As Seen In:  Beth Chapman’s Wedding Dress Shopping Tips featured in Martha Stewart Weddings 

Newly engaged?!  Be sure to pick up the Ultimate Wedding Planner issue of Martha Stewart Wedding!  I was recently interviewed for an article in Martha Stewart Weddings discussing tips for wedding dress shopping tips.  You can read the article and my advice below!

Image by Charlotte Jenks Lewis

Shopping at a boutique:  What type of person is best suited to shop at a boutique dress store?
I always recommend that brides shop for their wedding gown in the type of store where they shop for their everyday clothes.  If you prefer a smaller, more intimate environment with specialized attention and specific and unique inventory, then a boutique is the right fit for you. If you are a department store shopper and prefer a large selection and one on one service is not important to you, than a larger bridal store might be your best bet. 

What does a boutique dress store offer that other options don’t?
A boutique style dress shop is going to offer a more intimate experience for the bride. They will provide individualized attention and a smaller, more focused selection.  Depending on the size of the boutique, you may be the only bride in the store while shopping.  

How do you recommend brides-to-be prepare for their appointment?
Brides should visit the website of the bridal boutique to see if the selection of the designers that they carry matches the aesthetic that you are looking for and to ensure that the price point of the gowns works within your budget.  You should contact the boutique at least a week in advance in order to schedule an appointment.  When you go for your appointment, you should have your Pinterest board or fashion inspiration available to show the sales associate.  You should also inquire with the boutique if they offer shoes and undergarments to try on with the gowns.  If not, you should bring your own.  It is important that you have your wedding date and gown budget secured before beginning the shopping process. It is nearly impossible to select your gown if you don’t know the time of year when you will be getting married and can’t envision yourself in your wedding venue. You want to select a gown that reflects your personal style, but that also emulates the overall look and feel of where you will be getting married. 

Can you provide a play-by-play of what to expect with a bridal consultation at a boutique?
Every boutique is slightly different. In my boutique, The White Dress by the shore, brides and their guests are offered drinks and welcomed into a private fitting room where they will have their appointment. They are provided a profile form to fill out so that the stylist can learn a little more about the details of the wedding and what the bride is looking for her in her gown.   Their dedicated stylist will review the profile form with the bride and offer to take the bride through our collection or will pull gowns herself based on what the bride is looking for.  During the hour and a half appointment, the stylist will assist the bride in trying on gowns and pairing them with accessories, helping her to narrow her selection to the one that works best with the her body type, venue and overall wedding aesthetic. 

General tips for dress shopping:  How far in advance of the wedding day do you recommend shopping?
I recommend that a bride begins to look for her gown 7-12 months in advance of the wedding.  Gown shopping is generally the next step after the wedding venue is selected and the date is set.  The gown will set the tone for all of your other wedding decisions.  Most of your venues will inquire about what your gown looks like when you have your initial consultation with them.  Brides often get nervous about committing too soon to a gown for fear that they will no longer love it when the wedding rolls around.  I like to compare saying yes to the gown to saying yes to your fiancé.  There might be other men out there are charming and good looking, but you don’t want to marry them!  When you commit to your gown, it should be a gown that you would want to wear today, tomorrow and in 20 years

What advice do you have on who to bring to your bridal consultation?
Bring a select group of people (no more than 3) that truly understand your personal style and your vision for your wedding. Too many opinions can be detrimental to the decision process.  If you feel the need to share your gown selection with ALL of your bridesmaids, then have them attend one of your gown fittings, or bring them along when you select your veil or accessories. Selecting your gown is a very personal decision and you should share it with a select few whose opinions you cherish the most. 

How do you recommend people come to bridal appointments? (Any tips on hair/makeup?)
It is important to take a little extra time getting ready when you set out to shop for your gown.  It is nice to style your hair in a similar fashion to how you think you will wear it for your wedding. It is much easier to envision how you will look on your wedding day if your hair is styled and your makeup looks great! 

What questions should you ask about the dress during your appointment?
You should understand the lead time of the designer so that you can ensure that you have enough time to order the gown without any rush fees.  You should also ask if any customizations can be made to the gown.  Often brides want to add buttons, change a neckline or add a strap.  Ask if that is something that can be done by the designer or if it should be done during the alternations process. Note that customizations almost always incur a fee.  You should inquire with the boutique if they perform in-house alterations and understand the days and times that these are offered.  Be aware that alterations are almost NEVER included in the price of the dress, so be sure to include room in your budget for alterations. If they do not perform in- house alterations, ask about their referral list.  

Any other tips to share?
Enjoy the shopping process. In this day in age of online shopping, having the experience of shopping in a bridal boutique with a dedicated, knowledgeable associate is a luxury.  This experience is nostalgic.. It is something that your mother and your grandmother experienced and now it is your turn! Don’t be drawn to online retailers who sell wedding gowns on the internet.  No bride should have their wedding gown delivered the same way that their groceries are.  Let yourself be pampered and enjoy the intimate, memorable experience that a bridal boutique has to offer to you!