Deciding which wedding dress I was going to wear was something I struggled with, big time. In the beginning when we were planning to have our wedding next May, my vision was very different compared to the wedding we had. At first, I was imagining a dress that had some sparkle, tulle, lace, maybe a touch over-the-top even. But in the end, the dress I wore was absolutely perfect for our wedding.
The biggest struggle for me was that each time I tried dresses on, my favorite dress of the session was very different than the last. I went into the shop thinking I knew exactly what I wanted, and left with something totally different in my mind. One time it was a ballgown (short lived, but very beautiful), one time it was a fully beaded and sequined gown, and another time it was a very simple lace dress.
Of course my favorite was changing as a result of the selection the store had, but also based on where we were at with planning the actual wedding. The first time I went dress shopping was in New Hampshire with my mom, 9 days after Dan and I got engaged (in Paris, just in case you forgot). It hadn’t fully hit me yet that we were engaged, but we were home for the holidays and weren’t sure when the next time my mom would be able to join, so her and I started there. The difficult part was that Dan and I had no idea what kind of venue, where, when etc. we’d be getting married, so I had no idea what kind of dress I wanted. I wanted my dress to go with the ‘theme’ if you will.
- Our first stop in New Hampshire was Modern Bridal. They have a pretty big selection, and I did find a few dresses I liked, but none that felt like the one. The most enticing part of possibly getting a dress in NH is no sales tax, which can seriously make a difference. But, not luck.
Modern Bridal – Bedford, NH (December 2019)
2. The next time I went was in NH again in July when Dan and I went home for my sisters’ birthdays and the 4th. This time though, covid was very much involved; we were fully masked, I wasn’t able to select the dresses I wanted to try (the store associate went through racks and selected based on what I told her I wanted), and there were some dresses I couldn’t try based on the timing of the previous person trying it. Did I feel sorry for myself for not really getting the ‘wedding dress shopping experience’? Yes, absolutely. Having a limit to the number of guests I can bring, seeing how the dress would look sans mask, celebrating with champagne, yeah all of that sucked. But life goes on, and we complied of course for safety, and each time I went thereafter. I will note that I was given permission to remove my mask just for pictures, and I held my breath the whole time.
I did like this dress, and it was a top contender, but only until I went to the next shop. And looking back, I don’t love the neckline or bodice on me. Onto the next.
Modern Bridal – Bedford, NH (July)
3. When I got back to California, I decided it would ultimately be easier to get a dress locally for fittings etc. especially since traveling isn’t as easy now. The only thing that was tough was not having my family there with me. Luckily, I have gained a truly great friend through Dan who went to all my appointments with me, held the phone so my mom could see via FaceTime, and was even the one who eventually married Dan and me.
She suggested a shop in the Bay Area that had a nice selection. I actually visited the shop twice because I really loved the dress pictured below, however one major issue: I couldn’t sit down in it. I tried the same dress on at another shop in the next size up, but still no luck. My lower half is disproportionate in the eyes of wedding dress sizing (but not mine, or Dan’s), lol. Size 8 on top, 14 on the bottom – they also didn’t get the vanity sizing memo. Without doing some major alterations, this dress was a no-go.
BoLee Bridal Couture – Sunnyvale, CA (July)
4. Shortly after, Dan and I had to go to LA for a brief weekend trip while my little sister was visiting, and I found a few shops while we were there. The first was Panache Bridal, which truthfully was a lovely shop, but everything was much more over-the-top than what I was looking for, and because of that, was quite a bit more than what I wanted to spend on a dress. Those feathers and jewels really add up! It could have also just been the location I visited, as they do have a few shops.
I found another shop in downtown LA that was able to add a last minute appointment, and it felt like nothing more. While they had beautiful dresses, they were so rude that I even if I found my dream dress there, I don’t think I would have been able to give them my business. I was put under pressure to purchase the same day, was told I am only allowed to take one picture of each dress, and that my sister had to go in the fitting room with me (which was literally curtains hung up in a corner) to button because they didn’t have an associate available, but it was last minute so no big. Lastly, I was told that I need to start filling out a purchase order ‘just in case’ I decided to purchase over the phone later. I told the owner, “oh that’s ok, I’m not ready to purchase” and his response was, “did I ask?” Lol. k.
Le Marriage Couture, Los Angeles, CA (July)
5. When we got back to SF, and while my sister was still here for a few more days, I made an appointment at a shop in SF. Yet again, a very different dress than I had imagined. Covered in beads and an antique, romantic design with a long train. This was around the time that Dan and I were starting to have thoughts about postponing our wedding and eloping, so I was loving this dress, but feeling like it was too much for an intimate wedding. Maybe for the next one though.
I’ll also add that the service here was impeccable. The associate who was helping us was so chill, allowed us to completely take our time to FaceTime my family, take tons of pictures, walk all around the shop to see how it moved etc. I would highly recommend Novella to anyone!
Novella Bridal – San Francisco (July)
6. Now it’s August. I had gone back to a shop that I already visited still hoping to have clarity on which dress I wanted. However, by this time we had decided to move our wedding up, and I had five weeks to get the dress in my hands and ready to wear. The selection I tried was a bit different this time as there are very few dresses that can be purchased off the rack, and I needed to find a dress I could walk out with that needed minimal alterations. Luckily, I found a dress that I loved!!! But it was just a touch too big and wouldn’t have worked. The search continued.
7. Finally, the day after, I was doing some research on stockists that carry that specific dress, and I found it at Lovely Bride in San Francisco. I called to see what their sample size was on the floor, and if it was available for sale. They set up a same-day appointment so I could try it, and that is when I heard the angels sing. It was a perfect fit, and even better, the designer is based in California and had one already made, in my size so I didn’t have to buy the floor sample. Fate. They were able to ship it to me within two weeks and the stars had finally aligned! With just three weeks until the wedding, I dropped the gown off at my tried and true seamstress (Lucy’s Alterations in San Bruno, CA) and she took the hem up and made a few other minor adjustments within two weeks. The Sunday before my wedding, I finally had my dress!
Lovely Bride – San Francisco, CA (August)
Isolde gown by Tara Lauren
All in all, as I think about my experience trying to find a wedding dress, I am deciding it is the most stressful part of wedding planning. Then I start thinking about trying to find a venue that we both like, finding the money to pay for it all, deciding which vendors to move forward with and reading/amending/signing contracts, all with covid thrown in, I honestly don’t know which is the hardest part.
But a reminder to those who are currently planning the big day, enjoy it all. It’s so annoying and cliche to say, but it’s true. When it’s over, it’s over (unless you’re planning another wedding in a few years like me). When you find the right dress, you will know it.
If there’s anything else you want to know about my wedding planning, let me know! I have a few ideas in mind that I’ll be working on in the meantime! We’re also starting to get some pictures back from our photographer (cc Amanda Barnes Photography), and I’m sharing them on my instagram (new handle alert: StephanieMok_ )!
Have a great week everyone, and hope you’re all enjoying the sweater weather!!