As part of Insider's wedding series, The One, we asked brides to give us a look at what it was like to shop for their dream dresses.
Their weddings, budgets, and senses of styles were all different, but all of the brides wanted to find dresses that represented who they are as people.
Some brides found their gowns after trying on just two dresses, while others had to try on 12 to find the perfect wedding day look.
The brides that Insider spoke to wore ball gowns, A-line dresses, and even separates that gave their looks surprising pops of color.
Hattie O'Hara tried on 12 dresses before falling in love with this colorful gown.
O'Hara knew she wanted a nontraditional wedding dress, imagining that she would wear a dress with a unique structure or fun cutout.
She didn't imagine herself in something colorful until she tried on this bright-yellow skirt, paired with a simple, shiny top.
"The color was perfect," O'Hara said. "There was just enough texture to the skirt, and it felt bridal but definitely not too sweet."
"I will look back on this dress as a highlight of my wedding forever," O'Hara said of the gown.
She also said she knew the dress was the one because it felt like a reflection of her personality.
"It made sense for how I understand myself as a whole person, and not just a bride," O'Hara told Insider.
You can read more about O'Hara's journey to find her wedding dress here.
Mariel Swan fell in love with the second dress she tried on.
Swan had seen the Morilee couture gown online before she went shopping, and it was exactly what she had been imagining herself in on her wedding day.
RK Bridal had the dress in stock when she went shopping, and it was even better when she tried it on in person.
The gown's full skirt, intricate detailing, and stunning sleeves were everything Swan had been hoping for.
"It was my dream dress," Swan told Insider of the princess-style gown.
"It was exactly what I wanted," she said. "Everything about it was just perfect for me."
Swan added feathers to the skirt to make the dress unique, which made it slightly more expensive than it would have been otherwise. She also paired the dress with a crown to elevate the look even further.
You can read more about Swan's journey to find her wedding dress here.
Sabina Leybold wanted a dress that could blend two cultures together.
Leybold hoped her wedding dress would fit well with her husband's Indian culture. She also wanted something comfortable, and she imagined herself in something more casual.
After trying on dresses she ordered online, Leybold went to a store and fell in love with this fitted Willowby By Watters gown.
The gown's delicate detailing "felt like it could toe the line" between Leybold and her fiancé's cultures, as she told Insider, and the cutout on the back was a fun addition.
After a few custom alterations, the dress was perfect for Leybold.
Leybold had to have the dress taken in, and she also removed the train, as she felt it would be too big for the small wedding she planned to have.
She ended up having to postpone her wedding, but Leybold and her now-husband got married at home. She's saving the dress for her eventual celebration.
You can read more about Leybold's journey to find her wedding dress here.
Sarah Shine wanted her wedding dress to be sleek and feminine.
"I definitely wanted a slit, but I wanted everything to be lace and have a really low neckline and thick straps," she told Insider.
This Paloma Blanca dress ticked nearly all of her boxes. The dress had a silk skirt with a high slit, a delicate lace bodice with spaghetti straps, and a plunging neckline.
"This is exactly what I was looking for," she said of the gown.
Sarah's wife Victoria, on the other hand, surprised herself by falling in love with a strapless gown.
Victoria thought she wanted a dress with straps, as she didn't want to have to adjust her gown throughout her wedding celebrations.
But this Mikaella gown by Paloma Blanca, which featured head-to-toe lace and a sweetheart neckline, ended up being the perfect dress for her.
It also had a removable skirt that allowed Victoria to have two looks on her wedding day.
Both brides found dresses that felt like them.
Sarah loved her dress because of its look and how comfortable it was. She was able to dance effortlessly during the reception, giving her the freedom she needed to celebrate to the fullest.
Victoria knew her dress was the one because of how confident she felt while wearing it. "I'm super self-conscious," she told Insider. "But I put this dress on, and I just felt so good about myself, which is very, very rare."
The Shines were also able to find dresses that coordinated without seeing each other's gowns ahead of the wedding.
Both brides bought their gowns at Kleinfeld Bridal in New York, and they used the same consultant who ensured their dresses would go together.
"We were worried Victoria's was going to be white or mine was going to be stark white and then it would have clashed," Sarah said. But their consultant, Shay, made sure they fit perfectly.
You can read more about the Shines' journeys to find their wedding dresses here.
Kiaya Demonbreun fell in love with her dress from a photo before trying it on in real life.
Demonbreun had loved Pronovias dresses for years, and she had seen this fitted gown with a lace bodice online months before she went shopping.
