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Like many twenty-somethings, I’m newly engaged. In the past two months, my fiancé and I have picked a date, a venue, secured an officiant and I ordered my dress this past weekend. Our wedding will be next October so I feel pretty good about the stage we’re at. According to the infinite timelines / checklists / whatever in bridal magazines and online, I’m a bit ahead of myself with ordering my wedding dress already. But the sooner, the better when you can check things off your wedding list, right?

I did my research.

First off, go on Pinterest or buy an issue of The Knot and start getting ideas. Make a note of any patterns with dresses you like. For me, I was drawn to ruching. Think about your budget, too. Often gown prices are not listed on store or designer websites, but with a little stalking you can usually find out how much people have paid for it. Then get an idea of what dresses in your budget look like. What can you get with $x?


I became aware of my body.

This can be tough. Maybe you’ve never liked your thighs or you’re flat-chested or you have a small waist or you like your back. Figure out what you want to highlight (or hide) and pick a silhouette(s) that you think will best put what you want out there. Or maybe you just don’t know. That’s ok, that’s what these dress appointments are for! Try out a few different silhouettes and work from there. For me, I ended up with a mermaid silhouette (wanted to highlight my small waist and barre booty) but still tried on a ball gown to see what that would look like (read: it swallowed me whole.)


I stayed open minded, but with a focus.

I went to my appointment with a plan: one very specific dress I needed to try on, a similar one, and then I left the rest up to my stylist (shoutout to Casi at Madeleine’s Daughter in Portsmouth, NH…you are amazing!). I didn’t try on what I suspected would be The Dress first. I definitely suggest doing this. In my case, it went a little like this: warmer, getting warmer, nope colder, YES YES YES THIS IS THE DRESS, but wait let me try a few other styles, ending with YES I NEED TO PUT THAT DRESS BACK ON THIS IS DEFINITELY IT. I had an intuition about The Dress, but wanted validity that other dresses were just not it.


I tried this mantra:

Ok so it’s not a mantra in that you cannot chant it, but my stylist told me The Dress should:

  1. Make you feel like yourself
  2. Make you feel bridal
  3. Make you feel confident

#1 is the most important, because let’s face it, you don’t wear a wedding gown every day. It might seem impossible that you can be you in an expensive white dress. But you can incorporate your everyday self into The Dress. Are you always wearing jewelry? Something with beading or a blingy belt might be you. Simple but different? (This is what I went for) Minimal bling with an interesting detail might be just what you need.


I didn’t dilute my feelings.

I didn’t mean for my situation to happen how it did, but I ended up going to an appointment alone and purchasing my dress before my scheduled time was over. Yes, I did want my mom there. Yes, I did think I’d be shopping closer to the end of the fall. But the dress I chose was an older dress and there was the possibility of it being discontinued sometime soon, so I had to order while I still could. Had my mom and sisters and others been there, I would’ve gotten external validation, which would’ve been nice. But I think putting more cooks in the kitchen can do more harm than good. Your maid of honor might like the sleek and sexy trumpet gown but your mom might like the blingy A-line. Who do you listen to? YOURSELF. You know you more than anyone else. If you go with an entourage, keep it to your closest few people.



When I knew, I knew.

Really, you can shop forever and try on hundreds of dresses, but ultimately you will probably keep coming back to one or a few dresses. This goes back to recognizing your patterns. What exactly do you like about dress A, dress B, dress C? You don’t need to have the overly theatrical reaction you’ve seen in your binges of Say Yes to the Dress. You might not cry. You can just know without being dramatic.



Liz Witter is a 2011 graduate of St. Bonaventure University where she majored in broadcast journalism with a (useless) minor in French. She is originally from Rochester, NY but moved to Boston for a job...then another job. She spends her free time sleeping, going to Sephora or doing crafts. She plays volleyball recreationally and refuses to believe she peaked in high school. She’ll take Tim Hortons over Dunkin, and Wegmans over basically anything. You can follow her on Twitter at @lwitta6.

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