Photography: Katie Courson

Photo by Katie Courson Photography | Shot on location at Union Bridal

Shortly after getting engaged, I learned the harsh reality that some gowns need to be ordered up to nine months in advance of the wedding. Could I be the only person that didn’t know this? With that window already closed, I knew I’d have to act fast. So have no fear, fellow brides, here’s my crash-course advice for wedding dress shopping on short notice.

While I started out clueless as to where to start shopping, I’ve learned a lot in the last little while. And while shopping for the “perfect” dress can be overwhelming, it’s actually a really wonderful, fun and unforgettable experience.

The first bridal shop I visited was Union Bridal. The boutique is by appointment only and offers a very personal and intimate experience because they only work with one bride at a time. When I walked in I was greeted by one of the owners, Emily. Since it was my first appointment, I had no idea what to expect or what I was looking for. Emily was great — she walked me through their collection of designers from around the world. Hearing about where each designer and dress came from and trying them on made me fall in love with each and everyone. But this also makes it extremely difficult to choose — there are just too many great choices!

Each dress was romantic, unique and remarkably beautiful. I typically get overwhelmed with the bustle of regular shopping, but my experience at Union Bridal was incredibly enjoyable. Their curated, intimate and personal experience created the perfect atmosphere for my first bridal appointment.

Cam Lee, Katie Courson Photography, Union Bridal

Photo by Katie Courson Photography | Shot on location at Union Bridal




Schedule an appointment

Some bridal shops are by appointment only, so check before you go. Weekends are typically busiest for bridal boutiques, so if you’re able to go during the week, take advantage. One boutique I wanted to visit had every weekend booked for a month and even their wait-list was full. Every bridal shop is different though, so always take a moment to reach out. If you’re trying to coordinate with your bridesmaids or mom to attend with you, however, plan as far ahead as possible.


Be prepared for a one-hour appointment

For my first appointment I was surprised at how quickly an hour passes by. While I never felt rushed, it’s a good idea to come prepared. Browse gowns online in advance so that you know which dresses or brands to prioritize. Let the bridal shop know what interests you so they can better serve you and make suggestions. Most bridal shops have Instagram and Pinterest and update their photos regularly, which makes it much easier to shop.

Cam Lee, Katie Courson Photography, Union Bridal

Photo by Katie Courson Photography | Shot on location at Union Bridal

Set a timeline

Some designers need an eight-month lead-time to custom-make a gown. This means you’ll have to start dress shopping 10-11 months in advance depending on how many shops you want to visit. Be conservative and give yourself those extra months leeway to leave plenty of time for the dress to be made and altered. But don’t worry; this lead-time isn’t the case for every dress, designer or store. Ask about rush orders — they may not be guaranteed and may cost extra, so be prepared to make alternative plans.


Watch for trunk shows

Love a designer you’ve found online? Keep an eye out for trunk shows in your city. They typically feature a designer’s latest collection, which is not yet available in stores. Trunk shows are usually in a city for just a few days before travelling to the next. Appointments get snatched up quickly, so do your research and book as early as possible if you’re interested. Follow your local boutiques online or sign up for their newsletters to get the most up-to-date information and find out about discounts.

Cam Lee, Katie Courson Photography, Union Bridal

Photo by Katie Courson Photography | Shot on location at Union Bridal

Think about the finishing touches

To help fully visualize your look, put on a veil (if you plan on wearing one) and some heels. Walk around and do a sit test. The sit test was a must for me: I had to veto a few dresses because I just didn’t feel comfortable once I started moving around and sitting down. At Union Bridal, Emily knew I would be getting married on a beach, so she turned a fan on me to simulate how the dress might flow in the ocean breeze. This melted my bridesmaids’ hearts and really helped me see the big picture.


Some bridal shops don’t allow photos

This was a game changer for me. I found taking photos during my appointment really helpful for making decisions. During some appointments I felt overwhelmed by the selection and I left thinking every dress was beautiful. Once at home, however, I could compare photos of each look side-by-side which makes choosing a dress a lot easier.

It’s also nice to be able to send photos to friends and family that couldn’t make it to the appointment, but whose opinion you value. I found that some dresses photographed differently than how they looked like in person, which was really handy to know. If you want to ensure your wedding photos turn out great, ask bridal shops in advance about photography at appointments.

To save you some time, here are a few local shops I visited that allow photos:


Cam Lee, Katie Courson Photography, Union Bridal

Photo by Katie Courson Photography | Shot on location at Union Bridal



Do you have any wedding dress shopping advice or tales to tell? I would love to hear them!


Cam // @camillia_lee


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