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When you shop for a wedding gown, think of the steps that you take when you buy a car.  You will be amazed of the similarities!

Do Your Homework – Check out the bridal magazines and dress designer web sites.  Save the pictures of your favorite gowns for reference, and bring them with you to the bridal boutique.  This will help the bridal boutique’s sales associate bring you gowns that she feels are suited to your wishes and desires.   Research the wedding gown designers –Most designers offer sample sales at certain times of the year and you may be able to get more for your money.  Look for your preferred dress on the web – You may be able to find your dress cheaper on the web.  But beware!  You lose your services when you buy a gown on the web – no fittings/alterations, no customizations, and no guarantees!

Know Yourself (financially) Before you start thinking about the top of the line wedding gowns, you need to do some self-examination. First and foremost, you need to examine your budget. You should set a reasonable price range for the wedding gown and begin to eliminate dresses that you desire that are out of that price range. As a potential wedding gown buyer, you need to be realistic, don’t fantasize about a $15,000 dress when your budget will just barely support a $2,000 price-tag. Also, remember that trying to figure out a way to buy a wedding gown that is outside your price range is really not a good idea. After all, it’s not much fun to have a fabulous wedding gown if you can’t afford to eat for the next two months.

Take a little time to kick the tires – Allocate approximately 1-2 hours to try on wedding gowns. Bridal salons are very busy on the weekends and may only allow you to try on dresses for an hour. Week day appointments are not as busy, and will be ideal for you if you want to spend more time trying on dresses and talking with your sales associate.

Look under the hood (or shall we say the gown) Make sure that you are comfortable with the material underneath the gown.  And, definitely bring (or wear) proper underwear with you when you try on wedding gowns.  Why?  Reason #1:  Most salons have a staff member assigned to you and I guarantee you that she will join you in the dressing room to help you dress and undress. Reason #2: Your underwear will make a difference in how your dress fits.

Don’t be pressured to buy something right away – Try on plenty of gowns at as many bridal salons as you can.  Comparison shopping will truly make a difference in your wedding experience. But, don’t wait too long!  To avoid stress and angst, you should order your gowns at least ten months prior to your wedding.  Frankly, I feel better if you shoot for 12 months, but I can be a little up tight about things like that.

Ask about the “options” – If a gown has a feature that you don’t like, try it on anyhow.  Most bridal salons can work with you to alter, add, and/or remove a gown embellishment.  If you fall in love with a strapless gown but you would feel more comfortable with sleeves, relay your concerns. The sales associate may be able to show you a similar gown with sleeves or work with you to add a halter or cap sleeves to the gown.

Consider a used model – Finding that wedding gowns are more than what you can financially bear, consider a wedding gown consignment shop.  One bride went to a salon that sold wedding gowns from old collections and wedding gowns that have been worn once.  And as luck would have it, she found her wedding dress there!  She got such a good deal on her dress that her dress cost less than her wedding veil.

Test Drive It – While you are in the gown, sit down in it.  In fact, you should try walking around for a minute, hugging someone, dancing (no kidding), and raising your arms while wearing a gown. Oh!  And if your wedding ceremony requires you to kneel, try kneeling in your gown.  I promise you that you will thank me later.

Consider Test Driving a Model that you Don’t Like – Wedding gowns look better on the body than on the rack.  Try on the gowns that you like and the gowns that you don’t like.  And, don’t put yourself into a box — i.e., being well-endowed doesn’t mean that you cannot wear a strapless gown! You just need the right underwear!

Buyer Beware – Disclaimer:  OK.  Before I say anything more, I must go on the record and say that I have worked with some of the loveliest sales associates out there when it comes to bridal salons, and I am by no means saying that Bridal Salon or their Sales Associates are Sleazy.  I love bridal salons.  I find them to be one of the most “magical” places on earth.  However, I have also worked with some salons whose business practices were a little less than stellar in the ethical department and I want you to be aware of that.  First and foremost, you may wish to consider not working with bridal salons that pull the tags out of their wedding gowns.  What is that all about? Apparently, they do this to prevent you from comparison shopping. It is an illegal practice, and I don’t like it.  Some salons will not allow you to write down the style number or the designer of a gown – Let me just say this — A reputable bridal salon relies on the quality of their service and the quality of their product.  They realize that a bride must comparison shop.

Know the “Lemon Laws” – Before purchasing a gown on-line, please read (thoroughly) and understand their return policy. Ask questions to insure that they will take the gown back if it arrives with a flaw.  Also, will they replace it immediately at no cost to you?  If you purchase your gown from a salon, make sure that you thoroughly read their policy too.  Reputable bridal salons will stand behind their merchandise. If your dress arrives and there is something wrong, even the tiniest snag, they will send it back to the manufacturer and get you a new one as soon as possible.

Okay, that’s it for me today.  Let me know how your gown shopping goes.  Send me a picture too!

Love & Soul Always, Kay

(Photo: Natarsha Wright Photography)