The Secrets To Buying A Wedding Gown

You’re getting ready to possibly spend more money on a dress than you ever have in your life. All kinds of emotions are wrapped up in this purchase. So, before you embark on this shopping expedition, note some words of wisdom from this old girl.

If you think you might want to buy a dress on-line, let me be the first to try to talk you out of it. I can’t say it NEVER works or that it’s bad 100% of the time, but it is fraught with many dangers. There are certain things you should not buy on-line and your wedding gown is at the top of the list.

Build a relationship with a local store. You need to have a place where you can go, to people you can rely on. Things go wrong even under the best of circumstances.

  1. Who To Take With You: Do you want an entourage? Do you want a special experience just with your mother or sister or best friend? Whose taste do you really value? Who will be most honest? Who will cause conflict? Don’t take a person along who has a history of sabotaging you. Maybe a preliminary scouting mission would work where you narrow down your choices and then bring the troop with you to make the final selection.
  2. When To Go: Don’t go when your tired or hungry. This is a long process and it takes energy for you to keep trying on all those big wedding gowns. Don’t wear make-up as it will stain the dresses and make the salespeople crazy.
  3. Budget: Tell your sales person your budget right from the beginning. The prices should be marked on the wedding gown. If they are not, you might want to high-tail it out of there. I remember a bride told me once she was at a bridal salon and had a wedding gown on she liked and asked the salesman the price because it wasn’t tagged. He asked, “what’s your budget?” She replied, “eight hundred”. He said, “well, this wedding gown is $795”. I wonder what he would have said if she told him her budget was $900.
    At least at the onset, try to stay within your wedding budget. You are going to wear this wedding dress for 4 hours and the chances of your daughter wearing it is next to nil.
  4. Selecting Your Style: Just because every picture you see in a bridal magazine shows a strapless gown, does not mean it’s appropriate for you. Originally strapless gowns were designed for girls who wore a B cup. If you are too busty or not busty enough, it may not be for you.
    Most wedding gowns stretch. Just breathing will stretch that wedding gown more than an inch. No matter how snug the dress starts out, halfway through the wedding reception you are going to be yanking that dress up every other minute. If you’re in love with a strapless, consider adding decorative spaghetti straps. If your dress is adorned with sequins, bear in mind that they will yellow over time. If the dress is adorned with pearls or crystals, make sure they are sewn on, not glued.
  5. Cleaning Your Wedding Gown: Gowns are made to be worn once. Many wedding gowns are not dry-cleanable. If you find a mark-down in a bridal salon that you love but has lipstick stains on it, make the store clean it before you agree to buy it. Do not necessarily think that dry cleaning will fix it.
  6. Sizing: The wedding gown industry has a very unfriendly system of sizing gowns. The sizes have little relation to what you normally wear. You need to involve yourself in the decision of what size to order because on the sales contract it will say you are responsible. Unfortunately you don’t get to see the sales order with that disclaimer until you’ve placed the order and handed over your credit card. Every manufacturer provides a sizing chart to that store. But to complicate things further, there are 2 kinds of sizing charts. One kind is the ‘garment size’ which means that this garment has a 28” waist. Well, you can’t put a 28” body into 28” of fabric. You have to have breathing room even if the dress stretches. The other kind is a ‘body measurement’ chart. That one says that a 28” body should go into this dress. This size chart is allowing for breathing room. I would take a gamble here and say that most bridal stores don’t even know the difference and yet they expect you to plunk down all this money without knowing exactly what you’re buying and holding you responsible for alterations when it does not come in fitting. A one inch difference is a whole size difference. Although this is not a perfect science, if you are pro-active and pay attention, ask to see the size chart, the sales person will recognize that and make every effort to assist you in making the right choice of size.
    When you are getting measured, do not wear a sports bra and do keep your arms at your sides, not lifted up. It changes the measurements when you arms are raised. The sad thing is that alterations are a big profit center for the bridal salon which is a disincentive to size you correctly.
  7. Paying: Some brides like to pay for things in full even when they don’t have to. Resist that temptation. Put down the minimum deposit on a credit card and stretch out the rest of the payments to the store as long as possible, always using your credit card. It’s your only protection. Too many stores go out of business leaving brides with no wedding gowns and no deposit.
  8. Alterations: This is a tricky issue. The best place to alter your wedding gown may not be at the bridal salon. Some salons offer a fixed price for alterations. There are advantages and disadvantages to this. If you are a perfect size 10 and are 5’7”, maybe you will only need slight alterations. If the flat rate is $249, you would be over-paying. But, if you are 5’4” and not very curvy, the flat rate will work in your favor. Most size charts are built on an 8 inch difference between the bust and the waist. The ideal shape would be if your bust is 36, that your waist is 28. The percentage of women who have this ideal shape is very, very low.
    Most wedding gowns are designed for women who are 5’7” wearing 2” heels. If you do not fit this description, you are a candidate for alterations.
    My view on flat rate alterations is that the advantage usually goes to the bridal salon and not the consumer. Just go into it with the knowledge I have shared with you and hopefully you can beat the system.
    The majority of brides think that they must have the wedding gown altered at the salon. The salon treats you like you are a captive audience and can charge whatever they want. But you can easily shop around for services and find a free-lance seamstress who has experience working on wedding gowns. Call in advance and get a price quote on something standard like a bustle.
    Alterations are very important. A bad job can ruin your beautiful wedding gown quite easily. It should not necessarily be about the money. At the end of the day, what you really want is someone who will do a great job and give you a fair price.
    One other small secret is to be sure that your seamstress does not smoke. If she does, it will stink up your wedding gown. Be prepared for your alterations by bringing your undergarments and wedding shoes.
  9. Sales Order: Give the store a wedding date that is actually 2-4 weeks earlier than your real date. Make sure they write on your sales order the agreed upon date they say the wedding gown will arrive. Ask what happens if the dress does not come in by the projected date. Ask who pays for expedited delivery should it become necessary.
  10. Following Up: After you have placed your order, call the salon every 6 weeks or so to make sure they are on top of things.
  11. Storing Your Wedding Gown: When your wedding gown arrives, examine it very carefully. Once you take it out of the store, it is yours. If there are several months before your wedding, do not store the gown in the hanging plastic bag that the store gives you. That should be used to transport the wedding gown, not store it. Take the gown out of the plastic and lay it somewhere, covered in a white cotton sheet. Hanging stretches and distorts the bodice and the plastic will turn your gown yellow.
    After the wedding, if your dress has a bustle, un-bustle it for storage purposes. If you do not, the train will have puckers in it which will never come out.
  12. Lastly, don’t try on 20 dresses at a time. Limit yourself to an hour or so and then move on to something else. You can always come back. Don’t let anyone pressure you into a snap decision. The salon does not want you to leave without committing to a dress on the first visit. That is not in your best interest.


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