1. Give Yourself Time

Start the dress search early – six to nine months ahead of the wedding day, if you can – so you’re not stressed out with last-minute shipping and alterations. Bridal salon appointments typically last from about an hour to 90 minutes, so block out enough time to talk to consultants, take measurements and try on plenty of styles.

2. Go with an Open Mind

Before the appointment, look at dresses in bridal magazines and websites, and on social media like Pinterest, to see what might suit your style, but remember that dresses may look entirely different once you actually put them on. “You might have an idea of what you want for the day, but you might end up with a completely different dress because it looks fantastic on you,” says designer Sarah Janks of Sarah Janks Bridal.

3. Choose the Right Shopping Buddies

An entire entourage probably isn’t the best strategy. Everybody likes to have their experience be small, intimate and personal, so when you bring in a group of 10 people, it takes away from that. Bring people who mean something to you – your mom, your sister, your close friends – but don’t turn it into a party. Bridal gown shopping should be about you finding a dress. Stick to a small group of two or three companions whose opinions you trust. You want to bring people who tell you the honest truth, or someone who is calming.

4. Dress for Success

Slipping into glamorous gowns will be so much more enjoyable if you really feel the part of a beautiful bride. Wear nice-quality nude underwear (a bright purple thong won’t exactly give the lines you’re looking for) and a good strapless bra. You’ll get so much better of an idea of what you will look like with good foundation. Also, consider taking it up a notch in the hair and makeup department, whether it’s wearing long and loose waves or a neat chignon (rather than a messy bun), and a touch of mascara and lip gloss.

5. Silence Your Inner Critic

Remember that voice you sometimes hear as you’re trying on swimsuits or jeans? The right dress will make you feel gorgeous and glowing, not focused on your hips (too wide) or your tummy (too flabby). Though if the negative feelings persist, voice those opinions and work through them through the fitting process. Even if nobody else is seeing it, if you’re feeling that it’s important. You need to feel comfortable on the day.

6. Add Finishing Touches

Want to really look and feel like a bride? Complete the potential winning look with accessories like a headpiece or veil. Ask to try on any jewelry they have that’s similar to the style you want to help recreate the picture you have in your head for the day. Some shops will let you take photos, while others may not permit it, so always ask beforehand.

©CTW Features