bride looking at wedding dress

Photo: Amy E Photography

As a bride, you want to find the perfect gown. And the shop you buy your dress from is a huge part of this experience. From alterations to payment plans, asking a wedding dress salon these 12 questions will help you find the best wedding boutique (and dress) to suit your needs.

So what are the most important questions to ask a bridal salon? Be sure to ask these q's before you start shopping to ensure the process goes smoothly for all!

 

How is your store different from other stores?

If you’ve had a bad experience with a bridal shop, this question is key says Carrie Huyett of Carrie’s Bridal Collection in Chamblee, Georgia.“You want to ensure that from the very moment you walk in the door at a bridal salon, you feel at ease. There's nothing worse than trying to tackle the shopping yourself,” she says. “Ensure the salon appoints someone to assist you from the moment you walk in sitting down with you, getting to know your wedding dreams and plans and helping you every step of the way.”


But just how do you know you’ve found the perfect shop? Trust your gut.“By the time you leave, if you feel like friends, you've chosen a great location to shop for your dress,” Carrie says.

 

What are your prices like? Do you sell gowns off the rack?

Before you start shopping, determine your budget and stick with it. “We all know how devastating it would be to fall in love with a dress you can't afford,” Carrie says.

To help you save on your dream dress, Carrie suggests asking about "purchasing sample sizes off the rack. This is a great way for brides to save on their wedding dress without sacrificing on style. But some boutiques don't offer this, so be sure to ask.”

bride getting dressed

Photo: Donnell Perry Photography

What’s your size range?

“Don't assume that every bridal boutique will have just what you're looking for,” says Carrie. “If you require a special size, inquire about their inventory first and also how large their inventory is of these types of dresses to ensure you have plenty of options.”

Consider going to shops that cater exclusively to petite or plus-size brides. These shops should have plenty of options for you to try on.

What's your payment plan like?

Most boutiques accept all forms of payment. But some may offer a slight discount if you pay in cash since the shop won’t have to pay for credit card fees. Ask about this. You just might score a discount, says Carrie. Her shop offers a five percent discount to brides who pay in cash or check.

“Also ask if there are any options to finance your dress if you fall in love with something slightly above your budget,” says Huyett.

Payment schedules usually work like this: “Fifty percent down and 50 percent when you pick up,” says Krystel Tien of Elle Bridal Boutique in San Diego. “It is always a final sale. No returns as each gown is made to order.”

bride getting dressed

Photo: Pat Furey Photograhy

Do you offer alterations?

“Ask up front if the salon does alterations in-house, and if not, do they recommend any good tailors,” suggests Lanie List of Lovely Bride with 12 locations around the country. “This can often be a costly part of a wedding gown, since you want your dress to fit like a glove and there can be intricate details that will drive the pricing of alterations up.”

List suggests being up front with the stylist if you don’t want to shell out for alterations. Ask her to show you gowns that are easier (read: less expensive) to alter.

Do you have shoes and support garments that I can use during my appointment?

“Some salons provide an array of heels and bustiers or slimming garments so you can get the full effect of your dress on your wedding day,” says List. Others might not. Call ahead to check. Bring your shapewear along if you know you’ll be wearing some.

Oh, and (if you have them already) don’t forget your wedding shoes. “It’s always best to bring them with you,” says List. “Especially if you are being measured that day for the length of the gown.”

bride getting dressed

Photo: Kirstyn Marie Photography

Will you store my gown for me?

Some boutiques can store your gown for you. Others won’t. Some shops also charge a storage fee. These extra charges could add up, especially if you find your dress early on in the wedding planning process. Incorporate storage fees into your budget or be prepared to hang your dress in your closet at home.

When should I make my final decision?

List recommends selecting your gown six months before your wedding. Sounds too early? It’s not. You’ll want to give yourself those few extra months for alterations and time for the designers to make and ship your dress.

“If you find a dress you love, buy it, even if you still have time. It’s a huge ’to do’ to check off of your list,” says List. “Plus when you know, you know. Leaving yourself open to others will only shed doubt on a gut reaction that was most likely correct.”

How knowledgeable is your staff?

Research the staff before you commit to a boutique. Call the salon and ask about how the staff is trained, what type of training they undergo, and how long they’ve been working in the industry. Be sure to read the reviews on sites like WeddingWire too.

bride twirling in wedding gown on beach

Photo: Riverland Studios

Do I need to make an appointment? If so, how long will my appointment last?

Some bridal salons are appointment only. An average appointment will last for an hour or so, so you can select your gown, shoes, and veil. Find out how many hours you should set aside before you head to the shop so you don’t end up having to cut your appointment short or over-schedule yourself.

“We suggest most brides go to three to five stores to find the perfect dress and make sure they have looked at a wide selection, but are not overwhelmed,” says Tien. “Once they find the gown and it comes in front the designer about four to six months later, then you will need alterations. We suggest getting alterations done one to two months prior to the wedding. Usually there are three fittings with alterations.”

Can I take photos of my dress in the store?

Check on this one, as certain shops might not allow you to snap any pics.

Are there any additional fees?

“Alterations are usually not included,” says Tien. “Shipping is also something that is usually added on, along with tax.”

When you think you’ve find your perfect dress, ask the salon about these fees. And above all, enjoy shopping for your gown!