Saturday, April 17, 2010

21 Ways to Keep Your Sanity While Shopping for Your Gown

 {Image via WEtv}

Before you shop:
1.   Know the difference between the types of gown retailers.  There are many different places to purchase your wedding gown, and the trick is  knowing what you can expect from each type.  Always keep in mind that you get what you pay for.  Think of it in terms of how your purchase your everyday clothes.  If you shop a little boutique, you will pay a higher price, but you will (hopefully) get exceptional customer service, because they are a small business and their reputation is on the line.  If you shop at large chain retailers you will probably score a great deal but won’t get a whole lot of insight from sales personnel, and if something goes wrong they will be less likely to help you out.  Think about what is most important to you- either getting a great bargain or getting great customer service and go from there. 

2.   Research boutiques in a widespread area.  Just because there is a boutique five minutes away from your house, doesn’t mean it is the right one for you.  Research online for boutiques within a ten to twenty mile radius and find ones that fit they type of store you are looking to buy at.  Trust me, it is so worth it to travel a little farther away in order to get what you want and have a great experience!

3.   Always always always make appointments.  You will have a better overall experience when you make an appointment, rather than just walking in to a shop.  Even if you only call a few hours ahead of time, it will give the salon a chance to prepare for your visit.  When a salon knows you are coming, they will have a consultant and a fitting room waiting for you.

4.   When you book the appointment, ask if you can do an hour and a half instead of only an hour.  Every place is different, but most book a standard one hour appointment.  Usually this isn’t enough time, at least for your first time out.  It can’t hurt to ask for a longer appointment, and as long as it’s not on a super busy day they will most likely be more than happy to oblige you. 

5.   Avoid weekends if possible.  For obvious reasons, weekends are the busiest days for bridal salons.  Even if you make an appointment ahead of time, you may still have to share the 3-way mirror with other brides and that can be frustrating.  Do yourself and your sanity a favor and try to go during the week when it’s way less chaotic and overwhelming.  Tuesdays are typically the slowest days of the week and many shops have one or two late nights during the week to accommodate the “after work crowd”. 

6.   Look at gowns ahead of time.  I can’t tell you how many brides I’ve worked with who came into their first appointment having zero idea as to what kind of gown they wanted.  I’m not saying you need to come in knowing exactly what you want, but at least have some clue about what type of message you want to send.  Are you going for a modern, minimalistic vibe?  Something soft and romantic?  Is dramatic and edgy more your style?  Look through magazines and websites like The Knot and Brides and tear or print out pictures that catch your eye.  Even if it’s just certain elements you are drawn too (like a certain type of lace or an interesting neckline), it can really help your consultant pinpoint what styles to show you. 

7.   Know your budget.  Hopefully your consultant will ask you what you’re looking to spend at the beginning of your appointment, but if they forget make sure you tell them.  There is nothing worse than falling in love with a gown and then discovering that it is way out of your price range.

8.   Keep your eyes out for trunk shows.  Trunk shows are when a gown company sends the entire current collection to a store for a few days.  Usually bridal shops (at least small ones anyway) only purchase certain pieces from each collection, but during trunk shows give you the opportunity to view the pieces you may not otherwise get to see.  Also, many times shops offer a 10-20% off if you purchase your gown during the trunk show.  You can find trunk show information on bridal shop and designer’s websites. 

During your appointment:

9.   Don’t bring an entourage.  I know it’s very tempting to bring your mom, your grandma, your 9 bridesmaids, your 3 aunts, your future mom-in-law, your fiancé’s 3 aunts, your favorite neighbor, and your wedding planner- but refrain!  First of all, most bridal shops only have accommodations to handle each bride and a few guests, so your group won’t have anywhere to sit (which means they’ll all become very crabby, very quickly).  Secondly, too many opinions will become extremely overwhelming, especially when it’s your first time out gown shopping.  I’ve seen appointments end in tears because the bride can’t handle everyone disagreeing on what dress is best.  Rather than bringing a huge group, stick to bringing the 1-3 people who you are closest with and whose opinion you can trust, such as your mom, maid-of-honor, or sister.  Once you have narrowed down your gown choices to your top favs, then bring your maids or your future mom-in-law and have them vote.  Another option is to bring them along for your first fitting.

10. Take photos if possible.  Sometimes bridal salons don’t allow customers to take photos of the gowns they try on, but it is worth it to ask.  If they are ok with it, then definitely do it!  Because you are trying on so many dresses, eventually they will all start to blend together.  Taking photos allows you to go back and review them after the appointment is over.  If you are torn between a few styles, putting photos of them side by side can make the decision way easier.  Also, sometimes dresses don’t photograph well and it would be beneficial to know that ahead of time.  It is good to take 3 or 4 pictures of each gown that you like- a wide shot of both the front and the back, a close up “detail shot”, and then a close up of the bodice (don’t worry if you crop out your head).

