Wedding gowns come in all shapes and fabrics and textures and styles, and no wedding gown looks the same on two different brides. Most women look fantastic in their dresses, but their dresses fit properly. What's bad is when a gorgeous woman and a gorgeous gown don't look put together because something doesn't fit quite right.
This has nothing to do with whether you're petite or plus-size, believe me, I've seen more improperly-fit dresses gapping on the sides on tiny brides than on bigger girls. It's unfortunate because you know the woman loves the dress and believes it flatters her completely. And for the most part it does, but it could definitely look better.
When something doesn't look good, it's time to pray the photographer is savvy enough to shoot the best possible angle of the bride in her gown. But none of that is really necessary because you should have your wedding gown properly fitted by the bridal shop where you purchased it. Their name is on your dress, so to speak. They WANT you to look your absolute best so that when your guests ask you where you got your dress, they're not asking so they avoid that shop.
If you bought your dress a less traditional route and don't have the bridal shop to rely on, do your research and find a good tailor in your area who does wedding gowns. It will be well worth the extra couple of hundred dollars you'll likely spend.
You need to look at yourself from every angle in the mirror at the final fitting. This is the time to bring your snotty friend or hyper-critical mother along -- it's your last chance to make sure you look absolutely unbelievable in your wedding gown. If it fits properly, you will be the most beautiful bride in the world. You will never have a dress that you love more than your wedding gown. Trust me, I know. I really loved my gown and I don't think I've ever had something that fit me better.
There are a few things you should watch out for specifically:
1. Avoid "assback" at all costs. Yes, that's what it's called when your dress is too tight in the back and it pulls your skin together in such a manner that you appear to have a set of butt cheeks just above your dress zipper. Even smaller women with zero fat can end up with assback in an ill-fitting gown. Fortunately, it's usually possible to actually move the skin back in a manner that reduces the squeeze factor. But more importantly, get a good look at your back when you go for your dress fitting and have it done properly so it doesn't happen to you.
2. Proper foundation garments under your wedding gown make all the difference in the world. Some wedding boutiques will build in a bra, but sometimes a foundation corset of sorts (I called the one under my wedding gown the "iron maiden") will hold everything securely in place. Cleavage can be lovely, but too much jiggle isn't the look any bride is going for, especially if you plan to dance the night away.
3. Strapless gowns MUST be fit to you properly. While assback is a concern if the dress is too tight, too loose and you'll spend your entire wedding yanking up your dress. It's so unflattering and will likely be caught in video and pics. And it's just not a fun way to spend your wedding night. There's a reason they tell you not to lose any weight (or gain) after that final fitting. If you can't keep your dress up when you zip up to go down the aisle, it's too late to do anything about it.
4. Be real about dress length. Too many brides are wearing the trendy, ridiculously high heels for the trip down the aisle, but switching out to something more comfortable for dancing all night long. In some cases, the dress is suddenly gaining three to six inches of length. I see this all the time with brides who get married barefoot on the beach but plan to dance in stilettos at the reception. When they go to walk down the aisle, they often look like those gypsy brides kicking their dresses out in front of them. It's painful to watch. Have your dress hemmed wearing the shoes you plan to wear for most of the night. If you're going to dance in flip flops, hem it to that length. You've got so much gown going on, nobody is going to notice if it's a little shorter when you do have the fancy shoes on. Worst case scenario you get some compliments on those fabulous shoes it was so important to wear. But you won't be able to walk (or dance) the rest of the night if you don't err on the shorter side of caution.
5. Bustle-tastrophies happen. The bigger and poofier the skirt, the more elaborate the bustle, the more likely that somebody is going to step on you and tear out half the little ribbons that are holding up your layers of gown. Very few bustles actually survive a successful wedding reception when the bride is dancing hard and having fun. All it takes is one person stepping on the dress at the wrong moment to tear a loop over a hook or button. And once it's gone, it's gone. I carry large safety pins (and even some diaper pins) in my bridal emergency bag for bustle emergencies, but more than once we've had to simply tie the train in a knot and loop it up underneath.
A final word on bustles: Be sure to take someone to the bridal shop for your final fitting who will be available to bustle your gown on your wedding day. As a wedding planner, I've probably had to figure out just about every kind of bustle but I'm sure I did some of them wrong. No matter how busy you are and how badly you want to just pop into the bridal shop and pick up your dress on your own, you REALLY need a friend or your mom to go with you and be taught exactly how the bustle should be properly attached or you're almost guaranteed it isn't going to stay in place through the first dance.
On that note, make sure you know how to put on your wedding gown properly. If you have laces, figure out at the bridal shop whether the laces go inside or tie in a bow outside the gown. Some dresses go on better over the head (just put a silk scarf over your hair and makeup and you won't have a problem slipping it over), and some should be stepped into. If you've got a separate crinoline you really need to know how it all gets properly constructed so you're inside the right places in the right linings.
I had one bride whose dress didn't want to zip and nobody could figure out why til she was so uncomfortable we took it off her between the ceremony and reception. That's when we realized she was actually between the dress and the lining and not actually inside the dress. Lesson learned - when something doesn't zip that should, take it off and start over.
Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Sandy Malone Weddings & Events!