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We love seeing photos of the bride’s dress before the big day – it’s a special moment where we can see her wedding style start to take shape. Will she go for sleeves, or strapless? Long romantic train, or chic cocktail length?

Behind the beauty, however, are lots of factors: Cost, wearability, the maids’ and ‘men’s outfits – how will it all blend together? – and fit. We have a few tips to help you find the dream dress.

We loved the variety of bridal party dresses for this wedding - all tied together with similar fabrics and soft colors. Photo by Danny and Ken Jones.

1. Try alternate avenues of finding your dress – like Craigslist, the Weddingbee boards, and other secondhand sources. Use common sense: Don’t meet anyone in a back alley for the gown, for heaven’s sake! And don’t process the purchase via wire or give them your credit card info – *do* pay by check, if possible, to have proof of the purchase, or ask for a receipt if paying by cash. At least a couple clients have found their perfect dress this way, but tread carefully.

2. Make sure you can move in it! Walk around freely while it’s on. Mermaid and trumpet styles, especially, can be tricky to walk in.

3. You may not use that second dress. Some clients get another dress to change into later that night – much of the time, they are so into the party and have such a tough time getting in and out of the main dress, they end up nixing the second one. It can take 20 minutes out of your 6 hour event to make the switch.

4. Bridesmaids dresses can be a factor in your decision, but try to not to over-complicate it. Picking a color and letting them determine style, or having them choose from dresses ‘off the rack” (JCrew and Ann Taylor are great options, among others) can make life easier. Let them know they will need to make alterations, so they should get their hands on the dresses no later than a month prior to the big day.

5. KNOW HOW TO BUSTLE! At the final fitting, your maid of honor and/or mother and/or planner NEED to learn the bustle. Sometimes, finding that little circle of thread to hang over the button is like finding a needle in a haystack, and when the grand entrance is waiting on it, it can slow down the proceedings of the actual wedding. Try to see if the seamstress can sew different colored thread or use other color codes to make it easier.

6. Remember, you’ll lose a little water weight the week of. Don’t skip that very final fitting.

Some of our favorite places for gowns: Exquisite custom design at Rmine and Wendy Harrison; chic, charming gowns for brides and ‘maids at Anna Elyse; and attentive, friendly service at La Soie and Pebbles.