1. Calculate Costs
When calculating your wedding dress budget, don’t forget to factor in the cost of your veil and headpiece — which can run from $50 to $500 — as well as your shoes, lingerie, and wedding jewelry. Also, keep in mind that almost all gowns need alterations, which will add to the bottom line.
2. Dress Codes
Many houses of worship consider bare shoulders disrespectful. Ask your officiant about specific body-coverage requirements before you start wedding dress shopping. Or look into a wrap or shawl for the ceremony.
3. Play Hooky
We know you’re busy, but if at all possible take time off during the week to begin your hunt — you’ll get more of the salesperson’s time and attention than you would on a busy Saturday.
4. Ways to Save
Want to save? Avoid ornate, hand-done beading or lacework. Shop sample sales for floor models sold at discounts. Consider a bridesmaid dress in white. Wear your mom’s dress. Choose a simple headpiece and veil. Or try browsing through a consignment shop.
5. Open Your Mind
When you’re in the bridal salon, don’t eliminate anything at first glance. Even though certain styles work best on certain body types, don’t let the “rules” narrow your search too much. It helps to try on all different kinds of dresses, and then to decide which shape and style you look and feel best in. So if the salesperson brings you something she says you must try — try it, even if you detest the way it looks on the hanger. Many a bride has ended up going ga-ga for a wedding gown the salesperson had to persuade her to try on.
6. Shop Around
You didn’t get engaged on your first date, right? Likewise, you shouldn’t buy the first dress you try on. Give yourself all the options and the time to think by shopping more — and elsewhere — before you buy.
7. Sleep On It
Even after you think you’ve found your wedding gown, take a day to be absolutely sure it’s the one for you. Since bridal gowns are custom-made, most salons put a no-return policy in their contracts; if you can get any money back, it probably won’t be any more than 50 percent of the cost.
8. Trust Your Instincts
If you have to be reassured that the dress looks great on you, it’s probably not the one. Is this how you pictured yourself looking as a bride? Can you really see yourself walking down the aisle swathed in this gown? If not, take it off and move on.
9. Take Proper Measures
When you’re ready to order your wedding dress, the store will take your measurements: bust, waist, and hips. Each manufacturer has its own measurement chart, and this is what the store will use to determine your size. A knowledgeable store will know how a particular designer’s gowns are supposed to fit. Ask to see the sizing chart so you can have a better understanding of the way it works. And make sure the correct size gets ordered, using your largest measurement as a guide. One thing to remember: wedding gowns run small, so don’t be alarmed should your final size measurement jump up a number or two.
10. Focus on the Fit
Know, too, that every wedding dress needs alterations to fit precisely to your frame. When your gown is altered correctly, you should be able to move comfortably with everything staying in place. Alterations can be as simple as taking in the waist and shortening the hem; in more complex alterations, the sleeves may be abbreviated, the bodice taken in, and lace or beads added.
11. Go Undercover
Bridal designers advise wearing undergarments in a tone close to your skin color. The more similar they are to your coloring, the less likely you’ll see them through your dress.
12. Fit In Fittings
You’ll probably have at least two or three dress fittings, which you’ll schedule with the store when you purchase your wedding dress; more may be necessary, so leave ample time before the wedding. You should also ask for a written alterations estimate at the time of purchase, since this service is not always included in the cost of your wedding gown. If the store doesn’t do its own alterations, ask the salesperson you’ve been working with to recommend a trusted tailor or seamstress.
13. Prewedding Poses
If you’re planning to sit for a bridal portrait, you’ll also want to find out if the store will let you borrow your gown for pictures, then return it to them so they can press your wedding dress so it will look fresh for the big day.
14. Cover the Bases
Find out exactly how long it will take for your wedding dress to come in, and be sure to pay with a credit card. For such a big purchase, you’ll want to be able to dispute a payment just in case something goes wrong.
15. Test Your Seamstress
Think you’ve found someone to create your wedding gown? Have her make you another dress — a shift for work, maybe — so you can see her work and how you work together before you entrust your wedding dress to her.
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