Southern Belle in Training

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle Blog || Est. 2012 || Virginia Beach, VA

January 24, 2024

Wedding Wednesday: My Insane Wedding Dress Shopping Story!

       If you had told me a week ago that today I'd be sharing this insane story of how I got my wedding dress, I would not have believed you! I wasn't planning to dress shop until late February. I had actually just made a few appointments at local dress shops and was planning to schedule a couple more this week. But plot twist- I found my dress by total surprise this past Sunday in an incredibly lucky way!! Here's the full story: 

      I'm about to say something that you're probably going to find very surprising. I wasn't very excited to shop for my wedding dress. It was probably one of the least exciting things for me about being engaged. I know, I know! Certainly a hot take right? 😅 Especially coming from someone like me who does love fashion and girly things, and has done some sort of fashion blogging for over a decade! But it's the truth. Wedding dress shopping felt like a discouraging chore that I *had*to do, not something I was super excited about.

    I feel like the wedding dresses are one of the most inflated and ridiculously expensive parts of anything to do with the wedding industry. Standard pricing on most bridal store designer dresses these days seems to be in the $1500-3000- range (and that's still the low end for pricing at some bridal boutiques!). I have no qualms with making investment purchases when it's something that I will wear for years and years, such as a really nice winter coat, shoes or boots or fine jewelry. I bought a unique winter sweater costing a few hundred dollars a few years ago that at the time seemed ridiculous, but I still love it today and have enjoyed wearing it every winter season since then. I definitely feel like I got my money's worth on that purchase. But for a dress that I will quite literally wear once in my life?! How can someone justify spending four figures on that?! 

       My budget was strictly under $1000, but I was so worried I wouldn't be able to find anything that I liked in that price range. I was convinced I'd either have to settle for a very mediocre cheap dress or go way over budget to get my "dream" dress. Either I'd be disappointed in a cheaper dress or feel financially stressed by spending over budget on a dress I actually liked. Both seemed like lose-lose situations.

     I had decided that I was going to dress shop by myself, but with my mom on Facetime from Maine. I was going to bring my phone tripod to the various bridal boutiques and set it up in the dressing rooms so she could feel part of the experience from afar. I didn't want to invite any bridesmaids or other friends to come with me. I know it's traditional to bring multiple women in your life with you for dress shopping, but for me I wanted it to be a more private experience (probably because I wasn't that excited- ha!). My parents and I talked about my mom coming down in person for dress shopping, but the flights were ridiculously expensive for any weekends this February, and I wasn't available any March weekends for dress shopping between prior travel commitments and work events. So I decided to book solo dress shopping appointments in February and take my mom along via Facetime! I had three appointments set, and as planning to book one or two more as well.

      Ryan's mom (who lives locally) and I got tickets last month to attend a big bridal expo called Uniquely Yours in Virginia Beach on January 21st. I was hoping this would be a great environment to learn about local vendors like florists and DJs. A couple weeks before the bridal show, I saw a post on Instagram that said there would be a sample sale on select wedding dresses at the expo! I sent that info to my mom. She was excited and told me she would mark it in her calendar to Facetime me that day if I tried on any sample dresses at the bridal expo. As the day got closer, I started wondering if it would even be worth it to look at any sample dresses. Surely it would be a very limited selection, and they would probably be very picked over by the time I got there. I had already spent the time to make multiple dress shopping appointments in February anyways.

     Ryan's mom and I were on our way to the bridal expo, when I saw I had missed calls and texts from my mom. I called her back, and she said she was ready at home with her cell phone to Facetime and see me try on the sample dresses. I was like "Oh mom, I don't think I'm actually going to try any on today! I have dress appointments next month at actual stores, it's probably a crap selection here today." But my mom still strongly encouraged me to look that day. She suggested I head to the dresses first thing to see what they had early in the day.

    When we entered the bridal expo, sure enough the dresses were right near the front. I think there were maybe only 80-100 wedding dresses. It wasn't a ton! And since they were all samples, it was only one size per dress. Kind of like finding a diamond in the rough. 

