When you think about a wedding, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Perhaps it’s the altar, or the exchange of wedding rings, or maybe you’re already thinking about the reception (easy tiger). But for many, it’s the wedding dress. That’s because the wedding dress makes a huge statement. Think about it. Everyone has come from far and wide to see their favorite couple take center stage and solidify their eternal love for each other—and while the dashing young groom is sure to turn heads, make no mistake, when the bride walks down the aisle, all eyes will be on her. With that in mind, you’ll want to make sure you’re looking like a million bucks. How can you be sure you will? With the perfect wedding dress of course! Here are 7 tips to make sure you get the best dress for you.

1. Find Out What You Like

Magazines, Pinterest, bridal boutique websites, you name it! You can easily find dozens, if not hundreds of trending wedding dress styles online. From celebrity gowns, to contemporary designers, or even something with a traditional flair, the internet has it all. Something catch your eye? Keep note of it so you have an idea of what to try on when you make an appointment at a bridal salon.

2. Try to Keep an Open Mind

Unfortunately, not every dress you fall in love with will fit like the model or celebrity showcasing it. But that’s perfectly alright! We all have our own assets that help make us special—you know, the very reason why your future husband proposed to you in the first place. The most important thing however, is being able to flaunt your unique assets in the best way. Maybe you have an idea as to what works well on you and what doesn’t. Nevertheless, listen to your bridal consultant and be open to their advice. Consultants see hundreds of soon-to-be brides every day and will have some pretty good suggestions as to what will look best on you.

3. Stay True to Your Size

Thinking about going a size or two down to force yourself to get in shape for the wedding? You wouldn’t be alone. But believe it or not, bridal sizes actually run a size or two higher than you’d typically run in normal clothes. So, forget about the number and go with what feels comfortable. After all, you want to feel good on your big day!

4. Shop Several Months in Advance

The best time to look for a wedding dress is when you’re not in a rush. The wedding planning process can be stressful as it is, and the last thing you want to do is add another layer of complexity by not being able to find a dress right away. Additionally, some gowns can take 4 to 8 months to be produced. Add to that the typical two to three months it takes to make alterations and you’ll want to be sure you’re dress shopping from the get-go!

5. Look for Dresses in Your Budget

Before you make an appointment at a bridal salon, figure out your budget. Planning a wedding can be an expensive endeavor, and the cost of a new wedding dress is nothing to sneeze at. Fortunately, your wedding is likely many months away, so you still have time to build your savings. To make it simple, set up direct deposits to your savings account or get a mobile banking app to do it for you. Experts suggest your wedding dress should cost around 10% of your overall wedding budget, so make sure you’re being realistic with what you try on.

6. Factor Unexpected Costs in Your Budget

Expect the unexpected. I know, cliché right? But really. You never know how many times you’ll need to get extra tailoring work done, or how much you’ll need to spend to complete the look with accessories (figure a veil, jewelry, and heels). Perhaps a better way to think about it is: 10% of your total wedding budget should cover your entire look, not just the dress. This way, you’ll avoid going over budget, or worse: going in debt!

7. Filter Your Search

When in the market for a wedding gown, you’ll likely be overwhelmed by the number of bridal salons to shop at and dresses to try on. But doing a bit of research beforehand can save you loads of time. After all, you won’t want to bother with a bridal salon that doesn’t carry the type of dress you want, or has poor customer service. Filter your search by finding out as much as you can before making an appointment. A quick Google search might even reveal what times they’re the least busy, and therefore more available to assist you in finding the perfect gown.

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