Looking for a wedding dress can be overwhelming, and some personalities make it even worse on themselves.
The first thing anyone should do is pick one person to help you. Make sure it is a person that has similar taste as you, and is willing to be honest with you.
Start by looking through magazines:
Ripping out pages of things that catch your eye. Yes, I said things not dresses. It can be a theme, a style, a shape, the color, the waistline, the length anything that catches your eye. Make sure to write on the paper why you ripped it out because you will forget.
Then put it all together somewhere I like to make design boards for the brides that come to me for a dress:
If you are going to purchase a dress off the rack try to make something that you can carry with you when you go shopping. Visit as many dress shops as you can and try on as many dresses as you can. Take a camera with you just in case you come across something that you like (if it's a dress detail in a shop you will need to ask if you can take a picture), if they don't let you then pull out your small design book and start sketching if you don't sketch well give it a try anyways and write a detailed description.
If you are going to buy something from the internet, make really really sure that the company has good recommendation. Make sure that you can return the dress if you don't like it. If you are going to contract someone on the Internet to make you a custom dress again make really really sure that you get recommendation that you can contact. I've had two brides purchase a custom dress online and come to me and ask me if I can fix it because it didn't look like the picture they saw on the internet and it didn't fit at all.
If you are going to hire a seamstress to make you a dress, also make sure that they show you pictures of past work and they can give you a recommendation sheet of people you can contact. More than likely the process will go as follows:
First an initial consultation (some charge for this some don't) - if you made a design board bring it with you - they will love you for it! They might still make there own but at least you've done a lot of the leg work.
Then they will call you with an estimate (they might ask you to come see them for this), I do if I know the person is only asking me for an estimate - if they are seeking several estimates I ask them how they want me to deliver the estimate usually by email.
If you decide to hire the seamstress you then need to visit them for Measurements. Most Seamstress ask for half the money at this point. (Don't ever pay them in full until you have a dress on time!)
A short period later they will call you in to do a test fit (this might be the actual dress or a muslin). Most of the time I do a Muslin (a mock dress) just in case the neckline is to low or not the right curve, stuff like that then I can just cut into the fabric while they are wearing it and they can see how it will fit. If the dress is simple I some times jump right into the actual fabric.
A 2nd fitting of the actual dress if any changes were needed or the First fitting of the Actual dress.
Don't be scared to tell them any hesitations that you have! The sooner in the process you speak up the easier it is to change things.
This is my 'Solve a Problem' Post for my 31DBBB challenge I can't believe it took me 4 days to remember where my knowledge base lye! Man I have really lost my focus!