My dress journey has been exciting, exhausting, and emotional. I spent about 5 straight weekends visiting almost every single bridal salon in Orange County. In total, I probably tried on close to 80 dresses to find the perfect one. I wanted to take you guys on my journey and get a little insight on what it’s like dress shopping in Southern California.
DAVID’S BRIDAL | LONG BEACH, CA
About a week after we got engaged my mom and I were like “Let’s go dress shopping!!”. We definitely weren’t prepared to go shopping this soon and I didn’t make any dress appointments. We kind of just woke up the Saturday after the engagement and decided to go to any store that had walk-ins available. The first store we went to was David’s Bridal because we knew that they didn’t require appointments. Going in, I already had it in my head that I probably would not be purchasing a dress from here but I still wanted to go and try on different styles of dresses.
The staff was super sweet and accommodating. They let us go around the store and pull any dress I wanted to try on and they even pulled a couple of their own choices. This was the first time I had ever put on a gown and I have to say that I was pretty overwhelmed by how enormous and puffy all of the dresses were. As soon as I put them on, I could tell right away that the quality of dresses were just not what I was looking for. I was pretty surprised that all the dresses I tried on were in the $1500 range and was kind of shocked at how much these gowns cost for the quality they were. The good thing that came out of this appointment was that I was able to narrow down the shape of dress I wanted to a mermaid or trumpet style and I got my feet wet for the first time. Overall the shopping experience here was a great way to start the dress hunt.
MARY ME BRIDAL | ORANGE, CA
After our trip to David’s Bridal, my mom and I sat in the parking lot trying to find another store that would be able to take a walk in that day. I yelped some stores and came across Mary Me Bridal which had a ton of good reviews. I called them and surprisingly they had an opening! We were excited to try on more dresses and went there right away. As soon I we walked into the store we noticed that this place was more of an intimate higher end boutique. The dresses here ranged anywhere from $1500-$5000+. When we arrived they let us walk around the store and encouraged us to pull anything that caught our eyes. We told the consultant that I was looking for a dress that was sexy, romantic and under $3000. Immediately a dress on the mannequin next to the welcome desk caught my mom’s attention. It was see through, had a puffy skirt, and definitely a wow dress. My mom asked how much it was and the consultant said she thought it was over my budget but to her surprise it was just around $3200.
This was the first dress I tried on and immediately I fell in love. I literally thought “This is my dress!” as soon as I looked in the mirror. When I walked out of the dressing room my mom was also in love with it. I did not want to take it off but eventually I had to. I then proceeded to try on about 6-7 more dresses after that but I couldn’t even remember what they were because I had tunnel vision for the first dress. After we left the store I thought that this is going to be the dress to beat for sure. After leaving the salon and coming down from the dress high, I realized that this dress was wearing me and I had to keep looking.
CASABLANCA BRIDAL | NEWPORT BEACH, CA
The next stop on our already eventful first day of shopping was a store called Casablanca Bridal in Newport Beach. I seriously got so lucky because all of the stores I called miraculously had an open appointment for me that day. Before we arrived to Casablanca, I already had a preconceived notion that this place was not going to have any dresses in my budget just because of its location (the store was literally right across the street from the ocean in a fancy plaza).
When we walked into the store I could see all my hopes and dreams floating away because this was the prettiest salon I had ever step foot in. I was like OMG there’s no way that they’re going to have affordable dresses here. I still kept a good attitude and met with my dress consultant Korinna. We sat down and talked about what styles and what look I was going for and then the dreaded question “What’s your budget?”. I told her that ideally I’d like to keep it under $3000 and she responded with “Oh! That’s basically our whole store.” I seriously couldn’t believe it. All the dresses she put me in were absolutely gorgeous and best of all they were all around $1500!
This had me rethinking everything. I was like wow, there are some great choices for half the price of “the one to beat” from Mary Me Bridal. Coming into reason, I realized there was no way I could splurge $3200 for a dress (not including alterations, shoes, veil, and a belt/sash). I left this appointment thinking that I’m 100% coming back here to buy a dress.
That concluded my first day of wedding dress shopping and I had learned so much.
Some things I took away from my first full day of shopping:
1) I wanted a tight-fitting dress
2) I liked salons that went into the fitting room with me to clip me in before I walked out
3) Customer service is so important
4) I could find a great quality dress for under $2000
5) Veils and belts were ridiculously expensive!
JACLYN’S BRIDAL | SANTA ANA, CA
The second round of wedding dress shopping I asked my aunts, my younger cousin, and my grandma to come with my mom and me so we can all experience it together. This day I made an appointment at Jaclyn’s Bridal right next to the South Coast Plaza mall and another place at the Irvine Spectrum. Jaclyn’s Bridal was by far the smallest salon I visited but had a big selection of gowns. My family and I were greeted right away with my consultant and we got the ball rolling.
