(Pssst: Watch TLC's Say Yes to the Dress and you'll also see exclusive wedding-planning tips from us!)
1. Know What You Want (and How Much You Have!)
You should have a clear vision of what your bridal style is: Do you want to be traditional, chic, understated, fashion-forward, fun, quirky, or regal? You also need to know what your venue is like and have a target budget that you're comfortable with.
2. Shop With a Supportive Team
Your shopping partners should support you and have a very clear understanding about your goal and what your bridal style and budget are. They need to respect the fact that this is your wedding gown and be there to offer advice only when asked.
3. Think Twice Before Going Custom
Only if you're really fashion-savvy and can truly put your trust in a designer would I suggest getting a custom dress. What the designer tells you and what the sketch shows can be very different from how the garment turns out. There are hundreds of bridal designers out there with literally thousands of designs -- you can probably find a dress that makes you happy. Customizing an existing gown, like dipping a neckline, lengthening a train, or adding cap sleeves, can be done with proper guidance from a knowledgeable bridal consultant or designer.
4. Be a Savvy Sample-Sale Shopper
A sample sale isn't the time to try on different silhouettes and find your style. Know what styles or designers you're looking for, and be prepared to make a quick decision once you're there. Also, remember these are sample dresses, usually a bridal size 10, and will have been tried on by many other people, so they don't tend to be in pristine condition. If you're well prepared, though, you just may catch a great bargain.
5. Wear a Hairpiece
I really love veils; they're the only thing that make you a bride! Anyone can wear a white gown, but only a bride can wear a veil. If you're going to skip the veil, wear something in your hair, like gorgeous hair jewelry, crystal pins, or even a silk flower.
6. There's No Need for Two Dresses
Unless you have no budget restrictions, I usually don't recommend choosing two dresses for your wedding. Spend your money on one absolutely stunning wedding gown!
7. Buy the Dress That You Don't Want to Take Off
After you've taken a good look in the mirror from many angles, when it's the right one, you probably won't want to take it off. You'll feel accomplished, excited, comfortable, and happy -- and you may even shed some tears!
Randy Fenoli is fashion director for Kleinfeld Bridal in New York City and stars on Say Yes to the Dress, Fridays at 9/8c, only on TLC.