What I Wish I Knew While Wedding Planning: The Dress

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Zack and I just hit the 6 month mark on our marriage and it’s impossible not to look back and relive it all. Looking back though, there are so many things I wish I knew before and during the wedding planning process. In hindsight, everything kind of seems obvious, but hindsight really is 20/20. There is no way to really prepare for everything until after you’ve already experienced your wedding day and know what to prepare for.

During our planning process someone told me, “the problem with planning a wedding for the first time is that… it’s your first time planning a wedding!” Man oh man that is the truth. We had a WONDERFUL day-of coordinator that actually acted more as a planner; she was there with us every step of the way and was absolutely amazing. There were some very specific things though that I wish I knew and would have never known until we were on the other side of our wedding day. SO all of this to say; I am launching this ‘ What I Wish I Knew While Wedding Planning ‘ series to highlight some things that hopefully help all of you future brides and couples as you begin to check the boxes of wedding planning.

Everyone receives so much unsolicited advice during the planning process, so my hope is to simply document my experience and hope someone gains something from my words. But the beauty of the internet is that you can choose to read or not! I will drop the tips here and you can read more about them below. I hope these help!

  1. Look at the website of the boutique you are visiting beforehand or call ahead and describe your dream dress to see if they carry what you are looking for
  2. Book your seamstress as early as you can
  3. Make sure any layering, hems, tulle, or structure under the dress is FULLY secured
  4. Whatever you are planning to do to your dress in terms of steaming or pressing, do it before alterations to understand how it impacts the material of your dress, then proceed with altering (and read the dress label for instructions)

Okay, so… THE DRESS. I will start from the very beginning of my dress process but I will try to keep if brief! I always assumed I would have that AH-HA moment with tears, rays of light beaming down from the heavens, and choirs of angels singing in my head when I found “the one” (I know.. I have seen too many rom coms). While that DID happen, it took be so much longer than I had anticipated to find the dress I wanted to wear down the aisle. I was worried that it would never happen!

My dress criteria

I knew I wanted a simple, A-line, satin-esque dress with no lace, beads, or texture of any kind. While simple was the name of the game, and there weren’t many features I was looking for, I wanted a wow factor, pockets, and a bow! What wow factor was a looking for? I wasn’t sure, but I figured I would know it when I found it. I was mainly leaning towards a low back or a plunging neckline. For the bow, I knew this would most likely be something I would need to add with alterations.

What I failed to realize initially was that a “simple” dress was hard to find; at least for me it was. With my heart set on something without lace, tulle, beads, layering, etc. it left me with only 2-3 options per boutique that I visited. Some boutiques didn’t have anything that fit the description I was looking for and I wasn’t aware until the sale associates pulled several dresses for me that resembled nothing like I was hoping to purchase. This brings me to tip ONE.

1. Look at the website of the boutique you are visiting beforehand or call ahead and describe your dream dress

Ask the boutique if they have something resembling what you are looking for. Again, a lot of this seems obvious, but I was so excited to find a dress I set up appointment after appointment assuming my criteria was pretty common. I was only able to try on about 2 -3 dresses each time that fit my description. I was shocked to learn simple dresses are trickier to find right now.

“The One”

After what felt like too many appointments, I was losing hope. I made one last appointment at The Dress Theory and decided if I didn’t find one, I would pick from the dresses I had already tried. The first dress the stylist pulled for me looked very promising on the rack. The low back and plunge neckline pulled me in, but when I tried it on and added the bow, I was sold! (my AH-HA moment!)

My dress is Breakfast in Bed by Sarah Seven. I knew the dress would need quite a bit of altering. The low neckline, low sides, and no back put a lot of pressure on the straps, so I would need to make sure most if it was supported from my waist. When I ordered my dress, the stylist asked the designer to throw in extra fabric so my seamstress could create a bow for me. And this brings me to point #2:

2. Book your seamstress as early as you can

When I ordered my dress I never really thought about the fact that alterations appointments can fill up rather quickly. I should have guessed considering how quickly venues were taken off of the market, that alterations would follow in a similar fashion. I ordered my dress in January 2019 and picked it up in May. By that time, it took me a few calls to find someone who had enough appointments available before September to make the alterations I needed and wanted.

