Once the engagement ring is purchased, it is time to find the perfect wedding dress. Wedding dresses are a high-ticket, once in a lifetime purchase. While there are a collection of reality shows and articles sharing the inside scoop on what is in trend and what is not, there is still a lack of professional advice on the gown purchase process. I know it’s way more exciting talking about things like Bridal Fashion Week; however, my hope is every bride enjoys the dress process from beginning to end. Buying a wedding dress can be an emotional process. The more knowledge you have going in will make things more enjoyable and less stressful. After fifteen years as a bridal industry expert, I’m here to share my top questions every bride should be asking before they say “yes”.
What is your return policy?
Every boutique is different; however, most boutiques operate as “final sale.” Whether it be an off-the-rack dress or a special order gown, “final sale” is a standard. Most designers do not have a storage facility to hold onto returns. Bridal designers are in many ways very small businesses unlike our go-to ready-to-wear online boutiques. From a bridal boutique’s perspective, it could take a store owner months or years to find another bride for the dress. There are a handful of online bridal sites offering returns, but the challenge is they may hold onto your money for up to a month. Look at the final sale policy as a positive. You have to know when to stop shopping and enjoy the dress you found.
Do you have an in-house seamstress?
Every boutique operates differently when it comes to alterations. Often bridal boutiques hire seamstresses as full-time employees while others have partnership agreements. Occasionally, you will see bridal boutiques not offering in-house seamstresses. Instead they provide their clients with a list of recommended seamstresses in the area. If the dress you are considering needs extensive alterations or custom changes, it may be best to work with a full-service boutique offering an in-house seamstress option.
What does “special order” mean?
When we hear special order, we think custom. Special order in bridal does not mean the dress will fit you like a glove when it arrives. Your bridal boutique will measure your bust, waist, and hip. They will plug these measurements in the designer’s size chart to determine the closest size. You should still expect alterations. Designers do offer custom gowns for additional fees. When you hear a stylist say “special order,” this is the perfect time to ask what they are meaning by the term.
Where is the dress made?
This question is for those needing peace of mind. If you are special ordering a wedding dress, knowing the location it is being produced in is incredibly important. Dresses made in the U.S. or Canada tend to not run behind as there are less parties involved and shipping is quicker. If a dress arrives with a flaw, the resolution time is faster given it doesn’t have to be shipped overseas. Depending on your wedding date, this question can have more value. Peace of mind is everything when you are weeks away from your wedding.
Is it possible to order extra material from my dress?
Whether you are looking to add a capped sleeve or create a flower girl sash, having the option to order extra material is incredibly helpful. Some designers do not sell the fabric from the gown. This is a concern when it comes to alterations. There are many reasons why a seamstress may need additional fabric. For example, when the CrossFit trend started, we saw brides getting toned while gaining inches of muscle. In this case, a seamstress may need to replace a panel to give you more room.
How long has the designer been in business and do they have reputable stores?
We have all seen the horror stories of bridal boutiques closing without notice. What we don’t always hear about are the designers. There are new bridal designers entering the market every week. Unfortunately, not all of them will make it. Check to see how long the designer has been in business and who their other retailers are. If they are carried in established boutiques that is always a good sign.
Tali Gallon is an owner and stylist of The Bridal Finery located in Winter Park, FL. The boutique offers a new concept to luxury bridal.