     I was shocked to find several dresses in my size though that were actually really beautiful!! Dresses ranged from $99 (!!) to $700. I figured I'd try some on just for fun. I surely didn't think any would actually work on me. I was just kind of like "Why not?" You could try up to three dresses. I picked two dresses to try on that weren't super-duper my taste but seemed really fun. Maybe it would be a pleasant surprise and I'd like them! I also found a dress in my size that was fairly close to the wedding dress inspiration pictures that I had been saving. The bottom part was exactly like some of the styles I had saved on Pinterest recently! The top part was different than the dresses I'd saved online, but despite that it still felt very aligned with the vibe of our wedding, possibly even more aligned than the inspo dresses that I'd save pictures of? But I didn't want to get my hopes up on it. What are the odds it would work?

      There were these little makeshift "changing rooms" set up with black curtains. I had to wait while to get one, but that gave me time to get my mom ready on Facetime. Finally, it was my turn! I decided to try on the dress that most aligned with my vision for a wedding dress style first. I put it on... and imagine my shock when the waist area was almost a perfect fit! It felt like "my" dress from the moment I stepped into it. I could not believe it!! Was I actually finding my wedding dress at a sample sale?! The first one that I ever tried on?! What on earth!!!

      My future MIL loved it, and so did my mom on Facetime!! It was very chaotic and rushed when I tried it on since there were so many people around (with it being in the middle of a bridal expo and all!), but the moment was still magical to me. I decided to try on one other dress (one of the ones that was more out of my fashion comfort zone), but I knew right away that it wasn't it. I showed my MIL and mom briefly, but while laughing to myself because the other dress had been so right. I didn't even bother to try on the third dress. My dress will definitely need alterations in the top part, but that's pretty common I know with wedding dresses! It also a is a little bit long, but taking off some length should be an easy alteration as well. The waist part was a perfect fit though, and I think that's often the toughest part with dress shopping (finding one that properly fits and flatters the waist area). 

      I think it is so cool how this worked out because I'm not sure I would've ever tried on this specific dress at a bridal boutique! I think I would've gravitated towards similar ones, but possibly not this exact style since the top half looks a bit different from what I thought I wanted. But I'm so glad that the unique circumstances did lead me to this dress! I know I haven't given many details about our wedding yet (that's coming in my next Wedding Wednesday post!) but believe me when I saw that this dress fits our wedding vibe perfectly. Probably more perfectly than similar styles that I had been saving pictures of! Isn't it funny when life works out like that? 

     Ready to find out the best part of this story though?? What I paid for the dress! As I mentioned above, this sample sale had dresses ranging from $99-$700. How much was my dress?


     That's right, just one hundred and fifty dollars for my wedding dress! And it's not from a cheap online retailer. It's a designer wedding dress from a local bridal boutique!! I googled my dress style and it looks like it usually retails for $1300-1500. That means I got it for about 85-90% off!!! Isn't that incredible?! What a blessing!! My fears of finding a dress that was way out of my budget at a bridal boutique were quickly eliminated. 😊

     Here's my mom reacting to me picking the dress on Facetime! I am grateful she was able to see me trying on the dress for the first time, thanks to technology. She and my dad will be visiting this spring for our engagement party, and I'm planning to make a veil and accessories appointment at the bridal boutique that the dress is from for when she is visiting. That way she can finally see me in the dress in person, and also help me choose some of the important accessories to go with it! 

Past Wedding Wednesday Posts:

Our Proposal Story // My Ring Shopping Experience // Local vs. Destination Wedding // 

     God Bless,

     xoxo Annaliese 


1 comment

  1. Congratulations!! What a cool way to find your dress! I totally agree with your hesitancy with spending that much money on a dress you'll wear once. It's important to feel beautiful on your wedding day, but let's be honest, my dress has been stuffed in a rubbermaid for the last decade. Now you can use the money you saved on the dress and put it towards something else that's important to you!


Thanks so much for reading Southern Belle in Training! Comments make my day- so feel free to share your thoughts on this post! I read each and every comment.
If you have a question in regards to one of my posts, or just want to say hi, the best way to get ahold of me is by e-mailing me directly at: I am better about responding to e-mails than blog comments sometimes!

Blog Design Created by pipdig