Right off the bat, I could tell my consultant was still pretty new. She picked out nice dresses but wasn’t clipping me in at the right areas. All the dresses I tried on at this salon were priced just over $2000 but the dresses weren’t hitting the mark with me. None of the dresses I tried on wowed me and I felt like they were just a little too over designed for the style I was going for. Also, I felt cramped in the fitting room area because the other girls pedestals were so close together near the mirrors. This made my overall experience at this store a little disappointing.
The owner of the salon saw the struggle of finding a dress that I liked and began talking to us when I was trying on the last few dresses and was re-clipping me into the dresses. She asked me if I have looked at other salons already and when I told her I had she responded by saying, “If you’ve been to other salons, then you’ve seen all the dresses there are.” Errrkkk back-up! Are you telling me that your store has every dress there is? I didn’t like that comment and thought that wasn’t an effective sales tactic. Another thing I learned about dress shopping was that I didn’t like consultants who were overly pressuring me to buy a dress.
DEMETRIOS BRIDE | IRVINE, CA
The last stop on our second round of shopping was a salon at the Irvine Spectrum called Demetrios Bridal. This store is unique because it carries only one designer, Demetrios. Just walking in we could see that at this store we’d have a better experience here than Jaclyn’s Bridal. Our consultant was so friendly and let us run around picking any dress we wanted. She took me into a fitting room and made sure I was clipped in perfectly before walking out to the floor where my family was. Most of the dresses I tried on had corset backs and I immediately knew that those weren’t for me. I tried on a lot of dresses and they even let me go outside in a dress to see how it looked like in the sun. All in all, I didn’t find a dress I really loved or thought was memorable from this salon. They had great customer service but the designer was just not the one for me and that’s totally okay!
BLUSH BRIDAL COUTURE | TUSTIN, CA
I’ve been calling these last two stores for weeks trying to get an appointment on a Saturday, but because I procrastinate too much and never call a week in advance, like a good bride should, I was only able to snag a Friday appointment. Blush Bridal Couture is located in Tustin, CA in a cute little plaza. As soon as you walk in you’re greeted by the consultants and are offered champagne. My consultant was named Erin and was the nicest consultant I’ve met so far. She listened to what I wanted and pulled so many good dress options. Our appointment last about 45 min and at the end of the appointment I found 2 dresses that I fell in love with.
Erin was very kind but not overly complimentary which I loved. She really wanted me to find my dress on my own and not just try to sell a gown. That made a huge difference to me because I really felt like dress shopping was all about the experience. If I wasn’t feeling the salon or the consultant, then it kind of made me try not to like any of the dresses I was trying on. I felt like Blush Bridal really stood out to me so it was easier to fall in love with the dresses I was trying on. I quickly made an appointment for the following week to show my parents the top 2 dresses.
MARIPOSA BRIDAL BOUTIQUE | ANAHEIM, CA
After Blush Bridal Couture I went to Mariposa Bridal in Anaheim near Disneyland. Mariposa Bridal had a lot of great reviews and was a place I really wanted to check out. Mariposa is a pretty salon with tons of dresses organized by designer and then by style of dresses. My consultant was also very warm and friendly. She asked us to go around and pull any dresses I wanted to try on. At this point I had been to quite a few dress salons and tried on so many dresses so I’m not going to lie, I was pretty burnt out. Every dress I tried on was beautiful but I couldn’t love anything because all they all started looking the same at this point and I was losing focus. Unfortunately I left the salon with no dresses that I loved. It wasn’t until a few days later looking back at the pictures that I started loving a few dresses I saw here.
PANACHE BRIDAL | COSTA MESA, CA
The last place I ended up going to was Panache Bridal. I was actually going to visit their Santa Barbara location while I was looking at venues there but they were closed on Sundays. Panache is known to having a bigger range of dress prices ($1,500-$10,000). Their salon in Costa Mesa was huge! There were gowns that I would have loved to try on but were way out of my budget. The dresses that were in my budget didn’t make me feel like a bride even though they were gorgeous. In the back of my mind I was already thinking that I found my dress when I was going through the pictures from all the appointments.
After trying on countless dresses and visiting my favorite salons a couple more times I finally decided on a dress! The dress I chose was one that I initially didn’t fall in love with. It was the kind of love that grows on you. Everyone told me “Once you put it on, you’ll know which dress is the one”. That was not the case with me. There were many factors that I looked for in a wedding dress. I wanted the dress to have an indescribable wow factor and one that looked good in pictures. Because let’s be real, it’s all about the pictures! The dress that I loved going back to in pictures was the dress I didn’t expect to love. I’m so happy and relieved to have finally said “yes to the dress”!
With Love, Chelsea