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Wedding: Dress Shopping – Jon’s Bridal

by Meghann on March 20, 2012

eekkk…. I know I’m late on sharing this post. I have a huge backlog on wedding posts I’m working on right now. I will have more soon. Pinky promise :)

First of all, thank you for all of the wonderful advice you shared for dress shopping. You guys brought up a lot of good points that really has helped in the process.

Here’s what you had to say:

  • Bring photos of the style of dresses you have in mind, but be open to any ‘surprise’ dresses that the bridal consultant brings to the room – if they’re good, that means they’ve been doing this for a while and may know what works better on your body than you do.
  • Wear beige undergarments
  • Wear your hair similar to the style you have in mind for your wedding day
  • Wear make-up
  • Keep the amount of people you bring with you to a minimum (3 people – tops)
  • Bring heels to try on dresses with
  • Don’t eat a big meal before the appointment
  • Bring a camera

You can check out all the other advice in the comments of this post.

I had researched several bridal salons in the Tampa Bay area before making an appointment at Jon’s Bridal. They had hundreds of great reviews online that all raved about the shop. I liked that all of dresses are ordered in bulk and available in-house, so that (from what I had read) the quality is on the high end and the prices are on the low end. However, be warned, the salon is by appointment only and they make you give a credit card number to reserve the appointment (there’s a $30 no-show fee).

Mistake #1 – I met my family and some friends at Burger 21 before the appointment and ordered a chicken burger with sweet potato fries and split a peanut butter milkshake with a friend. I was starving from running around all day and ate it all. It was all amazing, of course. Not so amazing was my full and bloated stomach for trying on dresses. Oops. They’re not kidding when they tell you not to eat a big meal before hand, every dress felt uncomfortable and all I wanted to do was take a nap. Lesson learned on that one.

Jon’s Bridal isn’t much on the outside. It’s a run down building in a not-so-great area town that I probably would have driven right by if Mr. GPS wasn’t yelling at me to ‘TURN HERE.’

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It’s not much on the inside, either. It’s dark and has a late 70s, early 80s vibe to it. There aren’t any windows and it just feels old and dusty. Still, as I kept telling my mom, we can’t judge a book by it’s cover.

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The first thing that really caught our attention was the ‘No Photography’ sign you see when you first walk in. What?! No photography?!?! We had walked in with two DSLRs, three camera phones, an iPad, and a point and shoot – all ready to take photos. A little much? Probably. But we like photos! How do you know it’s the right dress if you can’t see what it looks like in a photo? :(

The consultant who approached us was very sweet. She asked what I wanted and didn’t want in a dress, then examined some of the photos I had brought. I gave her my budget and told her we were pretty firm on the amount.

The consultant listened, took everything in, then gave a polite smile before gently informing me my budget was too low for any of the styles I had selected. Apparently lace is $$ and I definitely did not have $$. Boo. She just wanted me to keep that in mind as we sifted through dresses. Got it. I know she was being nice, but being told everything I liked would instantly be out of my budget was kind of a downer.

The store was set up a bit differently than any other bridal salons I’d been too. All of their dresses were out on the floor and separated by size. The consultant brought my mother, sister, and I over to the rack that only had dresses that were my size on it and one-by-one we flipped through all of them. If I liked the dress I would say ‘yay’ and if I didn’t, it would be ‘nay’.

There were a lot of nays. I could tell within the first few dresses that they probably wouldn’t have anything I liked here. They were all bright white, very poofy, and not anywhere near the style I had envisioned for my dress. I ended up with four yays, but when the consultant told me to select my favorite of the group to try on first, I knew I was in trouble. None of them stood out to me.

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See, this is where photos would come in handy! For the life of me, I can’t remember what the first couple of dresses I tried on looked like, but I do remember not liking any of them. Either the cut wasn’t right, it didn’t work on my body type, or there wasn’t any lace. I did try on a fun ball gown dress that had pockets and was fun to twirl in, but the dress would not have worked in a barn setting – too fancy!

With each dress I tried on, the consultant and I began to zone in on what I liked about each dress and what I didn’t. This was actually very helpful. We learned that A) I wanted a dress that emphasized my waist, B) I LOVED ribbon belts (they just make every dress a little better), and c) sweetheart necklines all the way.

After we narrowed all of those down, the consultant brought in a dress that I had originally skipped over on the rack. It wasn’t anything special on the hanger – kinda boring actually – but I agreed to try it on because I told myself going into this that I would be open to new things.

