Some people call me dramatic. I like to say I exaggerate for effect. But everyone admitted my freak-out was warranted when, three weeks before my wedding, I found myself without a wedding dress.
I want to blame the downtown boutique that sold me my first dress (traumatic details on that below), but looking back, I realize that every predicament I found myself in was actually preventable — it’s just that I didn’t know what to expect. Allow me to spare you from making the mistakes I made.
1. “Say Yes to the Dress” is not real life
There will not be a crowd of 12 hooting, hollering or happy-crying when you walk out in “the dress.” Most stores (including Kleinfeld, where #SYTTD films) only let you bring two people — maybe three — to your appointment.
My tip: Invite the most honest person you know and the most sensitive person you know. My mom (honest) would tell me if a dress flat-out didn’t work (after trying dozens on, sometimes you lose touch with reality). And my aunt (sensitive) told me I looked beautiful in everything. And my friends stayed home.
2. If you don’t wear strapless dresses in real life, don’t wear a strapless dress on your wedding day
Ninety percent of the wedding dresses you’ll look at will be strapless, which makes absolutely no sense when you think of how few real-life dresses are strapless. I was talked into buying a strapless dress — “Have an open mind!” — even though I’ve never worn one in my life. (Except when those Juicy Couture felt-y dresses were briefly a thing. Was that Summer ’05?) Your wedding day is not the day to try a new style.
3. If a dress does not look good on you at the store, don’t believe “It’ll fit better in your size”
I was told the sample I tried on would work when it arrived in my size — that I wouldn’t even need a bra. (That should have been a red flag; I have a size D cup). When my strapless dress arrived, I was shocked to find it offered no support to my rack. When I brought it to a seamstress, she suggested spaghetti straps. SPAGHETTI STRAPS.
4. Go to a store with an in-house seamstress
If the dress comes in and does not work on your body (did I mention the spaghetti strap suggestion?), you’ll want the store that sold you the dress to feel invested in the final result. Plus, in-house seamstresses are familiar with the dresses on their boutique’s racks, and know ahead of time what’s possible and what’s not.
5. If you don’t go to a store with a seamstress, splurge on a good one
I took my ill-fitting strapless dress to the (relatively) cheaper of two recommended seamstresses for a fitting. After hearing I needed to deconstruct the entire dress over the course of a month to make it work (“You have large breasts! You need a bra!”), I took it to a pricey New York City tailor. She didn’t fix the dress I hated, but she offered lots of options — and she didn’t make me cry.
6. If you cry hard enough, a store will stay open late for a consultation
This is the part where I return the strapless dress.
After I realized that the first dress I bought — which was lost and delayed even though I’d paid to have it rushed — would not fit the way the boutique I bought it from said it would, I found myself sobbing and wandering the streets aimlessly. Then, a friend told me to get to J. Crew. Staffers offered me Pellegrino and tissues and told me they were booked solid, but that if I came back at 8 p.m. (after the store closed!), they would squeeze me in. And they did! Into a dress that arrived at my front door by noon the next day. (If only J. Crew still did bridal!)
7. Pre-owned dresses are awesome
Until I found myself without a dress just 20 days before my wedding, I didn’t consider wearing a pre-owned dress. But, while waiting for my last-minute J. Crew appointment, I scoured the Internet for other off-the-rack options, and found that one I absolutely loved — a whimsical Alberta Ferretti gown WITH straps (not spaghetti!) — was being sold for one-third of its original cost by a girl within driving distance. I made it to her apartment, tried on her dress (which was in perfect condition, having only been worn once) and wrote her a check.
Rebecca Davis / TODAY
8. Keep an open mind
As you know, I let TODAY.com viewers pick my dress … and for me, it was probably best to let go and just trust. I swooned for a dramatic navy blue floral Douglas Hannant ball gown and then considered a sweet simple white cotton maxi dress. I can be indecisive, and with six weeks to plan everything, it helped to have some boundaries. – Bobbie Thomas, TODAY Style Squad member
9. Don’t be scared to hate your “dream” dress
I walked in with a clear image of what type of dress I wanted and ended with something TOTALLY different. You have to be able to kill your darlings … even in the dressing room. – Charisse Larado, TODAY producer
10. Don’t commit to a dress until you’ve set the date and picked your location
What you love might not fit with the season and/or venue you ultimately book. A silk dress for a summer southern wedding?You’re going to sweat straight through that puppy! – Charisse Larado
11. If you buy a dress that you hate, don’t worry
You can always buy another one and resell the first dress online. – Charisse Larado
12. If you order within the six-month mark, you can be charged a rush fee
Be sure to make a decision before six months to go hits (if you aren’t planning on buying off the rack). – Katie Buckley, TODAY producer
13. Don’t feel pressured to buy the veil or accessories from the bridal salon
Shop around for accessories. A bridal boutique in New York tried to sell me a veil for $1,100. I took a photo, brought it to a fabric store in the Garment District, and they made the same one for around $375. – Katie Buckley
14. Go to a store where you can actually walk through and touch dresses, feel fabrics, etc.
Pictures of dresses and actual dresses can feel quite different. – Vivian Fel Solomon, TODAY producer