We have a saying around here at Whatever Is Lovely – Hope for the best but plan to make adjustments. And with many cities and states extending the current Stay At Home Orders, it looks like we’ll have to start adjusting our best-laid plans. Last week, we shared with y’all how to reschedule your wedding. But maybe you’re just starting your wedding planning journey. While we have lots of suggestions on how to start the wedding planning process or how to budget for your wedding, we think it’s time to highlight how to best plan your wedding as we navigate this “new normal”.

There are so many of our favorite industry partners going above and beyond to create the personalized planning experience you’ve come to know and love, and they’re doing so virtually. We want to share each of them with you! We’ll kick off our Virtual Wedding Planning Series today with how to shop for your wedding dress online featuring our friends over at Grace + Ivory. Grace + Ivory is an online ecommerce bridal brand with roots in Washington, DC, and Chicago. They create beautiful, custom, made-to-measure wedding dresses for the modern bride.

Virtual wedding dress shopping can seem a little daunting, but we’ve put together our top 5 tips for picking the perfect wedding dress sight *kinda* unseen, so you can avoid the below scenario and stay safe!

RELATED: What to Expect When Wedding Dress Shopping During COVID-19

Perks of Virtual Wedding Dress Shopping

1. Determine Your Budget

This step is the same whether you’re shopping at your favorite local boutique or shopping virtually. Before you start reaching out to shops and setting up appointments, you’ll want to set the budget for your dream gown. While the budget calculators will say plan for 10% of your total wedding budget, we’d recommend you not include the funds for your gown in the total budget. Expect to spend, on average, $1,200 – $3,500 for your wedding dress. Plus! Don’t forget to plan for alterations, undergarments, accessories, and preservation on top of that!

Most importantly, once you have your budget number determined make sure to openly and honestly tell your gown stylist that number. They are there to support you and give you the best experience possible! So don’t be afraid to share your budget details with the boutique upfront; this will only help protect you from falling in love with ‘The One’ and it is double what you anticipated spending.

Grace + Ivory provides beautiful, made-to-measure wedding dresses at real-world prices. As a women-owned shop, they have partnered directly with their dressmaker and cut out layers of distributors and retailers to offer gorgeous dresses without the mark-up (all of their designs are under $2,000).

2. Choose Your Style

Ballgown, and mermaid, and sheath – oh my! Tulle? Organza? Classic style or Boho? Strapless or Long Sleeves?! When it comes to gown silhouettes + fabrics + styles + details….there are no shortage of possibilities! Next, we’d recommend creating a new style guide in the Design Studio of your Client Lounge or a new board on Pinterest. Start saving gowns that spark joy – gowns that align with your personal style and have a cut most traditionally flattering to your shape. Take note of the designers you’re pinning and see what names appear most often. If the options seem overwhelming, don’t fret! Our Wedding Dress Style Guide will help simplify the process!

RELATED: The Ultimate Wedding Dress Shopping Guide

3. Select Your Boutique

Something important to note is that not all boutiques carry all designers. For example, a local favorite like Something White Bridal Boutique carries designers like Madi Lane and Paloma Blanca, while True Society + Belle Vogue is well known for carrying designer gowns from Essence of Australia and All Who Wander. The same goes for when you’re shopping online for your wedding dress. With Grace + Ivory though, all of their gowns are completely custom and made just for you. You can try on their gowns in the comfort of your own home, delivered straight to your door. We suggest popping some champagne and Facetiming your momma and gal pals… or save the experience just for yourself. It’s all up to you!

So many of our local bridal boutiques are ready and willing to assist in the search for your dream gown and have worked to implement ways for you to shop virtually during this time. Not sure which boutiques carry your favorite designer? Let us know! We’re happy to help narrow down the search!

How To Order Your Wedding Dress Online:

  1. Browse their dress collections and select your favorite sample dresses using the “Try on at home!” buttons.
  2. After you click the “Try on at home!” button, you’ll select your size range and the three days you’ll have the dress, then add to cart and checkout online. Easy!
  3. After you’ve ordered, a dedicated bridal stylist will reach out to confirm, send tracking information, and be there for any questions you might have throughout the process.
  4. Even better, the cost of your try-at-home session is credited towards your dream dress! Their pricing is all-inclusive of dress customization and shipping costs.

