5 Tips For Finding Your Dress | Wedding Dress Shopping with Tiffany

Usually when I photograph a wedding, I’m not really involved with all the details of planning. I just show up on the day of to see how it all turned out. But now that my good friend Tiffany is getting married, I am getting to follow along with her whole planning process. I was excited to go with Tiffany as she went dress shopping a couple of months ago. And while we won’t give away any spoilers on the dress she chose, I thought I would share a few images from the experience and have Tiffany share some of her best tips if you’re dress shopping for a wedding of your own.

I’ll let her take it away from here!

Tiffany: Armed with vicarious experiences from many episodes of Say Yes to the Dress, I was anxious & excited about going wedding dress shopping. I didn’t quite know what to expect, & picking one dress for my one wedding day felt daunting. However, with dress shopping wisdom from friends & the internet, as well as my mom, Anna, & bridesmaid Carrie as my trusted dress advisors, I had a wonderful time & am so excited to wear my wedding dress! Below are some tips that were particularly helpful beyond the usual do your hair/makeup & bring a strapless bra/wear nude undergarments.

Jin Wang Bridal Salon San Francisco

Jin Wang Bridal Salon San Francisco Jin Wang Bridal Salon San Francisco

1) Know your budget. Before you step foot into a store, make sure you know your dress budget. Remember that your dress budget may also need to allow for the cost of alterations, veil, shoes, & other accessories. After you know that, be honest with your salesperson! They may or may not be working on commission, but they should certainly want to help you find the dress within budget. I ultimately ended up choosing a dress that was a little above my target range, but the shop then also generously included the veil at no additional cost to bring me right back on point because they knew what my budget was.

Jin Wang Bridal Salon San Francisco

Jin Wang Bridal Salon San Francisco Jin Wang Bridal Salon San Francisco

2) Start early. You know how the hottest restaurants are booked up weeks (months) in advance? Wedding dress appointments are kind of like that. Book early to get your desired dates & times — if you have the luxury, I’d even recommend going on a weekday when the dress shops are far less chaotic! You can narrow down your store/dress selection by your preferred designers, or you can do what I did — make bookings first & look at the designers carried by each store later :). Looking for your dress early on also gives you the luxury of being able to think about a dress for awhile if you need to, & you can then also avoid paying for rush alterations & delivery which can quickly add up!

Amy Kuschel San Francisco Amy Kuschel San Francisco

Amy Kuschel San Francisco Amy Kuschel San Francisco

3) More is not better. Overall, I tried on 50+ dresses, but there were a handful that repeatedly stuck out in my mind. A combination of the dresses blending together in my memory & the sheer number of dresses I tried on started to make me feel overwhelmed. I gave myself a deadline to decide by the end of the month, because I knew that I could keep searching forever. I also told a few people about this deadline so that they could hold me accountable.

Novella Bridal San Francisco

Novella Bridal San Francisco Novella Bridal San Francisco

4) It’s not (always) like TV. According to Say Yes to the Dress (& House Hunters), I would look/try on a few different options & end up with *the* dress! This did not happen. I spaced my first visit appointments out over two weekends, & then went back to the final contender stores 2-3 times each before I finally sat down & made a decision. I wish someone had told me that it’s normal to go back multiple times! I was also then able to try on the final contenders with different accessories (such as veils and belts) to help me decide which was the dress for me.

Lovely Bride San Francisco Lovely Bride San Francisco

Lovely Bride San Francisco Wedding Dress Shopping in San Francisco

5) Have fun! Dress shopping can be stressful, but it doesn’t need to be completely stressful. I had fun trying on all sorts of silhouettes (& confirmed my dislike of ballgowns & surprisingly discovered I liked form fitting sheath dresses!). Also, don’t be afraid to move in your dress to understand its weight & flexibility. Remember that this is the dress that you’ll be walking down the aisle in & dancing the night away. Throw your hands up like you just don’t care, & give your entourage hugs to make sure you can raise your arms above your shoulders!

Sarah Seven San Francisco Sarah Seven San Francisco

Sarah Seven San Francisco Sarah Seven San Francisco

6) *Bonus Tip* Bring your wedding photographer ;) In all seriousness, make sure you bring someone who will help you document the dresses you try on so that you can review/relive later on! I’m grateful for Anna (as well as my mom & my bridesmaid Carrie) who took pictures from all angles & with me making all sorts of faces (the mid-sentence ones are especially flattering :). This ensured that all my photos weren’t just of me smiling with a straight on view. Anna also took pictures of special detailing like beading or lace which helped later on when I was narrowing down dresses to my final options. I’d also recommend taking videos of you walking around the dress so that you can see how the dress moves!

Lovely Bride San Francisco

Thank you to Tiffany for sharing those wonderful tips!

For my part, I found dress shopping to be a fascinating lesson in branding and presentation in the luxury shopping experience (different stores were styled so differently, and I think it really made a difference). And I was so impressed with Tiffany’s decisiveness. It’s so easy to be overwhelmed by this process, but Tiffany did an amazing job with sticking to her guns and going with a dress she loved, even when that dress didn’t match the preconceived ideas she had before we started shopping. All in all, I’m so excited for the dress Tiffany chose and can’t wait to see everything come together at the wedding!

San Francisco Dress Shops Pictured Above:

Jin Wang
Amy Kuschel
Novella Bridal
Lovely Bride
Sarah Seven

Anna Wu is a wedding and portrait photographer based in San Francisco but often traveling and working around the world. She creates beautiful, soft, and timeless imagery while capturing the most fleeting of moments. View her work at annawu.com, follow her daily adventures on instagram, and contact her to book your own session today.