Okay, good news first...I found my wedding dress!
Wedding dress shopping in San Francisco was a TASK, I tell ya. There are plenty of stores to choose from, and thus plenty of dress options, but as a 4'11" bride with some curves no less (I'm typically a size 6-8 in streetwear which inherently means 10+ in bridal), wedding dress shopping in general was tough.
Dress shopping in general is tough. I hate dress shopping. I'm not a fan of my arms. My hips are on the wide side. It was like every dress I put on was bringing out all my high school insecurities. Everything at first felt so foreign and unattractive. And I felt sloppy.
But honestly, this post isn't totally about that. I'm not into wallowing in the pits of the experience - I'm all about turning my experience into a helpful "how to" so that when you go to search for a wedding dress (in San Francisco or elsewhere), you've got my knowledge and experience to help back you up!
Here are my top three tips when it comes to finding the perfect wedding dress.
One of my best girlfriends got married last year and she has been a wealth of knowledge. When the topic of wedding dress shopping came up, she recommended I start my shopping alone. Although this sounded weird at first - she's so right.
I ended up asking her to come with me, but I'm really glad we went just us two and kept it casual vs inviting the whole gang right off the bat. 1) I was able to get over my fear of trying on dresses in a more private setting. I got alllll the self consciousness out in that first appointment. 2) I was able to start narrowing down on the shapes I liked and didn't like. My family was planning to drive down from my hometown for shopping. I can't even imagine how painfully long that experience would've been if I hadn't "pre-shopped" first.
There are so many emotions wrapped up in wedding dress shopping. I initially was worried I'd have "the" moment and find "the" dress when I was alone. Spoiler alert - lol - I did (more to come on that in a moment). But it was okay, and I'm glad I brought people into the decision making process when I was already 80% baked vs half baked and easily influenced.
When setting your wedding dress budget, friendly reminder to be mindful of the "less expected" outfit expenses - like your alterations, veil, shoes, and jewelry.
Let's say your "dress budget" (which honestly, I prefer just to call it an "outfit budget") is $2,500. If you factor in $500 of that is alterations, you're now down to a $2K budget. Veils cost approx $200 for a basic one, so now you're down to $1,800. Etc, etc.
Costs add up! I'm an overthinker and an overplanner, so really thought holistically about the entire outfit expense vs just the price listed on a dress "hitting my budget."
I'll be honest - I tried on dresses at five different bridal salons. Five. And of those five, the best experience I had was at Novella Bridal in San Francisco. The salon is gorgeous, the dress selection is vast and diversified, and the prices are reasonable (you'll actually be able to find nice things in your budget). Also I've heard the alterations department is so good, people literally take their non-Novella dresses there for alterations.
But I digress. The reason I think Novella Bridal is the best wedding dress salon in San Francisco is really because of the experience I had with their staff. Specifically, my stylist, Sabrina.
I went into Novella wanting to try on one specific dress by Pronovias. I made an appointment, Sabrina kindly pulled the dress, and I hopped right on in.
....and kind of hated it. Or maybe I didn't hate it. But I definitely didn't have the feeling I thought I was going to have. I thought this was going to be MY dress. I was convinced.
Sabrina asked me some questions, stood back and let me process internally and out loud - and then she pulled a different dress and had me hop into it.
And I had the moment. The moment I really didn't think I would have. I felt beautiful. And it really took me by surprise. This wasn't the dress I came in for. It wasn't even a dress on my radar. But I brought my family back with me and took some more time to process - and kept an open mind.
My stylist helped me pick my dress. It takes a lot for me to look to someone else or lean on someone else. I'm usually convinced I know exactly what I want and I don't need any help. But seriously - Sabrina and Novella Bridal found my dress. Period.
My biggest tip is to really keep an open mind and definitely trust your stylist!
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