5 Tips for Your Wedding Dress Shopping Experience

Wedding dress shopping was one of my favorite parts of the wedding planning experience!! It was such a fun excuse to get some of my favorite women together and to try on some of the most beautiful pieces of clothing I’ve ever seen. It certainly felt a little surreal being a “bride” and getting waited on and pampered, but it was such a sweet memory for me! At times, it did feel a little overwhelming. But I have to say that once I finally picked one and paid for my dress, I couldn’t help but be a little sad that the whole process was over. It was so much fun playing dress-up and anticipating the big day!

I bought my gown from my favorite bridal boutique — Coastal Knot! I ended up getting mine at the Wilmington location, but they also have shops in both Raleigh + Shallotte. The designer of my gown was Allure, and I included a few photos of it from our wedding below!

I had such a great experience shopping at Coastal Knot, and I absolutely love owner Amanda and her team! Whenever my brides end up finding their gowns there, it always holds a little special place in my heart! I have loved getting to continue working with them both through my brides and through some beautiful styled shoots I’ve planned. I highly recommend this shop to all future brides in these areas! In fact, all of the following images in this blog are from an inventory shoot I did for Coastal Knot. So many gorgeous options!!

Now that my own wedding has come and gone, I love getting to live vicariously through my brides. It makes me so happy when they text me photos after saying yes to the dress and I get to celebrate with them! I am no professional wedding dress consultant (but hey, if some day photography doesn’t work out for me I totally would be), but I do feel like I’ve learned some valuable things in the process of both shopping for a gown myself, hearing from my brides, and befriending the owner of my favorite bridal boutique. So in this busy season of engagement and wedding planning, I thought I would share my Top 5 Tips for Your Wedding Dress Shopping Experience!

1. Give Yourself Ample Time to Shop!
Although it may be kind of scary to make a big decision about your wedding dress months in advance (i.e. what if you have buyers remorse?), it will ultimately save you a whole lot of stress + money as well as give you more options to choose from if you go shopping 7-10 months prior to your wedding date. What most brides may not know, is that designers essentially custom make each of the gowns you see on Pinterest, Instagram, Say Yes To The Dress, etc. They use expensive, high-quality materials so it does not make sense for them to make hundreds or thousands of dresses to sit in an inventory. So when you order your gown from a bridal boutique, it can take upwards of 4-6 months for your gown to be delivered in your size! You may get really lucky and need very minimal alterations, but the timeline for those adjustments should also be taken into account. You’ll want another 1-2 months for your seamstress to perfect your alterations! No one wants to have to go over budget, so being timely will save you from needing to spend extra on rush orders and/or alterations.  Plus, having the time and space will allow you to ENJOY wedding dress shopping! It should be a fun, enjoyable experience with minimal stress.2. Stick To Your Budget
This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you set a budget for yourself going into the shopping experience, make sure your consultant is aware of that number. Normally, you will fill out a form when making the appointment, so it’s not something you have to discuss in front of everyone coming with you. Your consultant will help you with only pulling dresses within your budget, but that’s not to say you won’t set your eyes on a dress somewhere in the shop that’s outside of your budget. I would recommend not trying on anything far beyond your budget, even for the sake of simply trying it on. If you fall in love, you may be more inclined to go way over your budget and then later have to compromise on other vendors or details on the wedding day that might be really important to you and your partner. There are SO many dresses out there for EVERY budget. I promise you will find the perfect dress for you without breaking your original intention!3. Keep Your Group Small
I TOTALLY get that the wedding dress shopping experience is such a fun excuse to get ALL of your best girls together. However, most bridal boutiques will suggest (or sometimes require) keeping your group to 5-6 people or less. I would aim toward even less. Yes, the opinions of your bridesmaids, aunts, grandmothers, etc. will absolutely matter to you. But it’s definitely easy to get caught up in so many different opinions and not be able to truly feel how you feel in each dress. Consider designating one dress shopping date for your larger group, but decide not to make any purchases until you’ve gone back with a smaller crowd or even by yourself. I LOVED having my best friend, sisters-in-law, mother, and grandmother at my first couple of appointments (I ended up having 3). And none of them made me feel bad about anything I tried on or loved. But I did find myself thinking more about what everyone else’s thoughts were than my own. On my third appointment, I just took my mom. And that was when I was able to find the gown I endedup getting married in! We still FaceTimed those important people once I made the decision. However, it was really nice to go ahead and say “THIS is my dress” rather than “what do you think of this one?”. Because they all knew how much I clearly loved it, they all did too!4. If You Find a Gown You LOVE, Go For It!
I think it’s a common misconception that brides need to have this dramatic moment when they find “the one.” Maybe that includes tears, or trying on hundreds of dresses and overwhelming themselves before making the final decision. Try not to get too caught up in finding “THE” dress. The truth is you can try on dresses forever….there are so many out there and I’m sure you would look amazing in all of them! But when you find one that you absolutely love, feel beautiful in, and are comfortable in, whether it’s the very first or 20th dress you’ve tried on, there’s no reason not to go for it! You may or may not cry, and it may or may not be what you originally “envisioned” for yourself. For example, I always thought that I would end up in a flowy, A-line gown in a simple fabric with no lace. However, as I was trying on dresses, I kept going back to the more fitted ones because that was what I was gravitating toward feeling the best in. I ended up with a fitted, all-over lace dress– the complete opposite of what I thought I wanted! It takes trying things on to truly know how you FEEL in your wedding gown. Don’t box yourself in. Give yourself permission to fall in love and say yes before you drive yourself too crazy.

5. Make Sure You’re Comfortable!
And I mean this in the sense of comfort in wearing the dress in general. You might or might not care if your dress feels like pajamas, but you do want to make sure you feel like yourself in it! Maybe you want to be certain you can sit down and enjoy dinner without feeling like you can’t breathe, or that you can break it down on the dance floor without restrictions. Those things might not be a priority to you (some brides might not care if they’re quote “comfortable” as long as they look great), but it is important that you feel absolutely radiant and that you’ll look back at photos for years to come knowing your dress absolutely suited YOU!

I hope that you found these tips helpful and that you have the BEST time when it’s time for you to start shopping for your wedding gown! Your engagement does go by so quickly, so savor all of these special moments. And if you are a Chelsea Allegra bride, don’t forget to text me a pic when you find your dress so I can get excited and celebrate with you!! 🙂

You can listen to our Heart + Sole Podcast episode with Coastal Knot owner, Amanda Sasser, below! She shares the story of opening up her (THREE) store locations as well as some great insight into the wedding gown shopping process!



  1. Travis Smith says:

    It’s great to learn that you can save a lot of money and stress by deciding on a dress months before a wedding. My fiancee and I are wanting to get married soon and she was wondering how she can relieve some of the stress she has with the wedding. I’ll be sure to tell her to go shopping for her dress well in advance before the wedding.

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