SEE MORE: Read about Grace + Ivory’s Try On At Home Process or check out their video about it here.

4. Check Your Schedule

The old adage is true – Timing IS everything! And yes, we know we’re planners and we like to plan ahead. But with your wedding dress? We’re not taking any chances! Traditionally, we recommend scheduling your gown sessions for 9-12 months before your wedding day. It can easily take 4-6 months for your gown to arrive, plus 2-3 months for alterations. To save from any future headache, make sure to give yourself another few flexible months too for any unexpected issues that might arise.

Grace + Ivory again comes in clutch with this! Your dedicated bridal stylist will follow-up through the process and your dream dress will be crafted and delivered in as little as 3 to 4 months. Again, to be safe, we’d recommend ordering 5-6 months before your wedding day.

5. Get The Correct Measurements

While this may seem like the most daunting piece of virtually shopping for your gown, don’t worry! We got you! We will break down the measurement process as best we can, but don’t hesitate to reach out to us or to your dedicated bridal stylist if you have any questions. When it comes to measurements for your wedding gown, throw your standard “number” out the window. While that can be a good starting point for your stylist, that is not the end point here. Also! Make sure you are fitting to your current sizing; don’t go subtracting any inches thinking you’ll still want to lose a few pounds before the wedding day. My mama always said, it’s easier to take more off than put any back on (I mean, she was talking about the slightly disastrous haircut she gave my dad, but still. We think it’s pretty fitting).

Grace + Ivory has made this part of the process simple! Each dress sample kit comes with clips, a soft measuring tape, a Try-At-Home guide, & prepaid return shipping label.

We’d recommend you also have on hand:

  • Champagne (duh!)
  • Full length mirror
  • Note taking app
  • Similar or the same undergarments and shoes you’ll be wearing on wedding day
  • Second set of hands (if possible)

If you’re fitting alone or virtually with your local boutique, Grace + Ivory has provided an amazing guide on how to fit at home! You’ll also include measurements for details and customization, like sleeves, bodices, and measurements specific to your silhouette.

The base measurements you’ll be taking are:

  • Height
  • Dress Length (Hollow-to-Hem)
  • Bust
  • Waist
  • Hips

It’s important to note! Measuring Tape etiquette is important here. You’ll want to make sure the tape is flush against your body (not too loose), but not snug where you start to experience any indentation or skin peeking out from above and below the tape.

Why We Love Grace + Ivory

Like us, they believe in doing bridal differently. Grace + Ivory founder, Tina Wong Zysk, is passionate about giving brides the freedom to have a different kind of wedding dress shopping experience – one where you aren’t limited by the sizes or brands in-store. Their dresses are made-to-order with quality in mind, with fabrics like soft tulle, Italian crepe, Japanese mid-weight silk satin, and fine cotton lace. Every dress is carefully sewn and lovingly made for a bride, with hand-beaded, hand-sewn details. There’s nothing more unique than a completely custom dress and we love that they offer these gorgeous dresses at a similar price point to the brands you’d find in store.

They’re also a social enterprise and their mission is about women supporting women – a portion of every dress purchase goes to programs helping women and girls in need. They currently support Plan International’s The Girls’ Fund, which has programs around the world focusing on eliminating child marriage, keeping girls in school, girls’ health, and women empowerment. Shopping for a cause? Count us in! They are a great company with an even better mission.

RELATED: The Ultimate Wedding Dress Shopping Guide

Shopping for your wedding dress online is that simple!

Now grab that glass of champagne and start scouting out your favorite gowns and boutiques. Looking for more personalized assistance? Check out our wedding dress shopping tips.

Thanks to Grace + Ivory for collaborating on this post and providing the images!

Grace + Ivory Try-On At Home Shoot: Photographer: Sarah Bradshaw Photography | Make-up: Anna Breeding | Models: Brittany Wells, Fecha | Producer: Crys and Tiana The Hotel At Midtown Shoot: Videographer: Jeremy Fuder | Photography: Sarah Crost Photo | Venue: The Hotel at Midtown | Grace + Ivory: Tina Wong Zysk, Allison LeClair | Hair: Tamara Holden Hair | Make-Up: Torie Conn | Models: Oneka Amara, Hannah Carlson