top of page
  • Writer's pictureKatelyn Madden

Top Tips for the Best Bridal Appointment from a former Bridal Consultant

Photography: Angela Lally Photography

Valentine’s Day just happened so I know that we have a lot of new brides out there! You have the ring and now it’s time to start thinking of that perfect dress you will wear when walking down the aisle to marry your hubby-to-be!

You are so excited and girl, I am so excited for you! But you have all of these questions: where to go, how many dresses to try on, what style, what should my budget be? I am here to help you have the best appointment you can have! I worked as a bridal consultant in Austin and there were so many tips I wanted to convey to each bride as she came through the door but we only had about 90 minutes! Not enough time to relay all of my tips so I decided to write them down for you so you can be an expert before you even walk through the door!

Let’s get started!

1. Only book 2-3 stores MAX!

I have seen it 100 times. A bride comes in saying that this was her 5th, 6th, or even 7th store… of the day! I have no idea how she is even standing right now, she must be exhausted! At each store you will try on about 10-15 dresses. That means she must have tried on 75-105 dresses!

Girl, please do not do this to yourself. To start off, you will not be able to remember what dresses you have tried on. This is not like prom dress shopping where the dresses are all different colors. It is a sea of variations on white. You will feel lost not being able to remember what your favorites are.

If you go to only 1-3 stores you will be able to try on many different gowns because they will host anywhere from 10-40 designer’s styles so you will not see just one type of dress. Where I worked, we had about 60 designers in the store so a bride could find any style she wanted. You will be able to remember the dresses you tried on, you won’t be exhausted, and you won’t be overwhelmed by dress overload. I promise it will be a much better experience! I found my wedding dress in the second store I went to and it was great to not feel like finding my wedding dress was the never-ending-scavenger-hunt.

Narrow down the type of style and theme you want your wedding to be (chic and modern, quirky and fun, or boho and lace) then look for stores who carry that vibe!

2. Choose the people who will come with you….the right people

As the Consultant, this is the hardest one to watch. A Bride comes in and she is so excited. Then throughout her appointment the people she brought with her make her appointment a nightmare.

Do yourself a favor and honestly ask yourself “Will this person really be here for me and will they give me helpful and positive feedback or am I just bringing them because I feel like I have to?” and “Do I really want this person here?”.

The best groups I have seen really want the Bride to find her dress and only care about the Bride's feelings in the dress; not their stylistic choices and what they want to look like on their wedding day. You want women who will lift you up and are so excited for you. You want girlfriends who build you up and not tear you down.

I will also add that the more people you bring, the more stressful it becomes. Try to only bring 2-3 people with you so that you only have a few people’s opinions. It’s your dress girl! It doesn’t matter what everyone thinks, it just matters how that dress makes you feel as a Bride! So invite the most important people, sip some champagne with them, and have a wonderful dress finding experience!

3. Set your budget

Most stores have an array of dresses that are within different budgets so please have a ballpark idea of your budget before you get to the store. It would also be a good idea to call the stores you are wanting to go to before you go shopping and ask them if they have dresses within your budget just to make sure.

Just as a heads up; designer wedding dresses start (at the lowest) at around $1,200 and can go up to $40,000, $50,000, or even higher. Where I worked, most of our dresses that had to be ordered were around $1,700-$5,500.

There are resale shops that have sample dresses (dresses that were never worn but brides tried them on), overstock dresses (when a designer made too many dresses and sent them to a resale shop, aka NEW AND NEVER WORN), and gently used dresses from brides that can typically range from $500-$2,500. These dresses are off the rack so you can take them home that day!

Set your budget and then go find your dress!

4. Know the basic facts of purchasing a wedding dress!

First dresses can take anywhere from 3-8 months to come in (most dresses will be in the 3-5 month range). Then your dress will take about 6-8 weeks to alter. This means you need to plan for about 6-8 months before your wedding date to order your dress! If you have a shorter time frame look at resale shops where you can buy your dress off the rack! **Pro tip! If you are wanting to take bridal portraits budget in an extra month of time at least! This is because you will want to take these before your wedding day and your photographer will take a few weeks to get your photos back to you. Then it may take a couple of weeks for any prints to come in. Just a heads up!

