Question: I just got engaged (yay!) and am planning on visiting my first bridal shop this weekend, but I’m not sure what to expect. How does shopping for a wedding gown work?
Good question! There are several parts to the shopping process: the consultation, trying on the dresses, ordering, and finally the alterations. I’ll go over each portion of the process in more detail, but first here are some main points you should know before you go:
- Depending on the day and time, bridal shops might not be able to take walk-ins, so it’s always best to call a few days ahead of time to make an appointment.
- Start shopping early! We usually recommend ordering the dress 6-9 months before the wedding. If you’re shopping closer to the wedding date (less than 5 months) it may not be possible to order a new gown for you and you might need to purchase a sample gown off the rack and have it altered to your size.
- One of the first questions you will get asked is what price point you want to stay around, so before you go you should have an idea about how much you want to spend on the dress. Wedding gowns can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, so your consultant won’t know which dresses to show you unless you’re honest with her about what you can afford. Nothing’s worst than finding the most amazing dress and then realizing you could never actually buy it.
- Your consultant will usually come into the dressing room with you, so expect to get undressed in front of them. We understand that having a stranger see you in your underwear might be uncomfortable at first, but getting into the dress alone or with someone who doesn’t know how to fit it can be difficult. You’ll be happy to have a consultant who knows what they’re doing in the dressing room to help you.
Now I’ll go over what happens during each portion of the appointment. Things will vary from store to store, but this should give you a good idea of what to expect during your shopping experience.
Typically when you walk in you will be greeted by a consultant or stylist who will sit down with you and want to know all about your wedding and what you have in mind for a gown. They’ll ask what kind of look you’re going for (i.e. vintage, casual, modern), what styles you like (mermaid, ball gown, strapless, etc) and what your price point is. As I mentioned, it’s best to have a good idea of your price point before you go to your appointment but if you don’t have styles in mind yet that’s okay, especially if it’s your first time looking for wedding gowns! It’s often hard to know what you like and what you don’t until you’ve tried a few styles on, so just let your consultant know that you’re open to styles and she’ll choose a few different kinds for you to try on.
Trying on Dresses
Now comes the fun part–trying on dresses! Some stores have all their dresses in an area you can peruse through so that you can pick out styles you like, others will have their dresses in a different room or storage area and your consultant will choose which dresses to bring out and show you based on the styles you discussed. Keep an open mind when deciding what dresses to try on, as things often look different on your body than on the hanger. Ask your consultant to suggest styles and cuts that will suit you, even if it’s not necessarily what you had in mind. Brides will often choose a dress that is totally different from what they initially thought they wanted, so it’s good to see all your options!
As I mentioned in the things to know before you go section, you shouldn’t be surprised if the consultant joins you in the dressing room to help you get in and out of the dresses. As you try on each dress your consultant will tell you a little bit about its design, color and customization options. You should be honest about what you think and feel about each dress so that your consultant will know what style to have you try on next. Keep in mind that many dresses can be changed or altered to better suit the look you’re going for, so if you wish the dress had different sleeves or you wish the design was a little bit different, ask if it’s something that can be done.
You might find the dress at the first shop you visit or you might need to visit two or three more shops before finding “the one”–the process for each bride is different! Whenever you do decide on the dress, the consultant will go over sizing and ordering with you. To determine the size you need to order they’ll take your measurements and compare them to the size chart for the designer of your dress–bridal sizing runs one to two sizes smaller than normal clothing sizes, so don’t fret if you come up a size bigger than you thought! Most brides will come up between sizes on the size chart and most places recommend ordering the bigger size. This is because dresses that are big can always be taken in, but if the dress is too small it can only be let out so much. Some designers offer custom sizing and/or custom hem length for an additional charge, and though it adds to the price tag you’re paying up front it will likely cut down on the cost of any alterations needed later.
Once this is done your consultant will go over the store’s ordering policy. Since bridal gowns are made to order, most stores have an all sales final policy on all bridal designs. Some stores require partial payment of your dress to order it, others will require that you pay in full before you order. Remember that a dress can take months to come in, so if you need to pay in full before ordering it’s best to do so as early as possible to be sure your dress arrives with plenty of time for alterations.
Though the gown is being ordered in your size it might not be the perfect fit when it arrives–the hem might need adjusting, it might fit in some places but be a little tight in others, or you may have changed weight since you ordered. This is why your wedding gown will need alterations. Your bridal shop will either have an in-house seamstress or will recommend a seamstress who has experience altering wedding gowns to you, and will set up a time for you to begin alterations. Here at Sealed With A Kiss we tell our brides to begin alterations six to eight weeks before the wedding, but recommend starting earlier if your gown needs major work (like adding or removing an illusion neckline or taking it in more than two sizes). Keep in mind that alterations are typically not included in the original price of the dress and the cost will vary depending on the gown’s construction and the difficulty of the alteration.
Have a question you’re dying to ask a bridal consultant? Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our experienced consultants will be more than happy to help. Your question might even make it on the blog!