She even showed it to her now-husband in a photo, and he loved it. When she finally tried on the gown in person, Demonbreun knew it was the dress for her.
"It was just perfect," she said. "It was elegant."
"It was just the best dress that I could wear that would be me in a wedding dress," Demonbreun told Insider.
She felt like it mixed her traditional roots with her chic sensibilities.
"A little bit of fun and flirty up top, but very traditional. And it's very contemporary at the same time," Demonbreun said.
"There were at least five other Pronovias dresses that I think I adored separately," she added. "But in that one dress, all of them combined into one."
You can read more about Demonbreun's journey to find her wedding dress here.
Carla Nasui found her dress with the help of a creative member of her entourage.
Nasui had seen this sparkly Pnina Tornai gown in a magazine ahead of actually going shopping, and she was drawn to the unique fabric and low back. But she initially disliked the dress when she tried it on in person, as the detachable skirt was only a half skirt.
Luckily, Nasui's godmother suggested she spin the skirt to see what it would look like as a full ball gown, and the bride was instantly in love.
"It was a game-changer," she said of the dress. "I absolutely loved it when I saw it like that."
Nasui decided to get a custom-made overskirt for the dress, which would give her two looks for her wedding day.
"I absolutely love, love, love that decision," Nasui said of getting a custom alteration on her skirt.
The custom look was perfect for her destination wedding, giving her a wedding dress that was both classic and modern.
Plus, the fact that the skirt was removable ensured she wouldn't be uncomfortable throughout her wedding day. "My skirt was actually 16 pounds, which was really hard to walk in," Nasui told Insider. "But that's why I was thankful it was removable."
You can read more about Nasui's journey to find her wedding dress here.
Beatriz Iglesias was able to create her perfect wedding dress using separates.
Iglesias had loved Chantel Lauren's Mae dress for years, but she knew she wanted something slightly more traditional for the ceremony portion of her wedding day.
When she found Lee Ann Belter's collection of separates, she knew she could have two looks that would fit her vision.
She paired a simple white skirt and a lace top together for the ceremony, and she switched into the blue skirt for the reception.
"I felt like it was really me," Iglesias told Insider of the colorful skirt.
"I definitely had a completely different vision than where I landed, but I feel like I stayed true to the themes I liked, like lace and the color," Iglesias said, explaining that the dress she chose was really different than what she had imagined for herself.
"If your vision that you've always had in your head isn't what you like, try not to fight it," she said.
You can read more about Iglesias' journey to find her wedding dress here.
Helena Howard fell in love with a lace dress with a transparent bodice and tulle skirt.
"The lace detailing on top was what sold me on the dress," Howard told Insider. "It's Italian lace with what they call 3D glass beading for the flowers."
Her husband is Italian, so the design of the dress was even more meaningful to her.
Howard said the dress made her feel "like a princess."
The dress made her feel beautiful, and she was comfortable in it, which she advises brides prioritize as they look for a wedding dress.
It also fit well with her wedding venue, as she and her husband were married in an outdoor church.
"I think my dress fit in so beautifully with the flowers and the leaf detail," she told Insider.
You can read more about Howard's journey here.
Janal Montagna could picture herself in this ball gown thanks to its royal look.
Montagna was having a destination wedding in Croatia, and she wanted her gown to make a statement.
The Ysa Makino dress stood out from the other gowns she tried on because of the sleeves and the color. The gold detailing made it look ornate, while the mesh on the sleeves ensured the dress was comfortable.
"It was so different and contemporary, but so classic all at the same time," she said of the dress.
"It was everything I didn't even know I wanted and needed in the most important dress I would wear," Montagna told Insider.
"The royal feeling, the floral work, the beading, the ball-gown silhouette, the sleeves, and that gold color just made me think Croatia," she said.
Montagna also had more crinoline added into the skirt to give it a fuller look, which made the dress weigh 35 pounds.
"It was magical," she said of wearing the dress.
You can read more about Montagna's journey to find her wedding dress here.
Sandra Kim opted for a modern wedding dress.
She had been hoping to find a dress that was off-the-shoulder and long-sleeved, and this unique Danielle Frankel gown fit the bill.
But it was really the unique, Baroque pearl buttons lining the center of the dress that showed Kim it was the one.
"I'm a really big pearl person," Kim told Insider. "All of my jewelry and accessories have gold and pearl. And when I saw this dress with a line of pearls going down the middle, I was immediately in awe."
"It was literally the look that I envisioned," Kim said of the gown.
