pulling dresses for you. They love it when you have a Pinterest board ready to go. 

I told my consultant that I did NOT want the following: 

1. Strapless (so annoying when you're trying to dance)

2. Mermaid/tumpet silhouette (because you can't dance freely in those silhouettes)

3. Super low-cut 

These requirements definitely limited the dresses I tried on, but as my consultant reminded me, you can get boleros or straps sown on to pretty much any strapless dress. 

Tip #2: Keep an open mind. I originally thought I'd go for a more Jane Austen-y looking dress like the ones from the Jenny Packham 2014 collection , but when I tried dresses on in that style (unfortunately I don't have any photos of the ACTUAL Jenny Packham dress I tried on), I wasn't in love. They were pretty, yes, but I didn't feel like a bride in that style. Observe: 

I loved the lace on this one, but I did NOT love that it was COMPLETELY backless. Like, so backless that I don't feel comfortable putting a photo of it on the internet. 

I loved the lace on this one, but I did NOT love that it was COMPLETELY backless. Like, so backless that I don't feel comfortable putting a photo of it on the internet. 

First problem: it's strapless, and would look weird with straps sown onto it. Second problem: it looks like an evening gown, not a wedding gown. Third problem: it was $5,000. 

First problem: it's strapless, and would look weird with straps sown onto it. Second problem: it looks like an evening gown, not a wedding gown. Third problem: it was $5,000. 

In case you can't tell from my expression, this was a joke dress that one of my roommates insisted I try on. Definitely not my style. 

In case you can't tell from my expression, this was a joke dress that one of my roommates insisted I try on. Definitely not my style. 

This was one of the first A-line dresses I tried on, after I realized that I didn't really like the sheath look. It was a no because it reminded me of SO many of the wedding dresses I've seen in the past few years. It also wasn't the best fit on me. 

This was one of the first A-line dresses I tried on, after I realized that I didn't really like the sheath look. It was a no because it reminded me of SO many of the wedding dresses I've seen in the past few years. It also wasn't the best fit on me. 

This one was lovely, but I didn't actually like how it looked with the bolero. 

This one was lovely, but I didn't actually like how it looked with the bolero. 

The front of this one wasn't anything to write home about, but how gorgeous is this back?! 

The front of this one wasn't anything to write home about, but how gorgeous is this back?! 

Nowwwww we're getting somewhere (note: the lighting makes this dress look yellowish, but it was really ivory). This was the first dress I tried on that fit me *perfectly*. The only problem is that it was too low-cut and I didn't like the spaghetti straps. But then we added a jacket: 

Nowwwww we're getting somewhere (note: the lighting makes this dress look yellowish, but it was really ivory). This was the first dress I tried on that fit me *perfectly*. The only problem is that it was too low-cut and I didn't like the spaghetti straps. But then we added a jacket: 

So pretty, right??

So pretty, right??

The beadwork was exquisite. The problem: all told, this would have been $3,500, and (budget notwithstanding), I simply couldn't justify that kind of price tag to myself. Also, I wasn't ready to buy a dress and didn't know when Kristian and I would be getting engaged, or if we would be having a winter wedding (which is what I think this dress-jacket combo was made for). I'm really glad I tried it on, though, because it gave me a sense for what I was looking for: an A-line/ballgown skirt with a sweetheart neckline and a cinched in waist. 

The beadwork was exquisite. The problem: all told, this would have been $3,500, and (budget notwithstanding), I simply couldn't justify that kind of price tag to myself. Also, I wasn't ready to buy a dress and didn't know when Kristian and I would be getting engaged, or if we would be having a winter wedding (which is what I think this dress-jacket combo was made for). I'm really glad I tried it on, though, because it gave me a sense for what I was looking for: an A-line/ballgown skirt with a sweetheart neckline and a cinched in waist. 

The only other wedding dress shopping I did was a few weeks before I got engaged. I know, I know...I was definitely jumping the gun. IN MY DEFENSE: Kristian had just asked my dad for permission to propose, so I knew it was coming. ALSO: my sister/maid of honor Elisa was in town from DC that weekend and I knew she wouldn't be able to come back to shop with me later. So, off to Second Summer Bride we went. 

Tip #3: Before spending an arm and a leg at a fancy bridal salon, consider buying a dress at a consignment store. Second Summer Bride has locations in Austin and San Diego, and gets most of its dresses straight from the designer--many of them (my dress included) are samples that haven't been worn before. At Second Summer Bride, their dresses are usually 50% less than they would be in a typical salon, and since wedding dresses are already insanely overpriced, it doesn't hurt to at least look at a consignment store. 

Since I already knew what looked good one me shape-wise, it was easy to filter through the wide selection at SSB. My sister-in-law actually ended up pulling the dress I chose, which was the second one I tried on (out of four) and originally had a blush sash, which I later removed and had replaced with an ivory sash. 

You can tell from my smile how great I felt in this dress. 

You can tell from my smile how great I felt in this dress. 

3 out of 4 of my bridesmaids and my mom were able to come with me. Such a fun experience! 

3 out of 4 of my bridesmaids and my mom were able to come with me. Such a fun experience! 

This dress is all tulle (which made me feel simultaneously like a ballerina and a princess--win,win) and was designed by Eddy K. It fit me perfectly, with no need to alter anything except the sash color and the hem (it had to be taken up since I decided to wear flats). I didn't have to wear any special undergarments or feel like I needed to diet before the wedding (don't even GET me started on how ridiculous I think the pre-wedding diet trend is).

All told, I think we were in the salon for about 45 minutes, and I only had to go into the tailor (I used a tailor who I'd already had positive experiences with in the past) a couple of times to make sure the hem was short enough. Other than that, my dress shopping/fitting experience was simple and painless. 

I think my favorite thing about this dress, aside from the fact that it was SO FUN to dance in (the twirling!), is that Kristian loved it. He called me his principesa (a la "Life is Beautiful") during our engagement and this is definitely a princess dress. I also loved that all of the little girls at my wedding were obsessed with it--they wanted to touch it, take photos with me, and twirl on the dance floor with me. And when I think about it, it's probably the dress I would've chosen when I was a little girl.

Note: My parents paid for my wedding, dress included, so while budget was a consideration, I didn't have to worry that much about it. That said, my dress did end up being less than half of what the dresses at the fancy salon cost. 

Straps? Check. Ballgown silhouette? Check. Sparkle? Check. Sweetheart neckline? Check. Cinched in waist? Check. Photo courtesy of Leah Muse Photography. 

Straps? Check. Ballgown silhouette? Check. Sparkle? Check. Sweetheart neckline? Check. Cinched in waist? Check. Photo courtesy of Leah Muse Photography

You can *sort of* see the back in this photo, but not really well. As soon as I get a good photo of the back, I'll add it to this post. Photo courtesy of Leah Muse Photography. 

You can *sort of* see the back in this photo, but not really well. As soon as I get a good photo of the back, I'll add it to this post. Photo courtesy of Leah Muse Photography

A close-up of the neckline/sparkle. Photo courtesy of Leah Muse Photography. 

A close-up of the neckline/sparkle. Photo courtesy of Leah Muse Photography

Your turn, ladies: what advice do you have about wedding dress shopping? Please share in the comments! 

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