Second, make sure to call your alterations person when you purchase your dress just to get on the list for alterations ahead of time because they do fill up! (Make sure this person is skilled with wedding dresses and not just regular clothes because wedding dresses have a different structure!).

Budget for your alterations as well because those are a separate cost (anywhere from $300-$1,000 for normal alterations depending on what you need).

The dresses in the store are sample sizes and will not fit you perfectly. Rest assured because they will have clamps to help shape the dress to fit you better. It will not be perfect so get your imagination flowing for how the dress will fit you better in your size!

5. Do not have only one dress in mind when looking for a dress

This one is a hard one to overcome as well. The Bride comes in with this specific dress that she “knows” is the one. We find it, she tries it on, doesn’t love it, and then continues to try on different versions of that dress just hoping to fall in love.

Girl, I am really sorry to break it to you, but that isn’t your dress if you didn’t fall in love.

Try on all different styles, fabrics, shapes, and necklines until you find something that you are absolutely in love with! It’s okay to know that you don’t want a colored dress, or you don’t want sleeves. We all have that one thing we don’t want, but try on a little bit of everything to really find your style! I will encourage you that if your Consultant urges you to try a different style then try it! It won’t hurt to see if you love it and if you don’t then you can try something else.

My favorite appointments were the Brides who did not want a ballgown. I eventually got them to try on a ballgown and they completely fell in love and found their dress! It was the best to see them love how they looked and felt in a dress they never imagined for themselves. Allow yourself the freedom to try on dresses you don’t expect to like (because you never know until you try)!

6. You may not have the aha moment (and that’s okay)!

You have dreamed of this since you were 5 years old. You walk into the store, you try on the perfect dress, it’s THE dress! You cry, your Mom cries, and the golden lights with the angels singing shines on you as you found the most wonderful dress!

I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but this does not always happen.

I will say that the moment a bride finds her dress is always very special, very happy and joyful! Sometimes it just takes some time. When I tried on my wedding dress the first time I really liked it, but I wasn’t sure if it was the one. It wasn’t until the second time of putting it on with all of the special touches like a veil and jewelry that I fell in love! I didn’t cry, but I finally felt that feeling of “I’m a Bride, I’m not just playing dress up anymore and I feel beautiful!”. I also knew that I would regret not buying that dress and that was a big indicator!

You will love your dress, you just might not cry and that’s okay! Everyone responds differently, we are not all hard wired to cry when we find the dress. I will promise you that you will feel special and excited!

7. Yes, the first dress you try on at the first store could be your dress!

I have seen the disbelief when this happens too. A new bride walks in, describes what she wants and the consultant brings her a dress. She is hesitant but tries it on and falls in love right away! She tries on a few more dresses but none compare to the first dress she tried on.

Yes girl, this can happen! It can be that easy!

Wedding dress shopping can feel stressful so if you think you have found your dress (even if it is the first one) allow yourself to fall in love! You can definitely try on a couple more dresses just to make sure but don’t psych yourself out just because it’s the first dress. It can be love at first sight! It happens more often than you think!

8. Don’t look to others for your feelings

I know, I felt it too. We all want everyone to love our dress as much as we do! Hang in with me though. Not everyone will love your dress the way you do, but they will love how happy and radiant you look in your dress, because it’s YOUR dress!

If you settle on a dress that everyone else loves but you don’t, you will not be excited to wear it. Pick a dress that makes you feel special and all you want to do is be wearing it! That’s how you should feel!

If someone in your entourage doesn’t like the dress it isn’t because they don’t want you to be happy. It’s more that they had a different vision than what you are wearing and they need some time to change that vision. Or another one I see is that they want you to wear something similar to their style and you have a different style than they do (and that’s okay!).

