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Choosing a wedding dress is a pivotal moment in any gal's life. It is not a cakewalk to do, however. It takes time and patience, as well as a bit of strategy. Follow these steps and you just might find the dress of your dreams.

1. Set your budget.

If you don't know what your financial limits are for a dress, workers at your bridal shop might bring out incredible dresses you have no chance of affording. You'll get your heart set on one of them and then feel miserable. Tell the reps from the start how much you can spend so they bring out only what is in your price range.

2. Nail down the venue.

A dress designed for a beach wedding will look and feel completely different than one designed for say, a Gothic cathedral. Even if the style is similar, the environment can affect the choice of material.

3. Figure out the shape that fits your body type.

If you're short and stocky, you likely aren't going to want something with a long, puffy skirt. Similarly, if you're a gal who's as straight as a rod, then styles like the curve-hugging mermaid and sheath might be out. If you can narrow down the general shape that works for you, you can tell the people at the bridal store what you prefer so they bring out only dresses with the cuts you want.

4. Start doing your in-depth research.

Look at as many bridal magazines and websites as you can. This gets you familiar with colors, designers, specific designs, customization options and much more. Put together a binder of pictures of dresses that appeal to you. When you go to bridal stores, you can show the representatives the pictures as examples of what you like.

5. Schedule an appointment with the bridal store.

Ideally, you should schedule your appointment at a bridal store earlier in the day. This way, you're fresh, and the representatives aren't worn out and trying to rush you because they want to close on time. You'll be more likely to get the time you want for your appointment if you schedule well in advance. Don't schedule more than one appointment for the same day, as you can get overwhelmed with everything you've seen.

6. Prepare for the appointments.

Preparation for trying on wedding dresses involves two major things. First, you've got to have some killer skivvies on. A good bra and panties will affect not only the fit of your gowns, but also how confident you feel when you try them on. Secondly, bring the shoes you plan to wear. That will give you a better idea of how much a dress would need to be altered at the hem to fall properly.

7. Choose your entourage.

Choosing a wedding dress is something most women want to do just once in their life. The simple rarity of the event makes it special and can compel you to bring along just about everyone you're even mildly acquainted with. Even so, too many people can make the dress shopping chaotic, forcing you to think about logistics instead of how you feel and look. Stick to just two or three people you absolutely trust so you don't get barraged with waves of unsolicited opinions.

8. Try on the dresses!

Try on enough dresses that are in your style ballpark to feel like you have plenty of options. Don't try on everything in the store, though, as this makes it too easy for all the dresses to blend together in your memory. Make sure to photograph the dresses from all angles, keeping in mind that most shots of you on your wedding day will be from the waist up. You want to find something you're comfortable looking at years down the road in an album.

9. Review at your leisure.

Go back over the dresses you've tried on when you have ample time to think critically. If there's just a few dresses you keep coming back to, those are likely the ones you'll feel best in on your wedding day, regardless of what anyone else thinks of the designs. Make these your finalists. Get input from friends and family about which one they like best from this select group of dresses.

10. Make your final choice.

Once you know which dress you feel best about and which gets the most positive feedback, you've probably found "the one." Still, most bridal stores have a sales-are-final policy, so don't rush to buy. Give yourself a few days to let your choice simmer in your brain and heart a bit, and if you still feel confident you've made the right decision, go ahead and call the bridal store to order.

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