Whether you browse the boutiques or surf the web, getting your fairy-tale gown is a magical moment. Here are some stories (and great advice) from brides who've already found their perfect dress.
"I started my gown search with my mom and my maid of honor. I went into a few stores just wanting to get an idea of styles that would look good on me. I immediately fell in love with a simple strapless gown. As my maid of honor zipped up the back of the dress, the song my fiancé played as he proposed came on the radio at the store! I started tearing up and knew I had to buy that dress!"
-- Tamara, Franklin, MA*
"I was hopelessly lost trying to find a dress in my budget so a coworker suggested I rent a dress. I was skeptical at first, but after trying on about 30 gowns (all retailing originally between $3,000 and $5,000), we finally found a fabulous gown. It fit me perfectly and was much more dress than I could ever afford! And because I won't have to spend thousands (only hundreds), we're spending the extra money on an exotic honeymoon to Bora Bora."
-- Beth, San Diego, CA
In the Stars
"My best friend and maid of honor was about to move across country and I knew we wouldn't be able to shop for gowns together as I had been dreaming of doing. However, I knew my boyfriend would be proposing soon so I swore her to secrecy and headed off to the most expensive bridal salon in town to have the shopping experience we had dreamed of. The sales person handed me a gorgeous gown. When I put it on and she placed a veil on my head both my maid of honor and I started crying. I later found out that the day I was trying on the dress was the same day my fiancé was buying my engagement ring."
-- Lindsay, Westport, CT
One for the Money
"I ended up loving two dresses and going back and forth between the two for over an hour. When I asked if I could have something altered on the first dress, the bridal consultant asked me if I'd change anything about the other dress. I said, 'No, it's perfect the way it is.' And then I knew it was the one."
-- Brenna, Olympia, WA
Drive a Hard Bargain
"I was at an expensive boutique with a few friends when I fell in love with the most beautiful gown. It was perfect -- until I looked at the price tag. I knew that there had to be a way to find the dress for less. I checked the designer's website and found a store nearby and called to see if they carried this particular dress and to ask their price. To my sadness it was just as expensive, but they offered to give me 10% off to buy the sample. I said, 'Take off 25% and I will buy it right now.' I ended up getting my dream dress for $1,000 less than the ticket price!"
-- Alexandra, Houston, TX
Mother Knows Best
"I really wanted to wear the same veil my mom wore, so I was trying to match the dress to the veil. Backwards, I know! We went shopping and I tried on two dresses and I didn't like either one. I was very discouraged and didn't even want to try on the third. My mom insisted, saying that it was only one more. She helped me put it on and as soon as I got a glimpse in the mirror, I burst into tears. That was it!
-- Laine, Albuquerque, NM
You can't go wrong with this great advice from brides for brides.
"Leave your expectations at the door and try on a variety of dresses, because advice on which dress is best for your body should be treated as a guideline and not a rule."
-- Kelly, Greensboro, NC
"Ask boutiques about upcoming sales, or when they usually discount their dresses to make room for new ones. You may get the dress you want at a much better price."
-- Nicole, Mesa, AZ
"Always call for an appointment so you get one-on-one attention."
-- Kate, Bothell, WA
"If you think you found the perfect dress, but wished it had more buttons, more satin, and so on, and the store tells you, 'we can make any changes you want,' it's not the perfect dress, keep looking! The perfect dress is what it is, the perfect dress."
-- Jessica, Springdale, AR
"Don't overwhelm yourself with too much in one day. You want dress shopping to be fun. Bring a bottle of water and a snack and don't bring too many people. Too many opinions create tension."
-- Anne, Irvine, CA
"The perfect dress is the one when you go home and it sticks out in your mind and you find yourself comparing all the others to it. Don't settle -- and enjoy every moment!"
-- Jackie, Fort Myers, FL
* Note: some names have been changed
See More: Wedding Dress Shopping