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Choosing the Perfect Dress

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

How to Know When You’ve Found (the Other) Right One

There’s really no substitute for the perfect dress. Try as you might, no matter how many boutiques you visit, no matter how many fittings and designs and types of lace you run through your fingers, if it doesn’t feel right, then it isn’t right. You’ll know it when you see it; it’ll just be there, waiting for you. Of course, this can be easier said than done.

A wedding dress is high up on the list of things long dreamt about. Though not every little girl dreams of her wedding or the perfect dress, or even what her wedding will be like if she chooses to have one, many still do. Only problem is, the dreams we have when we’re young don’t always translate to clear actions when we’re grown up. What might seem like a perfect vision at 10 can start to feel like a stressful obligation at 30. And nothing derails the experience faster than stress.

When you’re on the hunt for your dress, it’s a big piece of the whole. It’s meant to be the centerpiece of one of the most important days of your life. To say pressure is involved would be an understatement. But, the experience can, and should, be joyful. Hopefully, one of the highest points of the wedding planning process. So pressure yes, but only because it's so very exciting. We see brides come in to the boutique at all levels of preparedness. Some who have researched, tried-on, read all the articles and blogs about fit and body type. Then others who haven't even thought about it.. total blank slate. Coming from either place is perfectly fine. What matters is the bride's expectation. But having a few things in check, will definitely help your experience be happy, relaxing, and productive.

The first is choosing your boutique. What type of experience do you want to have? Don't be afraid to call ahead of time to get an understanding of how it all works. What designers do they carry, which sizes, how long is the appointment, how many people can join? Etc.

Passing the Vibe Check

The first step is to choose your vibe. Many brides-to-be come in with Pinterest boards and Instagram inspo that help them tell the story of their 'vibe'. The feel of your wedding is almost always something that brides are certain of. Whether it's a modern, chic wedding with clean-lines, city lights, and black-tie. Or maybe a rustic, laid back wedding with bonfires and roasted marshmallows. Deep down, we know what the story of "US" is supposed to feel like. We don’t always know what we want is called or the fashion specifics, but we know it when we see it, and when we try it on, we hope the magic happens and it just all clicks together. So think about what those adjectives might be. Romantic, rustic, modern, boho, sexy, eclectic, etc. Your bridal stylist knows her inventory. Dresses look much different on a body, than they do on a hanger. So if your stylist understands your vibe; she immediately knows which wedding gowns fit that feeling.

Vibe is more than just style—it’s energy. It’s look. It’s how you feel and how it makes others feel. That can seem vague, but think about it: where’s your venue? What style would you like? What’s your location and your theme? From this, you find the dress that fits with your vibe. While there are many specific elements and terms to translate—organza, lace, fit-and-flare, dress designer, A-line, and a host of others—meeting with a designer and a boutique that understands and can translate your vision (and your Pinterest board) to sequins and hems gets the ball rolling on your dream come true.

Location, Fabrics, and Design

Picking your location and your theme has other practical considerations. Knowing if your wedding is outdoor or indoor, and types of weather for the former, helps you organize fabric decisions. While most fabrics are suitable all year long, chiffon and organza are better for warmer weather, for instance. Some types of lace look better for rustic settings, and certain designers (like Madi Lane or Lillian West) provide an authentic and exotic aesthetic for more Boho settings. Designers like Justin Alexander design stunning dresses out of rich luxe crepe and buttery satin that are perfect for classic, elegant weddings, or modern and contemporary venues.

Keep fabrics in mind when you’re exploring your options. Ensure you have a bridal stylist who understands what silhouette is best for your frame and ideas. Heavier fabrics like taffeta hold their shape and smooth your figure, which can be desirable if you’re trying to highlight your curves. Chiffon and silks can provide a willowier look, which accent natural body shape well. Make sure to focus on fit rather than size. Bridalwear can run a small. Don’t feel discouraged if your dress size is bigger than what you normally wear. Just focus on how it looks and fits.

A popular trend for 2021-2022 has been retro. No, not that retro—think more like the ‘90s. Slip dresses and streamlined sheaths have entered into fashion, not fully replacing the ball gowns but giving us enough to think about. Assymetrical flowy organza fabrics for summer weddings are always in style, and they remain so during the waning days of the pandemic and the necessity of outdoor weddings. Don’t be afraid to pursue what you like, even if it seems unconventional or out of style. The most fashionable trend right now is authentic self-expression. Wear what feels like YOU, what makes you feel confident, and comfortable.


