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Planning a wedding is overwhelming. It is exhilarating, exhausting, and exciting. There is so much to do that it’s hard to know where to start. This is the first in a series of what we are calling “Cathy’s Tips” – the best pieces of advice from our owner, Cathy Kelley, who has been in the bridal business for nearly 20 years. She has advice for days, and we hope you will take something away from her expertise.

Stay tuned over the next few months for more of Cathy’s tips, learned over two decades of in-the-trenches work with brides, every day.

Tip No. 1: When you think about your gown, think about your venue.

Before you start dress shopping, think about where you’re going to get married. A church? Outdoors? For example, a ballgown might not be the best fit for a beach wedding, and a chiffon lightweight gown with no train might not work for a cathedral wedding. Come to your first appointment knowing where you intend to get married – it will make the process more seamless.

Tip No. 2: Keep your audience small when shopping for the perfect dress.

The experience of wedding dress shopping can be one of the most magical experiences of your life – but it can also be very overwhelming. And, experience has shown, the more people who are there to weigh in can make the selection process even more stressful. Bring your mom and your sisters, sure – but, for example, consider saving your future mother-in-law for a fitting, so she can still feel like she’s part of the process. Your entire bridal party doesn’t need to be there for the initial shopping experience. Trust us – you’ll thank us later. And remember, this is your special day – the more opinions, the more the waters are muddied. Always remember that you get the final say!

Tip No. 3: Make sure you get comfortable shoes.

Your wedding day is meant to be enjoyed – make sure you’re not distracted by aching feet on your big day! Thankfully, block heels are in fashion for 2021 and are a chic way to be more comfortable. An easy way to check your “something blue” off of your to do list? Choose a pair of gorgeous blue shoes!

And a bonus shoe tip: Stay in the same shoe height all night! If you go from a higher heel during the ceremony to a lower heel for the reception, your gown will drag on the floor all night and can get incredibly dirty – sometimes so dirty that even the most qualified cleaning companies can’t help. You’ll want to make sure to have the best chance at preserving your stunning dress. Which leads us to…

Tip No. 4: Don’t send your dress off to be cleaned and preserved while you’re on your honeymoon.

Many moms with the best of intentions take their daughters gowns to be cleaned and preserved while they are on their honeymoons, hoping to have their daughters have one less item to take care of when they come home. Hold off on doing that. A wedding dress is an incredibly special item, and you, the bride, might want to come home from your honeymoon and love on your dress a little more before sending it away. So much has gone into creating the perfect gown for you – you wore it for a whirlwind of a wedding day, and to send it off too soon is a mistake. Feel free to keep it close by for the next couple of months. (Yes, even if the dress has a stain – the professionals can take care of it even a couple of months later.)

When it is time to send the dress off to be cleaned, make sure to use a place that only does wedding dresses – they are the most familiar with your fabric and how to get any stains out. Pricing for cleaning and preserving will usually run anywhere from $400 to $1,000, and you’ll want to make sure it’s done by a professional.

When you get your dress back, store it in the top of your closet, the bottom of your closet, or under your bed. Avoid putting it in the attic or the basement. Let it live where you live – yes, even 20 years later!

And, before you preserve your dress, consider if you have a sister or a cousin that might want to wear it someday. In that case, clean it, but hold off on having it preserved.

By the way, The White Room offers cleaning and preserving services and would love to help you after your big day.

Tip No. 5: When wedding dress shopping, have an open mind.

Many don’t know this, but bridal salons like to be exclusive as far as designers – you won’t find the same looks in every store. That said, don’t try to recreate a dress you have already seen elsewhere. Also, remember that every shop is different. Some will have less expensive dresses, while others might be more couture. Keep your budget in mind before you shop and check in with the store you want to visit for pricing to make sure they are a right fit for you before booking an appointment. That saves everyone’s time – the store’s, and yours.

Most brides will find their dream dress within two to three stores. Too much shopping can overwhelm you, so do work on the front end to ensure that when you do make appointments, they are with the right shops for you and your budget.