Guide to Finding the Perfect Wedding Dress and Gown
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Guide to Finding the Perfect Wedding Dress and Gown

Bridal Salon Etiquette

Now that you're ready to visit bridal boutiques to try on dresses, here are some hints to help you during your visit:

1. Make an Appointment

Make an appointment two weeks in advance with the bridal boutique that you would like to visit. Some bridal boutiques may take walk-ins, but most bridal boutiques will request that you make an appointment before coming in.

2. Allot Enough Time

Allocate approximately 1-2 hours to try on dresses. Dress shops are very busy on the weekends and may only allow you to try on dresses for an hour. Weekday appointments not quite as busy and ideal if you want to spend more time trying on dresses and talking with your sales person.

3. Be Prepared

Most bridal boutiques do not have showrooms that allow you to browse through their collection of dresses. All of their dresses are usually stored in back room that your sales person goes to bring you dresses that she feels is suited to what you are looking for. Therefore it is important to be prepared to describe what types of dresses you are interested in trying on during your visit. Bring pictures from magazines or descriptions of dresses you would like to see. With limited time, this will help your sales person quickly identify dresses to bring you and make your visit most productive.

4. Your Budget

Be prepared to discuss your price budget with your sales person. This will allow her to bring you dresses that are in your price range.

5. Dressing Rooms

Bridal Boutique dressing rooms are generally large enough to accommodate 1-2 guests.

6. Getting Dressed

Because dresses can be heavy and even delicate/fragile, the sales person will likely dress and undress you.

7. Cameras

Do not bring a camera to take pictures of yourself in different dresses. Even if your intentions are honest, bridal boutiques need to guard against customers who are trying on dresses with the intention of having the dress copied by a dress maker.

8. Accessories

Although most bridal shops will have bras and shoes that you can wear with your gown, it's always best to bring a strapless bra and shoes (approximately the same as what you intend on wearing for your big day) with you.

9. Take Notes

Be sure to note the dresses that you are interested. Although most sales people would love to sell you a dress that day, most also know that most brides want to "sleep on it" before making a decision. Make sure all the dresses you're interested are noted for reference. After visiting many bridal boutiques and trying on so many dresses, it can be difficult to remember which one is which.

10. Coutre Dresses

Most couture dresses are custom made (not of the rack). Expect Bridal shops to request either a sizeable non-refundable deposit or payment in full. Be sure to read the contract they will ask you to sign to verify that the size and style are correct. Mistakes are often made and you are usually liable for the dress if you sign the contract.

11. Bridal Shop Trunk Shows

If you are at a bridal store for a trunk shore, expect to try on ONLY dresses from the specific designer hosting the trunk show. The designer will usually send a representative of the company to help with selecting a dress for you or answer any questions. It is usually respectful to NOT try on dresses from other designers during the trunk shows although some stores may have an understanding with the designer that other dresses (from other designers) may be tried on.

12. Trunk Shows

Trunk shows are the best place to find a discount on a dress. Most bridal shops do not bargain with their customers, not do they expect you to bargain with them. The price that you see is what you should expect to pay. With that being said, discounts can be had at trunk shows for a specific designer.

Fittings and Alterations

You are likely to require a minimum of two fittings for your dress unless you are having a dress custom made for you. Keep in mind that the fitting is just as important as choosing the wedding dress itself so give it the same consideration as you did in looking for your dress. If your dress doesn't fit you perfectly, don't be shy about scheduling more fittings.

Most bridal dress shops recommend that your alterations be done through their in-house seamstress. Bridal dress shops generally charge more for this service, but it is worth the additional cost if you do not have a reputable seamstress that you trust with your dress. Having the bridal dress shop perform the alterations should give you the peace of mind that your dress will be altered by someone who has the expertise and experience to do a great job. You will also have the assurance that bridal dress shops will assume responsibility for any mistakes and work with you to correct the problem. Even the most beautiful gown can be ruined by bad alterations.

1. Checking In

As the arrival date nears, call the bridal dress shop to confirm that your dress is on schedule to be delivered. At the same time, make an appointment for your first fitting. If you are taking your dress to a seamstress, make an appointment with your seamstress to get fitted. The first fitting should take place approximately 6 weeks before your wedding day.

2. Weight a Minute

If you are planning on losing weight for your wedding day, start early and try to be in wedding day shape for the first fitting. You should expect to maintain the same weight from your first fitting until your wedding day. Changes in your figure/weight can cause issues with the way the dress fits on you.

