By: Sarah Zlotnick
No way around it — your wedding day ensemble is going to be one of the most memorable outfits of your life. And we’re here to help you through the gown selection process! Start by finding salons near you using WeddingWire’s vendor catalog, then whittle down where you’ll actually shop using these 10 helpful questions.
1. Are you by appointment only? Shopping for a wedding dress is not like shopping at the Gap — and it shouldn’t be. Bridal is one of the few realms of fashion where couture sensibilities still apply, and that means you’ll likely be trying on samples of gowns styles and then placing an order. That attention to detail requires dedicated time with a dedicated sales associate, and for that, my dears, you will likely need to schedule a time to visit.
2. Do you carry my designer? Most brides these days do some gown research before heading into a shop (you can start yours by using our searchable dress galleries or getting inspired by our Fashion Ideas section). This means they have a general idea of what — and more importantly, what designer — they’d like to wear. Before you book a slot at your local salon, check to see if the designers they carry match up with your list / overall aesthetic. If you know there’s only one designer for you, it’s worth checking directly with the brand to see when / where their next trunk show will be in your area.
Also important: Ensuring your store is an authorized retailer for your dress designer. If it isn’t, you run the risk of purchasing a knock-off gown that could be of lesser quality and that can’t be set to the original maker should something be wrong with it after delivery.
3. What is your price range? Sticking to a dress budget can become mighty difficult when you fall in love with a gown before looking at the tag. if you don’t want to risk the temptation, it helps to stick to shops where the majority of options fit your affordability scale.
4. What should I bring with me? Our general advice is heels, a strapless bra, seamless underwear, and shape wear. But some salons have undergarments available for you to use during your appointment, and others might request a makeup free face to prevent gowns from staining. Make sure you’re as prepared as possible by checking before you head in.
5. Who should I bring with me? Many brides opt to bring their mother and one or more members of their bridal party, but your salon might not have space to accommodate everyone. Ensure a comfortable, stress-free environment by whittling down your shopping party accordingly.
6. What’s included in the price? Some shops include alteration, taxes, and delivery fees in their original price, while others add them on a la carte after the initial gown purchase. These extra fees can drastically impact your dress budget, so be sure to get a feel for all the steps you’ll be paying for before committing to a gown.
7. What’s the payment process? The majority of salons ask for an initial deposit (around half the price of the gown), and then request the second portion of the payment after alterations have been completed. Ask ahead of time so you can budget accordingly in your wedding spending. Unfun, but also worth inquiring about: the cancellation policy. Should something go awry on your way to the altar, it can’t hurt to know how long you have to request a refund.
8. How do fittings/alterations work? The dress you settle on in-store is typically a sample gown. After you select a style, the salon will then place an order for yours, and, after a few weeks of waiting for delivery, the alterations begin. It’s important to understand how your salon handles this process before committing to purchasing there. Are alterations done in house or do you have to coordinate with a separate seamstress? How many fittings do brides typically undergo? What’s the cost for alterations? How many weeks should you allow for the whole ordeal? These are just a few of the important details to get straight.
9. Can I customize my gown? You love a dress, but you would be completely sold on it if only it had sleeves / more sequins / straps / a different bodice / whatever. If you’re working with a smaller salon (or even one with a whiz of a seamstress), you may be able to pay extra to pull off changes beyond alterations to your wedding gown. Brides that are very particular about their personal style will definitely benefit from asking about these possibilities ahead of time.
10. What do I do with my dress after the wedding? Take it to a preservationist, of course! Ask your salon for a referral in your area.