Pick a time when to go wedding-dress shopping
It's simply never too early to start looking for that perfect dress, but it can certainly be too late- don't procrastinate! You might need a few months to have your dress made, ordered and/or shipped. After that, it will take several weeks for your couturier to finish the alterations on your dress. A good number to go by is nine months (it's also an easy number to remember) before the big day. However, that's not to say you can't start shopping earlier- just don't wait too long to place the order. Having said that, don't rush and go out and buy a dress just yet. Patience is a virtue, and often well-rewarded.
Choose where to do your shopping
Your budget will most likely make this decision for you. Choose if you want to shop at a chain store or a boutique shop (among other choices), but preferably NOT online (and we'll get into that more later on). Ask yourself, 'how far do I want to travel to check out dresses?'. If you're looking for a designer dress, you'll probably need to go to the big city to visit a designer couturier. Of course, if you're happy to shop at a local chain (and there is nothing wrong with that), you will certainly find a store that meets your needs. It goes without saying, that you'll find more shops and boutiques in more urban areas, so making day- or weekend trip to the big city might be in order.
As mentioned, above, AVOID shopping for a wedding dress online! It is very difficult to get clothes sized accurately and well, this is your wedding dress we are talking about. You will want to try the dress on before purchasing it, and declaring it 'the one' for your big day. If not, you may find yourself spending double or triple the money to replace a dress that in the end, wasn't 'the one' for you.
Many shops do not require a reservation or appointment, yet you should make one, nonetheless. You don't want to be hanging around wasting time while the shop clerk attends to customers who did make appointments; make the appointment, and you will be first in line.
There are folks who tell of horror stories involving chain stores, meeting the sales-clerk-from-hell, being a common complaint. However, one thing to keep in mind is that chain stores will most likely have another branch nearby and you can simply visit that one (after making a formal complaint, of course, as well as mentioning to the clerk/manager at the second branch of your less-than-stellar experience which brought you to the decision not to spend your money there). If you don't really have time to visit a second shop, you can always ask to have another shop clerk assist you. Don't be shy or embarrassed if you are not satisfied with the service- speak to the manager!
Some stores do not allow the customer to browse the dresses in an as-you-like fashion. They might request from you a description of the dress that you are looking for and then bring you those that they feel are what you want to see. A simple way to avoid such service is to call ahead of time and ask if you are allowed to browse as you wish.
Warehouse stores can be a fantastic find because: they are quite large, will certainly have a wedding dress for your budget and normally do not mind if you wish to browse and try on dresses.
Don't rule out a shop or department that rents dresses. Men rent tuxes all the time; why can't women? This maybe be the perfect choice, depending on your budget.