Spanish Wedding Dresses

12 Tips To Follow When Shopping for a Bridal Gown

©2003 Rose Smith

There can be a lot of pitfalls that brides fall into when shopping for that perfect dress for their special day. To help you make a more informed purchase here are 12 tips to make your shopping experience smoother and more enjoyable.

1. Set a price limit on how much you're willing to spend on a gown.

Gowns range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. You need to have a good idea on what you're willing to spend. Then when you visit bridal shops, fib and give them a figure 10% to 20% LESS than what you've decided on. The reason behind this is because sales clerks will often trying to upsell you by bringing out gowns that are slightly over your budget range hoping you'll fall in love with the gown and buy it anyway.

2. Know your figure shape.

When looking through magazines, please remember these are super thin models that make all the gowns look beautiful. In the real world, we all come in different sizes and shapes, so what looks good in a magazine may look horrendous on your figure. You need to focus on styles that will flatter your figure type. The Wedding Channel has an online program that you can use to find gowns that flatter your shape. It's a good site to check out before you head out gown hunting.

3. Ask for bridal shop recommendations.

Talk with everyone you know who has just recently been married to find out what their experiences have been with various bridal shops. Remember, customer service is just as important as the gown you choose.

4. Shop during the week.

Don't shop on Saturdays. Weekends are when brides are out in full force shopping for their gowns and accessories. Instead, choose to go during the week when it's quieter and you can receive undivided attention. Many bridal shops stay open during the evening hours.

5. Fib about your wedding date.

You will be asked when your "big day" is...and it's best to fib by "moving" your date up by about 4 weeks. This will help ensure that your gown actually arrives in time for your wedding and gives you some breathing room to get any alterations done. Too many times, brides have been near tears because their wedding gown hasn't arrived or has arrived so close to the wedding date, that they've become anxious wrecks. You don't want to be rushed or thrown into a panic just before your wedding day.

6. Bring a buddy with you.

Always bring a friend or family member with you when shopping. Obviously, it's good to have an unbiased second opinion when trying on gowns. Also, you're excited and maybe be coerced by a sales clerk into buying something on the spur of the moment that you will later regret. Be sure you have someone with you who is cool-headed and practical to keep you grounded.

7. Take your time when choosing a gown.

Don't allow yourself to be rushed in to purchasing anything. Your first shopping excursion should help you get an idea on what styles look good on you and to find a bridal shop that you're happy with. Take notes on various gowns you really like (make a quick sketch of the gown too). Narrow down your gown choices to 2 or 3 gowns...then go home! Take a few days to review your notes, perhaps compare gowns online, and generally get a clearer perspective on what you saw. Then go back and re-try the dresses you had decided on.

8. Ask the store lots of questions.

There are many hidden fees and policies that you may not be aware of when purchasing a bridal gown. Here are some of the more important points you should ask about:

a) Who's the manufacturer of the dress?

b) How long will it take to get the dress in?

c) What kind of payment policies does the shop have?

d) How much of a deposit is required? Can you pay by credit card?

e) What is the store's refund and cancellation policy? (get it in writing!)

f) What are the costs of alterations? (get a written estimate)

g) Are there shipping fees? Size fees for extra large sizes or petites?

h) Are their rush fees? (if you have to have your gown sooner).

9. Bring a vinyl tape measure with you.

Make sure the shop takes your measurements with a vinyl tape measure, not cloth. The cloth tape measures get stretched and will give inaccurate measurements (larger than expected). This, not surprisingly, will result in "required alterations" when the dress arrives. Bring your own vinyl tape with you, so that if the store doesn't have one, you can provide your own and get an accurate measurement done. Make sure they measure your bust, waist, hips and from the hollow of your throat to hemline (for length).

10. Don't base your choice on dress size.

You may be a size 8, but manufacturer sizes vary widely when it comes to bridal gowns. A size 8 from one manufacturer may be a size 12 from another. Ask the clerk to see the listed manufacturer's dress size chart when choosing a gown, so you have a better idea on what size you'll be needing, once you're measurements are taken.

11. Don't put your gown on a layaway plan.

While you're busy paying down your gown (that you don't have yet), the manufacturer may discontinue the line or go out of business. Now you're left with no gown (and often no refund policy either). End result? You'll have to start all over and find a new gown to purchase from that bridal store.

12. Make your own headpiece.

Most bridal shops charge $150 to $300 (or more) for headpieces that cost less than $20 to make yourself. They aren't hard to make and there are several good books and patterns available to help you out. If you aren't crafty, find someone who is that would make it for you for a small fee. Another option is to rent a headpiece or buy one from a resale/consignment store.

Rose Smith is the author of How to Create a Beautiful Medieval Wedding and several other wedding booklets. Visit Wedding Themes and More for great ideas on theme weddings, favor ideas, budget tips, honeymoon destinations, decorations and more.