Wedding Dress Shopping: 13 Tips to Quickly Find Your Perfect Gown

Shopping for a wedding dress is both exciting and tedious, but can be simpler and quicker if you follow the tips in this article.  Try-ons are an essential part of the process for finding that dream wedding gown, and here in Nigeria, that can be very frustrating because most bridal stores will only allow you to try on a few dresses, for fear of having sweat stains on the white gowns that could make them difficult to sell (if you do not buy).  Not really their fault, as they usually do not have sample dresses, unlike bridal shops abroad (USA, UK, Canada and many other countries).  In this article, we outline 13 helpful wedding dress shopping tips you can use to figure out in advance, the cuts, styles and shapes that are likely to look good on you – so that you can find a perfect dress in not so many try-ons. You’ll also learn how to communicate your wants at the bridal shops, how to score big discounts and tips for safely buying a wedding gown online. And even more tips.  Read on.

nigerian bride white wedding gown and bouquet
Photo credit: Wedding Photography by Obi

12 Fail-Proof Tips For Finding a Wedding Gown that Will Look Good on You

The secret to quickly finding your perfect wedding dress lies in knowing what you want before ever stepping into any bridal store, confidently giving them an idea of the wedding gown styles you’d like to try – that way, they will know you have already done your homework and not likely to waste their time wearing every dress in their shop (and not being sure whether you are serious to buy).

RELATED: Names of Parts of a Wedding Gown – Necessary for Telling Bridal Stores What You Want.

1. Have an Idea of What Looks (Styles) to Try on Before Going Shopping: Don’t go to the dress shop to discover what to buy, rather first do your homework from home and be armed with a visual wedding gown shopping list (to show) and the basic lingo of wedding gown parts, as well as how the shops call each wedding gown silhouettes / style-cut.  The next tips below will guide you on how to figure out wedding gown styles for your shape and personality, and also names of dress silhouette and parts.

2. Set a Shopping Budget (Limit) and Try Only Dresses Within Your Budget:  You don’t want to try on a wedding dress, fall in love with it, only to later discover that it’s 10 times costlier than you can afford. So, girl, stay in your lane – and not to worry because same style of wedding dresses can come in diverse price points.  For example, you could find a particular wedding gown style in $1000 (convert that to Naira, lol), and also find a similar style in lower costs $300. So, tell the bridal shop person the price range you’re looking for, as well as show pictures of desired styles (silhouette and cuts).

3. Try-On Familiar Cuts that Flatter Your Body Shape: Wedding gowns are styled and cut somewhat similarly to the regular prom or designer evening dresses.  So, if you know the outfit cuts (neck cut, sleeves, skirt area, body – fitted or loose) that always look good on you, you can start your store-try-ons by looking at wedding gowns that have similar cuts and silhouettes.  It’s quicker to find your “it-gown” from familiar cuts than from trying on strange outfit cuts you’ve never worn before.  With wedding gowns, the cuts and silhouettes have names, and it’s a good idea to know those names – to make it easy when talking with bridal shops.

Related: Names of Wedding Gown Style-Cuts and Silhouettes

4. Check Your Wardrobe for Occasion-Outfit Style Patterns You Gravitate Towards: Another way to get a good idea of the style of wedding gown that is “you” and true to your personality is to start from the familiar and what’s YOU.  Take a look at your wardrobe to identify a pattern  – look at the long dresses and evening gown styles you own.  Or even look at the long skirt-and-blouse styles you own.  Which cuts (sleeves, neckline, skirt-styles, dress-body styles) do you have more? Of those outfits, which ones do you get the most compliments from? What styles flatters your body type most, when you look at the mirror?

It’s a good idea to start your wedding gown search from what you already know that you look good in. Don’t start searching from the scratch.  A wedding gown is not much different from a long skirt-and-blouse style, only that it’s white and comes in delicate fabric and embellishment.  So, when you go to the bridal stores, help them to help you find styles to try-on, by telling them the cuts, necklines and skirt styles that usually flatter your figure.