Alterations

The alterations process ultimately took me about 5 appointments. I LOVED my seamstress. She totally formed the dress to me and made it everything I could have hoped for. We had to remove quite a bit of fabric from the bust and waist to make sure it could stay up without relying solely on the dainty straps. Speaking of the dainty straps, she reinforced those to make sure a disaster didn’t happed while we were breakin it down on the dance floor!

Not much length needed to be taken out since I’m pretty tall already, but I did ask for some horsehair to be added to the bottom of the dress to give it a bit more dimension. She added about 6″ of horsehair to provide a little more structure and dimension to the hem.

This brings me to my last 2 points:

3. Make sure any layering, hems, tulle, or structure under the dress is FULLY secured

We got married outside among the trees. We weren’t fully in the woods but there were definitely things that the dress was caught on. Within the first hour during pictures, the horsehair hem pulled away from one of the stitches. This caused it to pop out through the rest of the night. Luckily it didn’t pop out during the ceremony, but in some of my photos, and all through the reception and first dances the hem was out for the world to see. Not a huge deal, but when I look back I do wish I would have insisted that the hem be tacked up a lot more to ensure if one came loose there were more fastener points to keep it in place.

4. Whatever you are planning to do to your dress in terms of steaming or pressing, do it before alterations to understand how it impacts the material of your dress, then proceed with altering (and read the dress label for instructions)

I cannot stress this enough – if you take anything from this post I hope it is this tip! I dropped my dress off to get pressed with the pick-up day set as the day before the wedding. When I dropped off the dress, I was worried about something happening to it and not being able to fix it, so as a precaution I scheduled one more appointment with my seamstress the same day I was picking up my dress.

When I picked up my dress and brought it to my appointment, we were shocked to see that when it was pressed it changed the entire look and feel of the fabric. Before pressing, my dress had structure and the fabric pretty much just stood up on its own. My seamstress had never seen this before. When I picked it up, the fabric was completely different, to the point where she asked if this was even my dress. I put on the dress and while I did love the sleek, clean look, the structure was gone and it didn’t sit like it did prior to being pressed. What did this mean? A few things, actually. The change in fabric structure caused the dress to no longer hold itself in an a-line shape and it fell straight to the floor. My dress was then slightly longer than we would have hoped causing me to have to pick it up when I walked most places through the day. This wasn’t the worst thing, but again definitely something that is noticeable in photos and our video. The change in fabric also affected the bustle. The bustle relied on the structure of the fabric, but since that wasn’t there, the bustle didn’t hold in place through the night. My dress didn’t have a train so this wasn’t the worst thing, it just looked kinda funky.

The biggest impact it had was on the big beautiful bow my seamstress made for me. Since it was made out of the same material as my dress, and was also pressed, the bow no longer had structure just like the rest of my dress. Luckily it held up for photos and the ceremony, but as the night went on it got pretty floppy. My seamstress recommended that we sew the corners of the bow to the dress to help keep its shape through the day, but we ran out of time in the morning getting ready for photos and weren’t able to do so. By the time the ceremony was over, I was kind of just living in the moment and didn’t really care about it. Which was great! BUT looking back I wish I would have taken the time to sew it to the dress so it could have kept its shape through the night.

SO to recap

What I Wish I Knew While Wedding Planning: The Dress

  1. Look at the website of the boutique you are visiting beforehand or call ahead and describe your dream dress to see if they carry what you are looking for
  2. Book your seamstress as early as you can
  3. Make sure any layering, hems, tulle, or structure under the dress is FULLY secured
  4. Whatever you are planning to do to your dress in terms of steaming or pressing, do it before alterations to understand how it impacts the material of your dress, then proceed with altering (and read the dress label for instructions)

Overall, I loved my dress so much, but there were definite hiccups due to the fabric changing. It isn’t the end of the world, though. Our the day was so wonderful and everything we could have hoped for. When I look back on the day, the only thing I would change is to not press my dress, so I think in that sense I am lucky! The rest of it was exactly what we wanted; a celebration of our love with everyone we love in one spot. You can see our wedding photos and video here!

I hope you enjoyed the first of my What I Wish I Knew While Wedding Planning series! Next I will be diving into more cost-effective wedding bands.

Thanks for reading!

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