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Your wedding dress is one garment that you'll most likely keep forever. You picture yourself in it even before you purchase it. You'll spend hours upon hours shopping for just the right one, so you don't want to make any mistakes. Unfortunately, there are some pitfalls to avoid that will help your bridal gown shopping go more smoothly. Hopefully, it will be a happy and memorable shopping experience.

Keep Your Budget and Expenses in Mind

If you are lucky enough to plan your wedding without using a budget, then the world is your oyster. If you are like most everyone else, though, then you've got to have a budget for your dress. When shopping, don't look for dresses that will max out your budget: You'll have other expenses involving your dress, including alterations, undergarments, shoes, and jewelry. Remember to have enough money left over in your dress budget to be able to purchase these necessities.

Shop at the Right Time

When brides shop too late for their dress, they could run into some problems. Alterations can take a couple of months and many trips for dress fittings. The ideal time to allow for dress shopping and alterations is at least four to six months. You don't want to be dealing with waiting for it to be finished the week of your big day! Another common mistake is to shop for your gown too early. If you are shopping a year ahead of your date, you could find yourself changing your mind on the style. Another problem with shopping too early is that some of your wedding details could change. If you have a change in the venue and have to have an outside wedding, for instance, you may want to go with a different fabric or style of gown.

Don't Bring Too Many Friends and Family Members

Sometimes there can be too many cooks in the kitchen, and sometimes there can be too many helpers in the bridal shop. Your mom, maid of honor, and a couple of close family members or friends should be the only ones helping you shop for a gown. A problem can arise when there are too many opinions floating around, and out of a group of people, not everyone is going to agree on everything. You must remember that the dress is being worn by only you, so your opinion is the number one priority. Only your mother and the two or three closest to you should be allowed to weigh in with their honest opinions, if the need arises.

Remember, It's YOUR Dress

Some brides want to honor their mothers or grandmothers on their wedding day. But the dress is being worn by you, so don't try to please anyone else. When Grandma insists that the dress cover your neck and arms down to your wrists, you must lovingly explain to her that it isn't 1940 anymore. Your loved ones should go into the shopping trip knowing that it is your day and your dress.

Don't Get Sidetracked By a Good Deal

It is so important to stay within your budget on your dress and accessories, but sometimes, you can't just rely solely on the bargain rack. If a dress was marked down to $200 from $2,000, there might be a good reason. If you find yourself in love with a dress (not the price) that happens to be available at a deep discount, be sure to give it a good once-over. Check all of the zippers, buttons, hems, seams, and beading or detailing. If the cost of repairing any imperfections keeps it within your budget after purchasing accessories and alterations, then more power to you! But you don't want to spend more on the repairs of the dress than on the dress itself, and you don't want to go over your budget.

Don't Get Hung Up On a Style

You've probably pictured yourself in a gown from the moment your spouse-to-be popped the question. Or maybe you fell in love with a gown on the cover of a bridal magazine and you are positive that it is the style for you. Unfortunately, not everyone has a body type that fits every style. Remember that if you have one style in mind, you may find something else that is more flattering on you once you try them on. Take other styles into consideration when you are shopping. Give a few others a try to eliminate the ones that you know you dislike and to be sure that your style is the right one for your body type.

Don't Try On Too Many at Once

You will most likely be making a few trips to the bridal shop, and your bridal consultant will probably be making notes about which dresses you like and which you dislike. Trying on too many dresses in one trip can be overwhelming. Just take a few back with you and take your time. You will start getting the styles mixed up if you try on too many at once.

Remember, They Run Small

Many brides can get hung up on the sizes of the gowns into which they're fitting. Bridal gowns typically run around two sizes small, so don't pick up your usual size and expect it to fit. Don't get caught up in the thought of needing to lose weight to fit into a size 4, since you usually wear a size 4 in everything else. You should remember that the size doesn't really matter in this case because you will be getting alterations to make it fit perfectly anyway. Try on the size that fits, and then the seamstress will make it fit perfectly by the time she's finished. It doesn't matter what the size on the tag says.

Don't Forget Your Underwear

Many brides wear comfortable clothing and undergarments to go try on bridal gowns. But it makes sense to come prepared. Bring a strapless bra with you and maybe some seamless panties or a thong as well. First of all, you want to be able to see what the dress will look like on your big day, without your bra straps sticking out and without panty lines. Also, you must remember that the bridal shop attendant may be assisting you while you try on the gowns, and you don't want to be wearing your laundry-day panties and your old, ratty bra. Come prepared with a number of different options just in case.