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Not to make you nervous but you're about to buy the most expensive, stared-at, photographed piece of clothing you'll ever wear. Your dress is the wedding's true centerpiece. Start shopping 9-12 months before and take these tips with you.

Match Your Formality

If you're having a traditional ceremony with a formal reception, opt for a classic, timeless gown style (like an A-line or ball gown with a square neckline). Getting married outdoors in an afternoon garden ceremony? Consider a strapless sheath made of a light material.

Size It Up

Bridal sizes run small, and each wedding dress manufacturer actually has its own sizing chart. A good salon will know how each designer's dresses are supposed to fit. Also, every dress needs alterations.

Research Your Religion

Many churches and synagogues consider bare shoulders disrespectful. Ask your officiant, and buy a wrap or a bolero jacket if you're wearing strapless.

Look Around

Don't buy the first dress you try on, even if you love it. Give yourself options and the time to think. Because gowns are custom made, once you've ordered, there's no turning back. Expect strict (or nonexistent) cancellation and refund policies.

Stick To Authorized Stores

If you buy a gown from a shop not authorized to sell that designer's line, there's no guarantee that your dress is going to arrive on time, if at all. If you're unsure whether the shop is authorized, call the manufacturer. (Find wedding dress designer info at

Keep An Open Mind and Trust Your Bridal Salon Consultant

Sometimes gorgeous gowns don't look as stunning on the hanger. Try various silhouettes; you never know what's going to flatter you. Experienced bridal salon consultants can literally size you up the minute you walk in the door and know what dresses will show off your assets. So have some faith in them!

Shop During Off Hours

Take time off during the week, day or evening to shop - you'll get more out of the salespeople's time and attention. At most salons, you'll need an appointment.

Don't Travel With An Entourage

One to three fellow shoppers is sufficient. Too many opinions will just overwhelm you.

Size Up The Matter

If you are a voluptuous bride, find a salon that carries samples in a size to suit you (many do these days). There are also designers who specialize in styles for larger sizes. Call ahead to find out.

Try A Trunk Show

If you find a designer you like, visit during these in-store events featuring a specific designer and the entire line. You'll get an opportunity to see and/or purchase every dress in the line, not just the styles that stores choose to sell that season. And you may also get to chat with the designer and find out the story behind the making of your wedding dress!

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Don't forget to visit our Wedding Dress Worksheet to get an idea of what you are looking for!

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