The wedding dress can overwhelm even the most experienced shopper, but gown-hunting doesn't have to be a stress-filled experience. With careful planning-and by heeding the advice of Central Ohio boutique owners-your dress-shopping outing will end with a resounding "yes!"

The wedding dress can overwhelm even the most experienced shopper, but gown-hunting doesn’t have to be a stress-filled experience. With careful planning—and by heeding the advice of Central Ohio boutique owners—your dress-shopping outing will end with a resounding “yes!”

Molly Meddock thought “the moment” was a bridal-shopping urban legend. She believed this, that is, until she put on her Monique Lhuillier gown—fitted and flared, sweetheart neckline, voluminous at the bottom. She stepped out of the fitting room at Big Rock Little Rooster and walked to the mirror to show her mother and sister.

“It was just immediate … with tears in my eyes and goose bumps. And then when I showed my mom and sister, it was like watching a Lifetime movie—waterworks everywhere,” Meddock says. “Monique Lhuillier just roped me in.”

She wore the gown to marry husband Alex in September 2012.

“Say Yes to the Dress” and other bridal-shopping shows have capitalized on moments like Molly’s, but there’s a secret that boutique owners want gown-shoppers to know: Meddock was partly right—this moment is atypical.

“For 90 percent of brides, it just doesn’t happen,” says Jackie Trucco, owner of IVY Bridal Studio in Dublin.

With the inundation of options for today’s bride, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and confused when it comes to finding what you want for the big day. This, of course, can make having “the moment” a bit more difficult. But don’t be discouraged, say the experts. Instead, establish a timeline.

Search Party

Many of the smaller boutiques in the area, such as White of Dublin, IVY Bridal Studio and Girls in White Dresses, insist brides should make dress-shopping appointments one year to eight months out.

“If you’re looking for a couture gown, they’re all made to order,” says Heather DiMasi, White of Dublin co-owner. “So even if it’s going to take six to eight months for that dress to come in, you want to give yourself a good two months for alterations.”

Brides in a hurry can also have success—and shouldn’t panic. Certain customizations may need to be sacrificed, but the larger bridal shops can order and deliver dresses much quicker than in the past. Teri Misener, buyer for Universe Bridal, says more and more of her manufacturers are offering quick-ship options—often within four weeks.

However, all bridal consultants agree it’s never too early to look for gown inspiration.

Style You Pretty

Ask any bridal shop owner, buyer or consultant where brides can hunt for ideas, and they’re likely to respond with one resounding place: Pinterest.

“Pinterest is huge,” DiMasi says. “We love Pinterest.”

“Pinterest has been a great tool for brides, because there are so many pictures of dresses out there,” Trucco says. “And you can see [the gowns] not just on models but on real brides.”

Says Abby Winland, store manager for Girls in White Dresses: “A lot of girls come in and show us things they’ve pinned on Pinterest, but about 90 percent of girls actually come in without photos.” Girls in White Dresses owner Courtney Leister notes her shop is known for knowledgeable stylists—most have a background in fashion—who can guide the style of even an unsure bride.

In addition to Pinterest, blogs have also become inspiration go-tos, with many posting real weddings and photos of nuptials from across the globe. They’re great sources for vendor information, DIY projects—like making your own floral hairpiece—styling ideas and color palettes. And of course, gown photos galore. In fact, the Web is a great place for brides to begin the dress search, and shop owners recommend brides gather ideas for style, fit and color before heading to the first appointment.

The Dos and Don’ts

According to DiMasi, the most important thing a bride can do when dress shopping is keep an open mind. “Be willing to step out of your comfort zone,” she says. “And come with an open attitude.”

Many brides will attest to the fact that on dress-hunting day, they manage to surprise even themselves—it’s rare that a bride will stick with her exact vision of “the” dress, especially if she heads to a shop with a large variety.

Winland does caution to stay within one’s style, however. “You should stay true to yourself. Look how you want to look every day, but the best possible you,” she says. “Don’t stray too far away.”

Also understand that a photo taken on a smartphone won’t necessarily capture how the dress really looks. Or, as Trucco notes, how you feel in the dress.

Additional logistics include budget—brides need to be realistic and know what they’re truly comfortable spending, Misener insists—and the size of the shopping party. “Don’t bring too many people. The more people, the more opinions and the more confusing [the process is],” DiMasi says.

“Remember whose day it is,” Misener adds, “It’s your day. You’re the bride. At the end of the day, it’s really up to you. Don’t get overwhelmed.”

Ultimately, brides should take their time.

“You don’t have to go into a store knowing exactly what you want. Sometimes it’s even better going in not knowing what you want at all,” Trucco says.

What’s Trending

Bridal wear in 2013 may one day be summed up simply as “Gatsby fever.” What’s old is new again, as they say, and there are a handful of current bridal trends inspired by the roaring ’20s. From sleeves to beading, it’s all about Prohibition-era glam.

Misener says strapless has long been considered the quintessential bridal look, but now brides are pushing for a more comfortable fit, with cap sleeves and three-quarter-length sleeves returning to popularity. “The designers are listening, and they’re bringing in more variety,” Misener says.

Intricate detailing is everywhere now, and that includes heavy beading and embroidery. At White of Dublin, DiMasi identifies designer Ian Stuart as an embodiment of the heavy-beading trend, while designer Sarah Janks is known for long, loose silhouettes with careful patterns and feminine details that give her gowns a vintage feel. “It’s a Gatsby feel without the beading,” DiMasi says.

