Aside from the obvious preparations - inspiration clippings, wedding-worthy undergarments, a box of tissues for Mom - what should brides know before buying their gown? We got the scoop from Mara Urshel, the co-owner of Kleinfeld, and Cristina DeMarco, the vice president of Bridal Reflections.
Starting to search for your wedding dress? Find out the ten things you need to know before making the purchase. …1. When you should start shopping for your wedding dress.
"Start shopping nine to 12 months prior to your wedding date. Designer gowns should be ordered six to nine months in advae to ensure that there is enough time for delivery and alterations," said Mara Urshel.
2. Select a reputable salon with knowledgeable consultants and a wide variety of styles.
Before you start booking appointments at bridal salons, check their business bureau rating, read online reviews and ask newlyweds where they got their dress and what their experience was like. It's crucial to find out how many years they've been in business, especially in these unstable economic times.
Do they have experienced consultants that know the designers in the industry? "A good consultant should be knowledgeable in the areas of fabric, design detail, silhouettes and more…they will help you select a gown that will enhance your figure and flatter your strong points," said Cristina DeMarco.
She advises that the salon should also select complementary dresses for your reception venue. (A cathedral train has no place on a sandy beach ceremony, nor would a simple sheath fit in at a huge ballroom gala, although there's always exceptions.) That's why it's imperative to find out what kind of designers they carry - "you may also want to know if they carry eveningwear for the mother of the bride and groom, bridesmaid dresses, veils, headpieces, jewelry, undergarments and shoes," said DeMarco.
Related: 25 Chic Mermaid Gowns
3. Inquire how much time you'll have for your consultation.
Salon policies vary; Kleinfeld is appointment-only and books about four weeks in advance. Normally, a bridal consultation can be anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours. "Time permitting, you will be able to select your veil, headpiece and accessories in one appointment. If not, make sure the gown sample will be available to try on at a later date," advises Urshel.
4. Ask many guests you can bring with you.
Now that I work in the weddings industry, I've learned that it's less stressful (and more productive) to limit yourself to bringing only a couple of guests during the shopping process. Save the big crowd for your fittings, instead. "You want to bring whoever will be instrumental in helping you make your decision. This person should be honest and have your best interest in mind," said DeMarco. Before your bestie whips out her iPhone, ask if they permit photography (at Kleinfeld, photo-taking is prohibited unless you actually purchase the gown).
Related: 10 Mistakes Brides Make When Dress Shopping
5. Find out the starting price for gowns before you visit the salon.
Give your consultant an exact price range so that they don't show you styles that are out of your comfort zone. Check their trunk show calendar as well: "Sometimes you will be able to meet your favorite designer and get a discount if you purchase a gown during one - it's also the best way to see the designer's entire new collection," said Urshel.
6. Beware if alterations aren't included in the price.
Many brides forget to take this into consideration when creating an accurate budget for their wedding gown. Some salons cap the alterations at a certain amount (only charging for the work that is being done on the dress), while others might charge a flat fee (where the total cost remains the same). Be wary if a seamstress offers to take your gown home with them: "You want to make sure that the gown stays in the salon and that the only time it leaves is when you take it with you," said DeMarco.
7. How many alterations will you need?
You will typically have two to four fittings before the gown is perfectly sculpted to your body. Most salons start their brides' fittings six weeks prior to their big day to get the most accurate fit, especially if they're trying to get in shape and want to lose a few pounds. See if it would be possible to work with the same fitter each time, so that they get to know your goals for your final look. If you're an out-of-state bride, DeMarco recommends telling the salon exactly how many days you need the gown to be altered in and when it must be completed by.
8. Find out how the payment process works.
Most salons require a deposit that accounts for 50 - 60 percent of the ticket price of the gown. Don't forget to check the cancellation policy, since every contract is different: "If the dress is already in production and the fabric has been cut, you might have to forfeit your deposit," said Urshel.
9. Ask when to expect to pick up your dress.
It usually takes a designer gown anywhere from five to nine months to come in. Many designers will accommodate a shorter time frame with a rush cutting, but there may be an additional fee. Once the dress arrives, you will be required to pay the balance and schedule your fittings. DeMarco recommends that brides pick up their dress during the week of the wedding.
10. Decide whether you need preservation services.
"It's important to take the necessary steps to preserve your gown to ensure it can be passed along to the next generation and enjoyed in the future!" said DeMarco.
Tell us: What does your wedding dress look like? Where did you buy it?
- Stefania Sainato
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