Everyone knows they can’t try to upstage the bride on her wedding day, and that means one thing –you’ve got to make sure your dress is up for the challenge! Some ladies have dreamt of their gown since before they can remember, but for others finding the dress is a nightmare. Before you start looking here are some tips:

Have a trusting team.

Invite along friends or family who will be honest yet accommodating with you. If a dress is unflattering, you want them to speak up, but don’t invite someone who wants to control how you’ll look on your day – the ultimate decision is yours, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about that.

Keep an open mind.

It’s helpful to have an idea of what you want, but don’t be afraid to wiggle outside your comfort zone. You might be pleasantly surprised with the results and make a statement walking down the aisle!

Get treated right.

Make sure your service is top-notch. Your dress is one of the most important and memorable parts of one of the biggest days of your life, so you should be taken care of like a queen. You need to be able to trust a consultant to take care of every aspect of your dress-buying experience. Make sure they address how they’ll deal with alterations and other practical matters. Also, be mindful they’re not slacking but are truly showing you all your options while staying within your price range. Your happiness should be their top priority. If you don’t feel comfortable, do NOT be afraid to ask for a different representative or go somewhere else.

Start basic.

Do some basic research like online searches, or thinking of friend and family’s dresses you loved, and try to have an idea in your head of what you want so it’s easier to narrow your search. Even then, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with your options. If you don’t know where to start, bridal magazines and on-line sites can be a great resource.  The process can seem daunting.  A good starting point is styles of dresses you’ve loved on yourself in the past.  When you see something you like there, create a file of your favorites. Bring them along when you visit more specialized wedding boutiques and review them with the consultant.

As for styles, it’s an exciting time to shop for wedding gowns. Strapless dresses still reign supreme as the top pick among brides-to-be, but the market is constantly expanding. Trends like bold colors, asymmetrical hemlines, whimsical trims and dramatic backs are challenging conventional designs. It`s important to remember these trends don’t always mean a dress will be too edgy or something you’ll regret in five years. Designers want a gown to be a classic piece, possibly one you’ll pass down, so often a bold look is simply a modern take on a chic design, one you’ll still smile at in pictures years from now.

Here are some of the latest and greatest from the wide world of bridal fashion:

COLOR. Traditional white gown will always have a place, but it’s no longer the only option. Romona Keveza has a flower-trimmed robin’s egg blue, Vera Wang embraced a soft blush for a layered gown and Oscar de la Renta showed green skirts and even a dramatic black with striking white butterfly accents. If you don’t want to transition totally away from white, try fading into color, like this Junko Yoshioka. The silky strapless gown starts in an off-white and gently swirls into an asymmetrical yellow train for a pastel spin on a timeless look. Or, go for a bold accent like this look from Anthropologie with a black bow and red shoes. A sash is another way to add color, perhaps the same color as your bridesmaids or flowers. Throw it on after the ceremony for a different reception look. Black and red are two popular colors for a bold yet classic accent.

LEGS! Short dresses have always been fun for a switch into a more casual reception dress, but they’re gaining popularity down the aisle, especially for summer or outdoor weddings. They show off your legs or a great shoe, and come as light-hearted or couture as you like. Project Runway’s Carol Hannah has some flirty, affordable frocks. No one will elegantly show off your curves more than Alfred Angelo’s ‘Little White Dress’ collection, while  Oscar de la Renta has whipped up a more show-stopping number with full skirts ballooning out from a simple, strapless top. For tee-length, princess options, try a whimsical dress from Rosa Clara.

STRAPLESS’S NEW RIVAL. The one shoulder option is now second to strapless, which means the once edgy look now has classic and elegant options. A decorative bow, flower or design on the shoulder strap energizes the look, like this Jenny Packham dress.  For a less dramatic design, try something like Imogen from Carolina Herrera’s 2011 bridal line, with a simple tulle cap sleeve that gently stems from an easily sloping neckline.Also popular is a folded, asymmetrical look, like Oscar de la Renta shows. (Asymmetrical hemlines are also very in!)

COVER UP. Sleeves are back, but don’t worry – designers haven’t relapsed to the heavily padded shoulders and too-beaded sleeves of our mothers. Monique Lhuillier’s Addie is a perfect example of tight, sheer sleeves extending from a sleek v-neck to truly shape a slender arm on any body type.  For an updated Grace Kelly look, intricate lace sleeves that don’t remind you of doilies are beautiful from designers like Kelima.

Cap sleeves are also popular, especially a thin or lacy detachable type for a different look between ceremony and reception. Also popular is a lace overlay to the neckline, an elegant way to show just enough skin. Claire Pettibone has lots to offer with both designs.

TRIMS. Trims as accents are becoming the perfect way to make a simple gown dazzle. Melissa Sweet, ReemAcra, RomonaKeveza and Anthropologie scattered ruffles, tiny butterflies or even feathers down the dress to add personality to a classic design.

BACK IS THE NEW BLACK.  After all, it’s a long way down the aisle, and throughout the ceremony and first dance that’s what your guests will see. Silky, knotted backs the Eslava or Enfasis from Rosa Clara Eliven the gown and let a strong, beautiful back poke through.