The woes of finding the perfect gown are things every woman can understand.
Caralyn Mirand and Fiance Brian Engagement Photos

As a plus-size model, the first idea that came to my mind when I connected with Martha Stewart Weddings was that I wanted to come up with a wedding dress-shopping guide for curvy women. However, I quickly realized that finding the perfect dress for your big day is something nearly every woman struggles with, which is why I wanted to compile a list with pointers for all shapes and sizes instead. To bring this comprehensive shopping guide come to life, I teamed up with Lovely Bride, the original indie bridal boutique in New York City.

With their help, I've come up with foolproof tips to help make sure your wedding dress shopping journey is as successful as possible. Here, what you need to know to feel empowered to find your dress-no matter what size you are.

bridal dresses on rack
Credit: Courtesy of Caralyn Mirand

Research salons that offer a wide range of sample sizes.

One of the strangest things that I learned while shopping for wedding dresses is that sizing can be crazy-gowns often run two to four sizes smaller than what we're used to. Although this can be extremely frustrating at first, it's important to remember that you shouldn't get caught up by a number. No matter your size, be sure to call salons and tell them your typical dress size to see if they carry samples that will work for you. Lovely Bride recently added a range of different sizes to their showroom-a welcomed and necessary addition for my fellow curvy brides!

Be realistic about the sample sizes.

More often than not, the dress you try on in the store will not fit you the way it's supposed to-no matter what size you are. If it's too small, the bridal consultant will most likely use extra fabric and clips to close the back. If it's too big, they will need to clamp the dress so that it won't fall down. There is no reason to stress out about whether or not the dress will zip up. Your focus should be on how you feel in the overall style.

Be open to different silhouettes and styles.

I made sure to go into each store with an open mind, which made my first stop incredibly eye-opening and rewarding. I told my consultant which styles I had envisioned for myself, but that I was open to trying on other things, too. When she brought me a dress that she had picked, I decided it wasn't for me as soon as I had my two feet in. But she insisted that I try it on anyway, and it ended up being "the one." Moral of the story: Try on everything. You never know, a dress you didn't think was right for you could be the one.

Stay true to yourself.

Remember how I said it's important to be open to trying new styles? That's true, but only to a certain degree. If you are the type to never wear a strapless dress in everyday life, your wedding day might not be the most ideal time to start. If you are more conservative and don't like to show much skin, you might not feel comfortable in a plunging neckline or see-through style. You want to look like the best version of yourself on your wedding day, so remain true to who you are.

Wear the right undies.

You should try on wedding dresses with undergarments that make you feel great-and are super supportive. For me, that's a pair of high-waisted Spanx. I feel like I can conquer anything when I am wearing them. For you, it might be a lacy thong or comfy boyshort. Whatever you envision yourself wearing on your wedding day, be sure to wear those to your initial dress appointments. You may still need something different for the gown you end up choosing, but it's so important to start off the shopping experience in something that makes you feel good.

When you know, you…might still need to sleep on it.

There is often a pressure of having that tear-filled moment when you find "the one." Go into your dress shopping journey knowing that everyone has a different experience. Don't force it! You may cry, you may not-both are completely okay. You might have to sleep on it and come back to try on the dress for the second time. The most important thing is that you feel incredible and can envision yourself getting married in that dress. Another good way to tell if you've found the one? You won't want to try on anything else.

Bring only your most supportive girl gang.

Surround yourself with people who will help boost your confidence. Shopping for a dress is a very personal experience, and it can sometimes be emotional. I had the privilege of bringing my mom and four of my bridesmaids, and it meant so much to have them there with me.

Know that dress shopping can be overwhelming for any woman.

No matter what shape or size you are, trying on wedding dresses for the very time can be very overwhelming. If you're feeling stressed, know that you're not the only woman who's ever felt this way-take a deep breath, look to your crew for support, and keep shopping.


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