bride and maid of honor handling wedding dress

Wedding Dress Checklist

Wedding photographers perspective for shopping for and selecting a wedding dress

Why would a wedding photographer blog about wedding dresses, you ask? Well, I spend as much time with a bride’s wedding dress as I do with the bride, herself. Actually, more time than with the bride since I do wedding detail pictures of the wedding dress and other items even before she puts it on. Not to mention that, when I photograph your wedding, after your beautiful, glowing face and smile, your wedding dress will be the center of attention.  So, I wanted to write a checklist of wedding dress items to help you when you begin your wedding planning journey and search for one of the most important dresses that you will ever buy.

How Do I Select a Wedding Dress?

I want to create a checklist from a wedding photographers perspective. Now, this doesn’t mean that my recommendations are strictly for the advantage of your wedding pictures, although they are relevant to that. If you are happy with all of your wedding details, especially your dress, that will come across in your pictures during the day. I just want to share my thoughts from my experience of shooting over 300 weddings, over 300 wedding dresses, working with some incredible clients and wedding coordinators, three of which contributed to this piece.

Assemble Your Shopping Team

This is a group, or just one person, with whom you have 100% trust and confidence in their opinion. They know you so well that they can help you make a decision or, at least, aid in the decision making process. Wedding planning is stressful and a lot of work. Picking your wedding dress can be extremely stressful. Its easy to get overwhelmed and have difficulty in making a decision. Your dress squad is there for you to lean on. They are there to support you and help you focus. However, you shouldn’t take too many people. That can also add stress. Tricia Dever of Always Eventful states, “Limit the number of friends and family that you take along for the shopping! It is great to have everyone you love with you, but sometimes, multiple opinions makes the choice confusing and frustrating.” Great advice.

wedding dress hanging in window on wedding day at Aloft Cleveland

Decide on a Style

There are many different styles of wedding dresses. There are ball gown wedding dresses: mermaid wedding dresses; short wedding dresses; mermaid dresses; A-line. The list goes on. The style of your dress should coincide with the style of your entire wedding day.  Tricia Dever says, “The first time you shop, be sure to try on many different styles.  Just because you didn’t love a low waisted dress when you shopped for Prom dresses in high school, doesn’t mean you won’t love it for your wedding dress.” She continues,  “Try on all the styles (mermaid, ballgown, straight, empire, etc) the first time out, and you will clearly know which styles you lean towards!… Keep in mind your wedding style/theme, time of day and budget when choosing.  The dress you choose might be different if your having an afternoon brunch vs. a late night dance party! ”

It also must fit your body type. I love the look of slim two piece suits, but slim I am not. So I have to have a suit that makes me look my best. So you should pick a dress that compliments your body style. Karen Hirsh of Perfectly Celebrated Ltd. says, “Think timeless instead of trendy. Ten years from now you want to look at photos and say “Wow, my dress was beautiful”, not “Wow, what was I thinking?”. suggests, “you should aim to look like the absolute best version of yourself on your wedding day.” This is true not only with your dress but every aspect of putting yourself together for your wedding day, including your wedding day make up which I discuss here.

wedding dress detail at Firestone

Time of year is also important to the style of dress that you are considering. Teri Woodruff of Creative Transformations says, “is a sleeveless gown appropriate for an outdoor wedding in the late fall, or does a cathedral length veil makes sense for a tropical beach wedding? Your wedding gown should reflect the overall feel of your wedding theme and style in order to help tie in other details.” A tea length wedding dress probably won’t work if your wedding is in the dead of winter in the northeast. Even a more approprirate dress for the season may need an added accessory. I photographed a wedding in Cleveland this past December and the temperature was in the teens on the wedding day. My wonderful client, Meredith, wisely chose a mink stole as one of her accessories. You can see some pictures from her wedding, here.

bridesmaid hanging wedding dress at Tudor Arms

Set a Wedding Dress Budget

It can very easy to just say yes to everything. You want perfection. But you need to set a budget for your wedding dress.  Teri Woodruff of Creative Transformations says, “to reduce your stress, set a budget that includes funds for shoes, undergarments, alterations and other accessory items.” Karen Hirsh of Perfectly Celebrated adds, “consider the cost of alterations, a veil or headpiece, shoes, and jewelry – these extras add up quickly.” And remember to save a significant chunk of your budget for your photographer

Pick at Least Three Top Bridal Boutiques

Just as you would when researching wedding photographers, wedding planners or dj’s, you should research at least 3 dress boutiques. See their online reviews. Get feedback from actual clients  (any competent and experienced wedding vendor should be glad to provide you with as many references as you need).  Visit theses boutiques unannounced, if possible, and see how they treat you (some may be by appointment only). A competent wedding vendor will return your phone or e-mail promptly. They will treat you as the most important person to their business. I write about what you are paying for when hiring a wedding photographer -HERE- and the same list applies to any wedding vendor. Tricia Dever of Always Eventful, says, “be sure to start looking a few months before you actually “need” to place an order.  Some brides will find the perfect dress in the first shop, and other brides will look at several shops.” Once you find a wedding dress shop that is attentive and gives you the warm fuzzies, THEN you can begin to visit those shops and try on dresses.

Try On the Dress

Now its time to start trying on dresses. Try on one or try one hundred. But don’t settle for anything other than exactly what you are looking for. Having an idea of a style, like I mentioned above, will help narrow it down, but you still may not know exactly what it is that you want. It’s quite possible that you discover your wedding dress when you put on THE dress. Many, many of my clients have said that they just knew that they had THE one when they put it on. My wife, Marie, said the same thing about her wedding dress (she was crazy gorgeous on our wedding day). Karen Hirsh, of Perfectly Celebrated Ltd. states, “Make the most of your appointments. Bring shoes and proper undergarments (nude colored). When trying on dresses, move around, dance, and sit – you want to be comfortable all night!” This is excellent advice. Move around in your wedding dress. You will be in it all day, walking, sitting, dancing.  So it has to fit perfectly for all of this. That is one reason that I include a bridal session in the dress before the wedding day in my minimum wedding photography service.

bride putting on wedding dress in canton ohio
bride putting on her wedding dress
bride laughing while putting her wedding dress


Every aspect  of the wedding planning process should be fun. It is stressful at times, but it’s stressful because you care. Looking back on your wedding planning, from the time that he proposed until you leave the reception venue, these should be nothing but fond memories. Having fun and creating memories that you can cherish is what it’s all about. Assemble your squad, set a budget, do your research and get out there and say “Yes” to the dress! (Sorry…I couldn’t resist).

A very special thank you to Karen Hirsh of Perfectly Celebrated, Teri Woodruff of Creative Transformations and Tricia Dever of Always Eventful for their generous contributions to this piece. I strongly believe in having a wedding coordinator assist with your wedding planning process or, at the very least, on the day of your wedding. Be sure to visit their websites.

For more of my thoughts on the wedding planning process see my post on -here