The dress fit like a glove. It hugged my body in all of the right spots, it had some of the lace I was after and there was even a ribbon belt already built into the dress (we were adding the ribbon belt as an additional accessory to the other dresses I tried on). The dress even had a few details I didn’t even know I wanted (like buttons that went all the way down the back of the dress). It was truly a beautiful dress, but as much funs as it was to try on, it still wasn’t ‘the one.’ As my mom kept saying, there was no ‘Harry and the wand’ moment when I had it on.

The fit was great, but I couldn’t look past the funny lines that went down the corset on the front. And, yes, there was lace, but it was a different lace than I had in mind. Not to mention the fact that the dress was over my firm budget. I just couldn’t spend that much money on a dress I wasn’t 100% behind.

So I took the dress off and left the store empty handed, feeling defeated. I began to doubt I could find a dress that I LOVED in my budget and immediately began searching recycled dress sites for something in my budget. Still, no luck. Recycled wedding dress sites are just like any other sale sites or discounted stores – you have to know what you want and you have to be quick. It’s usually here today, gone tomorrow (or as soon as you refresh the page). You also need a good amount of luck on your side.

And so the search continued…

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats March 20, 2012 at 10:20 am

I can’t wait to hear the continuation! Ahhh and I wish they allowed pictures, I would have loved to see some of the ones you tried!
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2 Steph March 20, 2012 at 10:22 am

I don’t know if you already found your dress, but don’t give up hope! I found my PERFECT dress for under $500, which is rather cheap. I got lucky and found it in my first round of shopping. Don’t let high prices scare you, there are good quality dresses out there with lower price tags.
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3 Ashley O. @ The Vegetable Life March 20, 2012 at 10:23 am

I had a 100% lace wedding gown (they do tend to be more money) but I actually bought it at David’s Bridal (they are ALWAYS having sales!) and it was actually really cheap. I know David’s Bridal doesn’t sound glamorous to many, but they had sooooo much to choose from and just about all dresses fit my low budget.
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4 Katy March 20, 2012 at 10:27 am

The other budget-friendly option is sample sales! I wore a gorgeous lace gown, by the designer I had wanted because it was a DEEPLY discounted sample. Checking on its condition before purchasing is important, though. Also, make sure if you do this that you have a great seamstress for alterations. My sample was a size 12, and that was EXTREMELY large on me. My seamstress did a phenomenal job shrinking it down, though.
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5 Shannon March 20, 2012 at 10:31 am

I’m sorry your first try wasn’t a home run, but you will find your dress, I promise! At least you are learning from it, and now you have a better idea of what you want!
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6 Lauren March 20, 2012 at 10:41 am

Have you thought about looking at antique/vintage dresses where you could repurpose the lace or have it altered? When I was looking here in Los Angeles that was an affordable solution because there are some great inexpensive seamstresses. Although I ended up with a dress from David’s Bridal due to a quick decision to elope in Las Vegas. Good luck with the search!
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7 Molly P @mollyontherun March 20, 2012 at 10:41 am

Girl, when you know, you know! Keep searching and don’t get discouraged. Also, don’t try on TOO many dresses because then you will want all of them and make your choice even harder.
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8 Erin March 20, 2012 at 10:52 am

I noticed the “No Photography” thing at a couple of places I went to when I was looking for a dress back in 2002-2003. I think they just don’t want you to take a picture and then try to find it cheaper somewhere else! But, yeah, it’s pretty annoying.
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9 Kristen @ notsodomesticated March 20, 2012 at 10:55 am

Jon’s was one of the places I went to when I was dress shopping, and I had similar feelings as you. I had heard great things, but I wasn’t super impressed. I ended up getting my dress at Demetrio’s in Tampa. We also got the bridesmaids’ dresses there. I had some good experiences with them, and some not-so good experiences. But in the end, we got my dress and their dresses in plenty of time, and everything worked out really well.

I also had a girlfriend that went to CC’s in St. Pete and had a really good experience. Good luck to you!!! ;)
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10 Victoria March 20, 2012 at 10:56 am

I bought my dress at The Collection and they also have a no camera policy – until you buy your dress. Then, you can take all the pictures you want. I think they want to avoid having people take pictures of dresses that they like and then purchasing them at other stores. Next time, just get your sister to help you out of the dress in the fitting room – and do it just the two of you.
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11 Caitlin @ Chasing A Mile March 20, 2012 at 10:56 am

Finding a dress was tough for me. Just keep your head up, you will find one!
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12 meghan March 20, 2012 at 11:06 am

Go to CC’s boutique in St. Pete. That’s where I bought my dress. I thought my budget was low, but there was SO much. And while they followed the no photography rule, she did let me take photos once I got down to my final two. I loved my experience. It was WONDERFUL! She definitely followed my budget and didn’t even think to bring in something more. I would HIGHLY recommend it. I know several other people who have had a great experience too.

