Choosing a wedding gown is an exciting process. Years of dreams coalesce into one shopping experience. At long last you see yourself in bridal finery. It’s a heady time. Unfortunately, it’s also a time when it’s easy to lose your head a bit.
Let’s face it, your wedding gown may well be the single most expensive piece of clothing you ever own, especially if you purchase it from a traditional salon.
Ultimately, no matter how well-meaning or sweet the people working there, the salon is there to make money. Of course there’s nothing wrong with this. It’s a Business. businesses need to make money in order to stay in business. The thing is that you still have to pay attention, listen to your gut, and know when to step back. After all, it’s in everyone’s best interests for you to have a good experience.
But you still need to do your end of the work.
So what do you need to do? Read on and see.
Before you go to the salon, do some research. Pick up a couple bridal magazines and pull pictures of gowns you love. Print out some pictures you find online. Look at these pictures and see what you can find in common between them. Do they follow a particular silhouette? Is it a style of trim you’ve fallen in love with? Do they run to white or ivory? A dash of color? With or without sleeves? Or is it more a feeling you get when you look at them? The more clearly you can articulate to your consultant what you’re looking for, the easier time she will have pulling gowns that will make you smile.
Give the salon plenty of time. Once you choose your wedding gown at a salon, it will be manufactured for you in the closest standard size and shipped to the salon. Once it arrives at the salon, you will need two or three fitting sessions so that the alterations department can make the gown fit you perfectly. All of this will take time. Experts recommend making your first salon appointment anywhere from six months to a year before your wedding date. Follow that advice if you can.
Don’t bring everyone you know with you. Look, the more people you bring with you, the more opinions you’ll hear, and the harder it can be to make a decision. Bring one or two people with you and choose them carefully. Pick people who have opinions and can articulate them, but will leave the decision up to you. It’s your wedding and your gown. No matter how much you value their opinions, you should choose the gown that makes you happy.
Be clear with your consultant about your budget, timeline, and any other issues you may be dealing with. If you have a thousand dollars to spend on a gown, don’t let the consultant show you something that costs five grand. If you need your gown ready in two months, tell the consultant so she can show you gowns that the salon can have ready in time. If you’re going to be eight months pregnant at your wedding, let the consultant know so that she can order the gown in an appropriate size. Whatever your issue, I guarantee they’ve heard it before and can cope. Just be completely honest and absolutely clear.
When calculating your budget, be sure to include the alterations and accessories. If you’ve got fifteen hundred dollars for your wedding finery, remember that it can’t all go into the base price of the gown. You may need special underpinnings. Chances are you’ll want some sort of headpiece, whether it’s a veil, a hat, or a piece of jewelry. New shoes are often in order. You may find that that fifteen hundred dollars only buys a thousand dollars of dress.
Get as clear as possible a sense of what your budget can buy. Look, we’d all like to get the moon on a silver platter with watercress around it for nothing, but the world just doesn’t work that way. Some budgets will stretch to real silk and Swarovski crystals, others won’t. Sometimes a salon can help you stretch your budget with a sample gown or a special deal, and sometimes they can’t. It never hurts to ask if they can get you a better deal, but remember that the answer may well be no.
Keep an open mind. You may have your heart set on a halter neckline and a pouffy ballgown skirt, but it may not be the most flattering look on you. If the consultant has another suggestion, consider giving it a try just to see if it looks better. You may discover that the mermaid gown is honestly more flattering.
Know when to step back. If an appointment is going long and you’re still at sea about what to do, it could be time to end the appointment and reschedule for another day – possibly even another consultant. Sometimes you and the consultant just don’t click. It happens. You’re human, they’re human, and not everyone can be on the same wavelength. And sometimes you’re just not ready to make such a big decision in an hour, no matter how congenial and competent the consultant.
Document your choice. In episode after episode of shows like Say Yes to the Dress and Girl Meets Gown, brides return to the salon for their first fitting eight months to a year after choosing a gown and announce that the salon has ordered the wrong gown for them. More often than not, the salon shows the bride the order form and the sample gown and the bride realizes she made a mistake and misremembered the gown she ordered.
But what about the cases where the salon really did order the wrong gown? With no physical documentation on the bride’s end, she has to either assume the salon is correct or hope that her consultant remembers one gown appointment from a year ago with a woman she hasn’t seen since. She’s dealt with literally hundreds of other brides by that time. She can’t possibly remember every bride and every gown.
What to do? Have someone bring a camera along, or at least a cell phone with a camera feature. Get a picture of yourself in the gown you choose. That way you can remind yourself of what your gown looked like and you’ve got proof if the gown that arrives is not the gown you ordered.
An organized bride with a firm sense of self and a clear set of parameters makes the gown buying process easier for everyone, including the salon staff. Make life easy for yourself and them.