I'm a published wedding and portrait photographer located in a small town outside of Charlottesville. In addition to capturing beautiful images, I love spending time with my family, am freakishly good at word games (Hey Wheelmobile!), love an ice cold can of Coke or Dr. Pepper, know every line to Hocus Pocus and can never pass up a Chick-fil-A waffle fry or a trip to HomeGoods.
You’ve already found the one, so now it’s time to find THE ONE. Yes, that one, the dress one.
By now, you’ve probably thought about some of the basics—long versus short, simple versus lots of bling, lace or no lace, etc, but there are tons of options out there and being in that sea of white with every adornment imaginable can be super intimidating. Here’s some tips to get the most out of your dress shopping experience. And since I’m not a wedding dress buying expert, I went to a local source for all things wedding dresses—Sealed With a Kiss.
Located on the Downtown Mall in the heart of Charlottesville, Sealed With a Kiss is bridal boutique offering a variety of dress options along with bridesmaid and flower girl dresses, veils and other accessories. Wedding dresses vary from regular to designer hitting price points from $1,000 to $6,000, plus the shop offers a custom design service ranging from $2,300 to $7,500.
Before you head to any bridal shop, there are some things you should do first. If you’ve already read any of my other tips, you know I’m budget girl so go in knowing your ideal price point. If you’ve watched any episode of “Say Yes to The Dress,” you know how important pricing is. There’s nothing worse than falling in love with something you can’t afford. Avoid that heartbreak. Second step, know your venue and vision. A ballgown is probably not ideal for a wedding on the beach and a beachy wedding dress is probably not ideal for the ballroom. For a winter wedding, sleeves may be a valid possibility whereas for a summer wedding they probably aren’t.
“If a bride has a specific setting in mind for her wedding (i.e. beach, rustic, modern, backyard or formal church etc.) we recommend that she secure the venue first before commencing her search for her wedding gown,” Sealed With a Kiss Sales Consultant Jackie Corcoran said. “We offer many different gown styles especially suited for a variety of wedding settings.”
Next up, call (or go online) and make an appointment. Corcoran said it’s recommended brides start their wedding dress hunt about a year out from the wedding date.
“Once the bride has selected her gown, the average ordering time is between four to six months,” she said. “Some designers can accommodate rush orders at an extra charge.”
Plus, she said there needs to be time for fittings and alterations. Once the dress arrives to the shop, the first fitting is scheduled. If alterations are needed, allow one to four weeks. Sealed With the Kiss offers in-house alterations both on dresses sold at their shop and ones purchased elsewhere.
As for the dress shopping appointment, Corcoran said they usually last about one to two hours and the more the merrier when it comes to who to bring with you. Personally, I like it to be a girl’s only affair as it’s a great way to spend some quality time with your bridesmaids or female family siblings. Also, consider including your mom because this is a big day for her, too. Along with your judge’s panel, it may be a good idea to bring any undergarments or shoes you plan to wear.
Once there, Corcoran said brides at Sealed With a Kiss fill out a short questionnaire to help with the dress buying process.
“[It gives the] sales team an idea about [a bride’s] preferences for her wedding gown,” she said. “It’s [also] best that the bride comes into the appointment with an open mind. Often is the case that a bride does not end up buying the style they originally set out for.”
During the appointment, the sales consultant will work with the bride to pull four to five gowns to try on first. Corcoran said often, the bride will request one of her guests to help her identify additional gowns throughout the appointment and the consultant will add in more gowns as it becomes more familiar what styles the bride is focusing on.
The consultant will then help narrow down the selections, guiding toward the final choice by discussing your likes and dislikes of the dresses. This is where it’s super important to be honest. If your mom picks out a dress she loves, but you don’t, be honest. It’s ultimately your dress so get something you love. And how do you know you love it?
“Each bride is different,” Corcoran said. “Some may get tearful, some feel goosebumps, some go very quiet. The bride usually requests to be put back into her favorite gown for a final look before she makes her decision.”
What if you don’t find the one that day? Girl, there are plenty of wedding dress fish in the sea! Keep looking. You’ll find it. And if you don’t, there’s always the custom route.
Sealed With a Kiss is located at 505 East Main Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902 and can be reached via phone at (434) 979-5683 or online at sealedwithakissbridal.com. Appointments are available Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.