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Hi belles! Our friend and former Southern Weddings intern Jessica Clinch is the newest gal to take you through her wedding process here on the blog! Jessica will be blogging for us once a month until her wedding next May. In case you missed her first post, be sure to check it out here! — Emily

I am one of those girls who watches every episode of Say Yes to the Dress (yes, I still do after having found my dress!). So, needless to say, I was eager to begin wedding dress shopping right off the bat! Having seen both the positive and negative things other brides often experience during their bridal appointments, I tried to be as organized as possible before stepping foot into my first bridal boutique.

The very first thing I did was head straight to Pinterest to make a board specifically for my bridal style. I searched the boards of some of my favorite wedding magazines and wedding planners, as well as the websites of some of my favorite designers. At first, I just looked for anything and everything that made my heart skip a beat! After gathering all of my favorite pins, I was able to look at everything as a whole to see what details and styles seemed most prominent. Those were the details I knew I loved, and should look for in my own dress! Here are some of my favorite dresses I pinned:

First row: photo by Coco Tran via Style Me Pretty and Bliss by Monique Lhuillier; second row: unknown and photo by Ozzy Garcia via Once Wed; third row: Inbal Dror and Katie Stoops via Style Me Pretty; fourth row: both BHLDN

Once I took a good look at the dresses I pinned, I noticed a few things. I love soft tulle and organza accents; the flowiness they create is so beautiful in pictures, and feels oh so romantic to me! I also have a crush on intricate beaded details that make dresses unique and feel one-of-a-kind. I was open to both sweetheart necklines and dresses that have dainty sleeve details, but not full sleeves. I was potentially open to colors aside from white and ivory. And, while I’ve always thought I wanted to avoid lace on my dress, it turns out I do love certain dresses that have sweet lace details (just not all over lace).

Most significantly, I didn’t seem to have one particular dress shape that I loved best! I was drawn to fit and flare, trumpet, and ball gown styles that weren’t too full. It wasn’t until I got to my first bridal appointment and tried on gowns that I was able to tell what would look best on my particular body type!

With my Pinterest board ready on my phone and my mom in town, it was time to start dress shopping!! Luckily, Nashville is full of the most beautiful bridal boutiques. I visited all of my favorites, including The Dress Theory, The Bride Room, Modern Trousseau, and B. Hughes. Each boutique had a unique style, and carried a different collection of designers.

Bridal salon detail photo by Amy Nicole

My Pinterest search helped me narrow down which designers best fit my personal style. The designers I gravitated most toward included Monique Lhuillier (specifically, her Bliss collection), Oscar De La Renta, Reem Acra, Sarah Seven, Hayley Paige, Lea-Ann Belter, Vera Wang, and Lazaro. While I adored many of the gowns from those designers, I also knew that some of their dresses would be far outside my budget. From watching so many episodes of Say Yes to the Dress, I knew it was important to tell the stylist at each boutique what my budget was, so that I wouldn’t try on a gown that was twice my budget and fall in love!!

It was so much fun to try on gowns with my mom! We went to three bridal boutiques while she was in town one weekend, and the fourth when she came back into town with my sister over Easter weekend. I found my dress at that fourth boutique (hint… it was B. Hughes!), and it was such a joy to have both of them there with me when I found MY dress! While it would have been fun to have friends and other family members around, I loved how intimate it was to just have that moment shared between the three of us. Plus, the stylist at the boutique was my former intern when we both worked with Amber Housley, so it was extra special that I already knew her and she could help me find the perfect gown!

As prepared as I tried to be during dress shopping, it all came down to a feeling. Everyone tells you that when you try on your dress, you just know that it is the one. And as cliché as that might sound, it is so true! When I put on my wedding gown and saw myself in the mirror for the first time, the biggest smile came on my face, I couldn’t stop twirling and touching the dress, and most importantly – I didn’t want to take it off!! I can’t give away too many details about my dress, but I can say that it is both a combination of many of the details I knew I loved from the beginning, and also something completely unique. Most importantly, it fits my personality to a T, and I cannot wait to wear it when I marry Zack!

Friends, I’d love to hear: how was your dress shopping experience? How many salons did you go to? Who came with you?

emily Written with love by Emily
4 Comments
  1. avatar Jen reply

    Aww love this! I went to four salons in Austin – Second Summer, Blush, Melange and Unbridaled. All were so great! I wouldn’t say I knew which dress it was off the bat, but after mulling over the options that night I decided and went back for it. :)

    -Jen
    http://www.500daysofengagement.net

  2. avatar Amber Farrell reply

    Gorgeous dresses! I myself prefer A-siluhette gowns, looking like a princess attire with tiny lace back, tender light colors… However, tastes differ!

