Here are some hints to make this easier.
1. Look at pictures of dresses on line. This is NOT the way to choose your dress. You can't possibly tell how a dress will look on you by looking at a photo-shopped, super skinny model in a tortured pose, who is probably standing on a stool to make her look taller! You can fall in love with the photo of the dress and then find out it looks blah on you. Copy a few of your favorite pictures and bring them with you to your first appointment.
2. Go into some real bridal shops and try on dresses that are in your budget. Show the salesperson your pictures so she will get an idea of what appeals to you. Be sure and try on a few other styles, too. Don't be surprised if you can't find the dresses you copied down. There are thousands of dresses, and a small shop cannot carry all of them. Remember, most brides choose something very different from what they had thought would be the dream dress.
3. When you go dress shopping, don't take a big group of your friends. They will confuse you with their differing opinions. You want the dress YOU love, not the one they love.
4. NEVER TRY ON ANYTHING THAT IS OUT OF YOUR BUDGET! Nope, not even just for fun.
5. Now that you have found your dress, do not sign anything until you have read the entire paperwork, including the fine print! Unless you are under the age of 18 (Horrors!), you will be entering into a legal contract when you give them a deposit and sign the paperwork. Most shops do not allow you to change your mind once they have placed the order. Be sure you get measured properly. Ask about hidden costs, like shipping and alterations.
6. Never buy a wedding dress on line. 99% of on line bridal dress sites are Chinese knock-off sites. They make cheap (and I mean cheap in the negative sense) copies of your dress by looking at a photo of the original. Could anyone make a copy of a $1500 dress for $289? Of course not! Don't waste your money on junk. There are a few places in the USA that sell authentic dresses at a reduced price. They are not internet ordering sites. They have brick and mortar stores, and you must telephone them to place an order.
7. If you do go elsewhere to buy your dress, make sure that they are licensed vendors of that designer. Any reputable store will be happy to show you that.
8. If you have any doubts at all, don't buy the dress. Go home and think about it. Dress regret is a bitch.