3. Coming Prepared

Begin looking for your shoes and undergarments (bra and slip) immediately after purchasing your dress. It is important to have all your accessories before your first fitting. Changing your undergarments or the height of your shoes after being fitted can cause your dress to not fit properly and require additional work.

4. Bring Your Family and Friends

It's a great idea to ask the same friends and family that helped you select your dress, accompany you to all your fittings. It's great to have the same pair of eyes tell you how the dress looks after each fitting.

5. The First Fitting

Your first fitting should take place approximately 6 weeks before your wedding day. The first fitting should give you the first opportunity to see how your dress fits on you and allow the seamstress to determine what needs to be taken in, let out, lengthened and shortened. Remember to bring the pair of shoes and bra that you are planning on wearing for your wedding. This will allow the seamstress to determine what alterations need to be done. Also take a very close look at your dress to make sure everything is perfect. Make sure the dress is the exact style, color and size that you ordered. Closely examine the embellishments (embroidery, beading) to make sure there are no flaws with the dress. This will be one of the very few opportunities to let your sales person know that you have some concerns with your dress. Waiting to tell your sales person will waste precious time that should be used to correct the flaws.

6. The Second Fitting

Your Second fitting should take place approximately 4 weeks before your wedding day. Remember to bring the same pair of shoes and bra for your visit. The purpose of the second fitting is to allow the seamstress to see how the alterations made after the first fitting look on you. Generally, the second fitting is primarily used to identify any minor alterations/tweaks to your dress. Unless the seamstress has identified some additional alterations that need to be made, your next fitting will be your last. Therefore don't be shy about voicing any concerns you have about the way your dress looks or feels on you.

7. The Final Fitting

The final fitting should take place a week after your second fitting. Before going to the bridal dress shop, prepare a list of questions you may have such as how to bustle your dress, the correct way to put it, the best way to store it, and how to remove stains and wrinkles. This will be your last opportunity to voice any concerns before the dress is ready to go home.

8. Bringing Your Dress Home

After you are comfortable with the look and feel of your wedding dress, schedule a day to pick up your dress from the bridal dress shop. Try on your dress one more time to make sure everything looks great.

Making the Purchase

Hopefully you have visited several bridal boutiques, tried on dozens of dresses and carefully decided on the wedding dress for you. Here are some tips on what to expect:

1. Size Me Up

When you have carefully made your decision on a dress, your sales person will take your measurements and consult the designers sizing chart to determine your size. Don't be surprised if your size is larger than expected. The sizing convention used in bridal gowns is quite different from retail clothing sizes. To be certain, ask your sales person to see the sizing chart to verify your size. It's always easier to "take in" a larger dress than to "let it out" on a tight dress.

2. Veils and Accessories

It's a great idea to try on several veils with your dress. This will help you envision what veil and accessories will look great with your new dress. Remember that accessories should always be purchased after you have decided on a dress.

3. The Contract

Most bridal shops will require you to sign a contract to complete your purchase. It's a good idea to ask about the shops cancellation and refund policy. If you are comfortable with the policy and are ready to make your purchase, be sure to verify that the contract explicitly states the designer, style, size and color. You may even want to ask to look at the designer's sizing chart to verify that the size of the dress is correct. Mistakes are often made and you are usually liable for the dress if you sign the contract. Make sure you are given a timeline to receive your dress. Remember that alterations (whether through the shop or another tailor) must be made and that you will have enough time to get fitted. If you put a deposit down for the dress, make sure that this is clearly stated on the contract. You may not see you sales person for another 4 months and she may not remember whether you put down a deposit or not at this later time. It is also recommended that you use a credit card to pay for the dress. This will give you some protection should something go wrong.

Make sure you receive the following information in writing before making your purchase:

  • Designer, style and style number written on the contract.
  • Price of dress is written on contract. If the price is not clearly stated, the boutique may charge you a different price than you were promised. If you are putting a deposit down, make sure it is clearly stated the amount that you are paying.
  • Size of dress. Make sure the size is correct by verifying your measurements on the designer's measuring chart.
  • Color of dress is specified.
  • Date on when you should be expecting the dress to arrive. Be sure you give yourself enough time for alterations.
  • Make sure the bridal shop is authorized to sell the designer.
  • Any special requests.
  • Payment schedule (if deposit is required).
  • The cancellation or refund policy is clearly stated.
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