You’ve dreamt of this day since the days of Barbie and Ken – now that it is finally here, the possibilities are endless! Okay, so you can’t go down aisle with your mother’s satin sham as a veil, with her formal lace tablecloth trailing behind as a train. We know. We asked. But what you can do is assess the body you have now, prepare for the body you want on your wedding and pick the dress that has been waiting for you ever since you said, “Yes!”.

Before we get into all of the sizes, cuts and adornments on gowns, let’s get the basic and necessary fundamentals out of the way:

Never, ever put a deposit down, or pay for a gown when you have not confirmed the date of the wedding. A lot of brides, with their rose colored glasses, even start buying gowns at the mere mention of the marriage. Slow down – don’t put the cart before the horse on this one. It is quite likely that in your rush to make things “real” for you, you could put a big dent in your wedding budget. It happens quite often: you may not even like the wedding gown that you chose in April for your confirmed wedding in December. Don’t get me wrong, window shopping is great – but you have bigger fish to fry, so don’t shell out any money before you have the ring and a date!

Never, ever crash diet or buy a gown sizes smaller with the expectation of losing weight. It is far easier to take a gown in, than it is to have it customized and then taken out if you don’t meet your goal. Don’t put unrealistic expectations on your plate. You have enough to deal with. If weight is an issue for you, I strongly suggest that utilize the services of a personal trainer. We have a Buff Brides package that allows you to work with a personal trainer to get your body the way you want it – not only for your wedding, but for life! Be realistic: there is no way you can go (intelligently and safely) from a size 20 to a 4 in a year. I don’t care what anyone says. Embrace yourself for who and what you are, and work with what you’ve got!

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk shop! There are many things to consider when choosing the perfect gown – color, your complexion, size, cut, and the formality of your event. The latter is something I think a lot of brides forget to associate with their gown and wedding. As strange as it might seem, there are brides that will choose an ultra-formal gown for their Sunday Brunch garden wedding. Again, this is the first step of self-acceptance and a big dose of reality.

Take your measurements. What are you – short, tall, pear-shaped, or thin? Be honest with yourself. While the gowns you see online in magazines and books are gorgeous, it is always best that you try them on.

As a former model, I will tell you – it takes a lot to get into those gowns, mainly smoke and mirrors! There is tape, more tape, airbrushing, invisible corsets, and more that you don’t even see. So while you may like the gown on the model, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will look the same on you.

While it would be nice if we were all shaped like J. Lo or Rene Russo, the sad truth is that many of us aren’t. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot find the perfect gown. Take a look. If you are:

Top Heavy – we need to create an illusion of balance and length with you. Let’s choose a full, billowing skirt with plenty of adornments and an elongated bodice. However, we should avoid (at all costs!) any extra ornamentation on the bodice. It will draw too much attention to your chest. The same goes for low necklines, full sleeves and empire style dresses. Ask me how I know.
Short – in your case, my petite friend, we will steer clear of any design that will accentuate your stature. Instead, create an illusion of height with an empire waistline. High necklines and trim along the neck and shoulders also look absolutely fabulous on your frame. If you are going formal, try short sleeves with long gloves.

Pear Shaped – in this instance, you are narrow in the torso and fuller in the hips and thighs. Shoot for a bodice that is textured and bejeweled. You are the opposite of our top heavy bride, so you need to bring attention to the bodice and away from the waistline and below. Accentuate the waist in a simple skirt instead.
Tall – for you, my statuesque beauty, I love the high fashion look of tiers and flounces to balance your height. Look for bodices with low, ornamented necklines.
Full-Figured – you should avoid the flounces and tiers suggested above and contrasting colors. Instead, opt for a princess style gown that will skim the body. Necklines with a V or U shape are best, especially when accompanied by an A line skirt.
Thin – you also look great in princess style gowns or gowns with a Basque waist and full skirt. Bloused bodices with a gathered skirt are also great options for you.

After you confirm your shape, the next task is to consider your complexion. It is important, even if you intend to tan, to understand that your hues will determine what will flatter your appearance best, live and in photos. Darker complexioned brides and brides with dark hair look best in beautiful, bright whites. Blondes and redheads are stunning in creamy and silk whites. This is also true for porcelain-skinned brunettes. If you would like to throw in a bit of color to your dress, look for those with undertones of pink or coral – they flatter all brides.

Now consider the formality of your event:

Formal to Ultra-formal: Your gown should be cut from a rich fabric (silk chiffon in the summer, satin in the winter). You can have a full skirt with a train. Remember, the longer the aisle, the longer the train!

Semiformal: Your gown should at least be full length or your train should sweep the floor. For this type of occasion, bare shoulders and taffeta type skirts are considered acceptable.
Informal: Because of the flexibility of your wedding, you have the most choices with out restrictions or provisos. You can look for a ballerina or floor length type skirt to a dressy suit. Designers such as Jovani and Faviana make beautiful prom dresses that could pass as wedding gowns. Your possibilities are endless!

With the national average of a dress pricing with in the range of $1000, you can expect to spend a reasonable portion of your budget towards your attire. There are several ways you can cut costs, but that’s a whole different article altogether!

by Terrica Skaggs