What You Should Know Before Wedding Dress Shopping
With tips from Misty Prewitt, Director of Marketing at House of Maya Bridal Salons
Photos by Dragon Studios
Websites like Pinterest and TV shows like “Say Yes to the Dress” can be great sources of entertainment and even provide fabulous ideas, but they can also give an unrealistic expectation of the wedding planning process. Dress shopping, one of the most important and fun parts of planning your wedding, can also be very stressful if you don’t know what to expect. Who should you bring with you? How do you know when it’s “the one”? These are the questions that brides too often overthink. So, I sat down with Misty Prewitt, the Director of Marketing at House of Maya Bridal Salons (with locations in Norfolk, Suffolk and Virginia Beach) and got the full scoop on everything from debunking bridal myths to the magic number of guests accompanying the bride as she shops.
CoVa: What should a bride consider before she goes shopping if she's unsure of the look or style she wants?
Prewitt: It’s different for every bride. I am a firm believer to come with an open mind. A lot of people in this age of Pinterest tend to come with something set in their mind, and once we open up their mind to other things they didn’t know were out there they end up choosing something completely different.
CoVa: Do you find that it’s helpful when a bride comes in and she’s already done some preliminary shopping online?
Prewitt: Yes and no. If the bride is taking it from a perspective of ‘I like details of this dress, details of that dress,’ it can be very helpful. Or ‘I know that this shape is flattering on me.’ Pinterest unfortunately gives a lot of unrealistic expectations because the most pinned gowns tend to be gowns that are extraordinarily expensive. But you can say ‘what I love about it is the illusion back.’ I can make that happen. A lot of brides will get in their head, ‘I need to try on this specific dress or I’m never going to be happy.’ When you’re looking on a global search engine like Pinterest, you might limit yourself.
CoVa: What does a bride need to be realistic about?
Prewitt: A few things: not bringing a hundred people; it needs to be about her own opinion. In terms of the dress, [it’s] being realistic about your budget. We’re fortunate to have four stores, but we have prices that range anywhere from $600 to $5,000. So if you come in with a $600 budget, make sure, before you come in, that the place that you’re going to has things in that budget. I think a lot of brides get sticker shock because they don’t understand how fabrication works and why a gown is expensive and why it’s worth what it’s worth.
CoVa: How many people should the bride bring with her to shop, and how should she go about choosing who gets to come?
Prewitt: No more than five. The sweet spot is three. I think it is even better when it is just you and your mom or trusted confidant. They have to be people that you can look at and say things comfortably to. When you expand beyond that, aunts and cousins, you’re not giving yourself a cutoff point to say no to anybody and that’s how you end up bringing 12 people to your appointment and not being successful. It becomes very overwhelming to have all that attention on you and all the people you love and opinions that you value. It becomes less about you and more about pleasing people.
CoVa: What should a bride consider if those around her are offering differing opinions (Ex. Mother, Sister, Mother-in-Law)?
Prewitt: She needs to stand up for herself, and sometimes it’s easier said than done. It’s a matter of how you say it, and then trusting your consultant (whether that be in the dressing room or whomever) to politely speak up for you. If you want to be in a mermaid gown, and mom wants you in a ball gown, put on a ball gown for mom. Appease her so that she can see it. Nine times out of 10 mom can see your face and know that she may have always envisioned you in a ball gown, but your face lit up when you were in that mermaid.
CoVa: What are your thoughts on a bride bringing her fiancé dress shopping or to the fitting?
Prewitt: We’re in a military town, so that actually happens a lot. A lot of times women have moved here because their fiancés are in the military, and the only person that they know is their fiancé. So, to ask them to come and make that decision by themselves—I think that’s silly. You bring the person that’s closest to you.
I am a firm believer that your fiancé/husband/whomever will love you no matter what you’re wearing, and if they’ve only ever seen you in one dress they don’t have anything to compare it to. But I completely understand the logic behind wanting to bring your significant other. I’ve seen it work beautifully; they’re crying to together and happy, and it’s a really joyous moment. I have also seen it where men, just by nature, are not excited about wedding gowns, so [brides aren’t] getting the reaction that they would want to get.
CoVa: How many dresses should the bride expect to try on before finding her perfect gown?
Prewitt: I have seen anywhere from one—I literally had a bride try on one dress and she left 20 minutes later—and then I have had brides who went to five stores, tried on 300 dresses and drove themselves insane. I don’t recommend that to anyone. If you don’t know the industry, they all kind of start to look the same and it starts to get really confusing, and you can kind of picture yourself in all of them so how do you make a choice?
You lose that “moment” that everyone talks about. You lose that ability to get it because when you’ve tried on 500 white dresses, at that point it’s just a white dress. So, I would say average brides at each appointment will try on eight to 12 dresses, and most brides will go to one to three stores.
CoVa: How should the bride know when she's found "the one?"
Prewitt: Every bride is different. Some brides cry; some brides cry at every dress they try on. It’s all about your level of emotion. There’s a lot of unrealistic expectations set by “Say Yes to the Dress” and TV. It’s just a feeling. [A] question I like to ask brides is ‘if you got one would you wish you got the other?’ And it’s ‘no, this is the only one I would ever want. I can’t imagine something being better than this.’
CoVa: How much time before the wedding should a bride allow for dress shopping and fittings?
Prewitt: Gowns can take anywhere from four to eight months to come in, depending on customizations, designer, etc. I say the safe spot to start looking for a gown is a year in advance of your wedding,
But, not everyone is afforded that. There are rush options and things like that with designers. Alterations take two to three months. We have brides who come in and are getting married next month because their fiancé is deploying. They can buy a gown right from stock, we try and fit them in with alterations if we can, and if we can’t we send them somewhere they can, and we work with people’s timelines. But in an ideal world we have a year.
We have brides who have given us three years. That’s too early. Think about who you were three years ago; it’s not who you are today.
CoVa: What’s the best way for a bride to budget for her dress?
Prewitt: There are all sorts of charts out there that say ‘your wedding costs X amount of dollars, so you spend this much on your dress.’ The average wedding gown in the U.S.—a bride spends about $1,400–$1,500 on. So that’s a safe place to start. If you’re having a $60,000 wedding, you should probably spend a little bit more on your gown.
There are $99 sales at stores and things like that. A lot of times those are the dresses that have been on the rack for four and five years and aren’t what you’re looking for when you’re the Pinterest bride. But if you give yourself a $2000 budget you’ll find the perfect gown for $1,200.
For some brides, their gown is what’s most important, like when they picture their wedding day, the only thing they’ve ever pictured is them in their gown. Put more money toward your gown then. But other brides couldn’t care less; then put more money toward the thing that you do care about.