Welcome to the number-one stressor of the average bride. That doesn’t mean it has to be that way for you, though. You are a strong and fabulous woman and you can do this. You’ve found amazing gowns before. This one just has a little more cultural baggage hidden in the seams. Stay positive: The Magic Dress is out there, and it wants you to find it.
Set a budget.
If you haven’t set a budget for your wedding as a whole, corral your groom and do so immediately. You will be saving yourselves a world of heartache. Clothes and accessories for both you and your groom will be about 10% of your wedding budget, so it may be helpful to price tuxes and accessories (or the rentals thereof) and then see what you have left to play with. (For more tips on divvying up your wedding budget, check out our article over here.)
Many wedding dresses need to be ordered six months or more before your wedding. Yikes. If you’ve already passed the six month mark, there’s no need to panic, but you should get cracking. Even if you’re staying simple and feeling cocky, make sure you leave time for tailoring before the wedding.
Put your walking sneakers on.
The hard truth is that a lot of women find The Magic Dress through sheer legwork. Budget time and be willing to look and look some more. If you work a straight 9-to-5 job, see if you can jigger your hours or take a day off so you can get yourself a free day in the middle of the week – you’ll have an easier time with your search on a day when the herds aren’t out. Bring a fun galpal or two with you if you can, and promise yourselves a fun dinner out as a reward at the end of the day.
Thank the bad dresses.
Keep in mind that the dresses that aren’t right are not failures – they’re actually a huge help in your process. Figuring out what you don’t want helps you carve away the bad and moves you toward what you do want.
I found it very helpful to carry a little flip-top notebook with me. If you notice that Empire waists make you gag whenever you try them on, you can eliminate them entirely in the future. (Conversely, if you notice that sweetheart necklines make you think twice about a dress even when the rest of it makes you want to weep and gnash your teeth, The Magic Dress may just have one of those. See how it’s starting to build itself?) Anyway, if you look at the wrong dresses as helpful friends rather than barriers, it makes the process a lot less frustrating.
If you’re not up on all the terminology, that’s OK. You’ll learn. (You can also find a quick tutorial on dress silhouette basics over here.) Just ask the salesperson what that kind of hemline is called. You don’t have to tell her that the end of the thought is “because every garment on the planet that has it should be rolled in kibble and thrown to the jackals.”
Tell fashion bullies they can suck it.
If an article begins with the phrase “hide your flaws,” put it down immediately. Don’t even recycle it – just set it on fire. The author is not really trying to help you find a dress; he or she is trying to feed you to the fashion industry monster that needs victims who will keep buying magazines and scary diet pills. The monster and its minions need to keep you feeling off-balance because happy people don’t buy stupid things. Or at least not these particular stupid things.
It’s possible that the author means well, but has bought into the idea that there is only one kind of beauty. To hell with that. That fantastic guy who is marrying you would be horrified to hear that you’re thinking of yourself in terms of flaws. He thinks you’re drop-dead gorgeous. Listen to him.
Inventory your best features.
I know: you’re probably not used to doing that. Isn’t that sad? Take some time to think about what you love about yourself. If you can stand it, ask your groom and a close friend to tell you your best features too. You’ll be surprised – other people will see beauty where you didn’t expect it.
Next, assume that The Magic Dress is one that highlights your best features, or at least some of them. If you can’t stand talking about yourself that way, bring your brassiest friend with you, and maybe feed her a margarita at lunch. That way you can be appropriately modest and demure while she reminds the salesman that the next selection of dresses absolutely must highlight your elegant neck and your flawless skin.
Inventory your past big hits.
Go through a couple of photo albums and think about the best parties or events you’ve ever been to. Pinpoint the dresses that made you feel amazing – anything that made you feel gorgeous and confident. Look at what they have in common. You’ve just sleuthed out another piece of The Magic Dress.
If you can’t think of any dresses from your past that made you feel fantastic, it is high time you learned to feel beautiful. In this case, trying on wedding dresses can be almost therapeutic. Take an afternoon to try some on regardless of budget – find the ones that make you feel like a fairy princess (or a seductive queen or a kickass brawling bride or whatever floats your boat). Find dresses that make you say “Oh,” when you try them on and remember that feeling in looking for The Magic Dress.
Now that you feel gorgeous, make sure you also feel comfortable.
I know that it seems like you can take a little discomfort for a really great dress, but you really won’t want spend your whole reception in a dress that’s itchy or makes breathing something you have to think about. The Magic Dress does not exact a toll: It works with you.
You should also make sure you feel comfortable with the amount of skin you’re showing (if you have to think about it, you’re not) and, oddly enough, with how formal the dress is. You don’t need to resign yourself to white lacy jeans for the ceremony – just make sure the formality of your gown makes you feel special rather than stiff.
Buy your gown a size larger than you’re used to.
No, I’m not being the voice of doom. Wedding dresses run small. Even if you’re planning to lose weight, don’t give into the temptation to order it small. It’s much easier to take a large gown in a few inches. A dress that’s too small is a much thornier problem, and can put you in the position of doing your search all over again with only days to spare.
Welcome The Magic Dress into your life.
One way or another, you’ll find it, and joy will resound throughout the land. OK, maybe not, but you and your groom will be happy. And you’ll automatically look stunning because you’ll feel marvelous.
Go ahead and soak up the admiration. You’re the bride and you’ve earned it.