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Complete Wedding Dress Buying Guide

Buying a wedding dress can be stressful and complicated for many brides. Therefore, I’ve put together an extensive guide for buying a wedding dress that you’ll love for your big day!


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Which Wedding Dress Should You Wear for Your Body Type?

Wedding dresses come in a lot of different styles and it’s difficult to know which style is best for your body type. Here’s a guide for picking the best dress style for your body type.

Ball Gown Style

Ball gown wedding dresses have a fitted bodice but the skirt is very full like Cinderella’s gown.

Ball gown style wedding dresses are very versatile for different body types. It’s great for the tall and skinny who is lacking curves. The fitted bodice will accentuate her waist and show off her slim figure whereas the full skirt will add curvature to her figure.

On the other hand, ball gown or princess gown wedding dresses are great for the voluptuous girl who maybe wants to hide a few curves. The fitted bodice will accentuate her bust but hide the skirt will hide other curves.

If you have a more petite body, you may find a princess style ball gown to be a little overwhelming.

Sheath Dress Style

The sheath or column style wedding dress has a lengthening effect with long straight lines and a raised waistline.

If you are a short person, the sheath dress style is great for you because it will help you look taller. The dress follows your natural shape and gives you a very clean, modern look.

Also, the sheath dress is a great option for those who do not want to feel overwhelmed with a lot of fabric.

Sheath/column style dresses are great for more casual or beach themed weddings.

A-Line Dress Style

An A-line style wedding dress has a fitted bodice to accentuate your narrowest point and they flare out into an A-shaped skirt.

Similar to the ball gown, A-line dresses are great for bustier women or women who have a pear-shaped body. Many plus size women choose an A-line dress to help accentuate their narrowest point and hide everything else.

A-line dresses are all about proportions. It gives that appearance of neither top or bottom-heaviness by giving balance to the body shape. This style is also very easy to wear and flowy.

Mermaid Dress Style

The mermaid or trumpet style dress elongates the frame and accentuates your curves. It stands out because of how slim it is through the waist and hips and dramatic flare at the thigh or knees.

Plus-sized brides love the mermaid style for the dramatic effect and slimmer brides love it to bring out their curves more.

Additionally, the mermaid style is perfect for petite brides. Since it elongates your mid section, it helps you to appear taller!

Mermaid or trumpet style wedding dresses all about drama and showing off the bride’s figure in an elegant way. It’s a favorite of many body types.

Short Wedding Dresses

Short wedding dresses can work great for any body type. They are a little less formal and work great for destination weddings, courthouse weddings, or for anyone who just wants something a little different.

Skirt lengths vary anywhere from knee to calf length (tea length).

The accessories play a huge part in the look of short wedding dresses. Brides who wear long dresses with a train rarely ever show off the fancy shoes they bought to go with the dresses. With this dress, the shoes can become a centerpiece to the look!

Wedding Dress Neckline Styles

Just like there are various styles of wedding dresses, there are even more styles of necklines. Whether you want something that accentuates your curves or something that is more modest, you can use this helpful guide to figure out which style you like.

Sweetheart

This style is called “sweetheart” simply because the shape of the top resembles the top of a heart. It’s timeless and classic, becoming one of the most popular necklines chosen by many brides. Most of the time sweetheart necklines are strapless but they can be styled with a spaghetti strap or something similar. Sweetheart necklines are great for petite brides who want more curves.

Semi-Sweetheart

Very similar to the traditional sweetheart neckline, the semi-sweetheart simply has a shallower dip at the center of the neck. This allows for a slightly more conservative look.

Straight Across

As its name indicates, a straight across neckline is a simple straight cut that goes across the chest. It’s often seen on strapless dresses but can also be styled with spaghetti straps. The straight across wedding dress neckline is flattering on many body types but especially on women with broader shoulders.

V-Neck

This neckline forms the shape of a V on the chest, hence the name v-neck. This is one of the most commonly seen wedding dress necklines. It has a very slimming effect and is commonly seen with shoulder straps or gowns with sleeves.

One-Shoulder

A one-shoulder simply features a singly strap that cuts diagnally across the chest and is secured over one shoulder. The other shoulder is bare on the other side. This is a modern neckline that is perfect for showing off your upper arms, shoulder, and collarbone.

Off-Shoulder

Even more so than the one-shoulder neckline, the off shoulder neckline emphasizes the collarbone and shoulders. This is a great neckline style for medium to full-busted brides. However, brides with broad shoulders and full arms may not like this style. It can also be paired nicely with a shawl during cooler months.

Queen Anne

The Queen Anne neckline combines the sweetheart or straight across neckline with cap sleeves. These sleeves are usually lace or sheer. It also has a higher cut in the back as well.

High Neck

Similar to a turtleneck, the high neck neckline style wraps around the neck. With deep armholes, it looks perfect on women who have broad shoulders and small busts. It’s also a great neckline for brides looking for a more modest option

Halter

A halter neckline features a loop that goes around the back of the neck, leaving the shoulders and back completely open. It is usually paired with a v-neck style top as well. This neckline is idea for brides who want to show of their shoulders and upper back.

