Island brides lament that it's nearly impossible to find a gown on the Island, so you'll most likely want to find yours before you get here; you can bring it with you or have it delivered. If, however, you are determined to find your dream dress on Hilton Head, there are a few designer boutiques and consignment stores (not to mention the Shelter Cove Mall or the Tanger outlets) where you might be able to find what you're looking for. If you're not having any luck, grab a couple of dresses from a consignment boutique or from married friends or relatives and an Island seamstress can develop something unique: this way you may even save money and end up with a one-of-a-kind gown.
Also consider your potential to gain or lose weight before the ceremony: some unscrupulous bridal retailers suggest that brides should buy a dress two sizes larger in preparation for the weight gain accompanying planning stresses, but remember that wedding gowns are already made with extra fabric on inside seams, in the event they need to be let out. Do NOT be persuaded to buy "sight unseen" from a manufacturer unless you have tried on sample-size dresses from their line! A dress that is much too large (or too small) is far more difficult to tailor than one in your customary size range. Major alterations can radically change the style silhouette, and ruin your dress before you ever get a chance to wear it!
When dress shopping, don't take a busload of friends along. Take your best friend and/or your mother because you know they'll be both honest and supportive without pushing their influences on you.
Veils, tiaras and accessories can be extremely expensive, but they don't have to be. At least one of your friends or family members probably knows a seamstress who can make your garter, flower girl basket, ring bearer pillow, and even a cathedral-length veil for hundreds cheaper. Some budget-aware brides find their tiaras on EBay!
Remember to have your gown dry cleaned by a reputable cleaner soon after the wedding. Bodily oils (sweat and cosmetics), spilled beverages or food, etc. can leave permanent stains. Consider gown preservation, too; after cleaning, they will stuff your dress with acid-free paper, then seal it in a new box so it remains as lovely as the day you wore it! Maybe someday you'll have a daughter who wants to be married in her mother's gown, or incorporate elements of it into her own new look.
Did you know that the fashion trend of wearing white began at the end of the 15th century? Flamboyantly worn by the bride of King Louis XII of France, the color largely symbolized wealth (only the rich would risk choosing such posh attire, which one could only wear once). Most brides wore simply their best duds regardless of color. A white gown now symbolizes happiness in western tradition; the veil and train actually represent purity, as does the color blue. According to old rhymes, the best gown colors were pink and blue in addition to white.
Another interesting note: Red is a customary color for bridal finery in many Asian societies, and some brides during the American Revolution wore red gowns honoring soldiers' courage. Others wore purple during the Civil War in memory of lives lost in that conflict.