RELATED: Pictures of Trendy Wedding Gown Styles – Get Inspired.

5. Gather Visuals to Shop With:  Check Wedding Magazines and Internet (Instagram, Pinterest Boards) for wedding gown style pictures that appeal to you, but also have similar cuts to your best-flattering-outfits.  Cut out pictures from magazines, save website pictures to your phone.  Bring along pictures of wedding gowns you like, to give the bridal shop attendants an idea of styles to show you for try-on.  Remember to find pictures of wedding dress styles by familiar: silhouette, cut, neckline, sleeve style, skirt style –  and also tell the shops what you want for each of those wedding gown parts.

6. Keep An Open Mind:  Do not be rigid on your choice options – sometimes, the wedding gown designs you have in mind may not look that good on you, and sometimes, the shops in your part of town may not have them in stock.  While you should have ideas of what styles of wedding dresses to look for at the shops, be open to trying on suggested styles the shop attendants may show you. May brides have found even better flattering wedding gowns by agreeing to try-on what’s suggested by the bridal shop person.

7. Know Your Dress Size:  While this may sound like common-sense, not every woman knows their dress sizes. Before you leave to the shops, ensure to know what size of dress you wear – because the shop assistants would ask you.  Besides, you don’t expect to try on 5 different sizes of the same dress, just to know which is yours.  Read the label on your old outfits to find your dress size in UK, USA, at least.

8. Wedding Dress Shopping Online Tip:  Ensure to know the country of the website you’re shopping at, and specify your dress size to that country’s.  You’ll need to do a conversion for that – but not to worry, Google is your best friend. All you need is to type something like this into Google: dress size 12 UK to China OR dress size 12 UK to USA or dress size 12 UK to Italy. Hope you get the gist. HINT: To score a significant bargain when buying wedding your dress online, many shops offer big discounts during American Thanksgiving day/ Black Friday / Cyber Monday holidays and Christmas. HINT (again): Oh, what if the dress arrives but looks totally different or doesn’t fit you?  So, before you pay, call and speak to someone and ask if there’s a money-back return policy.  Be sure that the duration of the return policy is long enough for the shipped item to reach them early.

RELATED: Before Buying that Gown: 5 Things to Consider

9. Slight Amendment/ Alteration May Be Needed:  Sometimes, you’ll need a hem-in here and there to take a wedding gown from okay to a perfect fit.  In fact, we’ve seen cheap wedding dresses look a million bucks just because it was slightly adjusted to the body of the wearer.  You don’t have to wear a store-bought dress  the way it is, if it does not sit very well on you.  Big name designer bridal shops do a final fitting (and alteration) to make the wedding gown fit perfectly on the buyer (bride). It’s okay to borrow that idea even if you cannot afford the Couture dresses. HINT:  Wedding gown alterations are better done a few weeks or 3 months to your wedding day, to ensure you’re about the same weight.  HINT (again): Some bridal shops have an in-house tailor that does this – so, ask. So, get it slightly amended to get that snatched-look.

10.  Week-Days Are Better for Shopping Wedding Gowns:  I am sure you know how busy the shops can get during the weekend. If you go shopping on a weekend, the bridal stores would not be able to give you as much attention as you need – because many other brides are also shopping.  Girl, no weekend shopping for a wedding dress, okay.

11. Get a Second (or Third or Fourth) Eye: How can you trust when a shop staff tells you ‘this or that looks amazing on you’?  Don’t even trust your eyes-alone and the mirror – because many brides regretted doing so.  On your wedding day, all eyes would be on your dress, so why not get a few other trusted family member and/ or close friends (3 or 4 max). Ask yourself that one or two persons you have always trusted will tell you the truth. A good idea is your best friend, your mom, your sister, aunt, cousin  – mix and match, but only invite a person if you know they’ll tell you the truth if a gown looks okay or not on you.  You don’t want to have a person that would tell you that every outfit looks good, just because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.  Girl, you can’t risk that because that dress would be the centre of attention on the D-day!

