When Should I Go Wedding Dress Shopping? Timeline + Helpful Shopping Tips

Aug 31, 2020

Many brides tend to ask the same question once they choose a wedding date: “When should I go wedding dress shopping?” It can be challenging to know whether or not it’s too soon and when it’s getting to be too late! This full guide will give you all of the answers that you’re looking for.


Are you asking yourself the question, “When should I go wedding dress shopping?” Ideally, you should start the process about 10 to 12 months before your wedding date. The best time to purchase your wedding gown is at least 8 months before your wedding!


This wedding dress shopping timeline will give you a much clearer answer to the question, “When should I go wedding dress shopping?”

12 months before: 

  • Set wedding gown budget
  • Research dresses and bridal shops
  • Decide who you’re bringing with you
  • Start wedding dress shopping

8 months before: 

  • Buy your dress

5 months before: 

  • Purchase your day-of undergarments
  • Choose hair accessories
  • Purchase wedding day shoes

3 months before: 

  • Have your first fitting

6-8 weeks before: 

  • Choose your “something old, new, borrowed, and blue”
  • Have your second fitting

2-3 weeks before: 

  • Practice walking in your wedding shoes break them in
  • Have your final fitting
  • Pick up your wedding dress

1 day before: 

  • Put together an emergency kit (fashion tape, safety pins, etc.)


  • Give your wedding dress a final steaming
  • Schedule about 30 minutes to get fully dressed have someone help you!


  • Decide: Keep your dress or pass it on
  • If you’re keeping your dress, look into wedding dress preservation
  • If you’re passing it on, look into places to sell or donate it


Here are some of our best tips for the wedding dress shopping process.

Avoid shopping too late or too early

No matter how excited you are to start wedding dress shopping, make sure that you don’t start too early! Seeing so many gowns will most likely start to cloud your judgment of what dress you want. Also, keep in mind that wedding gown designers release new gowns seasonally in Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer. If you’re thinking about going shopping close to these months, you may want to wait until the latest styles are released! Most bridal gowns are made to order, unless you end up purchasing a gown off-the-rack. Because of this, we recommend starting your wedding dress journey about 10 to 12 months before your wedding! Your wedding gown won’t even start to be made until they have your measurements, order the fabric, and you pay your deposit. If you order your gown too close to your wedding day, then the bridal shop may need to rush order your gown. If this happens, you may end up having to pay additional fees! Finally, once you say “yes” to the dress, we strongly encourage you to stop looking! A ton of thought and time went into your final decision. Try not to second-guess yourself you’ll make the process even longer!

Check out upcoming bridal events

Before you book an appointment, check to see if your chosen bridal shop has any special events coming up. This includes trunk shows, tester events, sample sales, and more. Typically, these events will feature dresses that the shop doesn’t typically carry and exclusive discounts or gifts. For example, this month we have a Lillian West Spotlight Event from September 5-12! This event features dresses that we don’t normally carry, as well as a 10% discount for brides who say “yes” to their Lillian West gown. If you’re interested, give us a call at (410) 838-1135 or click here to request an appointment! We also have a Lillian West Spring 2021 Trunk Show at the end of September. More details will be coming on that very soon, so be on the lookout for those! We can tell you that this event will have gowns from Lillian West’s latest collection, 10% off, and a special boho bridal gift! To stay updated on all of our upcoming events, click here.

Work with a personal bridal stylist

Working with a personal bridal stylist can be a tremendous help to you as you navigate wedding dress shopping! A bridal stylist does more for you than a standard salesperson does. A personal bridal stylist is basically your right-hand throughout the entire process. They will help you navigate the entire journey of finding your dress. This includes:

  • Helping you figure out what styles/silhouettes make you feel the most confident & beautiful
  • Making sure you’re ready to say “yes” to the dress
  • Helping you plan for alterations
  • Making sure that your dress is steamed and ready for your big day
  • Helping you take care of cleaning and preservation once you’re married

Consider how many people you’re bringing with you

Be mindful of how many people that you bring dress shopping with you! It can be tempting to bring everyone that you’re close to, but more people means that you’ll have more opinions. Do your best to keep your dress shopping crew as intimate as possible! Unfortunately, one negative opinion can completely alter your opinion of a dress and possibly ruin your entire appointment. Think about the personality types of the people that you’re bringing! This is especially important to consider during COVID times. Many bridal shops are currently limiting the number of people that you can bring with you in-person. This is to adhere to state and local guidelines, and to keep everyone safe!

Keep your budget in mind

Always go to your dress appointment with some sort of budget in mind. You can still be flexible, of course, but having a budget will give you (and your stylist) an idea of how much you’re willing to spend. If you aren’t sure of where to set your budget, think about the style of dress that you envision yourself in on your wedding day. If you’re looking for something more intricate, then you may want to set your budget on the higher end. It can always be helpful to contact the bridal shop and ask them what price range their dresses fall under, too! Keep in mind that the price of your dress doesn’t include accessories, alteration fees, or any post-wedding cleaning and preservation. Those will also need to be factored into your budget!

Don’t buy based on an incentive

Do your best not to buy a dress based on what size you think your body will be at on your wedding day (such as expecting to lose weight). It’s always easier for a seamstress to take a dress in rather than to let it out! Also, trust the recommendations of your stylist. They are pros at taking measurements for wedding dresses… they aren’t going to steer you wrong! Keep in mind that your bridal size is most likely going to be a larger size than what you wear in everyday clothes, too.

Keep an open mind

You may think that you know exactly what you want, but the style that you’re dreaming of may just not be what you thought it was once you try it on. Keep an open mind, and try on styles that you aren’t sure about! So many brides end up choosing a dress that is the complete opposite of what they thought they wanted.

Don’t try on too many gowns

Once you start trying on too many gowns, you will start to forget what you loved about the dress that really should be your dress. It can also make choosing “the one” feel incredibly anticlimactic! Featured Image by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash