What To Expect at a Wedding Dress Appointment

bride in a dress with her back turned

Finding the right wedding dress is a huge part of your wedding day. Like most brides, you likely have an idea of the type of dress you want. However, if you’ve never gone to a wedding dress appointment, you might be wondering what to expect. 

During a wedding dress appointment, you can expect to look at the bridal shop’s selection and choose the dresses you like. A sales associate may make suggestions and clip the dresses where appropriate, so you can better understand what they’ll look like once altered. 

While it sounds fairly straightforward, you probably have several questions about the experience. Read on to find answers to the most commonly asked questions – and get a better feel for what to expect at your wedding dress appointment. 

What a Wedding Dress Fitting Looks Like

Not all weddings follow the traditional path – and neither do wedding dresses. You may opt to shop online, at non-bridal boutiques, or even wear a different-colored gown on your big day. Ultimately, the choice is yours. 

However, if you are seeking the classic wedding dress fitting experience, it will look a bit like this:

  • Research bridal shops you’d like to visit. Search online, read reviews, or ask friends for tips. 
  • Set a day – or days – for your fitting. Don’t be afraid to schedule it ahead of time or take a day off work if possible. A weekday is preferable to avoid crowds.
  • Contact the stores to make appointments. I’d recommend no more than 3 locations in one day. 
  • Show up at your given appointment time to browse dresses and try on any potentials. Staff should assist you with clipping the dresses and answering any questions.
  • If you find your dress, the sales associate will guide you through the alteration and purchasing process. The bridal shop may have an in-house seamstress or can recommend a trusted one. 
wedding gown on a hanger

Can Plus-sized Brides Try on Wedding Dresses at an Appointment?

In short, if your size is one that is not commonly carried at retail stores, you should call the bridal salon before you book an appointment to make sure they have dresses in your size to try on. Not just dresses they can drape over you to try on, but ones actually in your size. There are plenty of stores nationwide that carry a wider range of sizes and you shouldn’t settle for one that doesn’t have anything close to your size to sample.

If you’re a plus-sized bride, check out this article for additional tips and questions to ask before you book your appointment. I’m not plus-sized myself but I interviewed several plus-sized brides to get their experience and advice. You deserve to have just as wonderful of an experience as any other sized bride out there and asking a few questions upfront before you schedule your appointment can make a big difference.

How Early Should You Schedule Wedding Dress Appointments?

It’s ideal to schedule your wedding dress appointments 6-10 months before the wedding. Shopping about ten months ahead of time is realistic for most people. This will give you some leeway if you don’t find your dress on the first couple of tries. 

If your wedding date is sooner, there is no need to fret. Many people find their wedding dress much faster than this. This is simply the standard recommendation for custom-made wedding gowns that need to be created based on your measurements. It also accommodates time for alterations.

You can find a dress sooner if you’re willing to buy off-the-rack or second hand dresses. You can read more about buying a dress off-the-rack here.

Do You Have To Make Appointments To Try On Wedding Dresses?

Some bridal shops allow walk-ins, while others require appointments to try on wedding dresses. It’s best to check in advance with the shops you want to visit. Regardless of whether it’s necessary, making an appointment is a good idea to ensure you’ll get the attention you need. 

If bridal shops are busy, they might not have the time to give you extra assistance. Even if appointments aren’t required, scheduled meetings will always be prioritized over walk-ins.

Making an appointment will help the store prepare accordingly to give you the best experience. Usually, a trained staff member will pin dresses appropriately so you can get a better idea of what the dress will look and feel like. They can also pull additional dresses you may like based on your tastes. 

Another benefit to scheduled appointments is they keep your day running smoothly. You won’t have to wait for staff to help you, and you’ll be more likely to hit all the stores on your list. 

For the best wedding dress experience, make appointments at bridal shops ahead of time. Also, it’s best to go on a weekday if possible. The stores are less busy, and the staff can give you a more personalized experience.  

lace wedding dress on a bride

Do You Have To Pay for a Wedding Dress Appointment?

You usually don’t have to pay for a wedding dress appointment. However, many bridal shops will ask for a credit card to put on file. They typically only charge you if you don’t show up since this is considered a potential lost sale on their behalf. 

Some bridal shops will charge you a nominal fee for an appointment but they usually will put that fee towards a dress you purchase. Or stores charge if you want to reserve the entire store for your bridal party. If this is something you’re considering, contact the store and see what their policy is ahead of time. 

Can I Try On Wedding Dresses if I’m Not Engaged?

You can try on wedding dresses if you’re not engaged; no rule states you have to be engaged to try on a dress. However, some staff may not like it and see it as a waste of their time and effort. Therefore, you’d be better off not mentioning that you aren’t engaged.  

If you aren’t engaged but plan to buy a dress, then, by all means, go for it! Some people even keep a dress on hand in preparation for a future engagement. 

However, remember that it’s hard to predict the future and a wedding dress can be expensive. Your taste (or your dress size) may change, or you may not end up getting married anytime soon. You may also be surprised by how much your wedding date, location and theme impact your wedding dress choice. You don’t want to wear a long-sleeved dress to a beach wedding in July for example.

Can I try on a Black Wedding Dress or a Wedding Suit?