Halter Strap

A halter strap neckline is the same as a typical halter but looks like a strapless dress with the ties connected near the armpits and they pulled back and tied behind the neck.

Boat Neck

The boat neck neckline follows the curve of your collarbone all the way to your shoulders. This neckline is another great option for those seeing a more modest look.

Jewel

Sitting at the base of the throat, the jewel neckline is called such because it sits right where a necklace would sit on your chest. The roundness of the neckline gives the illusion of a fuller bust. This neckline is also called the t-shirt neckline.

Illusion

Similar to strapless but offering more coverage, the illusion neckline is usually made of sheer or lace. It usually extends from the upper part of the bodice to the neckline, but it could also be a continuation of the overlay on the entire dress. This neckline style has become hugely popular over the last several years.

Square

Like it’s name describes, the square neckline forms the shape of square on the chest with straps over the shoulders. This design gives the illusion of narrow shoulders and longer neck.

Scoop

Scoop necklines work well with most body types, especially those with narrow shoulders, athletic silhouettes, or hourglass figures. This neckline also helps enhance the bust line. The scoop neck line is similar to the jewel neckline but can sits lower.

What Color Wedding Dress Should I Wear?

Traditionally, brides always wear a pure white dress. However, it’s become more and more popular for brides to choose a different shade of white or nude color. Choosing what color of wedding dress you want can also depend on your skin tone.

Of course, if you’re a traditionalist like me, you can always stick with the pure white wedding dress! 😉


White

This is the brightest of colors for wedding dress. The tone may very a little bit from synthetic pure white fabrics to slightly off-white, common with silk and cotton materials.

White wedding gowns look great on brides with darker skin and olive or yellow undertones.

Organza and chiffon are common fabrics used to make pure white wedding dresses. Embellishments include embroidered lace and crystals. Additionally, pure white wedding dresses look amazing for outdoor weddings such as a beach wedding.


Ivory or Cream

Ivory or cream colored wedding dresses are a warmer color than white but not too dark. Ivory/cream has a slight tint of yellow.

Ivory or cream is a great color for fair and medium skin tones.

Ivory is common for vintage inspired dresses and is commonly paired with lace. Cream colored dresses are considered soft and romantic.


Nude

Nude or beige colored dresses look great on almost any skin tone. They are one of the warmest looking colors and one of the darkest.

Also, these wedding dresses tend to have a gold hint to them that gives them an elegance.


Blush

Blush is a unique color for walking down the aisle. The color adds a soft elegance to the day. However, it’s also not so gaudy that it overwhelms that rest of your decor.

Blush colored wedding dresses look great on light colored skin tones.

Additionally, blush wedding gowns go great with many color schemes. It’s a great way to set off your entire theme and palette.


Smokey Gray

Smokey gray, which even look bluish sometimes, giving your wedding a magical fairy tale appearance.

Gray or blue for a wedding dress is a unique color that many won’t forget.

Gray is such a versatile neutral color that it goes with a lot of great color schemes.

How Much Do Wedding Dresses Cost?

Honestly, this is a loaded question. There are so many different types and qualities of wedding dress that the prices really are across the board… anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. The cost also greatly depends on the season you’re buying in as well. On average, brides in the United States spend about $1500 on a wedding dress. But it doesn’t have to be that much!

How much you spend on your wedding dress really depends on what you want. If you’re looking for something that is more simple, not as many embellishments and is possibly made with synthetic material… you should be able to get a cheaper price on a dress.

For example, here is a comparison of what you can get with an inexpensive dress vs a expensive dress at David’s Bridal, one of the premier bridal shops in the country.


The Inexpensive Option

This Point D’Esprit High Neck Sheath Wedding Dress on DavidsBridal.com is listed at $119.95.

It’s a very simple dress that is made with tulle and an interior lining. The sash is sold separately for $49.95, bringing the total for this dress up to $169.90

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the simplicity (or cheapness) of this dress. This is the perfect option for a simple beach wedding or even a boho wedding. Maybe you’re a minimalist and this is exactly your style. Just because the dress is “cheap” compared to others doesn’t mean it looks cheap.


The Expensive Option

This White by Vera Wang Lace Sheath Wedding Dress on DavidsBridal.com is retails for $1,348.

It’s a much more ornate dress that is made with corded lace and delicate organza flowers. It also includes a sweep train and 4″ of extra length so that it can be altered to hang just right on you.

To be completely honest, I love both dresses, the inexpensive and the expensive version. They’re both beautiful in their own ways. It’s simply a matter of what you like and how much you want to pay for it.

Are Wedding Dress Appointments Free?

It is not typical for bridal stores to charge a fee just so you can try on dresses. There may be a few out there that do, but for the most part, trying on dresses is completely free.

If you need to make an appointment for alterations, most likely you’ll be charged a flat fee or an hourly rate.

