Best Wedding Dress Shopping Tips

I openly admit that I’ve got some “opinions” about David’s Bridal, with its mass-market domination of the modest wedding gown industry. Walk in, take a number, assume your place on the bridal wear assembly line.

Wedding Dress Shopping Tips

But I wound up at their Maine Mall store recently after an unsuccessful day of affordable gown shopping in Portland. My fight-or-flight response, triggered by an unexpectedly crowded sample sale at a local bridal boutique, had just begun to subside as we walked in to David’s. It’s a strange atmosphere in there, a mingling of cheap bridal boutique intimacy and big box efficiency that feels like two very different stores uncomfortably coexisting as one. Cheery receptionist who schedules your appointment with a personal attendant? Check. Weary employees navigating rows upon rows of gowns organized to appeal to the broadest range of size, style and budget? Also check.

A store manager whipped us through a breakneck orientation of the store’s layout, and left us to our own devices. I hadn’t managed to snag an appointment, but we wandered around in hopes that a slot would open up.

How to Shop for a Wedding Dress

I had no intention of finding much I liked at David’s. I was more focused on salvaging our dress-shopping outing and figured it would be a good place to try on a simple variety of styles. My needs were surely too unique to be satisfied here, I thought. I’m not the kind of bride who would go for a trend-of-the-moment gown, whose vision of casual wedding day style could be accommodated by a chain store.

But as I browsed the aisles, a few gowns spoke to me from beneath those clear plastic garment bags, designed to minimize the evidence of countless other brides’ curious fingers. Huh, I thought, didn’t think I’d find so many ivory A-lines with delicate lace overlays here. I mean, that’s kinda my look, and I don’t recall asking David’s to stock it for me.

As I rounded the end of one aisle, a four-foot-tall poster grabbed my eye. A slim brunette model wore a white gown with long lace sleeves, overtly styled to look as much like Kate Middleton a la the Royal Wedding as possible without actually Photo shopping the princess face onto her. I cringed, thinking of all those women who would blindly mimic Kate’s style on their own wedding day, following her lead because all the bridal magazines told them to.

Wedding Gown

As I went to pull another gown from the racks, mere seconds later, I found myself again gravitating towards lace. I’d started envisioning lace, I realized, after seeing photos of Kate’s dress all over the media in the weeks after her wedding. And judging from all the lacy gowns David’s had in stock, I wasn’t the only one. I’d never connected the dots before.

I left David’s that day feeling a bit more humble than when I walked in. Many of the dresses they carried were beautiful and affordably priced. I didn’t end up buying one, but I realized I was in no position to judge any other gal who did.  I had thought my wedding dress would be unique, as one-of-a-kind as me, my groom-to-be and our life together. My subconscious had convinced me that if I bought a dress at David’s, it would mean my wedding was indistinguishable from all the other weddings David’s caters to every year. And that just couldn’t be.

Now I realize, on a more conscious level, that what will make my wedding unique has nothing to do with the dress. Sure, I want a red gown I love and that feels perfect for the day, but if it’s also perfect for someone else’s day, so be it.

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