It’s the day that every little girl supposedly dreams of.  The day she gets to waltz into the brightly-lit bridal wonderland of taffeta and tulle with her mother, sisters, and bridesmaids in tow.  Even for me (I never thought I’d be drawn into the institution of the obligatory single-use white dress), there was something a little magical about shopping for The Dress .  But it was also a little complicated.  I mean, I typically don’t ask for much out of a dress. Does it fit? Does it look good on me? Can I afford it?  If it satisfies these categories, it’s coming home with me.

Shopping for a wedding dress isn’t exactly a walk in the park, as any “Say Yes to the Dress” junkie can attest.  Of course, as with any “reality” show, it’s still a far cry from the reality of dress shopping.  Not only are all of the dresses on the show high-end, but it only focuses on a very small portion of what’s important in choosing the perfect dress.  Rarely do they ask the bride about her wedding venue or season, stop to make sure she’s completely comfortable in the dress, test how it will photograph, or discuss alterations (if they do, it must be off-camera).  You have to make sure you’ve thought about these things before it’s time to hand over the credit card.

READ MORE  5 Ways I'm Planning My Wedding on a Modest Budget

First, when is your wedding day?  If you’re planning an outdoor wedding for the dog days of summer, chances are you don’t want to be encased like a sausage in a satin gown.  Look for lighter, more breathable fabrics, like silk-organza, tulle, or chiffon.

Next, take a moment to test how comfortable the dress is.  You’re probably hoping to sit down for dinner, right?  Have a seat in a chair to make sure that you can breathe comfortably .  You probably also want to make the rounds at your reception and talk to all of your family and friends who traveled so far to see you, so take a walk around the store in your dress to make sure you can walk around comfortably.  Some dresses are so heavy that it’s a workout to carry it around.  Lastly, I’m guessing you plan to spend some time on the dance floor, so move around a little bit to make sure you can comfortably dance.

A third consideration is how your dress will appear on camera. My lacy, ivory dress looked more sparkly and bright white on camera than I had anticipated, without showing the beautiful lace details that I loved so much.  It isn’t necessarily a big deal, but keep in mind that your dress will look differently in your pictures than it does in person.  Have someone take a picture of you in the dress from all sides so you can see how it photographs and how you will look in the pictures.

READ MORE  What It's Like Growing Up Greek

A fourth consideration: alterations. Unless the dress fits you like a glove when you buy it, the actual cost of any wedding dress will be higher than the tag price after alterations.  I loved my dress when I got it, but my alterations nearly doubled the cost of the dress.  Make sure to ask your consultant about the potential costs of alterations, and about some aspects that might make alterations more pricey.  For example, my alterations were very expensive because of the intricate beadwork on the dress.

In the moment when you’re in the store with your dress-hunting posse, it’s easy to let some of these considerations fall by the wayside because you get caught up in the emotional experience.  But before you decide that you’ve found “the one”, make sure you’ve considered all of these factors.  You didn’t rush into the decision to marry your sweetheart, so why rush into this one?

Photo via Flickr