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Your Wedding Ensemble Shopping Timeline & Checklist

Groom fixing bride's dress

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The road to “I do” is a long and winding one, and a little foresight goes a long way. When it comes to completing your wedding ensemble, it’s normal to come across some bumps as you go along. So we’ve created a guide to help keep you on the right track – from getting your finances in order, to putting together a trusty kit that can save you from a wardrobe crisis on your big day.

Wedding ensemble shopping timeline checklist

10-12 Months to Go

1- Set Your Budget

On your wedding expense sheet, remember to add in the cost of your wedding ensemble: and we don’t just mean the dress. If you plan to spend $2,000 on your outfit, don’t expect to buy a $2,000 dress, as it will only be a fraction of the entire cost.

The dress you’ll pick will likely need to be altered leading up to your wedding day, so set aside a budget for that. You’ll also need to account for the accessories that will complete your look: the veil, hair accessories, jewelry, clutch, and shoes.

Individually, they might not seem like much of a spend, but they add up, especially if you are into brands. If you’re not sure about the cost of something, say, a wedding veil, a quick google search will help you come up with a realistic estimate. Check the average prices on Etsy or Amazon and add a 10% buffer. If you’re planning to order your dress and accessories online, consider shipping costs as well.

This way, if a dress catches your eye, you can easily tell if the price tag agrees with your budget or if it’s best to keep looking.

2- Save Your Dress Design Pegs

Pinterest wedding board

Now’s the time to bust out your Pinterest wedding board and figure out what style/s speak to you. You won’t be reaching in the dark though, as by now you already know when and where you will get married. Let these details guide you into finding a dress that you not only love – but feel comfortable in, too.

A light-weight dress may be perfect for a summertime affair, while cooler months will call for a more covered-up ensemble. When it comes to the venue, consider how your dress will look against the setting. You can live out your princess fantasies with a ballgown and cathedral-length train in a church ceremony followed by dinner in a posh hotel. Meanwhile, a flowy number is best if you will be spending your day outdoors with a rustic setting.

Of course, at the end of the day, your dress should be true to your style and compliments your body type. If you want to know more about what silhouettes suit you, check our detailed guide here.

3- Book Your Dress Appointments

Bride looking at her wedding dress

There are basically three ways to go about dress appointments:

  • you visit a designer’s boutique to create a custom design for you
  • you pick a dress from a boutique’s existing collection and have it made to your measurements
  • you visit an RTW (ready to wear) store

The first two are the most common (although RTW wedding attire is quickly gaining popularity among millennial brides) and therefore will require lead time to create. The usual lead time is four to six months, depending on the intricacy of the design. Thus, it’s best to get those appointments through early on and leave some leeway for alterations.

Regardless of whether you’re having a dress made or buying off the rack, a dress appointment is a fun (and perhaps emotional) experience that’s best shared with someone special. A trusted friend, a sister, or your mom would be your best bet as shopping buddies. Keep your company small (maximum two persons) so that you can focus on how you feel about each dress and not be distracted by differing opinions.

8 Months to Go

1- Buy or Put a Deposit Down for Your Dress

After thoroughly enjoying your time in the fitting room, you’re bound to fall in love with a dress. When you find the one that ticks all the boxes in terms of style, fit, and suitability to your venue, it’s time to make a commitment! Made to order dresses will usually require a deposit to start production and you’ll sign a contract that indicates the agreed style, measurements, and arrival of your dress.

Once you’ve checked all the information, sign on the dotted line and wait ’til it’s ready. Wardrobe decisions will be a little bit easier from here, as you have a reference point for everything else that needs to fall in place.

5 Months to Go

1- Complete Your Look from Head to Toe

You’ve got the dress, now it’s time to find those essential accessories to complete your ensemble:

Choose a Wedding Veil

Bride wearing her wedding veil

Some people say that the dress makes the bride – but others will argue that it’s actually the veil! An accessory that’s been around since ancient times, it is believed to have deeper symbolism related to a woman’s purity and fertility.

Traditional beliefs aside, the veil does give brides an undeniable glow. You will find many styles nowadays from short birdcage veils, romantic laced mantilla veils, to long, classic cathedral veils. There is no exact science in choosing one but if you want to know more, check out our guide to types of veils.

Choose Your Hair Accessories

Bride wearing hair-vines

Hair accessories that are pinned or clipped in place are great add-ons to a veiled look, but some are bold enough to hold their own. Take flower crowns for instance – these will give you a youthful, free-spirited vibe perfect for bohemian brides or an outdoor setting.

On the other hand, go for a tiara if you want to feel like royalty on your big day. There are more discreet accessories too like hair vines or bows that add just a little bit of whimsy. The possibilities are endless!

Pick your Rings

Don’t leave your wedding ring shopping to the last minute, as the production of your rings can require a lead time of a month or two. It was probably a bit of a guessing game for your fiancé when he chose your engagement ring, but shopping for your wedding rings will be easier and will be a great time to bond as a couple too.