Also tell them that you want to have the bridal experience. I had looked somewhere else and not really had that experience, so I told her that was important to me. They took me to this beautiful area of the store where there were couches for my friends to sit on and I got to come out into a huge mirror. It was wonderful. I loved it! And she wasn’t pushy at all. She was very open to me liking and not liking something.
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13 meghan March 20, 2012 at 11:08 am

Oh…and I bought my bridesmaids dresses at Demetrio’s. It was a good experience until the girls lost two of the sizes that had been called in by bridesmaids from out of town. Then they called me and said that I was cutting it really close and they needed the sized by that day. But in reality they had taken payment info and put it into the computer and shredded the sizes that they had notices on the same paper. I was very irked and it made me feel like they cared more about the money than about actually helped me get my bridesmaids dresses ordered.
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14 meghan March 20, 2012 at 11:09 am

and who for typos on that comment. sorry.
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15 Julie @ Peanut Butter Fingers March 20, 2012 at 11:29 am

OMG i totally went there when i was looking for a wedding dress! i was really angry b/c i went to try on a specific dress which i called ahead of time to see if they had (they said they did – in my size, too) and when we arrived, they definitely did NOT have the dress. the sales lady was basically a serious dress-pusher, plucking dresses off the racks that she liked telling me to “try these on,” commenting about how my body shape was not right for certain dresses, etc. and the no picture thing is so strange! needless to say, i was not a fan of that place! :)
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16 Katie March 20, 2012 at 12:04 pm

I’ll echo a bunch of others and suggest CC’s as well (if you haven’t already found a dress) – that’s where I got my dress! Ask for Monica…she and I sat down, I explained what I was looking for, and bam! The first dress she brought out was the one I ended up buying. Go figure. :)
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17 Jennie March 20, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Check out Brides Against Breast Cancer if there’s one in your area. That’s where I got my dress. All the money you spend goes to a great cause and if you donate the dress back to them, you can deduct the cost from your taxes as a charitable write off. Not to mention they have a million dresses there!

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18 Dione March 20, 2012 at 12:28 pm

After going to two bridal stores with simialr experiences as yours, I felt the same way. I was never going to find what I wanted in my price range. But my final stop, an upscale boutique actually had my all lace dress for under $2000. I knew it was meant to be. I can’t wait to hear how your story ends!

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19 Emily March 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Good for you for getting this experience out of the way. I am sure it was a tough one, and there will be better ones, I am certain!
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20 Cait @ Beyond Bananas March 20, 2012 at 12:50 pm

I could totally support not judging a book by it’s cover. The bridal shop where I bought my dress was not so nice looking on the outside. And not too great on the inside either. In fact, we almost drove back home. But.. it was quite a drive (we ended up discovering the shop had a recent move and change of owners). In reality.. I found a dress that I LOVED! Can’t wait for it to come in shortly!
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21 Nicole of Raspberry Stethoscope March 20, 2012 at 1:48 pm

I bought my dress at Jon’s bridal. Actually, i just picked it up today. After going to David’s Bridal, Alfred Angelo (TERRIBLE), demetrio’s, etc. i felt like I were doomed. Jon’s Bridal was wonderful and i found a gorgeous dress within my price range.
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22 Life's a Bowl March 20, 2012 at 1:53 pm

I def agree with those recommendations, especially keeping the number of “helpers” down- I brought only my momma but my bridesmaids bought their dresses from the same boutique so they’ve seen me in the dress… I didn’t bring any pictures with me but I did try on gowns that I thought I loved from looking online and they ended up looking awful!
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23 kirsten March 20, 2012 at 2:02 pm

If you have a set budget you want to stick to, try going to a smaller bridal shop and asking about their sample dresses. I got a beautiful Nicole Miller wedding gown for $580 because it was a sample and the shop was trying to get rid of it. I have a few other friends who have bought samples as well and gotten at least 20% off. Good luck!!! :)

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24 Cait's Plate March 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Don’t get defeated – you’ll find the dress that’s right for you and when you do, it will be so worth it! Good luck!
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25 Trinity KB March 20, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I noticed almost all the shops prohibit taking pictures of the dress until after you’ve purchased it. They do that because some women take the pictures and take it to a seamstress to have a copycat dress made.

