How to find the wedding dress that's right for you

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The date is set, the venue is booked. Now, what to wear down the aisle?

Shopping for a bridal gown can be exciting for any bride-to-be, but with so many choices out there -- silhouettes, necklines, fabrics, colors -- it's easy to see how it could also become overwhelming.

So, how (and where?) to find that perfect one? Jennie Ma, fashion editor at TheKnot.com, gave us a few tips to help guarantee you'll say "yes" to the right dress.

When to start shopping:

Brides should start looking for gowns eight months before they say "I do," Ma advised. That allows for time to find the right dress, as well as the fittings and alterations you'll need to ensure it looks perfect on the big day.

"It takes time to find the right dress. Some girls are lucky and they find it right away, but it does take longer for a lot of other brides. Definitely give yourself time -- you don't want to feel rushed," she added.

Where to look:

There are a number of different places where brides can look for a bridal gown, all offering different kinds of dresses and experiences.

High-end salons will carry all the top designers and give brides an intimate shopping experience, but it's not the place for a bride-to-be on a budget, Ma said.

Brides can also look for their dress at department stories, which can be a one-stop shop for the entire bridal party -- bridesmaids' dresses can also be found there, and the groom can find everything he needs as well. Some department stores also have partnerships with high-end designers (like Roses by Reem Acra at Nordstrom), offering dresses at more affordable prices.

Brides can also go the retail route, looking at lines offered by companies like J. Crew and Ann Taylor. "They're really great because they have amazing price points and it's another place where you can fully service your entire bridal party and get all the outfits in one place," said Ma.

How to figure out what you want:

Brides can find inspiration on websites like TheKnot.com, with galleries showing all the latest gowns from top designers. Magazines and Pinterest are other places where brides can look through pictures and see what they like -- and, perhaps more importantly, what they don't like.

But other factors from your wedding will also play into the decision-making process.

"I would say the first thing is to figure out your venue and what style you're going for, and that naturally will really help you narrow down what dress you're looking for," Ma said. "If you're getting married in this gorgeous ballroom, you know you need a really dramatic gown. You're not going to want something really simple. So that will inform the decision."

When you go -- be open-minded:

Personal style preferences, budget and the type of wedding a bride is having will all influence what kind of dress she wants. But, brides should still go into the shopping process with an open mind, Ma said.

"It's good to go in knowing what you want. It's good to be prepared and have an idea -- it will help your search process. But at the same time, be open minded," she advised.

So if a friend, family member or bridal consultant suggests you try on a dress, go for it! The worst thing that could happen is you reaffirm that ball gowns aren't your thing. But maybe, just maybe, that mermaid-style gown you didn't think would work will wow you.

  • Jessica Derschowitz

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