Picture snaps tell things better than a mirror. You may also want to get picture snaps of each look, to personally review and process – for a better decision making when picking the winning wedding dress.

11. Bring Appropriate Undergarments Along: To get a better idea of how a dress would look on you, it’s best to recreate the bridal lingerie and shoes.  Every girl knows that during outfit try-ons, dresses tend to look kinda ordinary without appropriate shoes.  Similarly, without the necessary underwear, a dress doesn’t look well-fitting.  So, be prepared to pack well when going for wedding dress shopping and try-ons.  Take along a strapless bra and a shapewear (spanx or any).

Oh, also bring along a high-heel or any shoe similar to the actual wedding day shoes.  High heels add some elegance to any outfit, but any shoe of same height as your actual wedding shoes will be fine.

12. Pretty Up, Please:  To get a good picture of how a dress would look on you, it’s best to mimic what you intend to look like on the D-day.  So, go shopping with a bit of makeup and your hair done, similar to a bridal hairstyle or look-alike of the hair you plan to wear.  Don’t forget to add a bridal-like earring.  Not that it’s bad to go shopping for a wedding gown without prepping your face and hair, but the wedding-day-look will make you get a better judgement.

13.  Speak the Lingo: You’ll quickly understand, be understood and better helped at the shops, if you ask for what you want in the language and terminology of the wedding dress Industry.   Know the names of wedding dress silhouettes/ styles, and names of different parts of a wedding gown.

Here’s What Usually Happens At Many Nigerian Wedding Gown Shops…

See if you can relate to this…

If you’ve started shopping for your wedding dress and shopping right in Naija, you may have had one or more attendants get angry at you for still not picking a dress after sampling dress number 3 or 4 or more.

Also, you may have realized that every dress looks great on the mannequin and on the model in the magazine/ catalog, but not so great on you when you try them on.  So, you are excited to try some more outfits until you reach “the one” made just for your body.  But some Nigerian wedding gown shops get annoyed when a bride-to-be has tried on a couple of wedding gowns and still has not found “the one”. Others simply don’t allow too many dress trials for fear of the dresses getting stained from brides-to-be who may not buy.

In some bridal shops here, attendants first ask if you’re sure you’ll buy the gown if allowed to try it on.  They’ll quickly say no when you reply that you’ll only buy if it looks good on your body.  In some shops, some  wedding dresses are strictly not-to-be-tried BUT still for sale.  Most bridal stores would ask you ‘what exactly are you looking for? or What kind/ style of wedding dress are you looking for?’  

If you’re like most brides, you came expecting them to show you arrays of dresses in styles and cuts, and allow you try as many as possible, until you find “the perfect dress”.   Since you’ve just realized that things are different here in Nigeria, you’re wondering how you can possibly get around this to finding that perfect-fit wedding gown you’ll say yes to.  After getting the same no-more-try treatment from a couple more wedding dress shops, you’re discouraged and wonder ‘how is a bride going to find a dress style and cut that fits her without trying on many samples?’.  Girl, have you experienced a scenario like I described above? Comment to let me know.

Now, Your Wedding Dress Shopping Just Got Easier

Hopefully, all our above tips for wedding dress shopping should help you get a pleasant experience at any bridal shop, and be ready with the kind of information that bridal shops require to find your best-fit wedding dress.  Now, you should be able to find your ‘it’ wedding dress without trying out 100 different ones – simply use the tips above to figuring your perfect wedding dress style options before even heading out to the shops.

If you’ve already started searching for an outfit, comment below to tell me – What’s Your Story with Shopping for a Wedding Dress in Nigeria or elsewhere?

About Stella Anokam

Stella is the founder and Editor of this blog (NaijaGlamWedding). Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. Submit your photos to be featured - it's FREE, because we love everything weddings, bridal showers, engagement shoots.


  1. U guys gat me imagining maself in dos SWIT n LUVLY dresses, dey’r sooooooo biuti4ul

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