Photos! Photos! Photos! The only way you’re going to know what dresses you like is by looking! Start off looking at photos online, magazines, designers’ websites, etc. Try to stick to actual sites that have the dress photos on them and not something like a Google Image search- it will be easier to know the designer if you do that! And then of course save whatever you like.
Budget: If you know you're not going to spend $20,000 on your dress, don't waste time trying on a bunch of gowns out of your range. You're better off focusing in on your realistic price point so you can spend more time editing down the beautiful options you can actually buy. Also, keep in mind that you'll need to factor in the cost of alterations, taxes and shipping fees, plus your veil, shoes, lingerie and jewelry, which can add up to $500 or more altogether.
Refine your selection
Just like with any other type of search for inspiration, you’ll want to weed out what doesn’t quite stand out to you after a few hours or days. Go back and look through everything again, remove photos, and refine your “collection” of dresses that you like. Repeat if necessary.
Define your style
You should see some sort of pattern once you’ve refined what you saved. It could be a fabric, a dress style, a type of embellishment, a color, or even a designer. Gather the similarities and define them. Know what it is that you’re liking so you can tell the dress store.
Plan your days of dress shopping. Make sure to plan multiple days of shopping since you may not find the one on your first day out. Look up all of the bridal shops within an hour of where you live/where you’re shopping. Look up their reviews online too- I recommend Yelp or WeddingWire. Some bridal salons can be awful and may ruin your whole dress shopping experience, and some are exceptional. And if your heart is set on a designer, of course look up what stores carry that designer. Make sure to schedule appointments at bridal salons - that way you can have a consultant dedicated to you that will be able to answer your questions. More reason to plan out your day!
Call in Advance - Just because a salon carries your favorite designer doesn't mean it'll have the exact dress you've been dying to try on. If you phone beforehand and request a specific style, chances are the salon will be able to call in a sample of that gown especially for you. While you may get lucky and snag a salesperson just by walking in, scheduling an appointment guarantees you'll get a full hour of undivided attention. Plus, many salons require you to book an appointment in order to try on gowns, so you'll want to call ahead.
Let the Salon Make Recommendations - Don't eliminate anything at first glance. If the salesperson brings you something she says you should try, try it—even if you don't initially love it or think it's totally “you." It's possible to fall for a wedding gown you didn't think you'd like or want. Not every dress looks great on a hanger, and you might have to let go of some preconceived notions and keep an open mind.
One of our favorite local salons is Love and Lace Bridal Tailor in Irvine, California. Besides the beautiful aesthetics of the bridal salon, they really know how to take care of the bride and all of her needs. We have referred many of our brides to this salon for this reason.