Some may charge you if they take your measurements and you don’t end up buying a dress from them. Be sure to ask the store for yourself to find out if they have any hidden fees.

Can Wedding Dress Prices Be Negotiated?

Negotiating a wedding dress price is certainly an option. The worst the shop can say is NO. Wedding dresses are obviously expensive and you’re probably going to spend quite of bit of time researching prices. If you find a dress that you like is being sold cheaper somewhere else, you may want to ask your bridal shop if they’ll price match.

Additionally, you can ask if your boutique is having a trunk show with that designer where you can get a discount.

Some reasons you may want to consider negotiating a price match is the shop you like is closer, the people are nicer, they spent more time with you trying to find the perfect dress, they have other accessories that you want to order, etc.

When Are Wedding Dresses on Sale?

This might be a little surprising, but summer is actually the best season to find sales on wedding dresses. Summer is the slow season for bridal shops since that’s the main season for weddings and brides will have bought their dresses months in advance.

Additionally, at anytime, you can ask to purchase a sample dress as well which will help bring costs down.

Lastly, you can always hit up second hand stores and usually find a few dresses there. Don’t worry if the dress is way bigger than you need, a seamstress can work wonders to get the dress down to the size you need.

Can Wedding Dresses Be Rented?

Wedding dresses are a major expense and spending an average of $1500 on a dress you’ll wear once might seem a little ridiculous. When the groom and groomsmen can rent their suits and tuxedos, why can’t the bride rent her dress too? The good news is, she can!

You can use a place like Rent the Runway to get a simple wedding dress for much less than buying a dress yourself. The dress pictured here can be rented for four days for only $99!

Not only can you find simple wedding dresses, you can even find something elegant and classy for your bridesmaids to wear. This will help cut down on a lot of costs and spare your budget from going overboard.

Are Wedding Dress Sizes Different?

Unfortunately, yes. Wedding dresses almost always run small. So, don’t fret if you normally wear a size 6 and you end up needing to order a size 10. This is completely normal.

In fact, wedding dress sizes don’t even run standard from shop to shop. A size 10 in one shop might be a size 14 in another shop and the dresses have the same exact measurements.

One of the reasons given for this problem in sizing is that many dress designers started in Europe and their size charts are European, which run smaller than in America.

Additionally, don’t be alarmed if you ordered a size 10 and your shop hands you a dress that says size 14. It’s not uncommon for shops to automatically order 2 sizes larger than needed with the expectations that the dress will be altered to your exact measurement.

Wedding dress shops aren’t trying to make you feel overweight, they are just off on the sizing chart, I promise!

Can Wedding Dress Be Let Out?

Absolutely! It not uncommon for some brides to gain a few pounds leading up to their wedding. It’s completely okay and there is no need to freak out when you go for your final fittings be fore the wedding.

Most designers include extra material in the seams on the dress for just this purpose. The side seems under the arms can be let out in most cases to make the dress bigger. If this isn’t an option, your seamstress can put in a corset back, which could add up to 5 sizes to your dress.

Don’t panic, it’s completely fixable. If you want to read more, check out my article My Wedding Dress is Too Small! Can it Be Altered?“.

Can a Wedding Dress Train Be Shortened?

You may find a wedding dress that you absolutely love, but you hate the train. It’s definitely possible to to have your train shortened or even chopped off all together.

You will want to take your dress to several seamstresses to ask their opinion and get quotes. It could get pretty expensive depending on what types of fabric your dress is made from and how much you want to have taken off. They will also make sure that the material will be able to lay right after the train is removed.

How Much Will Wedding Dress Alterations Cost?

You should budget to spend between $200 to $300 for wedding dress alterations. There are some rare cases where you may need to up a lot more, but for basic things, you should be in this range.

The cost of alterations is going to greatly depend on the number and complexity of changes you need to have done. It also depends on the amount of fabric your seamstress needs to deal with.

You should shop around and get quotes from various shops to get the best deal. You can likely find a seamstress for much cheaper locally than hiring the person who works for the bridal shop. Also, ask your friends if they know anyone or recommend the person they used.

When to Bustle a Wedding Dress?

Wedding dress trains looks so beautiful in ceremony pictures but can become a huge safety problem afterwards. Some people have wondered about when to bustle their dress.

Normally, the train is put up in the bustle immediately following the ceremony and pictures and before the reception begins. First, it becomes a hazard to the bride and everyone else to walk around with the train down. Second, it’s much easier to move around when the bustle up. Third, it might seem awkward to have to leave your reception with your mom or maid of honor to put up your bustle. It’s best to do it before you make your grand entrance and then freely enjoy the party.

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kristin-the-wedding-blogger-2020-300x300.png

Hi, I’m Kristin. While I haven’t found my Prince Charming yet, I’ve been dreaming of getting married for a long long time. I started this site as a place to record all the things I’ve found and researched in preparation for my own wedding someday. I can’t wait to share it all with you!

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