  3. avatar Alyssa Mock reply

    Her bracelet is stunning, where did she get it??

    • avatar Jessica Clinch reply

      Hi Alyssa! Thanks so much! My bracelet was from J.Crew a few years ago! Unfortunately I don’t think they sell this exact one anymore, but they always have gorgeous designs!

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Depending on what month you get engaged and what month you’d like to get married, it’s easy to feel intense pressure right from the get-go to check certain things off your wedding planning to do list. Aside from the biggies like booking a venue, “order a wedding dress” is usually high on the list of priorities (and sometimes anxiety triggers, too). There’s a reason experts urge you to make a quick decision, but if you’re working with a shorter timeline, don’t lose hope! Read on for our thoughts when you should order your wedding dress.

A designer gown (think Amsale, Anne Barge, or Monique Lhuillier) will generally take 5-8 months to arrive at your bridal shop after you’ve placed your order.

A gown from a larger retailer/label (think David’s Bridal or Alfred Angelo) will often arrive at the shop more quickly, usually in 1-2 months.

An off-the-rack gown (think BHLDN or J.Crew) can be shipped as quickly as overnight! Likewise, if you purchase a sample gown at a salon (the dresses brides try on – usually retired once that gown’s season has passed), you can take home your dress with you the same day. Of course, buying a non-bridal gown (like from Shopbop or Nordstrom) generally means a quicker or even same day turnaround, too.

Of course, the most reliable estimate will come from the salon where you purchase your gown – they are very familiar with each designer and can help you know what to expect! With any of these options, plan to leave 6-8 weeks for alterations after your dress arrives (usually 2-3 appointments).

Taking all of that into account, we recommend starting the dress shopping search as early as 15-10 months before your wedding date, but only after you’ve determined your location, venue, and the time of year of your wedding, as each of these factors will have a big impact on what type of gown feels appropriate.

I’d love to hear: How far in advance of your wedding did you order your dress? I started looking for a gown in August and purchased mine in November, nine months before my September wedding!

P.S. Ready for more dress shopping tips? Check out our YouTube channel, where we have a series of four videos to take you from inspiration to purchase!

We’ll be sharing a quick and simple piece of wedding planning advice based on our most frequently asked questions once a week! Feel free to email us with your own question, or pick up a copy of the Southern Weddings Planner for all of our best resources in one place!

emily Written with love by Emily
6 Comments
  1. avatar Jasmine reply

    I ordered my dress this past January for my wedding in October 2015. But, I started trying on dresses in August 2014

    • avatar Emily reply

      I’ll bet it’s beautiful! That sounds like a perfect amount of time for shopping!

  2. avatar Bethany H. reply

    I started looking for a dress in February and purchased mine in April, 11 months out from my May wedding!

  3. avatar Abby reply

    I got engaged in July, ordered my dress in August after shopping for a few days and visiting about 4 stores. The dress (Watters) came in late December. Luckily I didn’t need many alterations, just cups put in so I didn’t wear a bra and it was ready the week of my wedding February 7! So it can be done in a shorter amount of time. I didn’t want to wait to get married just to wait on the dress and luckily it came in time! :) House of White in Newburgh, IN is phenomenal. Worth a trip!

    • avatar Emily reply

      That sounds perfect! I think the whole process can often take less time than the usually-quoted advice, but experts err on the side of caution because a no-show wedding dress is much worse than a wedding dress sitting in your closet for a few months!!

  4. avatar Takita Mason reply

    How can I purchase a Southern bride binder

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Wedding dress shopping – usually one of the first (and most fun!) wedding planning tasks you’ll check off! But how enjoyable of a process it is sometimes depends on how well you’ve planned for your bridal shop visits. We have lots of wedding dress shopping tips to share, but today, we’re focusing on one piece: whom should you bring wedding dress shopping?