Get the dress that you love girl and love yourself in it!

9. Learn the lingo!

The world of bridal fashion has its own lingo like A-Line, dropped waist, horsehair, organza, seamlines, and many more terms that you may or may not be familiar with. Try to learn some of it so you can describe what you like and don’t like. You can also ask your consultant throughout the appointment what a type of fabric, dress shape, or neckline each dress is so you can learn while you shop!

10. Trust your consultant

I know you just met her for the first time but trust me, your consultant is there to help with more than just zipping up the dress. Bridal Consultants are trained in style, architecture, lingo, and everything in between for the dresses they have in the store. They will be able to learn your vision in a few minutes and bring you the dress of your dreams! They are your stylist, friend, knowledge giver, hostess, your supporter, and expert in the dresses they have because they are around them every day.

If they urge you to try on a dress you are unsure about, go ahead and try it on! It won’t hurt and maybe your Consultant saw that you might love something you never even thought of!

They also help keep the flow of the appointment and make sure you have enough time to try on all of the dresses you want to try on. Put your trust in them and they will make your appointment run smoothly!

11. Don’t feel like you have to try every dress your entourage brings you

The girls you bring with you will be just as excited as you are, so naturally they will want to pull all of their favorites for you. Your Consultant will try to filter through the dresses your entourage brings you so that you do not get overwhelmed. Your appointment is only 90 minutes so you want to focus on the dresses that really could be the dress!

It is totally okay to try on the dress that your Mom really wants to see you in; but I am going to let you in on a secret… You do not have to try on every dress they bring you! You can bring the dresses into your room and decide if you want to try them on and then your Consultant can take back any dresses you do not want to try on.

As a former Consultant it was never fun to have the Bride walk out in her favorite dress to an empty couch because everyone was still shopping. If you do not want your entourage to shop for you while you are trying on dresses, be up front with them before you even go into a store about your expectations for the appointment. Then no one will get their feelings hurt (especially you!).

12. Bring any items you would like to wear with your dress to the appointment

If you have your shoes, a veil, or jewelry already picked out then make sure to bring them with you so you can see if they go with the dresses you are trying on. You do not need to bring a bra as all designer wedding dresses come with a built in bra (genius, right??).

I would also recommend only putting on your high heels for the favorites at each store so your feet are not in pain throughout the day!

13. Take breaks

This is important too as dress shopping is exhausting! Make sure to plan out breaks in between each store so you can rest and give your brain a break from remembering all of the dresses. Try not to look at pictures of the dresses you have tried on so you really can rest. Make sure to eat food and drink plenty of water so you feel good throughout the whole experience!

14. Have fun!

I know that wedding dress shopping can feel stressful especially if you have a million concerns flying around in your head! Remember though that this is the only time in your life that you will get to try on wedding dresses so take the time to enjoy the whole process and love how you look!

15. Don’t be afraid to pull the trigger!

This seems like it would be an easy one right? I wish it was. I have experienced this one before where a Bride has fallen in love with a dress, even cried, and walked away from it because she was too afraid to say yes to her dress.

If you fall in love with the dress, feel like a bride, and can’t wait for everyone to see you in it; then this is your dress! Even if it is not exactly what you have envisioned yourself in, it is still your dress! Don’t walk away from your bridal moment because you won’t get it back. Allow yourself to feel beautiful and love yourself in your gown and then celebrate with your family and friends as you say yes.

I know you may be thinking there may be another dress out there that you may love more. The truth is though that you will ruin your dress shopping experience by going to every store to try on every dress. It will not be a fun experience anymore. So if you believe you have found your dress then go for it!

The question I always asked my brides is if this dress were to be discontinued tomorrow and you didn’t purchase it, would you regret not buying it? If so, then girl this is your dress!

I hope all of my tips will help you find your dream dress and have an amazing time in the process of finding it! Bring the people you love, have fun, and when you find your dress have your bridal moment and say yes!


Katelyn Madden

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page