How to choose the perfect wedding dress

Walking into a bridal shop and seeing hundreds of dresses can often be intimidating, but knowing exactly what you want can ease the pressures of finding the perfect dress.

“We recommend that the bride start searching for her dress one year prior to the wedding,” bridal consultant Sherri Bahnsen said. “She should buy her dress six to nine months before the wedding.

This time span guarantees that the dress will be here before the wedding and that fittings and alterations can be completed. Most dresses take between 12-14 weeks to order.”

Before you shop for your wedding dress, look through bridal magazines like this one for ideas and set a budget. Tell the bridal consultants the time and date of your wedding, ideas for your dress and how much you can spend. While trying on dresses, be open to any recommendations your consultant may offer.

The average bride will try on between one and 10 dresses. Most bridal consultants caution that the more dresses you try on, the more confused you may become. Having an idea of what you want can prevent this confusion.

“We love it when a bride comes in and points to several pictures in a bridal magazine,” bridal consultant Rose Sanders said. “We can then find something compatible and go from there.”

After choosing the style of the dress, flare of the skirt and length of the train, you must also select the material. “Today’s dresses come in a variety of fabrics,” said Bahnsen. “There is silk, satin, tulle, organza and chiffon to choose from.”

Even though the smooth feel and the shiny look of a satin dress is the most popular, the demand for lightweight and almost transparent chiffon, tulle and organza is growing. The brushed, matte look of silk dresses, which offers a richer, heavier appearance, also are found in many boutiques.

The introduction of the sleeveless tank dress with a full floor-length skirt and little or no train is the current trend. With minimal beading and sequence, it offers a simplicity that complements most women.

Bahnsen has seen a shift from the puffy sleeved, full-skirted gowns with long trains to a more streamlined look with a standard chapel-length train. “Today’s bride is searching for something simple and traditional,” she said. “But we have women who want the Southern Belle look and long cathedral trains. Basically, it is whatever the bride wants.”

Along with choosing the dress’s style and material, you also will have to choose the color. Most dresses can be ordered in both white and ivory. Try on both colors to determine which one complements your complexion the best. Aside from the traditional white and ivory, you may want to consider a pale pink or blue cast to the gown. Rum Pink, a deep peach-blush color, is becoming a popular shade in bridal.