Some of the bridal shops have trunk shows where the dress designer comes to the shop, and you can get a pretty good discount if you buy one of their dresses at the trunk show and some special alterations thrown in for free.

Try on as many and as varied dresses as you can – everything looks so different when it’s on!

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26 Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy March 20, 2012 at 3:27 pm

My first dress shopping experience went the same way! Not enough choices, no pictures allowed, and expensive prices. I found my dress at Alfred Angelo and love it (they let you take pictures their too :)).
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27 Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy March 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm

there*
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28 Rae March 20, 2012 at 3:35 pm

its pretty standard that you cant take photos when trying on dresses so you dont look for a knockoff after you find “the one”. Just protecting themselves, though I feel your pain!
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29 Angie March 20, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Check out Pearl’s Place in Metarie, LA. You can order online and everything is discounted. Unfortunately you’ll have to find someone else to alter. I got my bridesmaid dresses there for $75 instead of $150. I had friends get their wedding dresses there and they ship it to you.

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30 Courtney March 20, 2012 at 4:00 pm

The no-picture thing is frustrating! When I was looking for my debutante dress, the consultant wasn’t very nice, so we took pictures in my new dress anyway just to spite her. :P
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31 Ali March 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Don’t be defeated… you’ll find one!

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32 Nadine March 20, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Don’t get down on not have ‘the moment’ when trying on a dress. For some people (myself included) it never happens. And I LOVE my dress and have been happily married for 5+ years. Honestly, it’s a dress–albeit a really fancy one that you’ll remember forever, it’s still a dress. So you should absolutely feel amazing in it and special and like a million bucks, but you don’t have to get all weepy over it. Promise. Hope to see you soon, I’m coordinating w/ Courtney!

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33 Heidi Nicole March 20, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Definitely keep looking and don’t give up on the look or the budget! We had a low key wedding and although we didn’t have a strict dress budget I was unable to wrap my mind around the price tag attached to most dresses I tried on. After countless visits to many different bridal shops I finally found the dress for only $200! Yes, $200! I was actually avoiding lace and ended up with a bridesmaids dress in ivory {also not a fan of the stark white}. So yeah, keep looking!
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34 Jen@FoodFamilyFitness March 20, 2012 at 8:06 pm

I went with my future SIL dressing shopping a few weeks ago and the bridal salon also had a no photography policy…until she put a deposit down on the dress. After that we could take all the pictures we wanted.
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35 Liz @ iheartvegetables March 20, 2012 at 10:51 pm

I’m sure you’ll find the right one! :) And those are some good tips!
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36 Heather March 21, 2012 at 11:26 am

I think it’s pretty common for wedding shops not to allow photography until you make the purchase. Weird, I know.

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37 Megan McK March 21, 2012 at 11:27 am

I think wedding shows give us unreal expectations about our dress shopping experience. I’m sure you look great in just about everything, which doesn’t make the decision any easier. As for the price, when you nail down your favorite styles and designers early on, you can better keep track of when those designers have sales. Alfred Angelo has a sale every few months it seems.

Also, I saw a bride in David’s trying on this amazing dress. It was a strapless lace mermaid (or fit & flair?) & possibly a ribbon belt (she might have just added a belt). It had about a foot of organza coming out of the bottom for some extra flair and a flowy look. I wish I could send you the link, but I’ve never seen it before, and it’s not on the website. Must be a new one.

Definitely don’t rush into a dress. I fell in love with one, and when I returned to try it on again, and my feelings had completely changed. After that, I was gun shy about committing to anything. I’m happy to say that I’ve purchased, but it took me 7 months to do it!

Just remember that no matter what you end up walking down the aisle in, you’ll be glowing regardless!

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38 laura March 21, 2012 at 11:29 am

Don’t be discouraged! I’m not familiar with Tampa/Orlando shops but I would say don’t be afraid to try smaller/lesser-known bridal shops – they will have less of a selection but often they’re more willing to work with you on alterations, etc, and may have some “off the rack” dresses left from last year for a discount. I found my Maggie Sottero dress this way, which otherwise would’ve been WAY out of budget.
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39 Janine @ThePurpleGiraffe March 21, 2012 at 12:02 pm

I hate the “no picture” rule! I guess I understand why they do it, but it still seems silly to me.
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40 dana March 23, 2012 at 11:24 pm

My Mom asked me to try on a dress that was double my budget when we went gown shopping. As soon as I saw the designers name on the tag I refused to try it on b/c I knew it would be $$$$, but she talked me into it. I tried it on and loved it. Worked out perfectly b/c he store had 2 samples and I was able to purchase one of them for 50% off!!

Good luck with your search!

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