Shopping for a Wedding Dress: Tips from a New York Wedding Planner

February 9, 2022

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Are you almost ready to start shopping for a wedding dress, but have no idea where to start? The process of finding your wedding dress might seem so overwhelming at first – after all, this is likely something you've dreamed about since you were little. As a New York wedding planner (and fashion lover), I know that there are so many options out there, and it's normal to feel a little lost. It's hard to shop under pressure! Instead, shopping for your wedding dress should be a special (and fun!) experience.

In today's post, I gathered up my experience as a New York wedding planner and interviewed one of my favorite New York bridal stylists to get some insider tips on wedding dress shopping in 2022. You've got this! And of course, if you have any questions, send me a DM on Instagram or reach out to me directly here.

Not ready to shop yet? Make sure to save this for later!

wedding dress shopping tips

How far in advance should you go shopping for your wedding dress?

A good rule of thumb is to start shopping 10-12 months before your wedding date. You will want to give yourself enough time to shop without stress and then once you've found the one, wedding dresses can take anywhere from four to seven months to arrive from the designer. Trust me – you’ll want to give yourself plenty of room before and after that 4-7 month timeline from the designer. Plan to go shopping for your wedding dress at multiple stores, and leave time after your dress arrives in-store to have it altered to fit you perfectly. Alterations typically take 2 to 3 months, depending on the number of changes you need to make.

Truly, there are so many different aspects to getting the perfect wedding dress that it just makes sense to give yourself a bit of extra time! In 2022, some bridal salons are still experiencing supply shortages and shipping delays so now more than ever, you don't want to wait too long to start shopping.

Pro tip: It helps to have a few of the major things nailed down when you begin shopping (date/season, wedding venue, etc.). Knowing the overall vibe of your wedding will allow you to be able to picture your dress on the big day more clearly. That being said, some brides have chosen their dress before their venue, with the idea that they can plan around the dress. There is no right or wrong answer there – as long as you are happy!

Finger Lakes wedding with A line wedding dress

Photo Credit: Alexandra Elise Photography

Who should you bring with you wedding dress shopping?

Choosing who to bring with you to your appointments is a bit like choosing your bridal party or guest list. There are so many people that you might want to include in this special moment. However, having too many people with you can get overwhelming, and sometimes distract you from having your own opinion on each dress.

Personally, I've seen a bride's party get excited over a dress she doesn't necessarily love, and guests not react as enthusiastically as the bride expected after she has found the one. Both are equally heartbreaking! Although there is no perfect number of guests that will suit everyone, an ideal range is between 2 and 4 guests plus the bride.

Keep in mind: some bridal stores may limit the number of guests allowed in an appointment (especially now!). Confirm each bridal store's unique policies before visiting!

As far as picking who those 2 to 4 guests are, that again depends on the bride. You want people who will give their honest opinion when asked but will undoubtedly support you no matter what. If there is someone who is helping purchase the dress (mom, mother-in-law, etc.), you may want to include them as well. Just make sure they know it's YOUR decision.

If there are some people in addition to your chosen group that you still want to feel included with, have them on Facetime or Zoom but with the volume muted. Remember, too many voices can get overwhelming fast!

Pro tip: Designate someone to take photos of all the dresses you try on. It’s important to have a good visual to look back on if you are unable to make a decision right away, especially if you have tried on lots of different dresses. Get all the angles!


minimalist wedding dress

Photo Credit: Moe B. Photography

What should you wear to go shopping for your wedding dress?

Every bridal shop is different, but most shops will have you dress down to your underwear to try on wedding gowns. Many brides think they need fancy shapewear or a strapless bra, but that is not the case – at least as far as shopping for your wedding dress goes!

You'll want to consider your shapewear and bra style more seriously when it comes time for alterations, but don't stress about this yet. We always encourage our couples to try on a wide variety of styles and until you find “the one” you won’t know exactly what kind of undergarments you’ll need. Many wedding dresses have cups sewn in, meaning a bra is not necessary at all!

Pro tip: Wear nude underwear! It can be distracting to see your black (or bright red!) underwear underneath the gown.

hanging wedding dress and blue wedding shoes

Photo Credit: Laura Rose Photography

How much should you spend on your wedding dress?

There is no rule that says you need to spend a certain amount on your wedding dress. Seriously. We ALWAYS say that your budget should be a reflection of your priorities and if you want to splurge and unleash your inner fashionista here, we are cheering you on. Every bride places a different level of importance on their wedding gown, which means every bride is willing to spend a different amount on the dress. Do some research before you go shopping to figure out what a reasonable price is for the kind of dress (and type of bridal salon) you are looking for.

Although we know you might feel hesitant to “set a number”, it is much easier on everyone involved (you, your stylist, and your entourage) if you have a number in mind when you start shopping. That way, your stylist knows what you are comfortable spending and won’t bring in a dress that is thousands of dollars over your budget. Do not try on expensive dresses “just to see” how it feels. TRUST US.

On top of that, every bridal shop handles payment differently. Some will ask for a certain percentage down, and others may require payment in full before they order your dress from the designer. Don't forget to ask about payment plans as well if that's something you are interested in! Be sure to get all the information from your stylist before you say yes to the dress!


Pro tip: Discuss how you will pay for the dress before your appointment. Will your parents help out? Grandparents? This will not only give you a better idea of what you will be spending but also avoid any awkward conversations at the bridal shop.

lace mermaid wedding dress

Photo Credit: Michelle Scott Photography


Where are the best places to go shopping for a wedding dress?

Different shops offer different experiences, different aesthetics, and different price ranges. Shop around online to find places that suit what you are looking for. Or even better, do you know anyone that has purchased a wedding dress recently? Ask them about their experiences and recommendations! Wedding dress shopping should be fun, so you want to make sure you are going to shops that have good reviews not just online, but also from people you know.

If you already know that you are looking for a specific style of gown, try to find shops that specialize in what you are looking for. This may mean going to nearby cities that offer something different from shops in your town.

Pro tip: Don't overbook yourself. Many brides try to stack multiple appointments over one or two days, when in reality even one appointment can be exhausting! You don’t want to get burnt out and try to make decisions in a bad mindset. If you are doing two appointments in one day, break them up by grabbing lunch in between!

backless wedding dress in NY

Photo Credit: Laura Rose Photography

How to Know if it's “The One”

We could really hop on our soap box for this one! Every bride is different. Many people think they will have a magical bridal moment that will tell them it's “the one”. While that may be true for some people, it is not the only way. Some brides know right away, others need time to think and come to terms with the decision.

This also means there's no right number of dresses to try on or shops to visit. It's okay if you find your dress during the first appointment, and it's also okay if you don't find it until your fifth! Choosing your dress is like choosing your partner. Not everyone's experience is the same, but when you know, you know.

Pro tip: Once you purchase your wedding dress, stop looking. Unfollow those Instagram accounts and delete the photos of the dresses you didn't choose. There will always be other options out there, but you have to be happy with your decision!

Shopping for a wedding dress soon? Make sure to save this for later!

wedding dress shopping tips