Choosing a wedding gown is probably one of the biggest decisions that a bride-to-be makes as her big day approaches.

While it can be a fun experience, it can also be stressful and overwhelming – all eyes will be on the bride as she walks down the aisle to meet her groom, a moment that she will remember for the rest of her life.

Here in the Philippines, brides-to-be usually collaborate with designers and have something custom-made, although ready-to-wear wedding gowns are slowly becoming an alternative.

Late last year, for instance, actress Kim Chiu partnered with local designers Pepsi Herrera and Edwin Tan for Adorata Weddings, which sells gowns for brides and debutants, as well as formal wear.

Another well-known stop in Manila for ready-to-wear gowns in Rosa Clara, a Spanish brand that has collaborated with designers such as Karl Lagerfeld, Christian Lacroix and Jesus del Pozo.

Rosa Clara recently launched in its Makati branch its capsule collection for 2014, where the brand tied up with the sought-after Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad for eight wedding dresses inspired by the 1920s.

“We have more embellishments this year. The years before, we had very minimalist designs. For 2014, Rosa was inspired by the 1920s, very Great Gatsby, Art Deco style,” said Valerie Villar-Zayco, managing partner of Rosa Clara Philippines.

Villar-Zayco noted that Filipino brides-to-be tend to look for “very romantic” wedding gowns that do not leave a hole in the pocket. Having experienced being a bride herself, she said custom-made designer gowns can cost P100,000 to as much as P500,000 each, unlike ready-to-wear ones that can go as low as P40,000.

Here are some tips from Villar-Zayco for those who are about to start their search for the “perfect” wedding gown:

Set a budget

Before anything else, brides-to-be should always be guided by their budget when shopping for a gown, whether it’s ready-to-wear or custom-made, said Villar-Zayco.

She said it is best for them to set a specific amount that they are willing to spend for their bridal gowns – P77,000, for instance – instead of letting the designer or store determine their budget.

This, Villar-Zayco said, will help prevent “complications” later on.

“Inasmuch as you want to look your best on your big day, you also have to be cost-conscious. These days, you can’t just splurge anymore,” she said. “Stores and designers will always try to fit within your budget.”

Pick a style

Once the budget has been set, brides-to-be can start choosing the specific look that they want for their big day. Magazines and the Internet will help them come up with a style that they can call their own, said Villar-Zayco.

She said most Filipinos usually look for gowns with a lot of lace and a sweetheart neckline. Some prefer a more conservative look, while others are more on the daring side.

“Most Filipinos like very classic pieces, very romantic,” Villar-Zayco said. “Others want gowns with sleeves, or huge skirts, or removable tops so they can have a different look at the reception.”

Once they know what they want, brides-to-be should consider consulting their mothers, sisters and friends about their decision. Designers and salespeople also provide valuable feedback, she added.

Try them all on

This does not apply to those who have custom-made gowns, but brides-to-be who have opted for a ready-to-wear dress should keep on trying all the pieces that they like until they settle with just one.

“We always say go for as much… Feel free to try the others. It’s just like your groom – you have to choose until you find the right one,” Villar-Zayco said.

“Fit and fit and fit and meet them all. You never know which one looks best on you,” she added.

Sleep on it

Brides-to-be should give it at least a day before they decide which gown to get or which designer to have their dress custom-made, said Villar-Zayco, who noted that a lot of women tend to make impulsive decisions.

“Sleep on it. Don’t make the decision on the spot,” she said. “Once you’re completely settled, get it.”

Enjoy

Lastly, brides-to-be should always remember that what they are preparing for is probably the most important day of their lives so they should enjoy the ride, Villar-Zayco said.

“Enjoy the moment. It’s only one time,” she said. “Don’t stress too much over it.”

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