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Tips for Buying Your Dream Wedding Dress (Without Regrets!) | Wedding Advice from VA Wedding Photographer

Wedding Tips

Still looking for a wedding dress? Worried you won’t find “the one”? Yeah, I think every bride feels that. It’s tough! But there are a few wedding dress buying tips you can follow to make sure you don’t have any regrets later and end up spending more trying to replace a dress with the stress of rushing alterations in time!

Wedding Dress Shopping: A Bridal Dream That Can Quickly Turn Into the Stuff of Nightmares

One of the best (but also most exhausting) days of my wedding planning season of life was when I bought my wedding dress. Purchasing a wedding dress is like a coming of age experience. It is one of the most important purchases you will make for your big day as a bride.

And from a photography perspective, it will set the tone for almost every single one of your wedding photos. Aside from your face, your wedding dress will be one of the most photographed elements of your wedding day.

Aside from making a big impact in your photography, this dress will hold so much meaning. It is a symbol of love, commitment, and the start of a new chapter in life with your husband.

With all that weight, and with so many options available, I know how overwhelming it can be to choose the perfect dress. But my hope is that this is a fun and happy experience for my brides, not a stressful one. Trust me — it can turn stressful REAL QUICK.

I learned a lot from my experience buying my wedding dress. And in the end, I wore what I still to this day believe is the prettiest dress I ever have (or ever will) put on. I felt the most beautiful in my wedding dress, and I wish the same for you as a bride.

Wedding Dress Buying Tips to Help You Avoid Regret

Here are a few of the most important things to consider before buying a wedding dress, to remove stress and buy a dress that you’ll fall head over heels for over and over again!


When I was a young girl, my mom and I used to watch Say Yes to the Dress on TLC together. There’s one thing I learned from my man Randy Fenoli and his team over at Kleinfeld: Never – and I mean NEVER – try on a dress outside of your budget!!

Before you start shopping for a wedding dress, it’s important to set a budget. Wedding dresses can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Knowing how much you can afford to spend will help you narrow down your options. It will also help you avoid unnecessary heartbreak by trying on a dress before knowing how much it costs.

You can also use your bridal shop consultant to your advantage! I especially recommend shopping in local, boutique bridal shops. They give you the most bespoke experience, rather than a retail transactional one. Consultants take into account your preferences and budget and help you curate a few dresses to try on that won’t break your bank, or your heart.

Additionally, keep in mind that alterations and accessories can exponentially increase the cost of your dress, so be sure to factor those in as well. I would call around to a few local dress tailors to ask what their typical range of alteration costs are so you can factor that into your budget before you shop. But the exact alterations you need can make the alteration costs vary quite a bit, so be generous in budgeting for this category.

Venue and Theme

The venue and theme of your wedding should also be considered when choosing a wedding dress. If you’re having a beach wedding, you may want a dress that’s lightweight and flowy. If you’re getting married in a ballroom, a more formal dress may be appropriate, with fabrics like satin creating a classic feel.

Consider the time of year, too. A long-sleeved dress may not be comfortable in the middle of summer, even if the sleeves are sheer. Fabric is fabric, and any layer on top of your skin will naturally absorb some body heat.

Body Type

Every bride deserves to look and feel beautiful on her wedding day. Choosing a dress that flatters your body type is key to boosting your confidence. As much as I would love to rock a trumpet, skin tight gown on my wedding day, I’m just not built for it. But you might be! My best advice? Try on EVERY silhouette first, then narrow down when you find your favorite shape.

Here are a few general tips to get you started, but I’m a big believer in breaking these rules if you feel confident in a silhouette that’s outside the box for your shape. A-line dresses look great on most body types, while ball gowns are perfect for pear-shaped figures. If you’re petite, a sheath dress can elongate your figure.

Ultimately, despite any fashion “rules,” if you don’t feel your most beautiful, move on to another shape. This might be one of the most important wedding dress tips I share: The most important thing is HOW you wear it. If you feel confident, you’ll look showstopping in your photos. If you feel insecure or uncomfortable, you’ll look that way in your photos. Choose confidence – wear the dress that brings out your happiest self.


Wedding days are a workout. Take it from someone who spends 8-10 hours on her feet most weekends! Even when I was a bride, I was surprised at how much physical activity is involved in enjoying your wedding day. You’re standing, walking, rushing around, dancing, squatting, and sitting in your wedding dress. So consider the events of the day when choosing features of the dress.

Do you have a choreographed First Dance in mind? Beware of tight-shouldered dresses that limit the range of motion in your arms. Having a catholic ceremony with a lot of sit-stand-sit-stand motion? Make sure that corset is comfortable no matter your body’s position. (Yes, practice sitting in your dress before purchasing AND at each alteration!) Do you want beautiful twirl photos? Twirl in the dress on the shop floor! Worried about heat or the weight of the dress tiring you out all day? Consider convertible elements like removable sleeves, straps, or overskirts to transform the dress after the ceremony!

Bonus Wedding Dress Tips: Clear The Room & Take A Break

If you’ve vacillated back and forth between countless dresses, considered all of the above things, and STILL can’t make a decision, it’s time to take a break. Odds are, you have too many voices in your head. Your own, your mom’s, your maid of honor’s, the bridal shop consultant’s… but the thing that matters most is how you feel in your wedding dress.

It’s ok to step away and try again another day. You might even consider bringing less people to the next appointment, so you can listen to your own head and heart when you try on the dress(es) again. Just breathe, go home and take a break from Pinterest searches and magazine clip-outs, and set a date to go back. You’ll have a much clearer head when you give yourself the space to think clearly without the exhaustion from your last appointment.

A wedding dress is a significant investment, both financially and emotionally. By considering your budget, venue and theme, body type, and functionality, you can find a dress that will make you commit to stop looking for any other. I hope these wedding dress tips were helpful! Happy shopping, my lovelies!

I can’t wait to photograph your dream dress. If you want to give me that opportunity, let’s chat about your wedding photography vision! Inquire with me HERE.

Want more wedding planning tips?

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Want to see some of my favorite wedding dresses for inspiration? You have to see the photos from these weddings:

If you’re in the Northern VA area, I recommend the following bridal boutiques!

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