Here's Your Complete Wedding Dress Shopping Timeline - When should you start shopping for a adding dress? How soon is too soon, and how late is too late to start shopping? Seriously, is there a right time to find your wedding dress?
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Guide on Buying a Wedding Dress
The truth is when you begin wedding dress shopping depends on a few things, including your dress vision (glam or classic?), your engagement timeline (do you have two years to plan or four months to get cracking?), and, finally, your desire to go (if you're chomping at the bit, don't torture yourself—get started!). Timing is essential when it comes to wedding dress shopping—so don't miss these deadlines along the way.
Set Your Gown Budget
After setting the budget for your wedding, decide how much of that will be spent on your dress. In addition to the cost of the dress, add on taxes, alterations and possibly shipping. Don't also forget to set aside part of that budget (10 to 20 percent) for extras like your shoes, veil and jewelry.
Do Your Research
Before you start wedding dress shopping, figure out what style you're looking for—and we can help with that. We just launched The Knot Fashion Quiz to help curate your wedding dress aesthetic, give you key style descriptors and recommend designers we think you'll love (it's like a dating app for wedding dresses).
Your venue can also be super-helpful in narrowing down your ideal look before you look for a wedding dress. If you're having a beachside wedding, you'll probably want a flowy, unfussy gown. Are you getting married at an upscale hotel? A formal ball gown could be your dress. Also, find out what silhouettes the best suit your body shape.
Then look through pictures of wedding dresses online and in magazines and tear out or save your favourite styles. The Wedding LookBook by The Knot app is a great place to begin—you can search thousands of gowns by style and price. and find local salons that carry them. Or, browse our wedding dress marketplace for a list of salons in your area.
While plenty of research can help narrow down your options, keep an open mind. An experienced bridal consultant can help you find the right dress for your budget and body type—and the style of dress you end up loving might even surprise you.
You're Getting Married Really Soon
On the other hand, not everyone has the luxury of time when planning their wedding. If you're tying the knot more like three to six months after getting engaged, our advice is simply to get started as soon as you can. There may not be time to request custom lace sleeves, but there will definitely be enough time to find an existing gown, with the details you love, that only requires a few alterations to fit your gorgeous figure.
Choose Your Shopping Mates
Bring either your mom or a trusted friend when you go wedding dress shopping, but limit your entourage to two or three people. Too many opinions can make your dress shopping experience unnecessarily confusing. Gown shopping is not one of those occasions when you want too many cooks in the kitchen.
Consider a Bridal Stylist
Yes, there is such a thing as a bridal stylist. Choose one wisely, as he or she will serve as your right hand in the dress shopping process, as well as in alterations, accessory coordination, and hopefully, on the day-of your wedding. A bridal stylist is far more than a shopping consultant, a seamstress, a steamer, or a dresser. Consider them the artistic director of your wedding fashion, curating each of your looks and helping to translate them seamlessly into your portraits.
You Can’t Wait to Start Wedding Dress Shopping if....
Getting married in, like, two years? Feel free to wait until closer to your date (again, 9 to 12 months out) to get started. You're more than welcome to jump right in if you want to, but there are a few potential pitfalls of starting too soon. If you buy a wedding gown now, you might need to store it (which could be a pain if you chose a full skirt and have a studio apartment). You may be able to have it stored at your seamstress' or at the salon though, so ask about this possibility. Also, remember that a whole new wave of dress collections will come out next year—something to think about if you're prone to changing your mind or love a timely trend. Consider, too, what you're body is currently going through and how any changes could affect your dress choice—the last thing you want is to buy a dress too soon and spend a fortune on alterations. And one last thing, by delaying your dress shopping, you can plan to save money during the first year of your engagement then splurge a little on your dream dress when the time comes.
The Short Answer
You don't need to be wearing a certain dress to get married, in truth, you can walk into a shop today and buy a white dress (or any kind of dress!), and get married in it tomorrow. That said, if you want to have as many options open to you as possible, and the full, 'classic wedding dress shopping experience' without feeling rushed into a decision, you should start wedding dress shopping at least eight months before your wedding with a view to ordering at least six months out. That will give you plenty of time for research, making appointments, making a final decision, manufacturing, shipping and alterations.