She had the train lengthened to give the gown a more dramatic look, and she kept her jewelry minimal to let the dress speak for itself.
The dress had so many elements that made Kim feel like herself. It was everything she wanted.
You can read more about Kim's journey to find her wedding dress here.
Aly Schneidman decided to look pretty in pink on her wedding day.
Schneidman had been planning on wearing something modern with clean lines to her wedding, but her vision for her dress totally changed when she found this Monique Lhuillier gown.
The ruched skirt, asymmetrical train, low back, and soft pink color were dynamic and one-of-a-kind.
"I went for pink and poofy, but I'm not super girly and I'm not into poofy dresses normally," Schneidman said. "But my dad kept saying 7-year-old-me would have been so proud of this dress."
"I just felt the prettiest I had ever felt in my whole life," Schneidman told Insider of the look.
The gown surprised her, but it ended up being everything she wanted in a wedding dress.
"I just really felt like the best version of me instead of a magazine bride," she said. "It was super comfortable and lightweight."
You can read more about Schneidman's journey to find her wedding dress here.
Sanjana Rishi bucked tradition by wearing a suit to her Indian wedding.
As a result of the coronavirus, Rishi and her husband decided to throw a ceremony together in just two weeks.
She had always wanted to wear a suit to her reception, but the change of plans led her to show off a pant look at her ceremony.
"I love suits on women," Rishi said. "There's something powerful about them."
A vintage, pre-owned Gianfranco Ferre suit was the perfect wedding look for her.
Rishi liked that the ensemble was beautiful and eco-friendly.
Rishi paired the suit with a friend's bustier and borrowed jewelry, as well as a more traditional headpiece to nod to her culture.
By shopping vintage and borrowing accessories, she was eco-conscious with her wedding day look as well.
"I have loved thrift shopping for many, many years, and buying secondhand is, in my opinion, one of the very best ways to shop ethically," she said. "It made sense to me to combine something vintage with something that celebrates local craft, like the veil or the jewelry."
You can read more about Rishi's journey to find her wedding outfit here.
Molly Burchett and Blake Ballard also found bridal looks under a time crunch.
The longtime couple decided to elope, and they had just 10 days to throw the event together.
They decided they wanted to wear wedding dresses to the event despite the short timeframe.
The brides felt beautiful, but they were most happy with how comfortable the dresses were.
"I felt really confident in it because even though I ordered it really quickly, it's still very much exactly what I wanted," Burchett said of her gown.
They both wore heels to the ceremony, but they switched into boots to be more comfortable later in the celebrations. They found gowns that reflected who they were as people.
You can read more about Burchett and Ballard's journey to find their wedding dresses here.
Alyssa Higgins found a dress that was comfortable to wear in her wheelchair.
Higgins' spine was broken during her birth, so she's used a wheelchair her entire life.
When she was shopping for her wedding dress, she needed to find a dress that would be comfortable to wear while sitting and would accomodate the trach tube that connects her to her ventilator.
Higgins fell in love with the first dress she tried on, a form-fitting Martina Liana. The dress was covered in delicate lace, and it dipped low in the bodice, accentuating Higgins' cleavage without calling too much attention to her trach tube.
She was also able to use leftover fabric from the dress to cover her ventilator.
The dress made Higgins feel beautiful and comfortable.
First and foremost, Higgins felt like a beautiful bride in her dress. But the dress was also good for her physically.
"It kept me warm, to be honest," she said of her gown, which was made from a heavy material. "I'm very cold with my spinal cord injury all the time, so it was actually really nice to have something thick."
You can read more about Higgins' journey to find her wedding dress here.
A removable skirt won Alexa Persico over.
Persico was hoping to find a dress that offered two looks for her wedding day, and a 2018 Love by Pnina Tornai dress with a detachable skirt was a perfect fit.
The dress is covered in head-to-toe sparkles, and the neckline dips low and has a transparent layer of fabric to keep the straps together.
Persico told Insider she knew it was the one for her as soon as she saw it.
"I felt like a princess, but I also felt like myself," Persico told Insider of how the dress made her feel.
The skirt created a dramatic look, but Persico was able to remove it during her reception so it was easier to move around.
Persico shined in the gown, and a coordinating Pnina Tornai veil added to the look.
"I think the biggest mistake a bride can make is having too many people with them while dress shopping because everyone will have a different opinion," she said. "At the end of the day, you have to wear what is going to make you happy."
You can read more about Persico's journey to find her wedding dress here.
If you are in the process of shopping for your wedding dress or have photos from when you shopped and want to talk to Insider for a story, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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