With an eye on your design and your style, something every woman needs to consider is budget. It’s the part no one likes to talk about, but it’s also a huge factor in picking the right…well, everything. Each year, the average cost of a wedding in the United States seems to creep up and up. When we’re careful, we can keep costs down. But we may also worry it comes at the expense of having everything be just right.

Not to fear, there’s a middle ground. Good designers and stylists know people are practical. Budgetary factors influence the dress. It’s normal, and expected! Our stylists generally ask "what is your wedding dress price point?". Not because we're being nosey, but because we want you to fall in love with a dress that is reasonable for your budget. Responsible wedding budgeting might mean having a smaller guest list, or perhaps picking a similar venue that might run a little less expensive, or allow for more DIY decor; maybe travel closer to home if picking a destination. It might mean picking a dress that isn’t one of the bigger names but still packs the elegance every bride should feel when all eyes are on them. For example, the Beloved dress line provides top-notch class and quality at value prices, letting you focus on other things than the dress budget. Whatever your budget, rest assured there are plenty of options to realize your vision.

Mara offers multiple different price points. Our dresses start at $1000 and go up to $2600. Most of our inventory averages between $1500-$1800. We also run multiple sample sales and trunk shows throughout the year, where you can save hundreds of dollars on your dress. Regardless of what your budget is... don't start shopping until you have that figured out. Dresses do get discontinued and sold off the rack. There are no holds or layaways in this industry, so if you find YOUR DRESS, we want you to be able to have it.

Search On, Search Smart

The perfect dress is a process. It’s a vision. It has to be just right, and it has to speak to you in a way the other dresses didn’t. There’ll be a lot of misses to find the hits. Some brides might find it’s easier to choose a spouse than it is to choose a dress! But you can’t put a number on perfection, and you shouldn’t put one on how you feel. You have to find what’s right for you. That’s why we’re here!

One of our most frequently asked questions is, "how many people should I bring with me?" Some brides deem it necessary to bring the whole wedding party, the moms, sisters, flowergirls, grandmas, etc. to their bridal appointment.

Some brides want mom, and mom only. And some want their fiancee. We're here to tell you that it's up to YOU. You need to surround yourself with only the people who make you feel happy, beautiful, and cherished. This is an extremely special experience. It breaks our hearts when we see brides overwhelmed by overly opionated guests. Althought it might feel like a right of passage to bring the entire lineage of influential women to your appointment, it's not always the most successful. What's important is that you have the women surrounding you who love you, support you, and trust your decision making.


It’s a safe call to start your bridal gown search early. Especially in today's world of sluggish shipping, we recommend our brides purchase their wedding dress 9-12 months in advance. Gowns can take up to 6 months to arrive, and allowing yourself 3-6 months for alterations and peace of mind, is highly valuable. Maybe you'll have decided on your bridal accesories veil, headpiece, jewelry, when you said YES to your wedding dress. Or maybe this is something your waiting for. But either way, those decisions should be made at least 3 months before your wedding as well. The perfect time to commit to your accessories is when you pick up your wedding dress! That way everything fits perfectly, and you can really visualize how the whole look will come together.

Making the decisions about your apparel well before your wedding day also gives you plenty of time to decide on your wedding party, which will influence your choice of bridesmaids’ dresses. Bridesmaid's dresses should be ordered 6-9 months in advance, for the same reasons. (Speaking of bridesmaid's dresses, the trends here are fun and unique too). We'll save that for a future blog!

Whatever you do, remember to keep an open mind during the process. Try to keep it light, have fun! When you start shopping, these are the most succesful ways to stay positive are productive...

#1 Start early 9-12 months, and research your boutique

#2 Talk to your fiancee and commit to your wedding day vibe!

#3 Bring only the people who make you feel confident, joyful, and beautiful

#4 Be open minded when it comes to size, cut, fabric, and style.

#3 Know your Budget, and be prepared to Say Yes. (Mara requires 50% down)

Above all, this is a big day. The wedding dress shopping experience is so special. We hope you find the perfect dress for you! And enjoy every step along the way.


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