Tip: If you still want to add an element of surprise for the big day, choose the engraving for each other’s ring to be read only on the wedding day as a small but sweet gesture for your spouse-to-be.

Choose a Handy Purse / Pouch

It’s always a good idea to have a pouch handy for quick retouches in the bathroom or to keep some envelopes from your guests. Don’t go through your dinner with a number of envelopes clutched under your arms or rummaging through someone else’s purse for a tissue or dab of concealer when you need it. Pick a small one in the same shade as your dress, ideally with a strap you can have on your wrist and no one will even notice.

Select Your Shoes

Bride shoes closeup

You will have your wedding shoes on from the moment you walk down the aisle until you hit the dance floor, so a comfortable pair is crucial! Sure, you have worn high heels before – but have you worn them for 8 hours straight? Remember, you will be wearing them all day so pick one which is true to your style yet comfortable to move around in.

3 Months to Go

1- Have Your First Fitting

Mom helping bride getting dressed for wedding day

You will be trying on the dress that’s made especially for you for the first time. It might not fit perfectly just yet, but that’s normal. This is the time to take it all in and check any more room for improvement in fit and design. Maybe you want to add some removable straps, perhaps a sash, or a bustle for the train. This is the best time to tell your designer or dress consultant.

Bring your shoes that you plan to wear for your wedding day so the hem can be properly adjusted. It would be a good idea to walk around with your shoes on to make sure that the length is just right.

Finally, try on your veil with the dress – it’s normal for some tears to fall at this point! 

2- Buy Your Secondary Accessories


What you wear underneath your dress can affect how it looks from the outside. Most dresses will have pads built in so you can go bra-less, but keep in mind that you’ll be moving around a lot and a low-cut dress may reveal more than intended. Fabric tape can be used in this case to keep everything in place.

Another popular undergarment is shape wear. We’ve gone a long way since Spanks, and there are more options that will fit any dress style – even an asymmetrical one for dresses with slits (see: Skims Solutionwear by Kim Kardashian) and ones with pads for your behind! Fad or not, if it helps you to look and feel great, go for it.

Prep Attire (Getting-ready outfit)

You will be starting hair and makeup preparations at least 4 hours in advance, so there’s a lot of sitting around to be done. You’d want to wear something comfortable when you’re in the makeup chair, toasting with your entourage while your wedding dress awaits in pristine condition. Pick something that’s delicate yet not too revealing as your photographer will capture some shots of you while getting ready.

Your Wedding Scent

assorted glass fragrance bottles

You may notice that you associate certain scents with memories. Like that fragrant smell of freshly baked bread bringing memories of your trip in France or your mom’s favorite essential oils bubbling away in a diffuser urging you to give her a call. You can wear your favorite perfume on your wedding day or try a new one you love so that every time you take a whiff, it brings you back to one of the best days of your life.

3- Have Your Second Fitting

Now that the major adjustments have been done, you’re just looking at perfecting the fit of your dress for the second visit.

If you decided to change some of your accessories after the first fitting, try them on again now to make sure they all go together. If you did buy specific undergarments or shape wear, take them to your fitting too as this affects the overall fit of your dress.

3 Weeks to Go

1- Break-in in Your Shoes

Bride wearing her wedding shoes

Breaking in your shoes early on will help you ensure that they’re the right fit and are durable. One way of breaking in your shoes is to wear thick socks while walking around indoors to gently stretch the material and keep your feet stress-free.

2- Have Your Final Fitting

You’ve waited a long time for this and now you can see the final look you’ll have on your wedding day. This is also the closest to your wedding body you will get so check if everything fits perfectly and the length is just right with your chosen pair of shoes. This last fitting can get emotional, so it would be great to bring your shopping buddy from day 1 and bask in your bridal glory after all the hard work.

Bring Her Home

Once you’re happy with the fit and you’ve fully inspected your dress, bring her home! Of course, you’d want to keep it a surprise from your spouse-to-be, so keep it safe in a garment bag.

The Day Before

1- Organize the Essentials and Keep a Checklist

Create a checklist of everything you will be bringing to your hotel or venue the day before to be sure you don’t forget anything. Gather them all in one place and if possible, fit all accessories into one luggage to avoid bits and pieces falling out of paper bags or shopping totes.

2- Put Together a Wardrobe Emergency Kit

Buy a handheld steamer and put together an emergency kit (safety pins, fashion tape)—it’s better to be prepared. Make sure you have all of the parts of your ensemble in one place. Everything from your gown and veil to your jewelry and shoes should go together, especially if you’re switching venues after your makeup and hair are done.

That’s a Wrap!

Mom kissing bride in the forehead

We hope that with our help, your shopping will run a bit smoother for you. If ever things don’t go exactly on your wedding day as you’ve imagined it, keep in mind that the real essence of the day is the celebration of your love.

Your wedding day doesn’t mark the end of your wedding dress’ life, though. You should remember to send it for dry cleaning the day after and store it with a silica gel pack to avoid moisture build-up. If you want your dress to keep making brides happy, you can put it up on consignment. There are bridal shops that can take it in as a rental gown and offer you a portion of the proceeds.