A lot of folks will tell you to focus on the number of people you’re bringing to the appointment (usually to say, “don’t bring too many!”). We actually think the TYPE of people is much more important. You want to ask guests who will be supportive, kind, and excited for this step in your wedding planning process. You’re not really looking for guests who will make the experience all about them, or who will share their opinions in an overly judgmental way. If only your best friend falls into the first category? She’s the one who’s coming. If mama, mama-in-law, grandmama, sister, and best friend fit the bill? That sounds like a fabulous bonding experience. (Just be sure to check in with the bridal salon beforehand – some limit the number in your entourage because of space constraints!)

In my own dress shopping journey, I ran the gamut – my first appointment was with my mother-in-law and two sisters-in-law, my second appointment was with my Mom and two sisters, and my third appointment was with just my Mom. Thankfully, they were all sweet experiences!

I’d love to hear: who/how many people did you bring to your dress shopping appointment(s)? How did it go?

P.S. Ready for more dress shopping tips? Check out our YouTube channel, where we have a series of four videos to take you from inspiration to purchase!

We’ll be sharing a quick and simple piece of wedding planning advice based on our most frequently asked questions once a week! Feel free to email us with your own question, or pick up a copy of the Southern Weddings Planner for all of our best resources in one place!

emily Written with love by Emily
8 Comments
  1. avatar Maegan Loudermilk reply

    Shopping for your wedding dress is one of many experiences that most brides only dream of, and what a memorable one! When I went shopping for my wedding dress I made sure to bring with me my biggest support group, who would be honest but also just as happy and excited for me. I think as a Southern Bride, it’s most important to invite your mom. This wedding is not only for you and your fiancé, it is for her as well. Think about your grandmothers as well, they are often full of great advice. I also recommend inviting a close friend, whether it be your MOH or your trusty sister who will tell you how beautiful you are but also will be honest with the dress. Whoever you choose to invite, keep it small and intimate. This time is about you, and your moment! Enjoy every step of this process and enjoy this time that everyone celebrates you! Congrats!

  2. avatar Christina Hedges reply

    When I went dress shopping I wanted to keep it intimate. My sister and I actually went on the same day to get our dresses. She is 3 years older than me and got married 8 months after I did. We took our mom and that was ideal. We didn’t want to get a lot of opinions; since we were going together if we would have brought everyone included in both weddings there would have been 10 bridesmaids, two mothers in law, and our aunt and grandma and that would have gotten very muddy. So we decided on just our mom and the two of us.

  3. avatar Morgan reply

    It was just my mama and me. It kept it simple by not adding too many opinions to the mix and allowing me to purchase a dress that I really loved for the right reasons. Also, I really wanted to make it a special day for just us two…and it certainly was. :)

  4. avatar Lisa reply

    I went with just my mom and two sisters, and it was perfect for me. I wanted a super intimate experience and I didn’t want to be distracted by too many opinions. They were super supportive, honest, and excited for me–the perfect combination, I thought! :)

  5. avatar Tasia reply

    My wedding dress shopping experience was perfect! I surprised my mother-in-law and two sisters over thanksgiving with a trip dress shopping, and my mom (whose approval I got first) came with us as well. I wanted my whole wedding experience to be intimate and let my family know how special they were to me and the whole process. I opted to not invite anyone that fell in that second category.

  6. avatar Jenni reply

    I recently went wedding dress shopping and brought along my Mom and my two maids of honor. It went so perfectly! I ended up buying the third dress I tried on – my whole appointment only took an hour from browsing to checking out! I think the TYPE of people I surrounded myself with was most important – I value my Mom’s opinion always. My two best friends/MOHs balance each other out so well with their opinions and they always know what’s best for me. They all three cried as soon as I stepped out of the dressing room so we all agreed on THE ONE! I can’t wait to go back with this same group to pick out bridesmaid dresses because I know we’ll be successful :)

  7. avatar Anastasia Kristina reply

    I had my future mother in law and my mommy with me for my dress fitting! My mom and I flew into Houston because she and I knew that I wanted to have an appointment at BHLDN, and there aren’t many in America, but my fiance’s family lives in Houston – so it was perfect! When we drove to BHLDN, there was a designer dress pop-up sale next door, so we stopped by there first. I tried on all of these gowns that I had always imagined myself in, but they were so heavy and uncomfortable. It’s a good thing we headed to BHLDN next, where everything fell into place. My wedding planners had champagne waiting for us, the dresses were all beautiful, and I knew I had found the one once I tried it on! I can’t wait to wear it for real in June :)

  8. avatar Whitney Evans reply

    I love y’all but I have to say: it’s “Whom should I bring wedding dress shopping?”!

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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