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We’ve got our girl, bride-to-be guest blogger, Carolyn back on the blog today to share ALL the details of her wedding dress shopping excursion! She shares not only the background of what went into planning it (the dress she wanted, finding the right shops, etc) but HOW to go about the process of finding the right one.

I’ll admit – the idea of a dress store overwhelmed me entirely, so I opted for a completely hand-made dress that enabled me to skip the dress shopping experience completely. This worked for me, but some people want a dress you can only find at a shop, so I hope that Carolyn’s advice on shopping this way for your wedding stress, takes some of the stress out of it! Here we go :)

Choosing Your Wedding Dress | By Carolyn Thombs

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When I went into this wedding planning whirlwind, the one thing I knew was what style of dress I wanted. The only difficult part was going to be finding it, and actually being able to afford this amazing dress I had designed myself (before I actually got engaged, not crazy, right?!).

The reason I decided to design/draw up my dream dress was because I have seen so many gorgeous dresses, but each one was either missing that one major element or a few of them that would make it MY perfect wedding dress. So I decided to combine all of my favorite elements that I have seen into one dress. Once I had it visualized it was treasure hunting time!


The first dress that took my breath away was a gorgeous navy satin Zac Posen dress, definitely not a realistic option. But this dress has just always stayed with me, so when I saw that Zac (yes we are on a first name basis…I wish!) and David’s Bridal were doing a collaboration I nearly lost my mind!!!! So I hopped online immediately to check out the collection, only to my dismay. All of his wedding dresses just didn’t have that same sexy elegance that was perfectly portrayed in that initial dress I fell in love with. However… One of his dresses for his formal collection was pretty close to perfect, but it only came in red. Obviously this collection just was not working out for me.


One evening I was watching one of those addicting prime time shows with my mom and I was checking my email and came across an article about great wedding dresses under $900!!! Now this article was singing my tune! When I opened up the article in a browser, the first dress that popped up made me double take and catch my breath. It was the basic shape, material and cut that I had been searching for! My mind immediately added the other elements that would take it to the next level and I saw it… I saw THE dress!!!


I instantly grabbed my mom’s attention away from the TV, not always an easy task, and in between squeals (super girly I know) I told her to check out the dress that had just squashed my fears of never finding THE dress! And she totally agreed! So next I click on the link and this dress was only $600 something, I was definitely down with that! Of course in my rush I had ignored all the pop ups on the Ann Taylor site and was just gushing over the dress, my mom however had not missed it. So we closed and reopened the site, and guess what?! They were having a 50% off sale!!!

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I just about passed out. So I went through the research process of seeing if the dress applied, and then checking the return policy just in case the dress didn’t pan out how I had imagined. Everything checked out and next thing I know the purchase confirmation was in my inbox!!! Eeeeks!!! We couldn’t stop saying “we just bought a wedding dress,” it really made the whole wedding even more real; which can be difficult when it is so far off on the horizon. My next step was finding a seamstress who could help me add the other elements to the dress to make it THE dress.

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In the end the dress fit so perfectly and we decided with the seamstress to use lace from my mom’s wedding dress and place it strategically on my dress and add corset backing. I am not going to show you a photo of me in the dress on here, so that Jon doesn’t see it; but I did go dress shopping at Ellie’s Bridal shop in Old Town Alexandria so check out all the photos from that fun day.

I was a little nervous about going dress shopping, but I knew I needed to, in order to know for sure that I had made the right decision with my compulsive buy.


Dress shopping was such a fun part of this wedding planning process! I had my sisters, mom, cousin and aunt join me. I know a lot of people say don’t bring a lot of people, it will only make the situation stressful. Or sometimes the people you are closest with don’t always have your interests in mind and just their own. None of these concerns applied to my entourage. Yes at times we do not agree on things, but they knew how important this was to me and only offered constructive comments throughout the process! My MOH, my sister, made the outing even more special by having champagne and strawberries to make it extra bubbly!

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During my appointment I tried on a lot of the style I was looking for and I even tried some of the other styles just to see how they looked on me. The Stella York dresses and Essence of Australia were some of my favorite designs and the most comfortable. If you are looking for a place to shop for dresses please check out Ellie’s Bridal Boutique, I may not have found my dress there but they were so patient and amazing during my appointment. Make sure you ask for Cassandra! She was such a sweet and knowledgeable stylist to work with!

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Some tips I have for all of you who haven’t gone shopping for their dress are:

  • Try to have some ideas about what you are looking for, or at least know what style of wedding you are having and then the stylist can help point you in the right direction.
  • Do not even give the size on the dress another thought. It will only frustrate you or discourage you. All that matters is how you feel in the dress and usually the dresses they have on the rack won’t be the one you go home with and it is also before alterations. This is all circumstantial because sometimes you can get lucky and the one on the rack fits like a glove. Either way that size on the tag is just a number and does not reflect how you look.
  • I brought a strapless bra with me, however this is not necessary because most dresses are built with one in them or are fitted enough where your ladies ain’t goin’ nowhere! I brought one just because I like the extra support.
  • Bring a support system, whether it is one person or like me, 7 people! Just make sure they will not turn out to be that friend that you regret bringing.
  • As I said before try to know what you are looking for, but don’t be so against trying something different or something you didn’t think would look good on you. Dresses and silhouettes can surprise you. Be open minded and zen. We all know that when it comes to trying on dresses, that dressing room can start to feel stifling, just take a deep breath and don’t lose hope.

There are so many ways to go shopping for a dress and for all budgets. My budget did not permit me shopping in the section where I could have maybe found a dress close to my dream design, so I improvised. Shopping online helped me narrow things down and find something budget friendly instead of searching through sale racks.


I never thought I would find my dress online and be lucky enough to find it on sale, but I did, so that means it can happen to you too!! Don’t lose hope ladies your dress is out there just waiting for you!

What form of wedding dress shopping worked for you?!

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