Brides often describe the gown by describing its neckline: sweetheart, V-neck, halter or scoop. But on the day of the wedding, brides are often viewed from behind. Whether it be at the altar or during the first dance, the back is in full view—and in turn, designers are giving dress backs their due. Lace overlays, peek-through details and more are popping up on the backs of gowns, creating drama without sacrificing class.

As for color, Winland anxiously awaited the arrival of designer Tara Keely’s colored, off-the-shoulder gown in late spring 2013. (Style 2358, for those interested.) Brides are requesting soft pink dresses, and she says this one in particular is an amazing example of incorporating color. “We’ve already sent emails to people telling them it’s arrived, as so many girls have asked for intricate details and a blushy, sherbet color,” Winland says.

A Little Something Extra

Whether on-trend or totally personalized, accessories bring the whole look together.

Stylists and bridal consultants may offer suggestions as brides narrow down the gown selection. Trying on a veil and jewelry with a gown is a great way to visualize the entire big-day look.

For Emily Christian, who married Matt Christian in May 2012, it was important to keep things simple.

“I’m just your typical ‘nice dress and a strand of pearls’ kind of girl, so it was hard for me to do any jewelry shopping,” Christian says.

She forwent a veil and necklace—her dress had a high neckline—and opted instead for a bracelet with pearl detailing and earrings with a little sparkle.

“I wanted to wear pearls, and everyone kept saying, ‘Oh, no, you need to wear a dangling earing,’ ” she says. “We found a happy medium.”

And that—a bride’s own personal preference—is really what it’s about, says Trucco. Brides either want to layer on the diamonds or prefer a simpler, understated look. They’re either a veil person or they aren’t, she says.

For the pro-veil bride, though, there are plenty of options:

Cathedral: A long, walking-length traditional veil can come with beaded or lace embellishments, which go well with the beaded and embellished trend in dress design. These veils can come with several layers to create volume or just one layer to pull back at the altar.

Short: Short veils lend your look a more casual, fun air. If a bride has chosen a tea-length gown, a short veil with volume adds whimsy. Brides can find the same detailing, beading and layers that they will with cathedral veils.

Blusher: A blusher veil is a veil with a short length. These veils often hit somewhere around the mouth or just below the chin. Birdcage veils, which are typically made of a netting material and accompanied by a headpiece, often fall under this category. The attraction to vintage looks, DiMasi notes, has made blusher veils increasingly popular.

SIDEBAR

Q&A with IVY Bridal Studio

IVY Bridal Studio opened its Dublin doors in March. Owner Jackie Trucco, who also serves as the shop’s buyer and consultant, worked as a project manager for a construction company before suddenly deciding to make a career change. Columbus Bride sat down with her to discuss what the boutique offers and how to make the bridal-gown shopping experience just a little bit easier.

What designers do you carry?

Alvina Valenta, Hayley Paige, Blush, Modern Trousseau and Alyne by Rivini

Why did you decide to feature these

particular designers in your shop?

I did a lot of research. Aesthetic is huge. A designer that might sell well in New York City might not necessarily sell well for the Columbus bride. So you really have to take into account your demographics and the vibe of Columbus. Price point is also huge. I tried to keep my gowns right around the $3,000 mark. They start at $1,500, and my average gown is about $2,600.

How far in advance do you recommend brides start shopping and gathering ideas?

Start looking as soon as you get engaged. You definitely want to buy a gown at least eight months prior to your wedding. You have to factor in that most dresses are custom-order gowns, so they’ll take four to six months to come in. And you have to make sure you leave a couple of months for alterations, too.

How should brides prepare for their

appointment with you?

It’s a hard thing to prepare for because it’s not like an everyday shopping experience, like when you’ll know what fit of jeans looks best on you. How many times in your life have you actually tried on a wedding dress? It just doesn’t happen. It’s one of those things where you have to look online a little bit, see the styles that capture your eye and the dresses you think you’ll be comfortable in. If you see something that you really, really love, it’s always helpful to print it out, bring it in, and your consultant can help you find a dress that’s similar in the silhouette or the fabric.

What kind of experience can brides expect when they come in?

What we like to do when a bride comes in is get a little bit of information regarding her wedding date and venue—all of these things really help when picking out the dress. You wouldn’t pick out the same type of dress for a black-tie affair that you would for a garden or beach wedding, so those details are important. After we get a feel for her personality and her style, we like to let her walk through and see if there’s anything that pops out that she’d like to try on. Then we’ll pull those gowns and put them in the fitting rooms. And once we do that, we like to go through and pull some gowns that we think would work based on what she’s told us and her body type as well.

Any favorite designers or trends

right now?

I love Hayley Paige. Her aesthetic is always so surprising. Every season she has something that’s just jaw-dropping and really special. All of her stuff is really flirty and feminine, yet unexpected at the same time. And I love the Modern Trousseau gown that has pin stripes on the back of it. I really like the idea of combining something classic with something unexpected.

Did you wear a dress from one of your

designers when you got married?

No … I just opened in March, and I got married in December 2011. I wore a Vera Wang from Big Rock Little Rooster.

IVY Bridal Studio is open by appointment only.