11.  Don’t judge styles on the hanger.  Just because a gown looks amazing on the hanger doesn’t mean it will look amazing on you.  On the other hand, a gown that looks horrible on the hanger may look stunning on you! Be bold in the choices you choose to try on, the worst that can happen is you find out what you don’t like (which is actually very beneficial anyway).

12.  Keep an open mind.  Just because you fall in love with a particular gown in a magazine, doesn’t mean it is going to love you back when you finally try it on.  On your first time out shopping, the key is to figure out what you love and what you don’t.  The style you envision yourself in may not necessarily be the one for you.  You may go in thinking that you hate strapless gowns with a passion and then find that you actually love them, once you try one on.  The key is to try on a variety of silhouettes (mermaid, ballgown, sheath, a-line etc), necklines, and fabrics to pinpoint exactly what you like and dislike. 

13.   Know what color looks good on you.  Gowns usually come in a few different shades of white.  It is important to know what color looks best with your skin tone because you don’t want to look washed out.  I know modern tradition says that the bride must wear white, but truthfully many stark white shades can be unflattering.  The only way your guests will know you are wearing ivory or some other off-white shade will be if someone else in stark white is standing right next to you (and hopefully no one will be tacky enough to wear white to your wedding!)  Generally, fair skinned girls look best in ivory, olive and medium skinned girls look great in diamond white (which is a cool toned off-white), and dark skinned brides can pretty much wear any shade although they can easily pull of stark white.  Every manufacturer’s version of these shades is different, however, so once you choose your gown ask to see color swatches before you decide.

14.   Be nice to your consultant.  Building a good relationship with your consultant will only benefit you in the long run.  Chances are this is someone you will be dealing with off and on for six months and it will make the whole thing more enjoyable if you get along. 

15.   There aren’t always tears involved.  As we all know, every bride is different.  We’d all love to think that every bride finds her gown by suddenly, in a rush of tears and emotion, just knows that it is “the one”.  Sometimes this happens, but many other times it doesn’t.  Some girls cry, some girls don’t.  You can usually tell that it’s “the one” when you either a) don’t want to take it off or b) can’t stop thinking about it or both.  The bottom line is you’ll know when you find it, but don’t necessarily expect a huge revelation or emotional epiphany. 

When it’s time to buy:

16.   Review styles you tried on when you get home and then sleep on it.  This is a pretty big decision.  Chances are this will be the most expensive piece of clothing you will ever buy so don’t be impulsive. 

17.   Know when to stop looking.  When you find your gown, stop looking to see if there is another one that you’ll like better.  This will make you go crazy.  When your fiancé proposed, did you say, “hang on honey, I need to see if there are any other men I like better before I decide”?  Didn't think so.  The same goes with choosing your gown.

18.  Ask about financing options.  Most shops don’t require the full amount on the day you purchase.  They usually want half down and the rest when the dress comes in, but some will work with you on a payment plan.

19.  Ask about alterations.  They are almost never included and it is good to know ahead of time how much they will cost.  Most chain and large retailers charge a flat rate, meaning regardless of if you need just a hem or a complete overhaul it will cost you the same amount.  It is usually a much better deal if the seamstress charges for each alteration.  Typically most brides will need at least some alterations done to their gown in order for it to fit correctly.  Usually at the very least the hem will need to be shortened, sides will need to be taken in, and you will need to have a bustle added.  Plan on spending between $100-300 for alterations.  Also, know that just because you purchase a gown somewhere doesn’t mean they have to be the ones who alter it.  Research seamstresses in you area and find out pricing.  However, it is very important to choose someone who knows what they are doing.  Altering a bridal gown is a whole different ball game compared to more basic alterations, and its well worth the money it costs to make it fit you perfectly and not have an inexpensive, inexperienced person destroy your gown (sadly, I’ve seen it happen). 

20.   Ask about hidden fees.  Many times the price tag you see on the gown is not the price you will actually pay, especially if it seems oddly low.  Shops will try and sneak in charges such as shipping (to cover manufacturer to retailer shipping costs, usually around $20), storage fees, a fee to press your gown etc.  Always ask them to break down the final cost for you, and you may be able to save yourself some money.  

21.  Don't let the size bother you.  No, you didn't gain 20 lbs. when you walked in the door of the bridal salon, bridal sizes just run super small.  Typically, your wedding gown will be at least 1 or 2 sizes bigger than what you normally wear, sometimes more depending on your proportions.  It is very important to order the correct size, even if you swear that you are going to lose those last 15 lbs by your wedding day.  Keep in mind that wedding gowns can always be taken in (several sizes if necessary), so if you do lose the weight, it wont be a problem.  What will be a problem, however, is if you insist on ordering the smaller size you hope to be and then the dress comes in and doesn't fit.  Dresses can always be made smaller but can rarely be made larger.  Don't let the number on the tag mess with your head, just focus on how fabulous you are going to look in a dress that fits you perfectly.

The most important thing is that you have fun!  Shopping for your wedding gown should be an enjoyable experience, not a painful one. Good luck!

Also, have any sanity savers of your own? Add them in the comments section!


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