When Should I Start Wedding Dress Shopping?

Oct 24, 2022

One of the most common questions that we get asked is, “When should I start wedding dress shopping?” Besides, it’s the most exciting part of the wedding planning process!



While the answer to this can vary slightly, most brides are a bit shocked to find out that you need to start wedding dress shopping early on in the planning process. It is definitely not something that you should put off to the end! To find out more about when exactly we suggest starting, keep reading!



When Should I Start Wedding Dress Shopping?



Here are all of our tips for the wedding dress shopping timeline.



When to start wedding dress shopping



Overall, it can take between six to eight months to get a wedding dress finished when you are ordering from a designer. And that doesn’t even cover shipping time or alterations! 



Of course, this can very. Some dresses can take less than six months to come in and eight months is pretty rare. However, six to eight months is the standard time that we recommend because it is the average length of time that it can take, especially when factoring in delays that are affecting pretty much every industry right now.



So, we really recommend that you at least start to think about dress shopping about a year before our wedding. We know — this isn’t possible for everyone! But, this is the number that we recommend from start to finish — from starting to think about what you’re looking for in a wedding dress to the time that you pick up your dress from final alterations.



When you’re between eight months and a year out from your wedding, you can be gathering dress inspiration, figuring out your wedding dress budget, and researching bridal salons that you want to visit. Make sure that you check out their website and call them if needed! You will want to make sure that the bridal shop carries dresses that fit your vision, your price point, and has sample sizes that will fit you.



To be safe, you should order your dress between six and nine months before your wedding. This gives you plenty of time for your dress to come in before alterations! 



Then, about three months before your wedding, you will begin alterations. Some bridal shops have a seamstress in-studio, while others can point you towards recommended seamstresses (that is what we do)! 



Where dress shopping falls into the wedding planning timeline



For some brides, wedding dress shopping is the most important thing to them about their wedding day, so they check it off the planning checklist first. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and we think it’s great if you decide to do that!



However, even though we suggest that wedding dress shopping gets done early on in the planning process, it doesn’t necessarily need to be the first thing. We would actually recommend having your venue picked out before you go wedding dress shopping. If you have your venue picked out/booked, then you have an overall idea of the vibe of your wedding day, and it will be a little easier to choose a dress that goes with it. 



For example, most brides who are having a beach wedding don’t choose an intricate ballgown. And, a lot of brides who are getting married at a boho wedding tend to gravitate toward more of the whimsical dresses rather than the more classic ones. Of course, you can wear whatever dress you love, regardless of your venue! Most brides do tend to base their dress around their venue, though. (But if you want to rock a ballgown on the beach — we say go for it!)



Being prepared



Before you start wedding dress shopping, you will want to be fully prepared. What is your budget (including alterations)? Does the bridal shop that you’re going to have dresses in the price range that you’re looking for? What about in your size?



Speaking of size — do not let the number get in your head. Bridal gown sizing runs small — you will typically end up purchasing a dress that is 2-3 sizes bigger than your street size! For example, I normally wear a size 8 in pants and dresses, and my wedding dress was a size 14. The number on the tag does not matter at all, and no one else will even know what it is. 



Do you want a custom dress?



Now, if you want a completely custom dress — we’re talking having a designer design a dress specifically for you and make it according to your specific measurements — then you will definitely want to start the process as early as possible. We would suggest starting no later than a year before your wedding date, no matter what.



How to find a dress in a short time frame



Now, don’t worry — there are options for finding a wedding dress if you are on a shorter time frame! There are a lot of reasons that a bride could be on a shorter time frame for finding a dress: elopements, destination weddings, you accidentally waited until the last minute, or maybe you just want a shorter engagement!



One option for this is to look into expedited shipping from the designer. If you’re on a tight timeline, ask the bridal shop about this. You will have to pay extra, but your dress might be able to get here a little bit sooner. 



Another option is to look into in-stock options from designers. Your bridal stylist will be able to help you with this. Sometimes, designers have a selection of dresses that are already cut in certain styles and sizes. They should be able to look at the designer’s portal or contact them for you to see if there are any options for what you’re looking for! 



Finally, if you are on a really tight timeline, you could always look into the ready-to-wear gowns from a bridal shop. These are the gowns that are already in the bridal shop — the ones that brides try on at their appointments. Most bridal shops have a selection of these gowns that are at a discounted price if you bring that gown home with you. Or, they might even be willing to let you bring home a dress that isn’t on that rack — it doesn’t hurt to ask!



Additional shopping tips



When it comes down to it, don’t panic. We know that this is easier said than done, especially after all of the information that we just gave you! But, regardless of how much time you have to wedding dress shop — your dress is out there. You will find one!



Another important tip: book your appointments at bridal shops as early as possible. You might be surprised to find out that the shop is booking out weeks in advance, especially if you are trying to book during a weekend or during a sale! Keep this in mind and book your appointment in advance. If you’re willing to have a weekday appointment, they typically have more availability (and the shop won’t be as crowded)! 



When it comes down to it, even though this can be stressful, wedding dress shopping is so much fun. And we will be here to help you every step of the way! If you’re ready to book an appointment, click the link below or give us a call at 301-665-1070. We can’t wait to help you find your dream dress!