Most bridal salons, even David’s Bridal, carry alternatives to the typical wedding gown these days. They offer many styles in black or shades of off-white such as blush and ivory. They even offer options with pants such as suits and jumpsuits. Take a look at this post about wedding dress alternatives for inspiration.

lace white wedding dress on a hanger

How Long Is a Wedding Dress Appointment?

Wedding dress appointments usually run about an hour and a half long. You should allow at least an hour at each store to find dresses, try them on, and contemplate your options. 

It’s also a good idea to try on 4-7 dresses at each store. More may feel excessive or give you analysis paralysis. So, go with your gut and voice any concerns to the sales associate. If you’re hoping to be efficient in your search, read this article to find out how many dresses you should try on before you find “the one.” 

If you spend 1.5 hours at a store, it’s safe to assume you can visit three stores daily. Make sure to space them out in case your appointment goes over, and to give you a break in between. 

Who Comes to a Wedding Dress Fitting?

Who comes to your wedding dress fitting is up to you. It’s best to go with a small group of 1-3 friends or family members whose opinions you trust. Taking an entire entourage of friends and family might not be recommended as it can be overwhelming, and there might not be space at the bridal shop.  

In the movies, you often see a whole entourage of friends and family gathered on couches, weighing in on each dress. This may be possible at higher-end boutiques – but for a price. 

However, many bridal shops will feel like normal clothing stores. You may look through racks, wait in line for fitting rooms, and share space with other customers. 

Ultimately, your opinion is the one that matters. And while having some input is nice, too many ladies in the fitting room will only create confusion. 

Do You Wear a Bra to a Wedding Dress Fitting?

You don’t need to wear a bra to a wedding dress fitting. However, if you feel uncomfortable trying on dresses without a bra, you can bring a strapless one similar to your skin tone. You should try to wear whatever you plan to wear under your wedding dress on the big day.

Most wedding dresses are designed to be worn without a bra. They usually come with built-in breast support to avoid unsightly bra straps on your big day. If you try it on without a bra, you can also have it altered for extra support or padding if needed. 

For more guidance on bridal undergarments, check out this article on what to wear underneath your wedding dress.

What Type of Underwear Should You Wear at a Wedding Dress Fitting?

You can skip the fancy panties, or lingerie at a wedding dress fitting. The best option for your wedding dress fitting is a simple pair of seamless, skin-tone underwear. 

Ultimately, you want to see what the dress will look like in your most natural state. You don’t want the underwear creating any lines.

It’s a good idea to bring your shape wear along if you’ve already purchased it to make sure it looks how you want it to look under your dress. You don’t want to plan to wear a skin tight dress for example hoping that shape wear will work to make you comfortable only to find out that you don’t like you look, it’s too tight to dance in, or it shows through your dress.

How Should You Wear Your Hair for Wedding Dress Shopping?

You should wear your hair for wedding dress shopping depending on the type of dress you want. Some dresses, such as a sweetheart neckline, may look better with your hair down. In contrast, an updo may look better to show off a higher neckline. 

Ultimately, how you wear your hair is not super important for a dress fitting. However, you should bring a hair tie or clip with you, as you might want to pull your hair back to see the dress fully. 

It’s definitely not necessary to get your hair professionally done before the appointment. But if you think getting glammed up will boost your confidence and want to take a lot of pictures with your dress options or get a sense of what the dress looks like with the hairdo you’re considering, then feel free to get dolled up. You could even use this as an excuse for your hair trial! Just make sure you don’t wear any make up that could rub off on the dresses.

Can You Wear Makeup to a Wedding Dress Appointment?

It’s not recommended to wear makeup to a wedding dress appointment, as wedding dresses are typically white, and any smudged makeup will easily show on the fabric. The dresses aren’t washed between clients, so the bridal shop staff won’t be pleased if you get makeup on them. 

Therefore, save yourself the effort and any potential embarrassment, and go au natural for your wedding dress fittings. 

older bride looking out the window holding a bouquet

What to Expect as a Second-time Bride at a Dress Appointment?

Second-time brides will have a similar experience as first time brides when dress shopping. You’ll get the same level of attention from the salon. And the bonus is that you’ll likely know a lot more about what you want in a wedding gown this time around and what you can afford.

For more information about what to wear as a second or third-time bride, check out this article.

Final Thoughts 

Wedding dress appointments should be a fun, productive experience. For this to happen, it’s best to plan ahead by making appointments at the bridal shops you’d like to visit. Don’t wait till the last minute, and don’t overbook appointments.

On the scheduled day, carry a hair tie and go makeup-free if possible. While you don’t need to wear a bra in most dresses, you can bring a strapless one if desired. 

Need additional tips from other like-minded brides? Whether you’re planning a wedding at the last minute or on a budget, check out our free, exclusive Facebook group – Wedding Planning Club

Or join Wedding Planning Club via email for weekly advice, discounts, and freebies.


Jaime is the owner of Loud Bride and Coast Designs LLC. She got married in 2017 in Geneseo, NY and designed her own wedding invitations and programs for the occasion. Now, she designs bespoke wedding stationery and affordable templates for other couples. She lives in New York city with her husband and two children.

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